Musical Monday: I Dood It (1943)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
I Dood It” (1943)– Musical #176

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Vincente Minnelli

Starring:
Eleanor Powell, Red Skelton, Richard Ainley, Patricia Dane, Sam Levene, Thurston Hall, Butterfly McQueen, John Hodiak, Joe Yule (uncredited)
Themselve: Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Lena Horne, Hazel Scott, Helen O’Connell, Bob Eberly

Plot:
Pants presser Joseph Renolds (Skelton) is in love with Broadway star Constance Shaw (Powell) and attends every performance of her show. To get back at her cheating leading man, Constance married Joseph, thinking he’s rich. When she finds out Joseph just works at a laundry, she leaves him. In a subplot, actor in the Broadway show Roy Hartwood (Hodiak) is a Nazi spy who plans to blow up a warehouse next to the theater.

Trivia:
-Edited dance numbers from Born to Dance (1936) and Honolulu (1939)
-Eleanor Powell was knocked unconscious during the lasso number
-Loose remake of Buster Keaton’s Spite Marriage (1929)
-Eleanor Powell’s last star-billing film. Her last under contract with MGM film was Thousands Cheer (1945) where she was a specialty performance.

Highlights:
-Eleanor Powell tap dancing with lassos. She then jump ropes around a line of ropes
-Cameo by Tommy Dorsey watching his brother Jimmy Dorsey
-Hazel Smith’s performance

Notable Songs:
-“Star Eyes” performed by Bob Eberly and Helen O’Connell
-“So Long Sarah Jane” performed by Bob Eberly
-“Jericho” performed by Hazel Scott and Lena Horne
-“Taking a Chance on Love” performed by Hazel Scott on the piano

My review:
Throughout the mid-1930s to the early 1940s, Eleanor Powell cemented herself as one of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s top female tap dancers. But she doesn’t really get to exhibit it in “I Dood It” (1943).

“I Dood It” is seemingly a one man show starring Red Skelton with other characters occasionally popping in. He’s a pants presser with big dreams of living large and courting a famous Broadway star, played by Powell. His gags are funny, particularly a scene where he fills in for an actor in Powell’s Broadway show — love struck Skelton saw the show 63 times and could literally recite the lines backwards.

As a fan of Eleanor Powell, this film is a little disappointing. The character written for Powell isn’t terribly likable and you feel bad for Red Skelton as she uses him. As far as Powell’s dancing goes, she does one impressive western themed dance early in the film where she tap dances in lassos and jump ropes across girls swinging the lassos. But that’s where any “new” Powell dances ends. In one scene, Skelton doses off and dreams of Eleanor Powell dancing, but his dream takes us back to a tap dancing hula number from the 1939 film “Honolulu.” And again, at the end of the film when all problems are resolved, the grand finale is more MGM archived footage: Powell dancing in the grand finale of the 1936 film “Born to Dance.”

Eleanor Powell and Red Skelton in “I Dood It”

This is irksome to me. I’m not sure if MGM did this because of Eleanor Powell’s injury during the lasso dance, or if they decided they didn’t want to put more money into this film and reused old dances. While audiences in 1943 weren’t able to rewatch films like we are now, it’s still insulting to assume that these audiences wouldn’t remember that they had already seen these dances before. And that audiences wouldn’t notice that Eleanor Powell looked a little different in 1943 then she did in 1936 or 1939. Rather than dancing much, Powell is more Skelton’s “foil” for his jokes.

It’s also telling that this was Eleanor Powell’s last top billing film. After “I Dood It,” she had a small performance role in “Thousands Cheer” and then a cameo in “Duchess of Idaho.” Also in 1943, she married actor Glenn Ford and left films. It’s disappointing that Powell’s career fizzled with reused dance footage, and this magnificent dancer wasn’t able to end with a bang.

Since Eleanor Powell didn’t sing and Red Skelton’s voice isn’t strong, the musical numbers rely heavily on Jimmy Dorsey’s big band music and a musical interlude by pianist/singer Hazel Scott and singer Lena Horne. This is a really great number, but also sort of is random and thrown in taking you out of the plot. I almost think this was thrown in because the writers or producers weren’t sure what else to do.

Despite the disappointing dance numbers and some of my criticisms, “I Dood It” is an entertaining film and I do enjoy it. I like Red Skelton, and you also get to see John Hodiak in his third film. I’m just disappointed as a fan of tap dancing and Eleanor Powell.

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