Musical Monday: Ladies of the Chorus (1948)

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:
Ladies of the Chorus (1948) – Musical #568

 

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Phil Karlson

Starring:
Adele Jergens, Marilyn Monroe, Rand Brooks, Nana Bryant, Eddie Garr, Bill Edwards

Plot:
May Martin (Jergens) and her daughter Peggy (Monroe) are both chorus girls at a burlesque theater. May is protective over Peggy, not wanting her to go out with “stage-door Johnnys.” When the head of the show walks out, Peggy becomes the main attraction and captures the interest of wealthy Randy Carroll (Brooks). Will his society family accept Peggy if they find out she is a burlesque queen?

ladies4

Adele Jergens and Marilyn Monroe play mother and daughter in “Ladies of the Chorus”

Trivia:
-Marilyn Monroe’s first credited film role
-Adele Jergens plays Marilyn Monroe’s mother and was only 9 years older than her.
-Adele Jergens was dubbed by Virginia Rees
-Was reissued in 1952 with Marilyn Monroe billed first, rather than Adele Jergens.

Highlights:
-Nana Bryant “singing”

Notable Songs:
-“Anyone Can See I Love You” performed by Marilyn Monroe
-“Every Baby Needs a Da-Da-Daddy” performed by Marilyn Monroe
-“You’re Never Too Old” performed by Nana Bryant

My review:
“Ladies of the Chorus” is a very light, entertaining film. It may not have much of a plot, but that’s okay because the film is only an hour long.

You have a chance to see Marilyn Monroe early in her career before she was groomed by the Hollywood machine. Not only is this her first starring role, it is her first credited performance. Her voice is bright and sweet, and not quite as deep and breathy like it is later in her career. While Monroe is certainly beautiful in this film, this is before she became “sex symbol.” I enjoyed her songs in this film, because rather than singing in that breathy, sexy way, she exhibited real musical talent.

I’m a little surprised that Adele Jergens, only 31 at the time, would agree to play a gray-haired mother to 22-year-old Monroe (her character wears a blonde wig for performances). But Jergens said later she and Monroe bonded during the film.

While knowing this was a B-budget film shot in less than two weeks, I still had a hard time swallowing Rand Books (Scarlett O’Hara’s first husband in Gone with the Wind) as our romantic leading man.

Nana Bryant steals the show

But while Adele Jergens and Marilyn Monroe carry the movie and are wonderful, the actress playing Rand Brooks’ mother steals the show: character actress Nana Bryant. Bryant is a wealthy society mother. The audience predicts that Bryant will be a snooty, society lady, but instead, she ends up letting her hair down and welcoming Jergens and Monroe with open arms. She even accepts them by putting her own reputation at risk. Bryant even talk/sings a song!

This is a fun little film, but Columbia ended up dropping Marilyn Monroe’s contract. While puzzling, she ended up landing on her feet (career wise) in the future.

“Ladies of the Chorus” is a brisk, sweet musical comedy. While Marilyn Monroe isn’t the steaming “sexpot” people later came to know, you see her here as a gleaming young, sweet actress probably never expecting the stardom that lie ahead.

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One thought on “Musical Monday: Ladies of the Chorus (1948)

  1. I just watched this movie for the first time quite recently and I agree with pretty much everything you said. From our 21st century perspective, it’s hard to watch young Marilyn and NOT see the icon she would soon bloom into, but those guys at Columbia weren’t blessed with hindsight like we are!

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