Musical Monday: Wonder Man (1945)

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:
Wonder Man (1945) – Musical #239

The Samuel Goldwyn Company, distributed through RKO

H. Bruce Humberstone

Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo, Vera-Ellen, Donald Woods, S.Z. Sakall, Allen Jenkins, Steve Cochran, Edward Brophy, Otto Kruger, Natalie Schafer, Richard Lane, Huntz Hall, Edward Gargan, Virginia Gilmore, The Goldwyn Girls

Flashy nightclub performer Buzzy Bellew (Kaye) is killed before he can testify against gangster Ten Grand Jackson (Cochran). Buzzy then haunts his bookish twin brother Edwin Dingle (Kaye) to help him.

-Danny Kaye and Steve Cochran’s second feature film. Vera-Ellen’s first film
-Danny Kaye plays a dual role
-Vera-Ellen was dubbed by June Hutton
-Presented at the 1946 Cannes Film Festival
-Shown in combat areas in World War II
-Songs for the film written by Kaye’s wife, Sylvia Fine
-Costumes by Travis Banton

-Vibrant Technicolor

Awards and Nominations:
-John P. Fulton (photographic) and Arthur Johns (sound) won an Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects
-Gordon Sawyer was nominated for Best Sound, Recording
-David Rose (music) and Leo Robin (lyrics) were nominated for Best Music, Original Song for the song “So in Love.”
-Louis Forbes and Ray Heindorf were nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture

Danny Kaye in a dual role as twin brothers: One alive, one a ghost.

Notable Songs:
-“Bali Boogie” performed by Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen, dubbed by June Hutton
-“So in Love” performed by Vera-Ellen, dubbed by June Hutton, and the Goldwyn Girls

My review:
Coming off of his success in “Up in Arms” (1944), Danny Kaye stars in “Wonder Man” which is a film catering to his talents.

Kaye plays a dual role as twins: A flamboyant nightclub performer who is murdered and a bookish, genius. The different roles allowed Kaye to show his range, from sweet and sensitive to acting nearly crazed as a comic and singing tongue-twisting songs. Kaye may be a little exhausting at times, but I enjoy him in this role.

Outside of Kaye, “Wonder Man” has a great supporting cast, who unfortunately don’t get enough screentime. Vera-Ellen makes her film debut in “Wonder Man,” and while she isn’t on the screen very long, she performs two impressive dance numbers. Virginia Mayo had been in Hollywood a little longer than her co-stars but was still early in her Hollywood career. While she performed in musicals in the late-1940s and early-1950s, Mayo did not sing or dance in “Wonder Man.” Both Mayo and Vera-Ellen look gorgeous in the vibrant Technicolor of this film and Travis Banton costumes.

Virginia Mayo in “Wonder Man”

Vera-Ellen in her first film, “Wonder Man.”

Donald Woods also has a small role as the nightclub owner, and I always love to see him in a film. Also early in their career is Steve Cochran who has a smaller supporting role as our antagonist, the gangster Kaye could send to jail.

All the stars appear to be made for Technicolor, and this whole film is just gorgeous.

While some of the special effects probably seem like nothing for audiences of today, they are impressive, especially for a 1945 film. John P. Fulton and Arthur Johns won an Academy Award for Special Effects for making Danny Kaye’s ghost character walk through doors, not be able to grab a glass or have water shoot right through his head.

While some of Kaye’s gags can take a while, it is interesting to see how his persona was set up for the rest of his career. “Wonder Man” is an entertaining and fun film which helped catapult the career of several actors.

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