Musical Monday: Colleen (1936)

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:
Colleen” (1936)– Musical #284

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Alfred E. Green

Starring:
Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Jack Oakie, Joan Blondell, Hugh Herbert, Louise Fazenda, Paul Draper, Marie Wilson, Luis Alberni, Hobart Cavanaugh, Berton Churchill, J.M. Kerrigan, Addison Richards

Plot:
Donald Ames, III, (Powell) runs the Ames Company and works to keep his uncle Cedric (Herbert) out of business decision. But when Donald heads out on a business trip, Uncle Cedric wreaks havoc by hiring grifter Joe Cook (Oakie) and pretty chocolate dipper Minnie (Blondell), and buys a dress shop where Colleen (Keeler) works for Minnie because she loves fashion. When Donald returns, he has to clean up the mess.

Trivia:
-Last film pairing of Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell
-Joan Blondell and Dick Powell were married a few months after this film was released.
-The original film was 100 minutes in the first preview but was released at 86 minutes.

Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell in “Colleen,” their last film together.

Highlights:
– The stars sing about their characters during the credits
– Fashion show number

Notable Songs:
-“I Don’t Have to Dream Again” performed by Dick Powell
-“Boulevardier from the Bronx” performed by Joan Blondell and Jack Oakie
-“An Evening with You” performed by Dick Powell
-“You Gotta Know How to Dance” performed by the cast

My review:
Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell were stars of some of Warner Bros.’s best musicals including Footlight Parade, 42nd Street and Dames. After seven films together, “Colleen” was their last film together and, unfortunately, the two didn’t go out on a high note.

“Colleen” is enjoyable but just okay. The Warner Bros. musical formula was all there: the usual co-stars, songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, and Orry-Kelly costumes. But it lacks the glitter and the dance numbers of the previously mentioned films.

I think part of this is because Busby Berkley wasn’t involved in the directing or choreography of the numbers. The dances choreographed by Bobby Connolly were fine, but unexciting and disorganized. For example, the dancers dressed as society horseback riders in the fashion show. They tap danced and lept over hedges (like they were riding horses) in a number that felt half-hearted compared to the other numbers Warner Bros. staged in the past.

Another thing I found bothersome in the film was that all the songs were too low for Ruby Keeler’s voice. I don’t see why they didn’t raise them for her.

One highlight of the film is the number “Boulevardier from the Bronx” performed by Jack Oakie and Joan Blondell. You also get to see tap dancer Paul Draper perform. His dancing is great, but his acting is something awful.

The Orry-Kelly costumes are also another highlight of the film, especially the fashion show number. However, my favorite part of the film is the credits when the stars sing about their roles.

“Colleen” isn’t one of Warner Bros. best when it comes to musicals or pairings of Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell. It’s enjoyable, but you can’t go in expecting the same caliber of numbers.

Louise Fazenda, Paul Draper, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell and Hugh Herbert in “Colleen”

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