Musical Monday: Too Many Girls (1940)

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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Too Many Girls (1940) – Musical #178

Studio: RKO Studios

Director: George Abbott

Starring:
Lucille Ball, Richard Carlson, Ann Miller, Eddie Bracken, Frances Langford, Desi Arnaz, Hal Le Roy, Libby Bennett, Douglas Walton, Harry Shannon, Van Johnson (uncredited), Chief John Big Tree (uncredited), Iron Eyes Cody (uncredited), Harry James (uncredited), Grady Sutton (uncredited)

Plot:
Connie Casey (Ball) is known for her wild reputation so four football players (Carlson, Bracken, Arnaz, Le Roy) are hired by her father to enroll in Pottawatomie College in New Mexico to chaperon her.

Trivia:
• Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz met on the set of “Too Many Girls” (1940), which was in production in June of 1940. The two were married in November 1940.
• Desi Arnaz’s film debut. He was reprising his role from the Broadway musical “Too Many Girls”
• Lucille Ball is dubbed by Trudy Erwin
• Adaptation of the stage musical “Too Many Girls,” which premiered Oct. 18, 1939, to May 18, 1940. Libby Bennett, Desi Arnaz, Eddie Bracken, Van Johnson, Hal Le Roy, Ivy Scott and Byron Shores were in the original stage musical. Director George Abbott also directed and produced the stage musical.
• The song “I Like to Recognize a Tune” was a song in the original stage musical but was dropped in the play. It was later used in another Lucille Ball vehicle, Meet the People.
• Harry James is uncredited as the orchestra leader
• Eddie Bracken’s first credited film role
• Van Johnson’s first film role.

Hal Le Roy, Lucille Ball, Richard Carlson, Eddie Bracken, Desi Arnaz

Highlights:
• Uncredited Van Johnson
• Dances by Hal Le Roy and Ann Miller
• Conga number at the end

Notable Songs:
• “Love Never Went to College” performed by Frances Langford
• “Spic ‘n’ Spanish” performed by Desi Arnaz
• “Look Out!” performed by Frances Langford and Ann Miller

Ann Miller and Desi Arnaz

My review:
Collegiate films are usually a good time. Youthful actors (who may be too old to be in college) sing and dance bright tunes, and the troubles the characters have are generally not too serious.

“Too Many Girls” is one of those light co-ed stories, which is a lot of fun. And while it may not rank in any “greatest musical” lists, “Too Many Girls” is a notable film because it brought together an important entertainment duo: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz met on the set of this film.

The two were introduced by George Abbott in the studio commissary before “Too Many Girls” filming began. The film was Arnaz’s film debut, and Ball had been acting in Hollywood since 1933.

Arnaz was engaged to actress Renée De Marco, which he broke, and he started calling Ball “Lucy” simply because he didn’t like the name Lucille, according to the book “Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball” by Stefan Kanfer. After a six month courtship which was peppered with frequent fights, the two were married in November 1940, according to Kanfer’s book.

While contemporary posters for “Too Many Girls” show Arnaz and Ball with their heads close together or embracing, they have few scenes together. Arnaz is a comedic relief secondary role, while Ball and Richard Carlson are the romantic leads. I love Richard Carlson and while his role isn’t very interesting, I do love seeing him in this film.

This film has a supporting cast of stars who were just on the brink of stardom. Ann Miller co-stars in the film (and is Arnaz’s love interest though this isn’t focused on much) has a couple of song and dance numbers. Miller had been in several films already, but hadn’t yet reached the musical stardom she reached later.

Van Johnson in “Too Many Girls”

Eddie Bracken is in his first film role and it wouldn’t be long before he quickly rose to fame. Just three years later, he would co-star in “Miracle on Morgan’s Creek” (1943). Frances Langford had already starred as herself in some musicals throughout the 1930s, but performs some lovely songs in this. Bracken has a funny scene where he is reenacting a moment between Ball and Carlson; furious that Carlson is thinking of girls and not football.

Of course, a highlight for me is Van Johnson in his film debut. It’s an uncredited role, but as he reprises his role from the stage musical, he is front and center in most song and dance number and even has one line. In two more years, Johnson would be signed to MGM and become one of their top stars.

 

“Too Many Girls” doesn’t have much of a plot but it has some legitimately funny moments and toe-tapping songs. It’s collegiate fun that may make you cheer “rah rah rah.”

Hal Le Roy, Ann Miller, Richard Carlson, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz Frances Langford, Eddie Bracken in “Too Many Girls”

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