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:
Easy to Wed (1946) – Musical #81
Van Johnson, Esther Williams, Keenan Wynn, Lucille Ball, Cecil Kellaway, Ben Blue, June Lockhart, Grant Mitchell, Josephine Whittell, Paul Harvey, Jonathan Hale, James Flavin
Themselves: Carlos Ramírez, Ethel Smith
Connie Allenbury (Williams) and her father (Kellaway) sue The Morning Star newspaper for a $2 million libel suit when a piece of misinformation was published about her. The paper’s business manager Warren Haggerty (Wynn) is asked to postpone is wedding (again) to Gladys (Ball) to get the suit dropped. Haggerty brings in former reporter Bill Chandler (Johnson) to woo Connie, while also getting married to Gladys, so that Connie will be caught in a scandal.
• Remake of the MGM film LIBELED LADY (1936). Here is a comparison of who is playing who:
-Van Johnson/William Powell
-Esther Williams/Myrna Loy
-Keenan Wynn/Spencer Tracy
-Lucille Ball/Jean Harlow
• Virginia Rees dubbed Lucille Ball’s singing.
• MGM announced in 1944 their plans for this musical remake. Frank Morgan was originally announced in the cast.
• MGM hired Carmen Miranda to coach Van Johnson and Esther Williams for singing in Portuguese, according to Esther Williams’s autobiography.
• Filming was halted in March 1945 when Keenan Wynn was in a motorcycle wreck.
• Working title was “Early to Wed.”
• Van Johnson and Esther Williams’s third film together.
• Van Johnson and Jean Porter were set to do a song and dance number called “Tell Ya What I’m Gonna Do,” but it was cut from the film, according to Van Johnson’s biography.
• The Technicolor cinematography
• Costumes by Irene
• “Acercate más” performed by Carlos Ramírez, reprised by Esther Williams
• “Continental Polka” performed by Lucille Ball, dubbed by Virginia Rees
• “Bonecu de Pixe” performed by Van Johnson and Esther Williams
• “Toca Tu Samba” performed by Ethel Smith on the organ
Musical remakes are generally ridiculous, especially as you get into the 1950s.
EASY TO WED (1946) is a musical remake of an MGM comedy made 10 years before, LIBELED LADY (1936).
The original, LIBELED LADY, is one of my all-time favorite comedies. And at the same time, EASY TO WED is not only one of my favorite Esther William films, but one of my favorite MGM Technicolor spectaculars.
While the plot is pretty much the same except for added songs and Technicolor, I feel like this one still stand on its own two feet. It’s also important in the comedic career of Lucille Ball.
Today it seems like a no brainer that Lucille Ball would be cast in the comedic Jean Harlow role of Gladys, the girl who gets stuck behind the eight ball by the two men in her life. But at this point in her career, Ball was not yet known for comedy or as “Lucy.” Studios didn’t know what to do with her and when Buster Keaton approached Louis B. Mayer about letting Ball do comedy, Mayer said she was too beautiful for that type of acting.
Experts say that EASY TO WED is the first time Ball got to show her comedic side, which she later became known for, doing some of her signature looks and sounds that she later did on “I Love Lucy.”
Ball said EASY TO WED was a highlight of her career, according to her autobiography.
In a 1972 interview with James Bawden, Ball said Buzzell was the first director who took her aside and showed her how to do things.
The scene with Van Johnson and Lucille Ball drinking champagne and Johnson quoting Shakespeare to drunk Ball is hysterical.
But it’s not just Ball who is great in this film, Van Johnson, Esther Williams and Keenan Wynn are all great in this film.
I know some will balk at anyone reprising roles originated by Myrna Loy and William Powell … but I think it’s interesting that they were replaced with a new musical screen team: Van Johnson and Esther Williams. Johnson and Williams were both fresh faces at MGM and some of the studios top talent. It’s almost genius casting.
Former champion swimmer Williams only swims twice in this movie; no big musical swimming numbers. Williams makes an entrance by riding a water sled down an enormous slide, and later dives in a pool. She and Van Johnson also have a beautiful cinematic underwater kiss (with Johnson fully clothed).
Van Johnson is also great (but I’m biased because I love him in everything). The only downside is that Johnson was supposed to sing more in this film, but MGM got cold feet, worried audiences wouldn’t like his singing and cut a big song. As we later found, Johnson could sing just fine.
Keenan Wynn, as always, is great.
Like in most 1940s films, you can see the Good Neighbor Policy influence in the musical numbers. Colombian singer Carlos Ramírez performs, and Esther Williams and Van Johnson perform the Portuguese number, “Bonecu de Pixe.” This song has been a guilty pleasure of mine for years. Carmen Miranda coached the two in the number.
Overall, the film is simply gorgeous. MGM isn’t afraid to use color in this Technicolor extravaganza. At one point, a young lady is taking off her hat and coat to sing with a band, and she’s dressed in lime green. This action is taking place behind Van Johnson and Keenan Wynn while they are having a conversation. I just love the use of color for background characters.
The gowns by Irene, the jewelry by Joseff of Hollywood, and the hairstyles are fabulous. Lucille Ball and Esther Williams both look impossibly gorgeous.
This film is really just lots of fun, and it makes me laugh and smile. Sure, it’s a remake, but you almost forget about it while you’re lost in it’s charm.
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