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:
Rise and Shine (1941) – Musical #433
20th Century Fox
Jack Oakie, Linda Darnell, George Murphy, Donald Meek, Milton Berle, Walter Brennan, Sheldon Leonard, Raymond Walburn, Emma Dunn, Donald MacBride, William Haade, Dick Rich
To keep Clayton College open, they must have more students enroll. And the way to do that is have a winning football team. However, the star football player Boley Bolenciecwcz (Oakie) is facing scrutiny, because his grades aren’t up to snuff. Boley goes to stay with the family of student and cheerleader Louise Murray (Darnell), including her eccentric parents (Meek, Dunn) and grandpa (Brennan), so he can have a quieter atmosphere to study and sleep. However, a gangster (Leonard) wants Boley kidnapped, because he wants Notre Dame to win against Clayton.
• Director Allan Dwan’s last film under contract at 20th Century Fox
• Jeanne Darrell dubbed the singing voice of Linda Darnell
• Based on the story “My Life and Hard Times” by James Thurber
• Broderick Crawford, Wayne Morris or Jack Carson were originally considered for the role of Boley. The role went to Jack Oakie.
• Allen Jenkins was originally discussed for the role of Seabiscuit, which went to Milton Berle.
• The technical advisor for the film was Robert C. McNeish, who was the assistant football coach at the University of Southern California.
• Former Notre Dame University All-American Nick Lukats, instructed Jack Oakie in tackling
• The songs “It All Depends on Thee” and “Dance it Off” were cut from the film.
• George Murphy was borrowed from MGM for the film.
• Bicycle choreography
• “Yale 34? Isn’t that kind of old to be playing football?”
• Donald Meek, Raymond Walburn singing along to the cheer.
• Walter Brennan and Ruth Donnelly
• “I’m Making a Play for You” performed by George Murphy
• “I Want to Be the Guy” performed by Jack Oakie
• “Get Thee Behind Me, Clayton” performed by Jack Oakie
• “The Men of Clayton Cheer” performed by Linda Darnell, dubbed by Jeanne Darrell
Colligates sang and dance across the silver screen throughout the 1930s. By the 1940s, this type of co-ed musical was starting to go by the wayside. But 20th Century Fox gave us one more right before the start of World War II. RISE AND SHINE (1941) was released two days before the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
The film is ridiculous and silly, but a good bit of fun.
Jack Oakie plays star football player Boley Bolenciecwcz, who excels on the football field but not in the classroom. In addition to not being very bright, Boley is always trying to take a nap. But in order to continue playing football, Boley has to pass his exams. The fate of the school depends on him and having a winning football team. Boley goes to live with the family of cheerleader Louise Murray (Darnell), where he can be tutored and get some rest. But gangsters get involved — first New York gangster Menace (Sheldon Leonard) has bet on Clayton and wants to ensure their success. So he sends night club dancer Jimmy McGonigle (George Murphy) to keep an eye on Boley. Then, Menace changes his mind and wants Clayton to lose against Notre Dame, hoping that Boley gets kidnapped.
At age 37, Jack Oakie is perhaps a bit old to be playing a college football player, but somehow it doesn’t matter. He’s great in the role — hilarious and dopey. Oakie later said this was one of his favorite films, according to the biographer of director Allan Dwan.
At age 18, Linda Darnell was finally playing a role that was more appropriate for her age. After playing wives and glamor girls who were far beyond her years, Darnell is lovely and sweet as a college cheerleader.
George Murphy’s role feels a bit thrown in — why would a nightclub performer go babysit a football player? But regardless, I like Murphy’s dancing and he doesn’t disappoint here.
With dance numbers choreographed by Hermes Pan, Pan’s biographer notes that the dance routines are similar to Pan’s work with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers at RKO. You can see this in Murphy’s floor show routine as he uses a table cloth to act like a toreador, and later when Darnell and Murphy perform some fancy footwork on bicycles. The bicycle choreography was a highlight in my book.
RISE AND SHINE has an excellent supporting cast. Ruth Donnelly and Walter Brennan are a highlight, especially as they are performing together and Brennan (dressed as an elderly grandpa) is trying to romance the much younger Donnelly.
This film had enjoyable songs, especially the football cheer, which was performed as an actual song, on the football field. I love 20th Century Fox musicals of the 1940s, as they often incorporate swing band music into the score.
It’s funny, because while I thoroughly enjoyed the film, I realized I had seen it before and didn’t remember! This revisit left more of an impression.
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I had to laugh at the whole gangster angle, and at Jack Oakie being 37 when he played his role. I’m always up for a Linda Darnell movie, though — I’ve never seen her in a musical! And anything with swing music is okay with me!