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:
The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947) – Musical #717
20th Century Fox
Betty Grable, Dick Haymes, Anne Revere, Allyn Joslyn, Gene Lockhart, Elizabeth Patterson, Elisabeth Risdon, Arthur Shields, Charles Kemper, Roy Roberts, Coleen Gray, Lillian Bronson (uncredited)
Set in 1874, Cynthia Pilgrim (Grable) graduates as a star student from the Packard Business College of New York. She’s thrilled when she lands a typist job at the Pritchard Shipping Company in Boston. But her boss John Pritchard (Haymes) is not thrilled with having a woman in his office. And Cynthia discovers finding room and board in Boston as a working woman is a challenge. She gets involved in the suffrage movement, which Mr. Pritchard also doesn’t like.
• The songs were composed by George and Ira Gershwin. The songs were purchased by 20th Century Fox and for the film, Ira Gershwin put lyrics to unpublished melodies written by his brother George, who had died in 1937, according to a July 1945 Louella Parsons column.
• William Eythe and Jeanne Crain were originally announced as the leads of “The Shocking Miss Pilgrim” in a Jan. 1945 column by Sidney Skolsky. Dick Haymes was then announced to lead in May 1945 by Louella Parsons.
• The song “A Tour of the Town” performed by Betty Grable and Dick Haymes was filmed but cut from the film.
• Alice Mock dubbed the singing voice of Anne Revere.
• Packard Business College of New York was a real school which operated from 1858 to 1954.
• The Remington Museum supplied antique typewriters for the film.
• Gene Lockhart replaced Porter Hall who was injured before filming started.
• Director George Seaton was ill during filming so John Stahl and filled in Edmund Goulding.
• Elizabeth Patterson
• Gene Lockhart
• “Sweet Packard” performed by a chorus of students
• “Changing My Tune” performed by Betty Grable
• “Stand Up and Fight” performed by
• “One, Two, Three” performed by Betty Grable and Dick Haymes
Betty Grable was most famous for her million dollar legs and really selling a song and dance in a film.
Her 20th Century Fox musicals were lavish with plots set at a resort in the Rockies, living on an island, visiting Miami or in Argentina — all photographed in brilliant Technicolor with big band era-like scores. It was the type of escapism entertainment that got film goers through World War II.
But this week’s post war Musical Monday — THE SHOCKING MISS PILGRM (1947) — is different type of musical for Grable. With a plot set in 1874, Grable plays Cynthia Pilgrim who just graduated from secretary and business school, eager to work as a typing secretary in an office. When she’s sent to work in Boston, she finds businesses and landlords are not enthusiastic about a lady typist. The least enthusiastic is her employer, John Pritchard (Haymes), of Pritchard Shipping Company. Miss Pilgrim becomes active in the suffrage movement, which Mr. Pritchard also a fan of, especially when the two begin to fall in love.
This women’s rights story is fairly different than other Grable roles. For starters, we don’t see any of Grable’s dancing skills—she doesn’t dance at all. In 1874 clothing, Grable’s blonde hair is a bit darker and naturally we don’t see her famous legs (though we do see her ankles which her coworkers look at, and she lifts her skirt to adjust her stockings.
Aside from a song that opens the film performed by the chorus, our next song is 23 minutes in. However, after that it’s song and song, performed by Grable and crooned by Dick Haymes. Though the songs have Ira and George Gershwin credits, the music isn’t terribly memorable. It all has a feel of being filler. Poor Allyn Joslyn is dubbed for a song and looks simply ridiculous.
For me, the best thing about the film is the supporting cast is fun with Elizabeth Patterson, Gene Lockhart and Elisabeth Risdon.
I also liked that this film doesn’t end with Grable quitting her job to satisfy society.
It sounds like I’m being hard on this film, it actually is a good time. It is Technicolor entertainment; it is just a bit of a different than Grable’s films prior to this. While she doesn’t dance and glitter, Grable gives a great performance in this film. I do wish she had a better leading man here.
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