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:
Hooray for Love – Musical #734
RKO Radio Pictures
Ann Sothern, Gene Raymond, Thurston Hall, Pert Kelton, Georgia Caine, Lionel Stander, Etienne Girardot, Sam Hardy, Lucille Ball (uncredited),
Themselves: Bill Robinson, Jeni Le Gon, Fats Waller, Maria Gambarelli
College graduate Douglas Tyler (Raymond) is eager to get into show business. Doug meets and falls for performer Patricia Thatcher (Sothern), and her father (Hall) cons Doug into mortgaging his family home to put money into a musical show.
• First film appearance of Fats Waller.
• This is the only film that Bill Robinson danced with a Black female tap dancer, according to Robinson’s biographer. Robinson dances with Jeni Le Gon in the number “I’m Livin’ in a Great Big Way” where the two perform the tap number together.
• The first film appearance of ballet dancer Maria Gambarelli, who later was the prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera from 1938 to 1941.
• The ballet number with Maria Gambarelli.
• Pert Kelton’s comedic scenes.
• The tap number with Jeni Le Gon and Bill Robinson
• “I’m in Love All Over Again” performed by Ann Sothern
• “You’re An Angel” performed by Gene Raymond
• “I’m Livin’ in a Great Big Way” performed by Bill Robinson, Jeni Le Gon and Fats Waller
Smaller B-musicals can feel like a dime a dozen, with forgettable plots and an occasional hummable tune. That’s what I thought HOORAY FOR LOVE was going to be, but it turned out to be a hidden gem.
Ann Sothern and Gene Raymond were teamed together for the first time in HOORAY FOR LOVE. They later were reteamed at least three more times, almost becoming synonymous with low-budget, forgettable films. But HOORAY FOR LOVE shows their charm and chemistry, and it’s obvious why they were teamed again and again.
In the film, Ann Sothern plays a performer, Patricia Thatcher, who meets a college student Doug Taylor, played by Gene Raymond, while she’s performing in a night club. When Doug graduates, he’s looking for a job and meets up with Patricia again. He’s conned by her father (Hall) into backing a musical show, which doesn’t make Patricia happy. However, Doug has ideas of how to make the show successful while falling in love with Patricia.
In his film review book, film historian Leonard Maltin calls the movie “modest but very entertaining,” which is the perfect description. HOORAY FOR LOVE exceeding my expectations abut how much I would enjoy it.
While Sothern and Raymond are certainly a highlight, the true high points of the film come from some of the secondary cast and specialty performers. Actress Pert Kelton plays an aspiring musical star who in fact, isn’t a great singer. Per usual, Kelton is hilarious.
We also have the treat of seeing ballet dancer Maria Gambarelli perform beautifully, while costumed in gorgeous Walter Plunkett costumes, detailed with sequins and tulle. Gambarelli later was a prima ballerina for the Metropolitan Opera, according to her 1990 obituary.
Another highlight is a performance of “Livin’ in a Great Big Way” with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Jeni Le Gon and Fats Waller.
Leonard Maltin said this film exists in his mind because of this number, he shared in an interview on Turner Classic Movies. He also notes how amazing dancer Jeni Le Gon.
“Anyone who can dance aside and keep up with Bill Robinson will take your attention,” Maltin said.
The dancer number is fun and impressive. It also has a cute moment as children sing a portion of the song. I also love that Jeni Le Gon tapped in pants, rather than in a dress, because it felt like you could really see her dancing. After their tap number, Fats Waller enters the number and sings, which heightens the fun even more. It’s an excellent number, especially for tap lovers.
The whole film is delightful with some fun songs, glittery cinematography and charming stars. I’m happy to say that this one did exceed expectations.
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