Musical Monday: The Great Morgan (1945)

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 Great Morgan (1945) – Musical #736

great morgan


Nat Perrin

Frank Morgan (as himself), Leon Ames, Rand Brooks (uncredited), George Chandler (uncredited), Inez Cooper (uncredited), Ken Davidson (uncredited), Dell Henderson (uncredited),
Themselves: Cedric Gibbons, Douglas Shearer, Irene
Stars in archival footage: Eleanor Powell, Virginia O’Brien, The King Sisters, Tommy Dorsey, Lucille Norman, Carlos Ramirez, Jacqueline White, John Nesbitt, Ben Blue

Frank Morgan (as himself) is fed up with his acting career and wants to produce his own film. The studio head (Ames) is fed up with actors wanting to produce, so allows him to produce a film. While Morgan’s own film is being edited, he knocks over film reels and ends up with a mix of MGM films.

• The film was produced for non-United State audiences and was never released in the United States. According to U.S. trade papers, the tradeshow in October 1945. It was also never submitted for copyright.
• The film was thought to be lost but a print was discovered in 1980.
• The films featured in this movie include:
– Feature film, Ship Ahoy (1942)
– Short, A Pete Smith Specialty: Badminton (1945)
– Short, Musical Masterpiece (1946)
– Short, Passing Parade: Our Old Car (1946)
– Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937)
• The King Sisters number was a deleted number from “Meet the People”
• Working title was “Morgan’s Folly.”
• First and only film appearance of MGM sound designer Douglas Shearer, MGM art director Cedric Gibbons and MGM costume designer Irene.

• The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer footage
• Cedric Gibbons, Douglas Shearer and Irene playing themselves

great morgan2

Notable Songs:
• “Flight of the Bumblebee” performed by the MGM Studio Orchestra, from the short “Musical Masterpieces”
• “The Donkey Serenade” performed by Carlos Ramirez from the short “Musical Masterpieces”
• “Tales of Vienna Woods” performed by Lucille Norman and Carlos Ramirez from the short “Musical Masterpieces”
• “Go a New Pair of Shoes” danced by Eleanor Powell from “Broadway Melody of 1938”
• “Thank You Columbus” performed by the King Sisters, a deleted number from “Meet the People”
• “I Fell in Love with the Band Leader” performed by Virginia O’Brien and Tommy Dorsey and his Band, from “Ship Ahoy” (1942)

My review:
Before the “compilation episode” on television or even “That’s Entertainment” (1974), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced a curious curio, “The Great Morgan” (1945).

In this 57-minute film, Frank Morgan plays himself, depicted as a frustrated contract player who wants to produce his own film. An irritated studio head (Leon Ames) tells him to go ahead and the results are disastrous. Morgan’s film is behind schedule and when it’s time to edit the film, “Burning Secret,” and preview it for studio executives, Morgan knocks over film cans, leaving a tangle of film. Morgan edits together what he thinks is his film, which ends up being 2% his own story and 98% existing MGM film scenes and shorts (which one are used are listed above).

It’s true, this is a bizarre film to come out of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the 1940s, however, I did rather enjoy it.

To me, the best part is catching glimpses of MGM sound designer Douglas Shearer, MGM art director Cedric Gibbons and MGM costume designer Irene, all playing themselves in their only feature-film appearance. It’s worth watching just for that! The moment with Irene is particularly entertaining, because at first, Frank Morgan doesn’t know who she is, thinking it’s someone he made a date with. Irene looks confused and has to do a bit of comedy herself.

I’m admittedly a Frank Morgan fan—I think he’s underrated as both a dramatic and comedy actor—and think he’s humorous in this.

There are several humorous moments too—like when the “Burning Secret” is going to be revealed in Morgan’s “real” film, but a different short or musical number starts playing just when the actor on screen is about to say it. I also laughed when Frank Morgan starts to say which King Sister is his favorite and Leon Ames shoots him a silencing look.

I also thought it was interesting that shorts are included in the film that I may not otherwise watch. I thought “Musical Masterpiece” was particularly a good time (I love Carlos Ramiez). I’ll admit “Pete Smith Specialty: Badminton” and “Passing Parade: Our Old Car” were a bit dry, but interesting.

However, we also get to see some fun musical numbers. Even if it wasn’t original for the film, I’m never complaining when I get to see a clip of Eleanor Powell tap dancing! The number was edited from “Broadway Melody of 1938.” We also get to hear numbers from Virginia O’Brien with Tommy Dorsey’s band. I thought the number with The King Sisters was particularly interested, since it was a deleted scene from “Meet the People”—if it hadn’t been in this film, we may neve have seen it! (And I love the King Sisters).

Overall, yes this a weirdo little movie, but well worth your time in my opinion, because it’s just so different. Afterall, it’s only 57 minutes of your time.

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