About Jnpickens

Classic film lover and reporter in North Carolina.

Musical Monday: Starlift (1951)

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:
Starlift (1951) – Musical #653

Studio:
Warner Bros.

Director:
Roy Del Ruth

Starring:
Janice Rule, Dick Wesson, Ron Hagerthy, Richard Webb, Hayden Rorke, Howard St. John, Richard Crenna (uncredited), Ann Doran (uncredited)
Themselves: Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, James Cagney Virginia Mayo, Ruth Roman, Gene Nelson, Gary Cooper, Virginia Gibson, Phil Harris, Frank Lovejoy, Lucille Norman, Louella Parsons, Randolph Scott, Jane Wyman, Patrice Wymore, LeRoy Prinz, Tommy Noonan and Peter Marshall (as Noonan and Marshall)

Plot:
Cpl. Rick Williams (Hagerthy) grew up in the same town as now-famous actress Nell Wayne (Rule). When Nell and other movie stars are near their military base for a premiere, Rick’s buddy Sgt. Mike Nolan (Wesson) encourages Rick to seek her out to say hello, even though they didn’t really know each other. When Mike and Rick meet Nell, Doris Day and Ruth Roman, Mike lies that they are about to go overseas to see action in the Korean War so that the three actresses will accompany them back to the base. While visiting, the actresses are inspired to gather other Warner Bros. stars to return and entertain the troops preparing to go overseas or are returning. Meanwhile, Louella Parsons reports a romance between Rick and Nell, and the two begin to fall in love.

Continue reading

Watching 1939: Mystery Plane (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film: 
Mystery Plane (1939)

Release date: 
March 8, 1939

Cast: 
John Trent, Marjorie Reynolds, Milburn Stone, Jason Robards Sr., George Lynn (billed as Peter George Lynn), Polly Anne Young, Lucien Littlefield, Tommy Bupp, Betsy Gay

Studio: 
Monogram Pictures

Director: 
George Waggner

Plot:
As a child, “Tailspin” Tommy Tompkins idolizes World War I aviation hero, ‘Brandy’ Rand (Lynn), who became a stunt flier after the war. After meeting Brandy as a child, Tommy doesn’t hear about his whereabouts again and Tommy himself becomes an aviator as an adult. Tommy and his aviation partner Skeeter (Stone) design a radio-controlled bombing device, which they would like to present to the U.S. Army. Little do they know that a ring of spies is also eager to get their hands on the device – including Tommy’s childhood hero.

1939 Notes:
• By the Numbers:
– John Trent was in four films released in 1939. In all of those films, he was billed as “Tailspin Tommy.” Trent was an aviator who went into films and left films by 1941.
– Peter George Lynn was in 10 films released in 1939. Later billed as George Lynn, in 1939, he was billed as Peter Lynn and Peter George Lynn.
– Polly Ann Young was in four films released in 1939.
– Lucien Littlefield was in seven films released in 1939.

Other trivia: 
• One of four “Tailspin Tommy” films released in 1939, all released by Monogram Pictures. Prior to the feature-length 1939 series, there were Tailspin Tommy serials in 1934.
• The character of Tailspin Tommy is based on a comic strip by Hal Forrest and Glenn Chaffin.

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
In the 1930s, Hollywood talent scouts seemed to pluck any every day (but good-looking) person from their daily life and put them in front of the cameras.

One of those people was John Trent, a commercial pilot noticed by a film executive on a flight. Trent was given a screen test, signed a contract, and made 15 films from 1931 to 1941 before giving up on his film career.

Towards the end of his career, Trent was cast as the comic strip character Tailspin Tommy, which followed a young aviator’s adventures.

Tailspin Tommy was first seen in serial shorts in the mid-1930s, and Trent brought the character to screen in four feature-length films in 1939.

The first of these films is today’s 1939 film, “Mystery Plane.”

The film begins in the 1920s as we see former World War I hero, Brandy Rand, performing aviation stunts with a group of children marveling at his performance. One of those children is Tommy, who gets the opportunity to meet his hero and is encouraged to work towards an aviation career.

As an adult, Tommy is working his dream job as a pilot and inventing aviation materials to aid the Army. Enemy spies are also interested in Tommy’s work – including Brandy Rand.

For a low-budget Monogram film, “Mystery Plane” is a fun film. I had never heard of Tailspin Tommy before watching “Mystery Plane,” so it was interesting to learn about that character. I also love discovery stories like John Trent’s.

The film co-stars Marjorie Reynolds (who has recently been in several of our 1939 features) as a female aviator. We also see Loretta Young’s sister, Polly Ann Young, who sounds just like her sister if you close your eyes.

Running at only an hour, this film does jump around a bit and potentially have some plot holes, but if you are looking for mindless, brief entertainment, this won’t disappoint.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

 

Musical Monday: Rhythm Serenade (1943)

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:
Rhythm Serenade (1943) – Musical #652

Studio:
Columbia British Productions

Director:
Gordon Wellesley

Starring:
Vera Lynn, Peter Murray-Hill, Julien Mitchell, Charles Victor, Jimmy Jewel (billed as Jimmie Jewell), Ben Warriss, Joss Ambler, Rosalyn Boulter

Plot:
When her school closes, Ann Martin (Lynn) is determined to join the WRNS, the Women’s Royal Naval Service of Great Britain. Before she can join, her uncle thinks she would be better suited running a nursery for the children of women needed for wartime factory work. While locating a house for the nursery, Ann meets John Drover (Murray-Hill), a mysterious man in a nearby cottage. The two fall in love while Ann’s brothers (Jewel and Warriss) determine why he’s not in uniform.

Continue reading

Musical Monday: The Amazing Mrs. Holliday (1943)

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 Amazing Mrs. Holliday (1943) – Musical #632

Studio:
Universal Studios

Director:
Bruce Manning and uncredited Jean Renoir

Starring:
Deanna Durbin, Edmond O’Brien, Barry Fitzgerald, Arthur Treacher, Harry Davenport, Grant Mitchell, Frieda Inescort, Elisabeth Risdon, Jonathan Hale, Esther Dale, Gus Schilling, Philip Ahn (uncredited), Irving Bacon (uncredited), Richard Loo (uncredited)
The Children: Christopher Severn, Yvonne Severn, Vido Rich, Mila Rich, Teddy Infuhr, Linda Bieber, Diane DuBois, Bill Ward

Plot:
Ruth (Durbin) is an American who grew up with China with her missionary parents. After they died, she worked at a school and helped war orphans. When China was invaded by the Japanese, Ruth and the orphans leave to get to a safer area. With the help of Timothy Blake (Fitzgerald), Ruth and the eight children sneak on to Commodore Holliday’s cargo ship headed for the United States. When the ship is torpedoed, Ruth, the children and Timothy survive, and the Commodore dies. In order to get the children safely into the United States, Ruth poses as the Commodore’s widow. She runs into problems when she moves into the Commodore’s mansion and meets his wealthy relatives and grandson, Thomas Holliday (O’Brien).

Continue reading

Watching 1939: Rough Riders’ Round-Up (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film: 
Rough Riders’ Round-up (1939)

Release date: 
March 13, 1939

Cast: 
Roy Rogers, Trigger, Lynne Roberts (billed as Mary Hart), Raymond Hatton, Eddie Acuff, William Pawley, Dorothy Sebastian, George Meeker, Duncan Renaldo, Jack Rockwell, Guy Usher

Studio: 
Republic Pictures

Director: 
Joseph Kane

Plot:
At the end of the Spanish-American War, Roy (Rogers) and his unit of Rough Riders are reassigned as border patrol near Mexico. The Border Patrolmen are trying to stop outlaws from smuggling gold from stay coaches. In the process, Dorothy Blair (Hart/Roberts) is kidnapped during a raid.

Continue reading

Musical Monday: Private Buckaroo (1942)

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:
Private Buckaroo (1942) – Musical #627

Studio:
Universal Studios

Director:
Edward F. Cline

Starring:
Themselves: The Andrews Sisters (Patty Andrews, Maxene Andrews, Laverne Andrews), Harry James and his Music Makers, Helen Forrest, The Jivin’ Jacks and Jills
Stars: Dick Foran, Joe E. Lewis, Ernest Truex, Jennifer Holt, Shemp Howard, Richard Davies, Mary Wickes, Donald O’Connor, Peggy Ryan, Huntz Hall, Susan Levine, Sidney Miller (uncredited), Addison Richards (uncredited), Tommy Rall (uncredited), Gene O’Donnell (uncredited)

Plot:
Famed trumpet player Harry James (himself) is drafted at the start of World War II. His fellow nightclub performer, Lon Prentice (Foran), wants to enlist in the Army but keeps getting declined as 4F for flat feet. Lon finally is accepted into the Army, but at basic training, Lon doesn’t feel he needs to participate in military training.

Continue reading

Watching 1939: Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film: 
Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939)

Release date: 
Aug. 1, 1939

Cast: 
Boris Karloff, Marjorie Reynolds, Grant Withers, Huntley Gordon, George Lynn (billed as Peter George Lynn), William Royle, James Flaven, Lotus Long, Lee Tung Foo, Bessie Loo, Richard Loo, Angelo Rossitto (uncredited)

Studio: 
Monogram Pictures

Director: 
William Nigh

Plot:
Chinese Princess Lin Hwa (Lotus Long) is killed in the San Francisco home of detective James Lee Wong (Karloff). Wong helps Inspector Bill Street (Withers) determine why the princess was killed, with reporter Bobbie Logan (Reynolds) also trying to crack the case. Their only clue is the note “Captain J” written on a slip of paper by the princess before she died.

Continue reading

Musical Monday: Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967)

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:
Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967) – Musical #651

Studio:
Woolner Brothers Pictures Inc.

Director:
Jean Yarbrough

Starring:
Ferlin Husky, Joi Lansing, Don Bowman, Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., Linda Ho, Richard Webb, Allen Jung, Virginia Ann Lee
Themselves: Merle Haggard, Molly Bee, Jim Kent, Sonny James and the Southern Gentlemen, Marcella Wright

Plot:
Country singers Woody Wetherby (Huskey), Jeepers (Bowman) and Boots Malone (Lansing) are traveling to Nashville for a music festival. They run into a storm along the way and a gas station recommends that they take refuge in an abandoned mansion … or so they think. It turns out that a group of spies (Rathbone, Chaney, Carradine, Ho) are hiding in the mansion and keeping people away by making it seem haunted. The spies are trying to get a top secret formula from a nearby factory.

Continue reading

Musical Monday: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949)

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:
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949) – Musical #200

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Tay Garnett

Starring:
Bing Crosby, Rhonda Fleming, Cedric Hardwicke, William Bendix, Murvyn Vye, Virginia Field, Joseph Vitale, Henry Wilcoxon, Richard Webb, Alan Napier, Julia Faye, Mary Field, Ann Carter, Olin Howland (uncredited)

Plot:
In 1912, mechanic Hank Martin (Crosby) is caught in a storm, while riding a horse. When he falls from the horse and hits his head, he finds himself transported to Camelot and the court of King Arthur (Hardwicke). Since Hank traveled backwards from the present, he’s regarded as a monster or a magician with all of his knowledge. He falls in love with Lady Alisande La Carteloise (Fleming), who is betrothed to Sir Lancelot (Wilcoxon).

Continue reading

Jackie Cooper’s Halloween Party

While I am no expert chef, fabulous cook or food blogger, I enjoy finding recipes supposedly connected to classic film stars. I love magazines articles and ads touting Richard Dix’s favorite chili recipe or Cary Grant’s oyster stew. I even collect compilation books or pamphlets featuring top stars and their recipes.

Even the child stars were getting in the act with culinary activities.

In the October 1931 issue of Photoplay, 9-year-old Jackie Cooper shares his favorite recipes that he will be preparing for an upcoming Halloween party.

“There is going to be a Halloween party at Jackie Cooper’s house. There will probably be lots of stunts – weird, flapping ghosts and strange creepy noises everywhere, but when everyone is hungry, there will be plenty of goodies close by. That rascal Jackie will have more than a hand in the pranks played on his guests, but not many of them will guess that he had a hand in the cooking too!”

With the holiday tie in, I decided to try these recipes for the Halloween season.

The article shares recipes that Jackie jotted down for us readers. I gave them a try, and while I’m no expert baker, I think they all turned out fairly well. That said – I wasn’t familiar with some of the older cooking terms that differ from our contemporary stoves, ovens and cooking methods. For example, I had to research the temperature of a hot oven or moderate oven. Here are the outcomes of Jackie’s pumpkin pie, chocolate caramels and peanut cookies:

Pumpkin Pie:

Unfortunately the scanned article does cut off the right side – this wasn’t a scan error.

The outcome of the pie.

My review:
The end product of this pumpkin pie was really delicious, but the good outcome was a surprise. Everything was mixing fairly well, though getting a bit soupy. The last step of the recipe is to mix in melted butter. Since my butter was still warm, it reacted poorly when hitting the other, cooler ingredients. Instead of mixing smoothly, the butter congealed. When poured in the pie shell, the butter rose to the top. Because of the soupy nature of the mixture, the pie ended up baking for 2 hours.

If I made this again, I would mix the melted butter in earlier with the dry ingredients. The mixture also made more than the deep dish pie shell would hold, so I would also consider using mini pie tarts in order to use the whole mixture.

Otherwise, this pumpkin pie was one of the best I have eaten. I really liked the cinnamon that was included.

Substitutes: I used canned pumpkin and a frozen Pillsbury pie shell.

Chocolate Caramels:

My review: While none of the recipes were particularly difficult to make, the caramels may have been the easiest. Making this is similar to fudge – it is all on the stove, like any other candy making. Though I would describe the finished product more like hard candy (or Werther’s Originals) than caramel. Once the candy cooled and hardened, it was VERY hard.

I had to chisel these with a knife and a baking hammer to cut them into small squares. And boy were they hard to eat! Be careful if you have any fillings! However, after a day or two, they softened to a flakey consistency and melted in your mouth! I actually think this candy tasted better a day or two after making it.

In making these, the only difficulty was determining if the baking chocolate I bought was correct and enough. The packaging of Baker’s chocolate changed, making it a little confusing. Also, I chopped the chocolate with a knife, rather than grating.

Peanut Cookies

My review: I’m not a huge fan of nuts (pecans, almonds, etc) in my desserts, but these peanut cookies are very tasty! They were also the easiest to make. I wasn’t sure if the peanut-to-dough ratio was going to work out, but it mixed perfectly. These were tasty! Of course, if you have any tree nut allergies, do not attempt to make or eat these.

You can find the full recipe as it was printed in Photoplay here. I absolutely believe that Jackie Cooper made these, don’t you? Just kidding – but whether he did or not, it was a fun way to spend a weekend.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com