About Jnpickens

Classic film lover and reporter in North Carolina.

Musical Monday: Girl Happy (1965)

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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Girl Happy” (1965)– Musical #229

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Boris Sagal

Starring:
Elvis Presley, Shelley Fabares, Harold J. Stone, Gary Crosby, Jimmy Hawkins, Joby Baker, Chris Noel, Nita Talbot, Mary Ann Mobley, Jackie Coogan, Peter Brooks, Lyn Edgington

Plot:
Rusty Wells (Presley) and his band (Crosby, Hawkins) play in Big Frank’s (Stone) club in Chicago. Big Frank is protective over his daughter Valerie (Fabares), who wants to go to Fort Lauderdale for spring break. Rusty and his band members volunteer to watch Valerie and make sure she doesn’t get in to trouble.

Trivia:
-First of three films Shelley Fabares co-starred in with Elvis Presley
-Shot in California, rather than Fort Lauderdale
-“The Meanest Girl in Town” was written in 1964 by Bill Haley

Shelley Fabares in “Girl Happy”

Highlights:
-Technicolor photography
-The Clam dance number

Notable Songs:
-“Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce” performed by Elvis Presley (because it’s funny)
-“The Clam” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Girl Happy” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Spring Fever” performed by Elvis Presley and Shelley Fabares
-“The Meanest Girl in Town” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Puppet On a String” performed by Elvis Presley

Gary Crosby, Elvis Presley and Jimmy Hawkins in “Girl Happy”

My review:
To clear the air, we all know Elvis Presley films are generally colorful fluff. But they are a lot of fun. And Girl Happy (1965) is one of my favorite of the Elvis musicals.

A large part of what makes this film great is Shelley Fabares as the leading lady. In my opinion, Shelley Fabares, Dolores Hart, and Ann-Margret are Elvis’ three best leading ladies. Many of the other leading ladies weren’t well-known but these three match up to Elvis’ star caliber.

Shelley was a sweet, soft, down-to-Earth young lady in the film and not a sex pot that Elvis chased. Elvis doesn’t chase Shelley’s character but is looking after her and then falls in love.

While the plot is fluffy, it’s fun and fast-moving. Some Elvis movies can be a chore to sit through but this one is so entertaining and happy.

We even get to see Jackie Coogan in a small role!

“Girl Happy” was MGM’s attempt at the American International Pictures beach films like, “Beach Party.” If you ask me, MGM did it better than AIP. Probably because it had a larger budget.

Even my 5-month-old niece seemed to enjoy this movie, and particularly bopped around and gurgled to “The Clam.”

If you’re looking for a breezy, colorful film for the spring and summer, “Girl Happy” is an easy pick.

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

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Musical Monday: Bitter Sweet (1940)

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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Bitter Sweet” (1940)– Musical #272

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
W.S. Van Dyke

Starring:
Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, George Sanders, Ian Hunter, Felix Bressart, Lynne Carver, Curt Bois, Diana Lewis, Fay Holden, Sig Ruman, Herman Bing, Hans Conried, Edward Ashley

Plot:
Set in the 19th Century, Sarah Millick (MacDonald), falls in love with her music teacher Carl Linden (Eddy). The two elope and move to his home of Vienna, where they struggle to get by and Carl tries to sell his operetta.

Trivia:
-The play and score were written by Noel Coward
-Remake of a 1933 film of the same title “Bitter Sweet”, starring Anna Neagle and Fernand Gravey
-Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy’s seventh (and second to last) film
-When Jeanette MacDonald sings “Love In Any Language” with French accent, she was partially dubbed by Harriet Lee

Highlights:
-Technicolor photography

Notable Songs:
-“I’ll See You Again” performed by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy
-“What Is Love” performed by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy

My review:

Eddy and MacDonald in Technicolor

I enjoy almost all of the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy musicals. But “Bitter Sweet” is my least favorite of their eight films together. I even like it less than their last pairing, “I Married An Angel” (1942), which some consider their worst film.

It begins in vibrant Technicolor, showing off Jeanette’s lovely red hair and Adrian’s gowns in glorious color. You have high hopes but they fall from there.

It’s hard to pin point why this one falls flat for me. It’s the same story line we see again and again: the rich girl marries a poor composer. They struggle financially as he tries to sell his operetta and the wife ends up singing in a casino where lecherous men try to woo her.

Even though “Bitter Sweet” was written by Noel Coward, there is just nothing special about it. It’s sort of a lazy, lackluster film (despite the beautiful Technicolor). New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther describes it best in his Nov. 22, 1940 review:

“But Miss MacDonald and Mr. Eddy play it all with such an embarrassing lack of ease—she with self-conscious high-spirit and he with painful pomposity; Mr, Van Dyke’s direction betrays such a lack of imagination or zest, and the feeble attempts at comedy fall so resoundingly flat that the show, for the average customer, is likely to prove big but bad.”

As for the music for the singing duo, the songs aren’t memorable. The worst part of the film is when Jeanette MacDonald sings like a French girl. She is asked to show off her talent to her new husband’s friends at a party and then puts on this awful French accent and dances around and sings. It’s so bad, I would feel embarrassed for her if I had been at that party.

I say all this as a fan of MacDonald and Eddy. I love “Rose Marie,” “Maytime” and even “Girl of the Golden West,” but “Bitter Sweet” left me feeling sour.

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

Musical Monday: Du Barry Was a Lady (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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
“Du Barry Was a Lady” (1943)– Musical #173

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Roy Del Ruth

Starring:
Red Skelton, Gene Barry, Lucille Ball, Virginia O’Brien, Rags Ragland, Zero Mostel, Louise Beavers, Donald Meek, Ava Gardner (uncredited), Marilyn Maxwell (uncredited), George Carroll (uncredited),
As Themselves: Tommy Dorsey, Lana Turner, Dick Haymes, Jo Stafford

Plot:
All working at the same club, coat check boy Louis Blore (Skelton) and master of ceremonies Alec Howe (Kelly) are both in love with nightclub performer May Daly (Ball), where she sings a song as Madame DuBarry. May is in love with Alec, but she is holding out to marry a rich man. Louis wins $150,000 in a sweepstakes. Then he drinks a drugged drink and dreams that he’s King Louis XV and Lucille Ball is Madame DuBarry.

Lucille Ball and Red Skelton go back to the 1700s

Trivia:
-Lucille Ball’s first starring role under contract with MGM.
-Ann Sothern was originally set to star in this film, but turned it down because she was pregnant with her daughter, Tisha.
-Zero Mostel’s first film
-Lucille Ball was dubbed by Martha Mears
-Produced by Arthur Freed
-Based on the 1939 Broadway musical starring Bert Lahr, Ethel Merman and Betty Grable. The film used very little of the original Cole Porter score.

Highlights:
-Technicolor
-Virginia O’Brien’s performances
-The “Esquire Girl” number, with all the different costumes
-Lana Turner’s cameo

Notable Songs:
-“DuBarry was a Lady” performed by Lucille Balls, dubbed by Martha Mears
-“Do I Love You” performed by Gene Kelly
-“Salome” performed by Virginia O’Brien
-“I Love an Esquire Girl” performed by Red Skelton and Pied Piper
-“Friendship” performed by Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly

My review:
“DuBarry Was a Lady” isn’t the best MGM musical around, and a lot of it is nonsense, but it sure is fun.

The film revolves around a nightclub hat check, played by Red Skelton, who is in love with the club’s singer, played by Lucille Ball. Ball’s character portray’s Madame Du Barry in her act (hence the title). Lucille Ball is in love with fellow performer Gene Kelly, but she is unwilling to marry a poor man and end up happy, but broke like her parents. Skelton strikes it rich, but gets accidentally drugged, where he dreams everyone in the club is back in the days of France in the 1700s (include Tommy Dorsey and his band).

The time traveling dream sequence may seem a little random, and it does take you out of the story line, but it’s fairly entertaining.

For some reason, this 1943 Technicolor musical seems to explode color than any other 1940s MGM musical. Maybe it’s because of the costume color selections that were picked. We start with a musical number of chorus girls in Ziegfeld Girl-like blue and purple costumes. Then there is Lucille Ball with her vibrant red hair (a color MGM stylist Sydney Guilaroff called Tango Red). Of course, Red Skelton also has a shock of red hair. And then there’s Virginia O’Brien’s unforgettable chartreuse blouse. Visually, this film is off-the-charts gorgeous!

Virginia O’Brien with this chartreuse blouse

Colorful costumes for the opening number

Lucille Ball with her “Tango Red” hair

Red Skelton is the star of this film and has the most screen time. While Lucille Ball and Gene Kelly may be the reason some folks tune into this one, Kelly is really secondary to Ball and Skelton. Kelly only has one full-on dance number. According to her autobiography “Love, Lucy,” Lucille Ball enjoyed working with Red Skelton. Lana Turner even has a cameo in the film!

Zero Mostel also randomly shows up in this film and does some moderately annoying impressions. For example, he does one of Charles Boyer in “Algiers” (1938) and just repeats “Heddyyyy” about 15 times. And then there is Virginia O’Brien, who sings in her straight-faced singing style, that is somehow so appealing.

“Du Barry was a Lady” has it’s faults and is silly. But I won’t deny that I love it. Hopefully you will too.

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

Musical Monday: April Showers (1948)

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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
April Showers (1948) – Musical #218

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
James V. Kern

Starring:
Ann Sothern, Jack Carson, Robert Alda, S.Z. Sakall, Robert Ellis, Billy Curtis, Joseph Crehan, Barbara Bates (uncredited), Mel Blanc (voice, uncredited)

Plot:
Married vaudeville couple Joe and June Tyme (Carson, Sothern) have a failing act. Their act takes off when their young son Buster (Ellis) joins. The only problem is that he really should be in school.

Trivia:
-Robert Ellis does impressions and Mel Blanc does the voice
-Film is loosely based on Buster Keaton who outshone his parents in their vaudeville act

Highlights:
-When the movie ended

Notable Songs:
-“April Showers” performed by Ann Sothern
-“Pretty Baby” performed by Robert Alda
-“Every Little Movement” performed by Robert Alda

Ann Sothern, Jack Carson and Robert Ellis in “April Showers” (1948)

My review:
I seek out films starring Ann Sothern. Ann could play it all: comedy, crime, fast talking dame, musical or tender-hearted mother.

And when I first saw this movie, I was excited to see Ann Sothern’s name in the credits. “April Showers” sounds like it will be a joyful, colorful romp. But it’s anything but.

Filmed in black and white, Jack Carson and Ann Sothern have a failing vaudeville act that is only saved by their son, played by Robert Ellis. While Ellis saves the act, he ruins the movie.

In his March 27, 1948, review New York Times critic Bosley Crowther calls it both “insufferable” and “death.”

“Even with expert presentation, this would be an insufferable tale. As played by Jack Carson, Ann Sothern and a kid named Robert Ellis, it is death,” Crowther wrote.

I don’t always agree with Crowther’s salty film reviews, but brother I do with this one.

As for Ann Sothern, she is a secondary character to Jack Carson and Robert Ellis, who the plot mainly revolves around. Carson is his usual goofy self, and Robert Ellis is a bigger ham than anything you have ever seen served on Thanksgiving or Easter. Robert Ellis, who was 15 when this was filmed, appears to be trying to out act, dance and joke Jack Carson. When he isn’t spouting lines, dancing or singing, he mainly sits around making dumb faces. For those not familiar with Ellis, you may remember him as the surfer Hot Shot in “Gidget” (1959).

The worst part is when Robert Ellis is supposed to be impersonating a midget (children weren’t allowed to perform in New York theaters by law), and Mel Blanc does his speaking voice so he sounds like Bugs Bunny. What?!

Robert Alda also is in the film and plays a heel. His role is large enough to be a protagonist but his talents are wasted.

While the performances are entertaining, the songs are nothing new and are all familiar vaudeville songs.

I’m not sure why this movie was made. It’s a tired plot about vaudeville performers and the longest 90 minute movie you’ll ever watch.

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

Musical Monday: Give a Girl a Break (1953)

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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Give a Girl a Break (1953)– Musical #189

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Stanley Donen

Starring:
Marge Champion, Gower Champion, Debbie Reynolds, Dolly Sharp, Bob Fosse, Kurt Kasznar, Richard Anderson, Lurene Tuttle, Donna Martel, William Ching, George Chakiris (uncredited)

Plot:
When the star of a Broadway show walks out after a tiff with the show’s choreographer Ted Sturgis (Champinon), the show publicizes that they are looking for a newcomer to “give a girl a break.” Three girls with varying talents: professional Broadway dancer Madelyn Corlane (Champion), sophisticated ballet dancer Joanna Moss (Sharp), and young, inexperienced tap dancer Suzie Doolittle (Reynolds).

Trivia:
-Musical numbers staged by Gower Champion and Stanley Donen, though Bob Fosse coregraphed his own dances.
-Gower and Marge Champion dancing together
-Gower Champion was dubbed by Bill Lee

Highlights:
-“Give a Girl a Break” montage of various women wanting to audition
-“The Balloon Dance” performed by

Notable Songs:

-“Give a Girl A Break” performed by Marge Champion, Dolly Sharp and Debbie Reynolds
-“Applause, Applause” performed by Gower Champion and Debbie Reynolds
-“In Our United States” performed by Bob Fosse and Debbie Reynolds
-“It Happens Every Time” performed by Marge Champion and Gower Champion

My review:
“Give a Girl a Break” isn’t a film often discussed today. It’s colorful and fun, has great dancing, but I think that’s largely forgotten when it comes to MGM’s catalog of 1950s Technicolor musicals.

Why is that? It’s directed by Stanley Donen, co-stars Debbie Reynolds (post-Singin’ in the Rain), has costumes by Helen Rose and dances choreographed by Bob Fosse and Gower Champion.

Dancer Gower and Marge Champion

It’s probably because the film stars (then) husband and wife dancers, Marge Champion and Gower Champion as it’s leads. While Fosse and Reynolds are in the cast, they are very much secondary characters.

But don’t get me wrong, I love the Champions. I think they are likable on screen and are some of the best dancers to grace the silver screen. But for some reason they never caught on with fans. MGM signed the married dancers in 1951 for the film “Show Boat” with the hopes of making them the next Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They only made three films with MGM and left the studio in 1955. “Give a Girl a Break” did poorly in the box office and lost MGM $1 million. After they left in 1955, they appeared on other TV shows but no more film roles to the significance that they had at MGM.

While they may not have been well liked by audiences, the Champions are some of my favorite dancers. In fact, I think Gower Champion is a better dancer and choreographer than Bob Fosse. There, I said it. I’m glad I got that off my chest.

There is even a dance that Champion and Fosse do together and I think Gower out dances him in the “Nothing is Impossible” number. Though I’ll admit that Bob Fosse’s “Balloon Dance” is of fun. I just don’t know why Gower is largely forgotten while Fosse is revered. Maybe it’s because Gower saw several flops in the 1970s while Fosse flourished with shows like Chicago and Pippin (which I star relevant today, I know). Or maybe people are enamored with the fact that Gwen Vernon and Fosse were married.

Anyways, I digress. I just would like to hear about Gower Champion occasionally, when great choreographers are discussed.

Bob Fosse, Gower Champion and Kurt Kasznar in “Give a Girl a Break”

One thing I like about this film is that it focuses on three women trying to get a role and we get to learn each girl’s story. That type of plot is more intriguing to me because, while Marge Champion is the most featured of the three, the “leading lady” is less defined. For me, it’s hard to decide which girl I would want to cheer for to be picked for the Broadway show, because each one has her traits that are interesting and could work.

Marge Champion, Dolly Sharp and Debbie Reynolds in “Give a Girl a Break.”

If you love colorful musicals, give this one a whirl. You may have never heard of it, but I think you will want to.

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

Musical Monday: I Dood It (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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
I Dood It” (1943)– Musical #176

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Vincente Minnelli

Starring:
Eleanor Powell, Red Skelton, Richard Ainley, Patricia Dane, Sam Levene, Thurston Hall, Butterfly McQueen, John Hodiak, Joe Yule (uncredited)
Themselve: Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Lena Horne, Hazel Scott, Helen O’Connell, Bob Eberly

Plot:
Pants presser Joseph Renolds (Skelton) is in love with Broadway star Constance Shaw (Powell) and attends every performance of her show. To get back at her cheating leading man, Constance married Joseph, thinking he’s rich. When she finds out Joseph just works at a laundry, she leaves him. In a subplot, actor in the Broadway show Roy Hartwood (Hodiak) is a Nazi spy who plans to blow up a warehouse next to the theater.

Trivia:
-Edited dance numbers from Born to Dance (1936) and Honolulu (1939)
-Eleanor Powell was knocked unconscious during the lasso number
-Loose remake of Buster Keaton’s Spite Marriage (1929)
-Eleanor Powell’s last star-billing film. Her last under contract with MGM film was Thousands Cheer (1945) where she was a specialty performance.

Highlights:
-Eleanor Powell tap dancing with lassos. She then jump ropes around a line of ropes
-Cameo by Tommy Dorsey watching his brother Jimmy Dorsey
-Hazel Smith’s performance

Notable Songs:
-“Star Eyes” performed by Bob Eberly and Helen O’Connell
-“So Long Sarah Jane” performed by Bob Eberly
-“Jericho” performed by Hazel Scott and Lena Horne
-“Taking a Chance on Love” performed by Hazel Scott on the piano

My review:
Throughout the mid-1930s to the early 1940s, Eleanor Powell cemented herself as one of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s top female tap dancers. But she doesn’t really get to exhibit it in “I Dood It” (1943).

“I Dood It” is seemingly a one man show starring Red Skelton with other characters occasionally popping in. He’s a pants presser with big dreams of living large and courting a famous Broadway star, played by Powell. His gags are funny, particularly a scene where he fills in for an actor in Powell’s Broadway show — love struck Skelton saw the show 63 times and could literally recite the lines backwards.

As a fan of Eleanor Powell, this film is a little disappointing. The character written for Powell isn’t terribly likable and you feel bad for Red Skelton as she uses him. As far as Powell’s dancing goes, she does one impressive western themed dance early in the film where she tap dances in lassos and jump ropes across girls swinging the lassos. But that’s where any “new” Powell dances ends. In one scene, Skelton doses off and dreams of Eleanor Powell dancing, but his dream takes us back to a tap dancing hula number from the 1939 film “Honolulu.” And again, at the end of the film when all problems are resolved, the grand finale is more MGM archived footage: Powell dancing in the grand finale of the 1936 film “Born to Dance.”

Eleanor Powell and Red Skelton in “I Dood It”

This is irksome to me. I’m not sure if MGM did this because of Eleanor Powell’s injury during the lasso dance, or if they decided they didn’t want to put more money into this film and reused old dances. While audiences in 1943 weren’t able to rewatch films like we are now, it’s still insulting to assume that these audiences wouldn’t remember that they had already seen these dances before. And that audiences wouldn’t notice that Eleanor Powell looked a little different in 1943 then she did in 1936 or 1939. Rather than dancing much, Powell is more Skelton’s “foil” for his jokes.

It’s also telling that this was Eleanor Powell’s last top billing film. After “I Dood It,” she had a small performance role in “Thousands Cheer” and then a cameo in “Duchess of Idaho.” Also in 1943, she married actor Glenn Ford and left films. It’s disappointing that Powell’s career fizzled with reused dance footage, and this magnificent dancer wasn’t able to end with a bang.

Since Eleanor Powell didn’t sing and Red Skelton’s voice isn’t strong, the musical numbers rely heavily on Jimmy Dorsey’s big band music and a musical interlude by pianist/singer Hazel Scott and singer Lena Horne. This is a really great number, but also sort of is random and thrown in taking you out of the plot. I almost think this was thrown in because the writers or producers weren’t sure what else to do.

Despite the disappointing dance numbers and some of my criticisms, “I Dood It” is an entertaining film and I do enjoy it. I like Red Skelton, and you also get to see John Hodiak in his third film. I’m just disappointed as a fan of tap dancing and Eleanor Powell.

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

Musical Monday: Higher and Higher (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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Higher and Higher (1943) – Musical #563

Studio:
RKO Radio Pictures

Director:
Tim Whelan

Starring:
Michèle Morgan, Jack Haley, Frank Sinatra, Marcy McGuire, Mel Torme, Leon Errol, Mary Wickes, Dooley Wilson, Barbara Hale, Dorothy Mcguire (uncredited)

Plot:
Cyrus Drake (Errol) is broke and hasn’t paid his servants in seven months. To make some money, he hatches a plan that his maid Millie (Morgan) should pose as his daughter (that he hasn’t seen in years) and marry a rich husband so the household can benefit from his wealth.

Trivia:
-Frank Sinatra’s first acting role in a full-length film. Prior to this, he only appeared in brief singing parts. His character’s name is “Frank Sinatra.”
-Michele Morgan is dubbed by Martha Mears
-Mel Torme’s first film
-Based on a 1940 Broadway play
-The film was shown in combat areas during World War II

Notable Songs:
-“It’s a Most Important Affair” performed by Mel Tormé, Marcy McGuire, Paul Hartman, Grace Hartman,
Michèle Morgan dubbed by Martha Mears, Dooley Wilson, and Ivy Scott
-“I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night” performed by Frank Sinatra and Dooley Wilson
-“I Saw You First” performed by Marcy McGuire

My review:
“Lower and Lower” was the title New York Times critic Bosley Crowther hilariously gave his Jan. 22, 1944, review of this film. And he wasn’t wrong.

The film opens with the hired help of a wealthy man joyously singing about their employer’s big plans for the evening. They’re happily ironing, cooking and preparing white carnations. I thought “Oh this will be a fun one!” And that was the last truly happy thought I had about this film.

When I saw that Leon Errol was in the billing, I was wary. He often gets on my nerves in the Lupe Velez “Spitfire” films. While wasn’t as irritating here as he is in the Velez films, he didn’t help the film either.

Frank Sinatra and Michèle Morgan

The musical has potential as a Cinderella story, but the character of the maid is so dizzy and annoying that it’s not funny. I really love actress Michèle Morgan, but the role she had to play was annoying. At one point, her character has a fit on the dance floor and shouts “No! No! No!” and shakes out all her hair pins. By the end of the scene she’s a mess: losing her hair style, dress and shoes.

If you are a Frank Sinatra fan, who is featured here in his first acting role and is named Frank Sinatra, you will probably be disappointed. He is rarely on screen, but does sing five songs during that number. This is also the first film of another crooner: Mel Torme.

We also get one tune from Dooley Wilson, who is my favorite character in this film. Unfortunately, his screen time is limited.

It’s also unclear and a little misleading who the Prince Charming of this Cinderella film is. It starts off as Frank Sinatra, but that relationship is a little complicated. Then (spoiler) Morgan ends up with someone different all together.

I swear I read that this was a charming movie but I really found it annoying.

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

Remembering Robert Osborne, a Friend to all Classic Film Fans

It was Thursday, April 25, 2013, and I had just flown into Los Angeles from North Carolina for my first Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival.

My first glimpse of Robert Osborne in person in 2013 (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

I was excited, tired and scared. It was my first solo plane trip, and I had unwisely flown into the festival the day it started, rather than the day before. I was momentarily homeless until my friend, Lindsay — who I was staying with — got out of class at UCLA. I stashed my suitcase in the hotel room of another friend, Jill, and went with her to the Roosevelt Hotel to get my film festival pass and for a press announcement.

I’m sitting at a small table, nervously saying hello to friends who I knew only from the internet before the film festival. And then film historian and Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne walks out on stage. Everyone else around me is calm and collected but I’m about to burst. I didn’t know if I should cry, laugh or faint. I had only been in Los Angeles for two hours and there was my hero standing 15 feet away from me!

Robert Osborne introducing “Desert Song” in 2013 (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

That Saturday during the festival, I was first in line for a rare screening of The Desert Song (1943), a Dennis Morgan and Irene Manning musical that isn’t often seen because of copyright issues. A volunteer confided that she heard Robert would be introducing the film. I excitedly sat in the front row so I could get a good picture.

Robert discussed the film and said that he had never seen The Desert Song and would be joining the audience to watch. While the Technicolor Warner Bros. film danced on the screen, I could barely focus; knowing Robert was somewhere behind me in the crowd.

After the film ended, I waited outside to see if I could get a picture and fulfil my dream of meeting Mr. Osborne. Another fan held Robert in conversation and it looked like I may not get my chance. When the fan left, I meekly approached him and asked for a photo.

“Yes, but we will have hurry because I have to meet Ann Blyth before Mildred Pierce,” he said.

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Musical Monday: Around the World (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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
“Around the World” (1943)– Musical #353

Studio:
RKO Radio Pictures

Director:
Allan Dwan

kay2Starring:
As themselves: Kay Kyser, Georgia Carroll, Harry Babbitt, Merwyn ‘Ish Kabibble’ Bogue, Joan Davis, Mischa Auer, Marcy McGuire, Wally Brown, Alan Carney, Barbara Hale (uncredited)
Actors: Robert Armstrong (uncredited)

Plot:
Bandleader Kay Kyser (as himself) and his band go on a U.S.O. tour to entertain troops during World War II. Along the way, he and his team run into comedic mishaps. One of these includes Mischa Auer (as himself), who becomes interested in buying ancient relics,

Trivia:
-This film marked the end of Kay Kyser’s RKO film career
-Singer Georgia Carroll’s first credited role.
-Robert Armstrong plays an uncredited role as a general.

Highlights:
-Kay Kyser made a Hays office joke.

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Musical Monday: The Gay Divorcee (1934)

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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

divorceThis week’s musical:
The Gay Divorcee” (1934)– Musical #121

Studio:
RKO Radio Pictures

Director:
Mark Sandrich

Starring:
Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Alice Brady, Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, Erik Rhodes, William Austin, Betty Grable, Lillian Miles

Plot:
Mimi (Rogers) is traveling with her Aunt Hortense (Brady) and is looking for a

Trivia:
-This was Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ second film together (out of 10 films). Following their success in “Flying Down to Rio” (1933), RKO teamed them together again.

-“The Continental” lasts 17.5 minutes. This was the longest musical number until Gene Kelly’s ballet in “An American In Paris” (1951).

-The Academy Awards for 1934 were the first to include the category for Best Original Song. Con Conrad and Herb Magidson were the first to receive this award for “The Continental.”

-Based on the 1932 Broadway show “The Gay Divorce,” which starred Fred Astaire and Claire Luce. For the film, the title was changed to “Divorcee.” Fred Astaire’s autobiography “Steps in Time” says the change was to show that the film was about the amorous adventures of a woman.

-Costumes designed by Walter Plunkett

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