About Jnpickens

Classic film lover and reporter in North Carolina.

Musical Monday: West Side Story (2021)

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.

wss4This week’s musical:
West Side Story (2021) – Musical #693

Studio:
20th Century Studio

Director:
Steven Spielberg

Starring:
Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, David Alvarez, Ariana DeBose, Mike Faist, Josh Andrés Rivera, Brian d’Arcy James, Corey Stoll, Rita Moreno, Ezra Menas

The Sharks: David Avilés Morales, Sebastian Serra, Ricardo A. Zayas, Carlos E. Gonzalez, Ricky Ubeda, Andrei Chagas, Adriel Flete, Jacob Guzman, Kelvin Delgado, Carlos Sánchez Falú, Julius Anthony Rubio, Yurel Echezarreta, David Guzman

The Jets: Sean Harrison Jones, Jess LeProtto, Patrick Higgins, Kyle Allen, John Michael Fiumara, Kevin Csolak, Kyle Coffman, Daniel Patrick Russell, Ben Cook, Harrison Coll, Garrett Hawe, Myles Erlick, Julian Elia

Plot:
Set in the west side of New York City, an American gang, the Jets, and a Puerto Rican gang, The Sharks, are trying to claim the streets while their neighborhood is being demolished around them. An American, Tony (Elgort), falls in love with a Puerto Rican, Maria (Zegler), who is also the sister of the Sharks’ gang leader, Bernardo (Alvarez).

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Musical Monday: Oliver! (1968)

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.

OliverThis week’s musical:
Oliver! (1968) – Musical #690

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Carol Reed

Starring:
Mark Lester, Oliver Reed, Ron Moody, Shani Wallis, Harry Secombe, Jack Wild, Hugh Griffith, Joseph O’Conor, Peggy Mount, Leonard Rossiter, Hylda Baker, Sheila White

Plot:
A musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s novel “Oliver Twist.” Oliver (Lester) is an orphan in a work house and is sold to a mortician as an apprentice. Oliver runs away and meets up with thief Fagan (Moody) and his group of child thieves, including the Artful Dodger (Wild).

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Watching 1939: Invitation to Happiness (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. 

invitation to ahppiness1939 film: 
Invitation to Happiness (1939)

Release date: 
June 7, 1939

Cast: 
Irene Dunne, Fred MacMurray, Charles Ruggles, Billy Cook, William Collier Sr., Marion Martin, Oscar O’Shea, Burr Caruth, Eddie Hogan

Studio: 
Paramount Pictures

Director: 
Wesley Ruggles

Plot:
Mr. Wayne (Collier Sr.) decides to buy a half interest in backing boxer Albert “King” Cole (MacMurray). His daughter, Eleanor Wayne (Dunne), is concerned about how her retired father is spending his money and tags along to a fight to see what Cole is all about. Eleanor and Cole instantly clash, Eleanor calling Cole brash and egotistical while Cole finds Eleanor snobby and too high class. But they also fall in love. Shortly after the two marry, Cole has to continue training and fighting in order to become the champ, which is his goal. This means Cole is largely away from home and doesn’t get to know his son, Albert (Cook).

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Musical Monday: The Balloon Goes Up (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:
The Balloon Goes Up (1942) – Musical #692

Studio:
New Realm Pictures

Director:
Redd Davis

Starring:
Ethel Revnell, Gracie West, Ronald Shiner, Donald Peers, Gordon McLeod, Gertrude Maesmore Morris, Elsie Wagstaff

Plot:
Ethel (Revnell) and Gracie (West) try to enlist in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) so they can go to a dance. In the process, they capture German spies and join the Balloon Command.

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Watching 1939: Coast Guard (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.

coast guard21939 film:
Coast Guard (1939)

Release date:
Aug. 4, 1939

Cast:
Randolph Scott, Frances Dee, Ralph Bellamy, Walter Connolly, Warren Hymer, Robert Middlemass, Stanley Andrews, Edmund MacDonald, Ann Doran (uncredited), Craig Stevens (uncredited), Mala (uncredited), Dorothy Comingore (uncredited), Billy Lee (uncredited), J. Farrell MacDonald (uncredited), Marla Shelton (uncredited)

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Edward Ludwig

Plot:
Lt. Ray Dower (Bellamy) and Lieutenant Thomas “Speed” Bradshaw (Scott) are pals in the Coast Guard. Ray commands a cutter and Speed is an ace pilot. After rescuing Tobias Bliss (Connolly), Ray meets his granddaughter Nancy (Dee) and is smitten. However, their early courtship is cut short while Ray has to go on a mission. Speed looks after Nany while he’s away, and also falls in love though announcing that he is not the marrying kind.

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An Interview with George Chakiris

Audiences sat up and took notice when they saw standing near Rosemary Clooney, arms crossed as she crooned “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me.”

Later, he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his best known role, as Bernardo in WEST SIDE STORY (1961)

Earlier this year, he published his memoirs, “My West Side Story: A Memoir,” co-written with Lindsay Harrison.

Reading Chakiris’s memoir makes you feel like you’re sitting down to coffee with an old friend. “My West Side Story” is incredibly personable, charming and kind. I found myself smiling as soon as I was reading the first couple of pages.

To discuss his book and career further, I interviewed Mr. Chakiris over the phone on Nov. 16, 2021. You can read a transcription of that interview below and also listen to it here:

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Musical Monday: G.I. Jane (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.

GI JaneThis week’s musical:
G.I. Jane (1951) – Musical #689

Studio:
Murray Productions

Director:
Reginald Le Borg

Starring:
Jean Porter, Tom Neal, Iris Adrian, Jimmie Dodd, Jeanne Mahoney, Jimmy Lloyd, Phil Arnold, Michael Whalen, Bobby Watson, Richard Monahan, Jean Coleman, Amie Bates, Jeri Strong, Olive Krushat

Plot:
While making a WAC recruitment film, TV producer Tim Rawlings (Neal) is receives notice that he is drafted into the U.S. Army. While in the Army, Rawlings wants to bring WACs to the base so the men can have women around. But the WACs that come are led by no-nonsense Lt. Adrian (Adrian) who keep the WACs apart, even as Rawlings falls in love with Jan Smith (Porter).

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Musical Monday: G.I. Blues (1960)

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:
G.I. Blues (1960) – Musical #347

GI Blues

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Norman Taurog

Starring:
Elvis Presley, Juliet Prowse, Robert Ivers, James Douglas, Letícia Román, Sigrid Maier, Arch Johnson, Edison Stroll (uncredited)

Plot:
Tulsa McLean (Presley) is in the Army and dreams of opening up a nightclub in Oklahoma with his buddies (Ivers, Douglas), but all they need is money. When the outfit is transferred to Germany, a bet is made that a romantic sergeant nicknamed Dynamite (Stroll) can romance nightclub dancer Lili (Prowse), someone who other military personnel have failed with. When Dynamite is transferred, Tulsa reluctantly takes the job because he needs the money. However, Tulsa has a guilty conscience and also falls in love with Lili.

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Pages to Screen: The White Cliffs of Dover (1944)

“A war is on” and there was “no sale for poetry” were some excuses Alice Duer Miller was given when she tried to book published and was turned down by many publishers.

Miller’s book was a 70-page long form poem about an American woman falling in love with an Englishman right before World War I breaks out called “The White Cliffs.”

The poem follows Susan, who is “a traveler, the guest of a week” in England. The trip turns into a lifetime after she meets and falls in love with John. John is killed in World War I, but she continues to stay in England and raise their son in the traditional, upper class English life. As Susan sees another war on the horizon for England, she understands the inevitable future of her son; following in her husband’s footsteps.

While there was initial reluctance to publish, Miller’s later was made into a feature film and was performed on the radio several times by English actress, Lynn Fontanne.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill also believed that the book played a role in encouraging the United States’ entry into World War II.

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Watching 1939: Thunder Afloat (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: 
Thunder Afloat (1939)

Release date: 
Sept. 15, 1939

Cast: 
Wallace Beery, Chester Morris, Virginia Grey, Douglass Dumbrille, Carl Esmond, Clem Bevans, John Qualen, Regis Toomey, Henry Victor, Addison Richards, Jonathan Hale, Lean Ames (uncredited), Frank Faylen (uncredited), Milton Kibbee (uncredited)

Studio: 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: 
George B. Seitz

Plot:
Set during World War I, tugboat owner John Thorson (Beery) has his tug sunk by a German U-boat off the New England coast. Furious about the incident, John enlists in the Navy. Rocky Blake (Morris), who was John’s tugboat rival, is an officer in the Navy and clashes with John, who resists military discipline.

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