About Jnpickens

Classic film lover and reporter in North Carolina.

Musical Monday: In the Good Old Summertime (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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
“Meet Me After the Show” – Musical #25

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Robert Z. Leonard

Starring:
Judy Garland, Van Johnson, S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Buster Keaton, Spring Byington, Clinton Sundberg, Marcia Van Dyke, Lillian Bronson, Liza Minnelli, Joi Lansing (uncredited), Chester Clute (uncredited), Anna Q. Nilsson (uncredited), Charles Smith (uncredited)

Plot:
A musical remake of the 1940 film “Shop Around the Corner,” “In the Good Ole Summertime” takes place in the early 1900s in Chicago. Veronica Fisher (Garland) is corresponding through letters with an unknown man.

Continue reading

Watching 1939: Broadway Serenade (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: 
Broadway Serenade (1939)
Musical No. 413

Release date: 
April 7, 1939

Cast: 
Jeanette MacDonald, Lew Ayres, Ian Hunter, Frank Morgan, Florence Rice, Virginia Grey, William Gargan, Wally Vernon, Katharine Alexander, Al Shean, Esther Dale, Franklin Pangborn

Studio: 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: 
Robert Z. Leonard

Plot:
Mary Hale (MacDonald) and Jimmy Seymour (Ayres) are a team on the stage with Jimmy playing the piano and Mary singing. They are also an off-stage team – the two are married though they hide that from many employers. When Broadway producer Larry Bryant (Hunter) hears Mary sing, he is smitten and convinces Cornelius Collier, Jr. (Morgan) to put her in his next show. Unfortunately, this offer isn’t a package deal and hot-tempered Jimmy is left behind. As her fame grows, the two also grow apart.

Continue reading

Musical Monday: Born to Dance (1936)

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:
Born to Dance (1936) – Musical #124

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Roy Del Ruth

Starring:
Eleanor Powell, James Stewart, Virginia Bruce, Una Merkel, Sid Silvers, Frances Langford, Raymond Walburn, Alan Dinehart, Buddy Ebsen, Reginald Gardiner, Barnett Parker
Themselves: Georges and Jalna

Plot:
Nora Paige (Powell) is a dancer, hopeful to make it in New York City. She meets sailor Ted Barker (Stewart) while he’s on leave and visiting the Lonely Hearts Club. His pal ‘Gunny’ Saks (Silvers) is looking for his wife Jenny (Merkel) who works at the club, and who he hasn’t seen in four years. Ted and Nora meet at the club and fall in love. But around the same time, Ted is ordered by his captain (Walburn) to take Broadway star Lucy James (Bruce) on a date after Ted saves her dog when it fell over board on their ship. Nora is hurt by the fabricated romance, and also finds herself in the same Broadway show as Lucy James.

Continue reading

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