Christmas Musical Monday: The Alcoa Hour presents The Stingiest Man in Town (1956)

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:
The Alcoa Hour presents The Stingiest Man in Town (1956) – Musical #577

Basil Rathbone as Scrooge and Johnny Desmond as nephew Fred

Studio:
NBC

Director:
Daniel Petrie

Starring:
Basil Rathbone, Vic Damone, Johnny Desmond, the Four Lads, Patrice Munsel, John McGiver, John McGovern, Martyn Green, Alice Frost, Dennis Kohler, Bryan Herbert, Keith Herrington, Ian Martin, Robert Weede, Robert Wright, Keith Herrington

Plot:
A musical retelling of Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Christmas Carol.” Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge (Rathbone) is warned by the ghost of his friend Marley (Weede) that he needs to change his ways or he will end up chained to his sins. On Christmas Eve night, Scrooge is visited by ghosts to show him his past, present and future life to convince him to change.

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Ginger Rogers’s Christmas Cake

Over the summer, I was surfing eBay for film memorabilia and came across a recipe for Ginger Rogers’s Christmas cake in a small food magazine, A & P Menu, which is “dedicated to food, menus and recipes.” I bought the Dec. 17, 1936, menu so I could attempt to make this cake myself.

Note: The cover reads “Ginger Rogers, RKO Radio Pictures star soon to appear in “Stepping on Toes,” believes in bigger and better cakes.” “Stepping on Toes” was the working title for “Shall We Dance” (1937), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

In addition to the cake recipe, the rest of this issue of A&P Menu gives cookie recipes and gives suggestions on easy, inexpensive meals for your family leading up to Christmas.

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Christmas on Film: The Cheaters (1945)

Last Christmas I was wrapping presents and watching made-for-TV Christmas movies on YouTube when—after finishing Susan Lucci’s Christmas Carol— this film began autoplaying.

I was excited to find a new-to-me classic Christmas film (which I have previously mentioned can be hard to find).

“The Cheaters” (1945) most likely won’t be added to my mandatory list of Christmas season viewing, but it’s a fairly enjoyable film.

Wealthy James C. Pidgeon (Eugene Pallette) is about to go bankrupt while his wife Clara (Billie Burke), children (Ann Gillis, Ruth Terry, David Holt), and brother-in-law (Raymond Walburn) are all still happily living off what little money he has left.

To top off the financial issues, Pidgeon’s daughter Theresa (Terry) demands that the family invites a charity case to their home for Christmas. She wants to impress her soldier boyfriend, Stephen (Robert Livingston), because his mother always invites a charity case for Christmas.

For their charity case, the family selects Anthony Marchaund (Joseph Schildkraut), a has-been actor who was injured in car wreck at the height of his career. He now drinks too much and walks with a limp.

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Christmas Musical Monday: By the Light of the Silvery Moon (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:
By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)– Musical #174

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp, Billy Gray, Mary Wickes, Russell Arms, Maria Palmer, Walter ‘PeeWee’ Flannery, Merv Griffin (uncredited)

Plot:
A sequel to On Moonlight Bay (1951), the story picks up in 1918 when Bill (MacRae) returns from World War I. Marjorie (Day) is anxious to discuss their wedding plans, as he promised when he left, but Bill doesn’t want to rush into wedlock. This causes a rift in their relationship. Marjorie’s brother Wesley (Gray) is still causing trouble in this film.

Trivia:
-The film is the sequel to On Moonlight Bay (1951)
-The fifth pairing of Doris Day and Gordon MacRae. The two starred in five films together.
-Loosely based on Booth Tarkington’s Penrod story
-Leon Ames was dubbed by Ray “Bud” Linn

Gordon MacRae returns home from World War I and Doris Day is ready to get married.

Highlights:
-Mary Wickes giving the introduction
-Thanksgiving sequence
-Christmas sequence

Notable Songs:
-“By the Light of the Silvery Moon” performed by Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames and
Rosemary DeCamp
-“Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee” performed by Doris Day, Gordon MacRae and Russell Arms
-“My Home Town Is a One Horse Town” performed by Gordon MacRae
-“Ain’t We Got Fun” performed by Doris Day and Gordon MacRae
-“Just One Girl” performed by Gordon MacRae

My review:
When it comes to some film sequels, it can be rare that the story flows from the first or that the actors play the same characters. The Gidget series is a good example: All three films had different actresses playing the title role of Gidget.

But in “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” -sequel to “On Moonlight Bay“-the lead and supporting characters are all the same and we pick up where the last film ended. In “On Moonlight Bay,” Bill, played by Gordon MacRae, goes off to fight in World War I, and “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” picks up with Bill returning home from the war. Margie is still a tomboy and is fixing cars at the beginning, so the writers didn’t omit that since it was a focus in the first film.

While I prefer the story of “On Moonlight Bay” more, I still really love “By the Light of the Silvery Moon.” It is just as colorful, cozy and sweet as the first film. And one complaint I had in the first film was that the antics of the younger brother seemed to take over the film, but in the sequel, it doesn’t seem so bad. The only part I don’t like is the King Chanticleer number, performed by Doris Day.

“By the Light of the Silvery Moon” doesn’t span a full year like the first film and mainly focuses on the fall and winter. Thanksgiving is near the start of the film and the film ends with Christmas. This is a bit longer than the first film too.

The film ends with a Christmas-y ice skating scene.

There are some silly plotlines like the children thinking their father was cheating on their mother with a French actress. Also Doris Day’s hair is really bleached compared to the 1951 movie.

As I said last week, I love Day and MacRae as a screen team so much. In these films, Gordon MacRae looks so sweet, fresh and young so I hate knowing that his personal life wasn’t always so sunny. His career dropped off after 1956.

By the Light of the Silvery Moon ends with a Christmasy scene when Bill meets the family at a skating pond and surprises Margie, and the two finally decide to marry after bickering about tit throughout the whole movie.

While not as fun as the first, “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” is a sweet, colorful movie.

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Christmas on Film: The Holly and the Ivy (1952)

Like most of us, I grew up on classic Christmas films—from White Christmas to The Bishop’s Wife to Christmas in Connecticut. And as I realized new-to-me pre-1968 Christmas movies were dwindling, I began scrounging for more. Surely there were still some left to discover!

That’s how I stumbled upon “The Holly and the Ivy” (1952) last Christmas while browsing Amazon. But much to my dismay, the only DVDs sold were Region 2 (not able to play on U.S. devices) and it didn’t appear to be streaming online.

So as the holidays rolled around again this year, I searched and found someone selling a DVRed copy of this English film and I snatched it up.

Starring Ralph Richardson, Celia Johnson, Denholm Elliott, Margaret Leighton, Hugh Williams, Margaret Halstan and Maureen Delaney, the film takes place as a family returns home on Christmas Eve. And in the midst of the bright holiday, none of them are very happy and are hiding their troubles.

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

This week’s musical:
On Moonlight Bay (1951) – Musical #118

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Roy Del Ruth

Starring:
Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp, Billy Gray, Mary Wickes, Jack Smith, Ellen Corby

Plot:
Starting in 1916, the film looks at a year in the life of the Winfield family. The films starts when the family moves to a new neighborhood hoping to refine their tomboy daughter Marjorie (Day). Marjorie falls in love with college student William Sherman (MacRae), whose has college ideas have him saying he doesn’t believe in marriage and that banks are parasites. These ideas don’t please her parents (Ames and DeCamp), so Marjorie dates several other young men, but she is preoccupied with thoughts of William. The film is filled with antics of her younger brother (Gray).

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Christmas Musical Monday: Babes in Toyland (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.

This week’s musical:
Babes in Toyland” (1934) – Musical #576

Studio:
Hal Roach Studios
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Gus Meins, Charley Rogers

Starring:
Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Virginia Karns, Charlotte Henry, Felix Knight, Florence Roberts, Henry Brandon, Scotty Beckett (uncredited), Ellen Corby (uncredited), Dickie Jones (uncredited), Gene Reynolds (uncredited), Marie Wilson (uncredited)

Plot:
Silas Barnaby (Brandon) is the meanest man in the town of Toyland. He is demanding the mortgage from Mother Peep, the old woman who lives in the show (Roberts). Barnaby also wants to marry Bo-Peep (Henry), who refuses him. Along with all of Mother Peep’s children, Stannie Dee (Laurel) and Ollie Dum (Hardy) also live in the shoe. When they can’t pay the mortgage, Bo-Peep agrees to marry Barnaby, but Stannie Dee and Ollie Dum help her trick him into marrying a decoy. To get revenge, Barnaby frames Tom-Tom (Knight), who loves Bo-Peep, for kidnapping one of the Three Little Pigs.

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Thanksgiving at the Hollywood Canteen

During World War II, communities pulled together to help out servicemen, and Hollywood was no exception.

The Hollywood Canteen, located at 1451 Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood, CA, was a USO nightclub exclusively for enlisted men (no officers) and admission was only their uniform.

Claude Rains and Edward Arnold carve turkeys

Founded by Bette Davis, John Garfield and Jules Stein, servicemen could dance with Hedy Lamarr, be served doughnuts by Rita Hayworth and Robert Benchley may be washing dishes.

The Hollywood Canteen opened on Oct. 3, 1942, and closed its doors on Nov. 22, 1945, Thanksgiving Day. During that time, they entertained 3 million military personnel.

From the year it opened in 1942 to its closing day on Thanksgiving, servicemen and women away from their families on the holiday were invited to a Thanksgiving meal. Chef Milani, famous Italian chef, was in charge of the food at the club. Chef Milani would make meals specific to different regions of the United States, from Boston baked beans and chowder to Creole shrimp, according to Oct. 23, 1944, brief in the Daily Notes of Canonsburg, PA.

Here are a few new briefs on the Hollywood Canteen’s Thanksgiving celebrations over the years:

Thursday, Nov. 26, 1942:
Eddie Cantor was the master of ceremonies at the first Hollywood Canteen celebration, according to a Nov. 26, 1942, news brief in the Los Angeles Times. Approximately 5,000 servicemen came for a buffet style meal.

Bette Davis helps carve turkeys at the Hollywood Canteen

Thursday, Nov. 25, 1943:
3,500 servicemen were served in a Thanksgiving celebration at the Hollywood Canteen. During the meal, they were entertained by Bob Hope, according to a Dec. 19, 1943, news brief in the Star Press, of Muncie, Indiana.

Chef Milani prepared 76 turkeys for servicemen at the Hollywood Canteen, according to a Nov. 27, 1943, new brief in the Los Angeles Times.

The 76 turkeys were carved by Paul Heinreid, Edward Arnold, Wallace Beery, Claude Rains, Edgar Bergen, John Garfield, Dick Powell and William Bendix, according to the Dec. 19, 1943, brief.

John Wayne also helped carve turkeys. Ward Bond was also going to carve turkeys, but got too inebriated that night before, according to the book Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond by Scott Allen Nollen.

Servicemen eating Thanksgiving dinner at the Hollywood Canteen

Thursday, Nov. 23, 1944:
Servicemen would enjoy a meal as good as what is served at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, Bette Davis said in an Oct. 23, 1944, brief in the Daily Notes of Canonsburg, PA.

On Nov. 20, 1944, the Hollywood Canteen announced they would open at 7 p.m. and have movie stars and three different dance bands for entertainment. In addition to the meals, there would be fresh fruit for the soldiers, according to a Nov. 20, 1944, brief in the Los Angeles Times.

Thursday, Nov. 22, 1945:
After serving military personnel for three years, the Hollywood Canteen shut its doors on Nov. 22, 1945. The last day of the club ended after a 10-hour stage shift that ended at midnight. They ended with a Thanksgiving celebration and show that started in the afternoon and went into the evening.

The show included performances and appearances from Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Leslie, Kay Kyser, Bette Davis, Dinah Shore, James Stewart, Hedy Lamarr, Edward G. Robinson, Henry Fonda, Ronald Colman and Jerry Colonna, according to a Nov. 23, 1945, Associated Press news brief.

Dinah Shore eats with servicemen at the Hollywood Canteen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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A Christmas Tradition: Lionel Barrymore as Ebenezer Scrooge

barrymoreMultiple actors have played Ebenezer Scrooge in numerous adaptations of Charles Dickens’ story “A Christmas Carol.” But one actor performed the role every year, creating a 20 year tradition.

From 1934 to 1953, Lionel Barrymore came into homes over the radio as the miserly Scrooge who is visited by three ghosts as a warning to change his cruel ways.

Barrymore only missed two performances in the 20 year span: in 1936 when his wife Irene Fenwick died on Dec. 24, 1936; and in 1938.

John Barrymore took over for his brother in 1936 broadcast and Orson Welles performed the role in 1938.

Lionel Barrymore’s radio performance in “A Christmas Carol” is credited as making the Charles Dickens story popular in the United States, according to the book “The Man Who Invented Christmas” by Deckle Edge.

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Comet Over Hollywood Holiday Special

Almost every Christmas for the past five years, I try to film a special Christmas video for the readers and supporters of Comet Over Hollywood.

Last year’s video was a little violent, so this year we opted for something briefer and food oriented.

Enjoy!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

connecticut

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