Musical Monday: Luxury Liner (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:
Luxury Liner (1948) – Musical #60

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Richard Whorf

Starring:
George Brent, Jane Powell, Lauritz Melchior, Frances Gifford, Marina Koshetz, Thomas E. Breen, Richard Derr, John Ridgely, Connie Gilchrist, Juanita Quigley (uncredited)
Themselves: Xavier Cugat, The Pied Pipers

Plot:
Polly Bradford (Powell) goes to boarding school while her cruise ship captain father Captain Jeremy Bradford (Brent) is at sea. After unsuccessfully begging to go along, Polly runs away from school and stows away from school to be with her dad and also to meet opera singer Olaf Eriksen (Melchior).

Trivia:
– George Brent starred in two films titled “Luxury Liner.” One in 1933 and one in 1948. The two films are unrelated.
– Jane Powell had a teenage crush on George Brent in this film. According to her autobiography, she and George Brent reconnected years later while she was in a play. George Brent courted Jane Powell and she enjoyed his company, but when he proposed Jane Powell turned him down because she had already been married three times and didn’t want to marry again. When Powell married her fourth husband, James Fitzgerald in 1965, Brent was angry and wouldn’t speak to Jane Powell.

Highlights:
– The Technicolor
– The musical performances

Notable Songs:
-“Spring Came Back to Vienna” performed by Jane Powell
-“Alouette” performed by Jane Powell and kitchen staff
-“Helan Gar” performed by Lauritz Melchior
-“Come Back to Sorrento” performed by Lauritz Melchior
– “Con Maracas” performed by Xavier Cugat

My review:
Some movies evoke memories.

For me, “Luxury Liner” is one of those movies. It was early in my exploration of musical films, April of 2004 to be exact. I was a freshman in high school and on spring break and my dad was painting the whole house. I remember lying in our house, which smelled of paint and being enthralled with how fun “Luxury Liner” is.

There aren’t any Jane Powell MGM musicals I dislike (though I like some more than others), but “Luxury Liner” is up there in my favorites. Revisiting it and remembering that first time viewing, I thought it was just as fun, cheerful and humorous as I did the first time.

Jane Powell’s character is a teen in boarding school who wants to become a singer. She is a true overly dramatic teenager, and the score helps emphasize that. Every time she speaks to her father, played by George Brent, in an exaggerated sad manner, the music turns to the radio serials-like violin music.

Jane Powell is sweet, bright and delightful in this movie. She practically is the personification of sunshine, and I love it. Her character is funny, has adorable clothes and she also sings some beautiful songs.

George Brent plays Jane Powell’s father, and though he doesn’t sing in this musical, he brings a great fatherly touch and humor. He gives the same tired look most dads would give to their teenage daughters, but also dotes on her. During the 1930s and 1940s, Brent so often as a romantic leading man, that it’s fun to see him as a single dad.

George Brent and Jane Powell

Jane Powell and Frances Gifford

Lovely Frances Gifford is also in the film as a woman taking a cruise to escape her troubles. Unfortunately, after modest success in films at MGM, “Luxury Liner” was one of Gifford’s last films. In 1948, Gifford was in a serious car accident and had serious head injuries. She recovered physically but the injury affected her mentally for the rest of her life. Her career ended in the mid-1950s. While she wasn’t a big star, Gifford is someone I enjoy seeing in films, so it’s bittersweet to see her in this film knowing her career will soon change.

“Luxury Liner” also benefits from the popular performers that Louis B. Mayer signed on to MGM to bring the studio class and culture. In this film we have Lauritz Melchoir, Xavier Cugat and his band, and the Pied Pipers.

Lauritz Melchior and Marina Koshetz performing Aida in Luxury Liner

Cugat and the Pied Pipers were more of the “popular” music nature, but Melchoir was the class Mayer wanted to bring to the studio.

Lauritz Melchior was a Wagnerian tenor, making his debut in the 1920s. He performed at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in London, with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, with the Buenos Aires Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Chicago Opera. Melchior doesn’t play himself in the film, but another famous opera singer who Jane Powell idolizes. He takes her under his wing encourages her career.

Thomas Breen and Jane Powell

In some films, Jane Powell has a “boyfriend,” like Scotty Becket or Roddy McDowall. In this film, she has a vague crush on a shipworker played by Thomas E. Breen, who was Production Code Administration head Joseph Breen’s youngest son. Breen may be the only odd part about this film, because his character is pointless. There really isn’t any romance, he just followers her around to make sure she doesn’t get into trouble. His role in “Luxury Liner” was probably Breen’s largest in the seven films he made.

Aside from the performers, this shipboard film is beautiful to look at in Technicolor and has beautiful costumes by Helen Rose. The movie mainly takes place on the boat as it sails to it’s destination, adding something unique and fun to the premise.

It’s hard not to gush about “Luxury Liner.” If you are ever having a bad day, hop aboard and take a cruise with this musical.

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

Advertisements

Musical Monday: Smilin’ Through (1941)

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:
Smilin’ Through (1941) – Musical #321

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Frank Borzage

Starring:
Jeanette MacDonald, Brian Aherne, Gene Raymond, Ian Hunter, Frances Robinson, Patrick O’Moore, Jackie Horner (uncredited)

Plot:
John Carteret (Aherne) has lived alone, sad and bitter after the murder of his bride Moonyean (MacDonald) at their wedding years before. The young niece of Moonyean, Kathleen (Horner), comes to live with John after her parents die. Kathleen grows up to favor Moonyean and falls in love with Kenneth Wayne (Raymond), the son of the man who killed Moonyean.

Trivia:
-Third film version of “Smilin’ Through.” Norma Talmadge, Wyndham Standing and Harrison Ford star in the 1922 version. Norma Shearer, Fredric March and Leslie Howard star in the 1932 version.
-The film is based on the 1919 play
-Jeanette MacDonald and Gene Raymond were married in real life and this was their only film together.
-James Stewart and Robert Taylor were originally considered for the leading men, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Moonyean (MacDonald) visits John (Aherne)

Highlights:
-Filmed in gorgeous Technicolor

Notable Songs:
-“The Kerry Dance” performed by Jackie Horner and Jeanette MacDonald
-“Smilin’ Through” performed Jeanette MacDonald
-“There’s a Long, Long Trail” performed by Jeanette MacDonald

 

Gene Raymond and Jeanette MacDonald in Smilin’ Through

My review:
By 1941, “Smilin’ Through” wasn’t a new story.

It was introduced on the stage in 1919, then on screen in 1922 and 1932. This version was the third and last time it was on the screen. And while I haven’t seen the 1922 version, I like the 1932 and 1941 versions equally as much.

This adaptation with Jeanette MacDonald, Brian Ahrene and Gene Raymond has a leg up on the rest of them: It’s in Technicolor.

“Smilin’ Through” is visually gorgeous and the story is equally lovely, though bittersweet. I can’t say enough about the visual beauty of this film. The color really shows off Jeanette MacDonald’s red hair and the colors are so lush, particularly the blues and greens.

Jeanette MacDonald and Gene Raymond (married in real life) both play dual role. MacDonald plays Brian Aherne’s niece Kathleen and his deceased love, Moonyean (a name that was created for the 1919 play). Gene Raymond plays an enemy of Brian Aherne’s and the man’s son, who falls for Kathleen.

I really do love “Smilin’ Through.” It’s more of a romantic drama with songs added in (since Jeanette is in the film) than a full out musical, but it has nine songs total, which to me qualifies this as a musical. This adaptation is the only musical version of the film, but that is because of our leading star, Jeanette MacDonald.

MacDonald does a great job in the role, and she seems like a natural selection in a role Norma Shearer also played. The were two of Hollywood’s top stars and both shared similar dramatic delivery of lines. Gene Raymond is decent in his role, and it’s interesting to watch husband and wife Raymond and MacDonald together in their only film.

Brian Aherne and Ian Hunter, two underrated actors, are probably the highlights in the film to me. I love Hunter in everything. It is interesting to watch Aherne play most of the film as a bitter old man, but then in the flashback to his wedding, he is a lighthearted, happy and joking young man. It’s interesting to see him play those two personalities against each other.

While the message of the story is that love prevails and that bitterness and hate will keep you from who you love, it also is a sad story. I feel sad for Brian Aherne’s character, growing old and bitter and lonely, though his niece does bring him some comfort.

But while parts of the movie make me sad, I do love “Smilin’ Through.” It’s colorful, the lead actors are wonderful and a great mix of sweet and sad romance.

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

Musical Monday: Footlight Parade (1933)

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.

Poster for Footlight Parade. I’m not sure why the girls aren’t wearing clothes.

This week’s musical:
Footlight Parade (1933)– Musical #230

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Lloyd Bacon

Starring:
James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Frank McHugh, Guy Kibbee, Ruth Donnelly, Hugh Herbert, Claire Dodd, Gordon Westcott, Arthur Hohl, Billy Barty (uncredited)

Plot:
Chester Kent’s (Cagney) Broadway musicals are failing, because of talking films, so he reinvents himself and begins producing the musical numbers shown before the movie begins. His secretary Nan (Blondell) is in love with him and helps him with ideas, but they learn that some of his ideas are leaking out to other similar agencies. To get a movie theater contract, Chester makes a dormitory out of the theater so that no one can leak the ideas.

Continue reading

Musical Monday: Career Girl (1944)

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:
“Career Girl” (1944)– Musical #590

Studio:
Producers Releasing Corporation

Director:
Wallace Fox

Starring:
Frances Langford, Edward Norris, Iris Adrian, Craig Woods, Linda Brent, Alec Craig, Ariel Heath, Lorraine Krueger, Gladys Blake, Charles Judels, Marcy McGuire, Bess Flowers (uncredited)

Plot:
Joan Terry (Langford) traveled from Kansas City to New York City with hopes to hit it big on Broadway. While she unsuccessfully looks for work, she moves from her hotel to a women’s acting boarding house. There are lots of different personalities in the house: stuck up and catty burlesque queen Thelma (Brent), naïve Sue (Heath) who wants to be in show business, and sassy Glenda (Adrian), who becomes Joan’s good friend. Joan has a fiance in Kansas City who is put out with her career and wants her to come home to marry him, however, Steve (Norris) who is in New York also is wooing Joan.

Trivia:
– Unoffical remake of “Stage Door” (1937)
– Marcy McGuire is in the film but billed as Marion McGuire.
– Working title was Manhattan Rhythm.
– Morey Amsterdam and Tony Romano wrote some of the songs in the film.

Highlights:
-Frances Langford’s singing

Notable Songs:
-“Someday” performed by Frances Langford
-“Blue in Love Again” performed by Frances Langford
-“A Dream Came True” performed by Francs Langford

Frances Langford and Edward Norris

My review:
The plot to “Career Girl” may feel familiar: A girl’s acting boarding house, some of the girls are hateful towards each other, one is sweet and naive and only wants to act, and our main heroine is simply working towards a career. It’s basically a low-budget rehashing of “Stage Door.”

However, the premise, plot and characters are just different enough that this little movie is it’s own.

Sure, this movie practically defines “poverty row” film, but I have a soft spot in my heart for these hour-long Frances Langford films. Langford’s songs really make the film, but the supporting characters are also delightful, particularly the sassy Iris Adrian.

This movie is only 69 minutes long so it moves quickly and is enjoyable. It may not be an MGM extravaganza but it fits the entertainment bill.

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

Musical Monday: The Merry Widow (1952)

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 Merry Widow (1952) – Musical #237

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Curtis Bernhardt

Starring:
Lana Turner, Fernando Lamas, Una Merkel, Richard Haydn, Thomas Gomez, John Abbott, King Donovan, Robert Coote, Lisa Ferraday, Sujata Rubener, Joi Lansing (uncredited), Gwen Verdon (uncredited)

Plot:
Crystal Radek (Turner) is a rich widow of a man from the kingdom of Marshovia, who left $80 million to his widow. Now living in America, she is invited to Marshovia under false pretenses. The kingdom is in financial distress and has invited her there with hopes that playboy Count Danilo (Lamas) will woo and marry Crystal for her money so the country won’t be annexed to Austria. However, Crystal switches place with her secretary Kitty (Merkel) to see if people will love her for herself.

Continue reading

Musical Monday: Hit the Deck (1955)

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:
Hit the Deck (1955) – Musical #63

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Roy Rowland

Starring:
Jane Powell, Tony Martin, Debbie Reynolds, Ann Miller, Russ Tamblyn, Walter Pidgeon, Vic Damone, Gene Raymond, J. Carrol Naish, Richard Anderson, Jane Darwell, Kay Armen, Alan King, Henry Slate, Alvin Greenman (uncredited), Dabbs Greer (uncredited)

Plot:
Three sailors go on leave — Bill Clark (Martin), Rico Ferrari (Damone), and Danny Smith (Tamblyn). Bill goes to find his girlfriend Ginger (Miller), Rico goes to find his mother (Armen), and Danny goes home to visit his admiral father (Pidgeon) and sister Susan (Powell). The sailors find that everyone is too busy to see them or uninterested in their visit. Danny finds out that his sister Susan is on a date in the hotel room of actor Wendell Craig (Raymond). Danny worries about Susan’s safety and he and his friends break into Wendell’s hotel room to beat him up and protect his sister. Because of this, they have to outrun shore patrol for the remainder of their leave.

Debbie Reynolds in “Hit the Deck”

Trivia:
– The last film Jane Powell made for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
– Russ Tamblyn was dubbed by two different people in the film: Rex Dennis and Clark Burroughs
– A version of Follow the Fleet (1936), which starred Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire
– Kay Armen was billed as “introducing.”

Ann Miller performing in “Hit the Deck”

Notable Songs:
– “Why, Oh Why?” performed by Tony Martin, Russ Tamblyn and Vic Damone, and also by Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell and Ann Miller
-“Lucky Bird” performed by Jane Powell
– “The Lady from the Bayou” performed by Ann Miller

Jane Powell and Vic Damone in “Hit the Deck”

My review:
Coming off the high of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” singing actress Jane Powell thought she was going to start getting better and more adult roles. However, “Seven Brides” was the beginning of the end of her musical career.

And “Hit the Deck” was her last musical and film at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, just a year after “Seven Brides” was released.

“Hit the Deck” is fun and star-studded but it’s not the quality that she hoped for. The cast includes some of MGM’s many musical stars, Jane Powell, Tony Martin, Debbie Reynolds, Ann Miller, Russ Tamblyn, Walter Pidgeon, Vic Damone and Gene Raymond.

Jane Powell is the star of the film, but I do feel like her role takes a backseat to Debbie Reynolds and Ann Miller. They certainly get the better numbers than Powell. However, all three girls are charming.

With the exception of Russ Tamblyn, I’m not a fan of the romantic leads of Tony Martin and Vic Damone, simply because they aren’t my favorite crooners. I do love seeing Walter Pidgeon and Gene Raymond, which is a special treat. Kay Armen is built up with a big “introducing” in the credits. Armen sings a few songs but she didn’t have a large film career.

Along with the large cast, the film is very colorful. But the songs aren’t very catchy (except for “Why, Oh Why.”)

One odd thing is Russ Tamblyn is able to sing but is dubbed in the song “Hallelujah.” And the voice he’s given is ridiculous, especially when he has a high-pitched while performing that song.

While “Hit the Deck” isn’t my favorite musical or one of MGM’s best, but it is an enjoyable way to spend two hours.

Jane Powell and Vic Damone, Ann Miller and Tony Martin, and Debbie Reynolds and Russ Tamblyn

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

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

This week’s musical:
Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) – Musical #418

Studio:
Paramount

Director:
George Marshall, A. Edward Sutherland (uncredited)

Starring:
Betty Hutton, Eddie Bracken, Victor Moore, Walter Abel, Anne Revere (uncredited)

Themselves: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Fred MacMurray, Franchot Tone, Ray Milland, Dorothy Lamour, Paulette Goddard, Vera Zorina, Mary Martin, Dick Powell, Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd, Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, William Bendix, Jerry Colonna, Macdonald Carey, Susan Hayward, Marjorie Reynolds, Betty Jane Rhodes, Dona Drake, Lynne Overman, Gary Crosby, Johnny Johnston, Arthur Treacher, Walter Catlett, Sterling Holloway, Cecil B. DeMille, Preston Sturges, Ellen Drew, Eva Gabor, Frances Gifford, Susanna Foster, Diana Lynn, Jimmy Lydon, Robert Preston, Irving Bacon (uncredited), Karin Booth (uncredited), Woody Strode (uncredited)

Plot:
Sailor Johnny Webster (Bracken) is home on leave and believes his father William Webster (Moore), a former silent film star, is the head of Paramount Studios. In reality, his father is just a security guard at the studio. His father made a promise to put on a star-studded performance for the Naval base. The last 40 minutes of the film is the Naval skit.

Continue reading

Musical Monday: Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

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:
Bye Bye Birdie (1963) – Musical #168

Studio:
Columbia

Director:
George Sidney

Starring:
Dick Van Dyke, Ann-Margret, Janet Leigh, Paul Lynde, Maureen Stapleton, Bobby Rydell, Jesse Pearson, Mary LaRoche, Michael Evans, Robert Paige, Frank Albertson, Trudi Ames, Bryan Russell, Kim Darby (uncredited), Melody Patterson (uncredited), Melinda Marx (uncredited)
Themselves: John Daley, Ed Sullivan

Plot:
Rockstar Conrad Birdie (Pearson) is being drafted. Before he goes into the Army, Rosie DeLeon (Leigh) creates an idea for Birdie to kiss a fan from Ohio on the Ed Sullivan Show as his big send-off. Rosie’s idea is that Birdie will sing a song written by her boyfriend, Albert (Van Dyke), it will become a hit and he will make enough money so his mother (Stapleton) will be set and he can marry Rosie. Birdie’s visit to Ohio turns the town upside down and creates problems between the young girl Kim (Ann-Margret), her new steady boyfriend Hugo (Rydell) and her family (Lynde, LaRoche, Russell).

Continue reading

Musical Monday: Brigadoon (1954)

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:
Brigadoon (1954) – Musical #53

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Vincente Minnelli

Starring:
Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Van Johnson, Elaine Stewart, Barry Jones, Hugh Laing, Virginia Bosler, Albert Sharpe, Jimmy Thompson, Eddie Quillan, Dee Turnell, Madge Blake (uncredited), George Chakiris (uncredited), Barrie Chase (uncredited)

Plot:
Americans Tommy Albright (Kelly) and Jeff Douglas (Johnson) are lost in Scotland and come across the town of Brigadoon, which only awakens every 100 years and is stuck in the 1700s. Tommy falls in love with one of the girls, Fiona (Charisse), but the town will disappear if anyone leaves and anyone who wants to stay has to leave the world they know and stay forever.

Trivia:
• Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was making “Brigadoon” at the same time as “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” “Seven Brides” was nearly dropped, because the studio didn’t feel they could fund two extravagant musicals and they thought “Brigadoon” would be more successful, according to Powell’s autobiography. Producer Jack Cummings talked the studio into keeping the film and cut the budget and economized where he could. “Seven Brides” ended up being more successful, according to Powell’s book.

• In May 1952, the Hollywood Reporter reported that Kathryn Grayson and Alec Guinness would co-star with Gene Kelly. In March 1952, the Hollywood Reporter said David Wayne was considered for a role. Moira Shearer and Donald O’Connor were also considered for the roles of Fiona and Jeff, according the book Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood’s Dark Dreamer by Emanuel Levy.

• The film was based on a Broadway show of the same name, which ran from March 1947 through July 1948. The only person who reprised their role in the film was Virginia Bosler, who played Jean Campbell. Not all songs from the Broadway show were used. The songs removed included “Come to Me, Bend to Me,” “My Mother’s Wedding Day” and “There But For You I Go.”

• A television version aired in 1966 starring Peter Faulk, Sally Ann Howes and Robert Goulet.

Agnes de Mille was the choreographer for the Broadway musical, but all of her choreography was replaced by Gene Kelly’s in the film. New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther blamed the film’s failure for the “poor choreography” because the “life and smoothness of the original” were lost, according to the book “Agnes de Mille: Telling Stories in Broadway Dance” by Kara Anne Gardner.

• Originally planned to be filmed in Scotland, but the weather was too unpredictable.

• Vicente Minnelli’s first CinemaScope film.

• Cyd Charisse was dubbed by Carol Richards.

• Dee Turnell was dubbed by Bonnie Murray

• Jimmy Thompson was dubbed by John Gustafson

• Music by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe

• Produced by Arthur Freed

Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse in “Brigadoon”

Highlights:
– Van Johnson and Gene Kelly dancing in “Go Home with Bonnie Gene”
-The “Heather on the Hill” dance sequence
– The wedding dance

Gene Kelly and Van Johnson dancing in “Go Home with Bonnie Jean” (Screen cap by Jessica P.)

Notable Songs:
-“Waiting for My Dearie” performed by Cyd Charisse, dubbed by Carol Richards, and Dee Turnell, dubbed by Bonnie Murray
-“Go Home with Bonnie Jean” performed by Jimmy Thompson, dubbed by John Gustafson, Gene Kelly, Van Johnson
-“Heather on the Hill” performed by Gene Kelly

My review:
I remember when I watched “Brigadoon” for the first and last time. It was 2004 and I was a freshman in high school. I was devouring every musical I could get my hands on and I was bursting with excitement to see “Brigadoon.” I had seen photos and clips and it looked so beautiful. But after seeing it, I was disappointed and thereafter thought of it ruefully and with a bit of a sigh.

And then I revisited “Brigadoon” for the first time in 14 years yesterday to prepare for this musical post. It starts off with sweeping, beautiful notes and with flaming red title cards. The painted studio scenery is the backdrop for as low voices sing about lost hunters and Brigadoon. Then a flourish of Scotish townspeople rush across the screen dressed in vibrant Irene Sharaff costumes. The first few numbers are exuberant and a bit wistful (“Waiting For My Dearie”). As I watched, I found myself enjoying the film, but kept preparing myself, “Something is going to irritate me or is this is going to go south.”

But I completed the film and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it more than I did when I was 15 years old. I won’t go as far as to say it’s my favorite, but I had fun watching it and had several of the songs in my head after watching it.

I think there are a few reasons I didn’t like it the first time I saw it. I had a strong love for Van Johnson at this time (and still do), and I didn’t care for his character. Johnson’s character is a bit of a heel, scoffing at the Brigadoon situation, and is an alcoholic. I wanted the sweet Van of “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.” As for Gene Kelly, while his character is similar to his other roles, he and Van Johnson are a bit more jaded. Both characters are dissatisfied with life, and at my young age, I think this may have been a bit complex for me. Now I appreciate their desire of wanting more out of life and also appreciate Johnson’s versatility and like his bitter character more.

While Cyd Charisse doesn’t do her own singing, I think she was well cast. However, I also could see Kathryn Grayson or Moira Shearer doing well in the role. This could be a bold statement, but I think Cyd Charisse is at her most beautiful as Fiona. I like her wistful character, and I particularly love her performance of “Waitin’ for My Dearie.” Charisse only has two costume changes in this film, but her costumes designed by Irene Sharaff are simple and beautiful. I love the simple cream colored dress she wears for the majority of the film with that bright yellow shawl and orange petticoat. Then for the wedding scene, she has that gorgeous red dress.

Cyd Charisse and Dee Turnell dance in “Waitin’ for my Dearie” in “Brigadoon.” (Screen Cap by Jessica P.)

Jimmy Thompson has a small role in the film as Charlie, who is marrying Charisse’s sister, but his character is very charming and appealing. Thompson isn’t a well-known actor, but many “Singin’ in the Rain” fans would recognize him as the singer who performs “Beautiful Girl.” However, while I enjoy Thompson, I’m confused why they picked a singer to play a small role when he was dubbed by John Gustafson was dubbed.

I am curious about Thompson’s life and career but can find little on him. Thompson has 11 film credits to his name but never made it big in Hollywood, despite having a secondary lead in this film. In searches, he gets confused with a British actor of the same name who passed away in 2005.

Jimmy Thompson in “Brigadoon.” (Screen cap by Jessica P.)

In the play, the character Harry Beaton (played by Hugh Laing in the film and James Mitchell on stage) has a more expanded role and some of his own dance numbers. It would have been interesting to see that character expanded with the original numbers, though I know this would have made the film longer.

I think another thing I didn’t like about “Brigadoon” 14 years ago was the serious tone. Knowing it was the competitor of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” I thought it was going to have the same upbeat, joyful exuberance but “Brigadoon” couldn’t be more different. While there is a wistfulness to it, it focuses on life’s discontentments. There’s Harry who feels trapped in the town of Brigadoon and calls it his prison, Jeff (Johnson) is trapped by his alcohol, Fiona (Charisse) hasn’t found anyone she loves, and Tommy (Kelly) doesn’t want to marry the woman he’s engaged to. And there are consequences to finding happiness. If Harry leaves Brigadoon, the whole town disappears. If Jeff stays with Fiona, he has to live in Brigadoon forever (and live most of his life asleep). It’s a much more complicated story than “We need brides so let’s kidnap some girls!”

Because they were competitors and made at the same time, I consider “Brigadoon” a companion piece to “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” While they are completely different films, their musical stories are different and stand apart from other MGM films that were made before and during this time. Ultimately, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” was the more successful of the two films though MGM thought it would be the underdog. Unfortunately, after 1954, musicals were on the decline at MGM as studio head Dore Schary wanted to make serious message movies.

Admittedly, I do like “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” more, but I’m happy that I revisited this one after years of remembering my initial disappointment.

The highlights for me are the “Waitin’ for My Dearie” number and Van Johnson and Gene Kelly dancing together in “Go Home with Bonnie Jean.”

While I won’t be calling “Brigadoon” my all-time favorite musical, I’m happy I revisited this one. The moral of today’s story is to wait a few years and give a film another try.

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

Musical Monday: Strike Up the Band (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:
Strike Up the Band (1940) – Musical #301

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Busby Berkeley

Starring:
Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, June Preisser, William Tracy, Larry Nunn, Margaret Early, Ann Shoemaker, Virginia Brissac, Sidney Miller, Harry McCrillis (uncredited)
Themselves: Paul Whiteman and Orchestra

Plot:
Bored with his school’s dance band, Jimmy Connors (Rooney) tries to organize a dance orchestra with his friend Mary Holden (Garland) as his singer.

Continue reading