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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Musical Monday: Panama Hattie (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:
Panama Hattie (1942) – Musical #114

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Norman Z. McLeod

Starring:
Ann Sothern, Dan Dailey, Red Skelton, Marsha Hunt, Rags Ragland, Ben Blue, Virginia O’Brien, Alan Mowbray, Jackie Horner
Herself: Lena Horne, Berry Brothers

Plot:
Set during World War II, Hattie Maloney, known as Panama Hattie (Sothern), owns a nightclub in Panama where her sailor friends Red, Rags and Rowdy (Skelton, Ragland, Blue) often visit. Hattie is in love with Dick Bulliard (Dailey), who is in the Army and stationed at a nearby base. Hattie is nervous because Dick has been married before and has an 8-year-old daughter Geraldine (Horner) who Hattie will soon meet. Geraldine and Hattie don’t get off on the right foot, as Geraldine laughs at Hattie’s loud clothing. Hattie also has competition when the daughter of the admiral, Leila Tree (Hunt), who has her sights set on Dick. Meanwhile, Red, Rags and Rowdy are always convinced there are spies around and end up uncovering a spy plot.

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Musical Monday: Blonde from Brooklyn (1945)

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:
Blonde from Brooklyn (1945) – Musical #575

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Del Lord

Starring:
Bob Haymes (billed as Robert Stanton), Lynn Merrick, Thurston Hall, Mary Treen, Gwen Verdon (uncredited), Matt Willis (uncredited), Hugh Beaumont (uncredited)

Plot:
Dixon Harper (Haymes/Stanton) is a soldier returning from World War II. The military lets him know about his G.I. rights, Dixon’s goal is to get back on the stage to perform like he did before the war. Dixon’s routine is to act southern, though he is not southern. He meets jukebox operator and struggling singer, Susan Parker (Merrick). The two team up for a southern act and work with an old southern colonel to be convincing as southerners and Susan masquerades as a southern belle.

Trivia:
-Lead actor Bob Haymes was billed as Robert Stanton in this film. He is the younger brother of Dick Haymes.

Notable Songs:
-“Baby, Save Him for Me” performed by Lynn Merrick
-“Comin’ Around the Corner” performed by Lynn Merrick and Bob Haymes
-“It’s Just a Prayer Away” performed by Bob Haymes
-“Lost, a Wonderful Girl” performed by Bob Haymes

Bob Haymes in “Blonde from Brooklyn”

Mary Treen and Lynn Merrick in Blonde from Brooklyn

My review:
“Blonde from Brooklyn” is one of those entertaining 1940s B-musicals that offers more in the way of music than plot.

Bob Haymes, younger brother of Dick Haymes, is a soldier returning home from World War II and wanting to get his old act off the ground. He meets a jukebox operator (see also Swing Hostess for similar 1940s technology) Lynn Merrick, who he convinces to join him in his act. The act focuses on being southern, though neither one is. They meet a southern colonel, played by Thurston Hall, who helps them create a convincing persona.

Merrick and Haymes both have wonderful singing voices and sing catchy and toe-tapping tunes throughout the film. I wasn’t very familiar with either actor, but found them equally pleasant. Bob Haymes doesn’t look like his older brother Dick, but he has a similar deep, soothing voice.

The only irritating thing about the film is that Bob Haymes, who originally hailed from White Plains, NY, talks with a supposed drawl and throws out some “honey-childs” and “you alls.” He eventually stops once everyone figures out his character isn’t from the south (thank goodness). But as someone who actually lives in the south, that sort of thing really grates on your nerves. Interestingly enough, Haymes retired and passed away in Hilton Head, SC.

Lynn Merrick was lovely and had some lovely costumes.

The best part of “Blonde from Brooklyn” is that it runs only 65 minutes, which is the perfect length for this kind of film. It tells the story adequately with songs sprinkled throughout. The plot isn’t very interesting but the songs are entertaining. If you’re a lover of 1940s tunes, give this one a look (and listen).

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Musical Monday: Two Girls and a Sailor (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:
Two Girls and A Sailor (1944) – Musical #120

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Richard Thorpe

Starring:
June Allyson, Gloria DeHaven, Van Johnson, Tom Drake, Jimmy Durante, Henry Stephenson, Henry O’Neill, Donald Meek, Frank Jenks, Frank Sully, Karin Booth (uncredited), Ava Gardiner (uncredited), Natalie Draper (uncredited), Gigi Perreau (uncredited), Arthur Walsh (uncredited)

Themselves: Carlos Ramírez, Ben Blue, José Iturbi, Amparo Iturbi, Harry James, Helen Forrest, Xavier Cugat, Lina Romay, Gracie Allen, Lena Horne, Virginia O’Brien, Lyn Wilde, Lee Wilde, Albert Coates

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Musical Monday: Swing Hostess (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:
Swing Hostess (1944)– Musical #574

Studio:
Producers Releasing Corporation

Director:
Sam Newfield

Starring:
Martha Tilton, Iris Adrian, Charles Collins, Cliff Nazarro, Harry Holman, Emmett Lynn, Betty Brodel

Plot:
Jive singer Judy Alvin (Tilton) is having a hard time finding a job. She gets a job as a telephone operator for jukeboxes (people pick up a phone and give their song request). Judy cuts a record and it gets confused with acquaintance (and terrible singer) Phoebe Forbes (Brodel) who rides to success on Judy’s voice.

Trivia:
-One of the few films where Martha Tilton acts and isn’t just a specialty singer
-Actress Betty Brodel who is in the film is Joan Leslie’s sister

Highlights:
-Seeing Martha Tilton in a film

Notable Songs:
-“Got An Invitation” performed by Martha Tilton
-“Say It With Love” performed by Martha Tilton
-“Let’s Capture That Moment” performed by Martha Tilton

My review:
As a lover of big band music, Martha Tilton is one of my favorite girl singers of the 1940s. “Swing Hostess” is a small-time B-film but it’s also one of the few opportunities you can see her acting in a film, other than popping in as a specialty singer.

The storyline for “Swing Hostess” isn’t remarkable or new, but it’s fun and cute. It’s also set in my favorite time period: World War II era 1940s. So it’s filled with big band music. While the war isn’t mentioned very much, one of the main characters is drafted into the Army and Martha Tilton sings that he “Got An Invitation” (to be drafted).

Charles Collins talks to a jukebox hostess

Also the most intriguing part is the jukebox technology. Before watching this film, I didn’t realize that patrons were able to pick up a phone and talk to a hostess on the other end who would put a record on. That is Martha Tilton’s job in this film.

Martha Tilton isn’t an amazing actress, but what she doesn’t have in acting, she makes up for in voice. Also Iris Adrian is there for comedic value.

If you love 1940s films and big band music, check out this film. Bonus points: It’s only 76 minutes!

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Musical Monday: Show Girl in Hollywood (1930)

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:
Show Girl in Hollywood (1930) – Musical #573

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Mervyn LeRoy

Starring:
Alice White, John Miljan, Jack Mulhall, Blanche Sweet, Ford Sterling, Virginia Sale, Herman Bing

Plot:
Dixie Dugan (White) is in a failed Broadway show, “Rainbow Girl.” She meets director John Buelow (Miljan) who gives the illusion that he is high powered in Hollywood and convinces her to leave New York to pursue a Hollywood career. Unsurprisingly when Dixie gets to Hollywood, she is now welcomed with open arms. Dixie befriends a “has been” actress Donna Harris (Sweet), who tries to warn her and show her the ropes. Dixie’s boyfriend (Mulhall) who wrote the failed Broadway show is invited to Hollywood to make “Rainbow Girl” into a film. Dixie is cast, but stardom goes to her head.

Trivia:
-The finale reel was filmed in Technicolor but this print no longer survives.
-Belle Mann dubbed Alice White
-Based on Joseph Patrick McEvoy’s 1929 novel, Hollywood Girl
-This film follows Show Girl (1928) where Alice White plays Dixie Dugan. It is followed by “Dixie Dugan” (1943) where Lois Andrews plays the role of Miss Dugan.
-A French version was made (Le masque d’Hollywood (1930)) starring Suzy Vernon, Geymond Vital, Rolla Norman

Highlights:
-Showing how films are made and giving a behind the scenes feel
-Cameo appearances by Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, Noah Beery, Noah Beery, Jr.; Walter Pidgeon, and Loretta Young

Notable Songs:
-“There’s a Tear for Every Smile in Hollywood” performed by Blanche Sweet
-“I’ve Got My Eye on You” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann
-“Hang On to a Rainbow” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann

My review:
A few weeks ago, I reviewed Alice White’s first talkie, “Broadway Babies,” which I thought was only mediocre. “Show Girl in Hollywood” is perhaps slightly better but still rather bland and clumsy.

I also still don’t feel endeared to Alice White. She’s cute and spunky but she just isn’t a great actor. Probably the best performance in the film comes from Blanche Sweet, who I wasn’t familiar with prior, but her film career began in 1909. Sweet’s character tells Alice White that Hollywood no longer wants you after age 30 and not to take success for granted. Unfortunately, life seems to imitate art here, as Sweet only made one more film in 1930. Sweet retired in 1935 when she got married and would not make another film or TV appearance until 1958, the same year her husband passed away.

Blanche Sweet in “Show Girl in Hollywood”

“Miss Sweet plays her part so well that she puts Miss White in the shade,” wrote New York Times film critic Mordaunt Hall in his May 5, 1930, review.

Rather than the actors and main characters, the setting is the most interesting aspect of this film is the “behind the scenes” feel of Hollywood. It’s one of those Hollywood films about Hollywood, which are usually fun. We see film being edited, the light crew, the cameras rolling, giving the audience a feeling that they are being let into how Hollywood works. Dixie even ignores the red filming light, walks onto a sound stage, to see a gangster film being shot. Two men are struggling and it looks like one is about to go out a window, then Dixie walks up and appears in the window the man is about to fall out, ruining the shot. This showed audiences how films were made.

We end with a Graumann’s premiere with cameos from actors like Loretta Young and Al Jolson with actress and wife Ruby Keeler all giving glowing remarks about the fictional film, “Rainbow Girl. These cameos are the most exciting part of the film. I hadn’t read ahead about the film so the cameos were a surprise and a treat.

During the premiere, we see the film’s big finale and the camera pans back as if we are watching it on the screen with the rest of the audience. If only the film had ended with that, showing that Dixie Dugan was triumphant, having her own film be the actual film’s ending. But no, Alice White and Jack Mulhall go up on stage (introduced by Walter Pidgeon) to sheepishly tell the audience that it will be a little until the make another film, because they are getting married. It’s painful to watch and I just thought “no one in the audience cares and neither do I.”

If you enjoy (what the kids today call) a “meta” film, take a look at this one. The behind-the-scenes film is interesting, but the actual story and lead actors are not.

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Musical Monday: Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)

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:
Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935) – Musical #149

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Busby Berkeley

Starring:
Dick Powell, Gloria Stuart, Adolphe Menjou, Alice Brady, Hugh Herbert, Glenda Farrell, Grant Mitchell, Wini Shaw, Frank McHugh, Joseph Cawthorn, Dorothy Dare, Virginia Grey (uncredited), Dennis O’Keefe (uncredited)

Plot:
The luxury hotel, The Wentworth, opens to wealthy patrons. Rich Mrs. Prentiss (Brady) is controlling of her daughter Ann Prentiss (Stuart) and is pushing her to marry T. Mosley Thorpe (Herbert). Mrs. Prentiss relents to letting Ann have a fun and free summer as long as she marries Mosley at the end of the summer. Mrs. Prentiss strikes a deal with hotel desk clerk Dick Curtis (Powell) if he agrees to escort Ann through the summer.

Dick Powell and Gloria Stuart

Trivia:
-Chorus dancer Jack Grieves died at age 26 on the set of “Gold Diggers of 1935” while Berkeley was directing “Lullaby of Broadway.” The cause of Grieves’ death was written as “acute indigestion,” according to Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak

-Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell were originally set to star in this film. But after Flirtation Walk, Keeler and Powell asked to not star together for a little while because they were being type-cast. Gloria Stuart replaced Ruby Keeler for the film, according to The Women of Warner Brothers by Daniel Bubbeo

-Busby Berkely’s first film directing the entire film (both the dance numbers and narrative)

-Busby Berkeley used 56 pianos (that didn’t have to play music) in the “Words Are in My Heart” number, according to Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak

-In the “Lullaby of Broadway” number, Wini Shaw’s head turns and she starts smoking a cigarette. This was supposed to model Man Ray’s 1920 photograph “Woman Smoking a Cigarette,” according to Spivak’s book.

-The fourth “Gold Diggers” film in the series that began in 1929 and ended in 1938.

-Music by Harry Warren and Al Dubin

-Costumes by Orry-Kelly

Highlights:
-Film begins with people at the hotel dancing
-The Lullaby of Broadway number

Notable Songs:
-“The Words Are in My Heart” performed by Dick Powell and ensemble
-“The Lullaby of Broadway” performed by Wini Shaw and Dick Powell, ensemble
-“I’m Going Shopping with You” performed by Dick Powell and Gloria Stuart

My review:
“Gold Diggers of 1935” is a funny and entertaining musical filled to the gills with 1930s Warner Brothers stars. The storyline is similar to other Warner Brothers musicals starring Dick Powell in this time frame. Powell is the clean-cut young man and falls in love with a wealthy young girl (Gloria Stuart) that he’s supposed to be chaperoning. Alice Brady plays the girl’s wacky, penny-pinching mother trying to get her to marry Hugh Herbert. And Adolphe Monjou is a Russian dance director. In this film, the gold diggers aren’t showgirls as they are in the previous films. The gold diggers are the hotel workers who don’t receive a salary and only work for tips.

Adolphe Menjou, Joseph Cawthorn, Alice Brady, Grant Mitchell and Glenda Farrell in Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)

While the storyline has several humorous moments (especially Adolphe Monjou directing chorus girls with a meat cleaver), the truly memorable segment of this movie is the 9-minute long “Lullaby of Broadway” number.

It begins in darkness with only Wini Shaw’s face as she sings “Lullaby of Broadway.” From there, the number tells a story of a “Broadway Baby” and her boyfriend who enjoy the nightlife of New York (all filled with Busby Berkeley’s imaginative shots and designs). The couple’s story ends rather grimly.

While “The Words Are In My Heart” features ladies at rotating pianos, “Lullaby of Broadway” is the Berkeley highlight in this film. It’s funny, I can think of this number and know the choreography, visuals, costumes and story by heart…but I often can’t remember which Berkeley film it’s frome. That’s how memorable it is…and it also speaks to how the film is entertaining, but not easy to distinguish from other films starring Dick Powell with direction by Berkeley. (I actually thought this number was in another film because I didn’t remember Gloria Stuart’s story being remarkable).

Pianos for the The Words Are In My Heart number

There are only three actual songs performed in the film, which is surprising especially for a Dick Powell film. But this is undeniably a musical, especially because it opens with groundskeepers and staff of the hotel dancing as they prepare for the opening.

I do have one beef with this film: Glenda Farrell was completely wasted. Farrell plays Hugh Herbert’s chiseling stenographer but has very little screentime. At one point, it had been so long since we had seen her that I forgot she was in the film!

Something else odd about this film: a dancer Jack Grieves collapsed on the set on Jan. 10, 1935, while filming the “Lullaby of Broadway” number. I wasn’t able to find much on Grieves, except for Jan. 11, 1935, news clippings that said Grieves collapsed and died from “acute indigestion” and was survived by wife Feleta Crawford and had an 11-month-old baby.

If you are a fan of Busby Berkeley musicals, don’t miss this one. Especially since it includes some of his best directed numbers.

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Musical Monday: Broadway Babies (1929)

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:
Broadway Babies (1929) – Musical #572

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Mervyn LeRoy

Starring:
Alice White, Marion Byron, Sally Eilers, Charles Delaney, Tom Dugan, Bodil Rosing, Jocelyn Lee, Fred Kohler

Plot:
Chorus girl Dee (White) is in love with stage manager Billy (Delaney), and they are engaged to be married. Dee’s friends Florine (Byron) and Navarre (Eilers) like Billy, but don’t approve of Dee being tied down. Dee moves from the chorus to star of the show when Blossom (Lee) is constantly late for rehearsal. Blossom makes a play for Billy, telling him that she can “get him places” and Dee gets jealous. When bootlegger Perc Gessant (Kohler) steps in and gets Dee a job at a nightclub, Dee and Billy split up, but are still in love.

Trivia:
-Alice White’s first talking film
-Alice White was dubbed by Belle Mann
-The talking film was released on June 30, 1929, and a silent version was released July 28, 1929. The silent version is currently lost.
-Based on the short story “Broadway Musketeers” by Jay Gelzer in Good Housekeeping (Oct 1928).

Alice White, Marion Byron, Sally Eilers

Notable Songs:
-“Wishing and Waiting for Love” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann
-“Jig, Jig, Jigaloo” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann
-“Broadway Baby Dolls” performed by Alice White, dubbed by Belle Mann

My review:
As Hollywood worked to adjust to the dawn of sound, musicals are one aspect that struggled to figure out what worked.

As we have discussed in previous posts, musical numbers were busy, storylines were incoherent and the songs didn’t fit smoothly into the plot.

“Broadway Babies” is a bit better and more watchable than some early musicals (like Tanned Legs), but that may because it’s more of a drama/musical than a straight musical.

This was actress Alice White’s first talking film. White is cute, petite and wears a blond bob, looking like the quintessential flapper. She isn’t the best actress in this film, but that also could be because it was her first talkie (I have only seen White in a handful of other movies so I don’t have much to compare her against). However, the other leads, Marion Byron, Sally Eilers and Charles Delaney, don’t act well either or deliver their lines in a meaningful way, so it could be because everyone was adjusting to a new medium.

Interestingly enough, this film was also shot as a silent film and released in theaters later. I thought that was curious, especially that they released the silent AFTER the talkie. It’s like giving dessert before dinner! The film uses some silent film methods, with title cards explaining what’s about to happen in each scene.

There are some cute dance numbers, but I thought “Gee Alice isn’t much of a singer,” so I was surprised to see White was dubbed by Belle Mann.

While several of the early musicals aren’t very good, I think they are worth seeing. Busby Berkeley is known for “saving” the musical genre in the 1930s, so it’s interesting to see just how far they came from the dawn of sound to only a few years later in 1933.

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Musical Monday: The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968)– Musical #571

Studio:
Walt Disney Productions

Director:
Michael O’Herlihy

Starring:
Walter Brennan, Buddy Ebsen, Janet Blair, Lesley Ann Warren, Kurt Russell, Jon Walmsley, Pamelyn Ferdin, John Davidson, Wally Cox, John Davidson, Richard Deacon, Bobby Rhia, Goldie Hawn, Butch Patrick (uncredited)

Plot:
Set in 1888, the musical Bower family auditions to play at the Democratic convention for Grover Cleveland in the election of Cleveland vs. Benjamin Harrison. The Bower family moves from Missouri to the Dakota Territory, which is largely Republican. The family gets involved in a local political battle as grandpa (Brennan) is a Democrat and the rest of the town is mostly Republican.

Trivia:
-The film is a true story based on a book written by Laura Bower Van Nuys, who was the youngest of the Bower family.

-Filmed in 1966, this was supposed to be a two-part, hour-long TV special called “The Family Band.” Walt Disney thought the project was flat and asked the Sherman brothers to help write songs.

Goldie Hawn in an uncredited role as a dancer with John Davidson

-Goldie Hawn’s film debut. She was credited as “giggly girl.”

-Music written by brother songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. The Sherman brothers wrote a total of 11 songs for the production while eight were used in the final product.

-750 children were interviewed for roles in the film, according to a June 15, 1968, article in the El Paso Herald.

Highlights:
-Walter Brennan singing

Notable Songs:
-“Let’s Put It Over with Grover” performed by the whole Bower family
-“The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band” performed by the Bower Family
-“The Happiest Girl Alive” performed by Lesley Ann Warren
-“Dakota” performed by John Davidson
-“‘Bout Time” performed by John Davidson and Lesley Ann Warren

My review:
The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968) isn’t a well-known Disney film. I actually had never heard of it until I picked up one of those inexpensive three movie sets, because it included “The Happiest Millionaire,” the only Greer Garson movie I have yet to see.

And while IMDB does not list this movie as a musical, there is no doubt that it is one. The film opens with the family singing and I don’t think anyone stops singing for the first 20 minutes of the movie. It really isn’t much of an exaggeration to say that the first half of this film has more lyrics than lines.

The film starts out with the family practicing and auditioning to perform at the 1888 Democratic convention for Grover Cleveland with a song that Grandpa (Walter Brennan) wrote about Grover Cleveland. So that’s what the movie is going to be about, right? The family’s adventures of traveling to the convention, performing and becoming a big sensation?

Wrong. The family doesn’t perform at the convention because they decide to move to the Dakota territory. And then we follow their adventures there where the mostly Republican territory takes issue with Democrat Grandpa’s political ideas. And the family band plays every so often.

Now, this movie was based on the real Bowers family and an autobiography the youngest daughter of the family wrote, so I guess this is close to what happened with the family. But real life doesn’t always make sense when it comes to a film script. By the last half of the film I was scratching my head thinking, “So is this ploy just about people disagreeing about politics? I thought this would be more about a family band!”

At one hour and 50 minutes, I think this storyline could have been 20 to 30 minutes shorter. Had it simply been about a family band performing, one hour and 40 minutes may have been permissible, but I’m not really sure why this is so long or what filled the time.

What’s really interesting about “Family Band” is it’s cast. Knowing nothing about the film, I had no idea about the unique blend of actors and was surprised by some of the cast members. I really only knew Lesley Ann Warren, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn (in an uncredited role) were in the film. First, I was shocked to see Janet Blair, who seemingly had not aged since My Sister Eileen (1942) and looked beautiful as ever. Also, if you’re a Waltons” fan, Jon Wamsley (who plays Jason Walton on the show) is in the film as one of the younger siblings.

Oh and did I mention that Walter Brennan sings? I did love that. I was also happy to see Buddy Ebsen dancing in the film. Ebsen danced in a few 1930s and 1940s MGM musicals but it seems to be a rare site in his later films. Lesley Ann Warren does some great dancing in the film and Goldie Hawn appears as a dancer, stealing Warren’s boyfriend.

While there are multiple songs, the Sherman brothers did a great job with some toe-tapping tunes that will get stuck in your head (especially since they are performed so many times throughout the film).

I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t like the film…it was delightful. It just wasn’t what I expected and I had several questions once it ended. If you’re a Disney fan and haven’t seen this one, you should round out your Disney viewing and give it a watch.

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