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.

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

Advertisements

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.

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

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.

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

Musical Monday: The Bamboo Blonde (1946)

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 Bamboo Blonde (1946) – Musical #236

Studio:
RKO

Director:
Anthony Mann

Starring:
Frances Langford, Ralph Edwards, Russell Wade, Jane Greer, Tommy Noonan, Jean Brooks, Iris Adrian, Paul Harvey, Regina Wallace, Richard Martin

Plot:
Lt. Patrick Ransome, Jr. (Wade) meets nightclub singer Louise Anderson (Langford) at a club that is out of bounds for military personnel. The two dance and dine before Lt. Ransome has to ship out, but he forgets to ask her name. The crew ends up painting her portrait on the side of their B29 and name her “The Bamboo Blonde,” which brings them luck in battle. Their success and the painting brings publicity to the crew, Louise and the nightclub.

Continue reading

Musical Monday: Shine on Harvest Moon (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:
Shine on Harvest Moon (1944) – Musical #131

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
Ann Sheridan, Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, Irene Manning, S.Z. Sakall, Marie Wilson, Robert Shayne

Plot:
Set in the early 1900s, this fictional biographical film follows vaudeville and Broadway stars Nora Bayes (Sheridan) and Jack Norworth (Morgan). As the couple rises to the top, they are blackballed by an old show business enemy who buys all theater chains.

Continue reading

Musical Monday: The Thrill of Brazil (1946)

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 Thrill of Brazil (1946) – Musical #570

Studio:
Columbia Pictures Corporation

Director:
S. Sylvan Simon

Starring:
Evelyn Keyes, Keenan Wynn, Ann Miller, Allyn Joslyn, Tito Guízar, Felix Bressart
Themselves: Veloz, Yolanda, Enric Madriguera

Plot:
Steve Farraugh (Wynn) is a musical producer in Rio de Janeiro. He is dating his dancing leading lady Linda Lorens (Miller), but he still misses and loves his ex-wife Vicki Dean (Keyes). And he misses her creative ideas for his shows. However, Vicki is prepared to marry John Habour (Joslyn). Steve does everything in his power to keep Vicki from getting married. Meanwhile Tito Guízar (himself) is also in love with Linda.

Continue reading

Musical Monday: For the First Time (1959)

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:
For the First Time (1959)– Musical #569

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Rudolph Maté

Starring:
Mario Lanza, Johanna von Koczian, Kurt Kasznar, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Hans Söhnker,

Plot:
Famous tenor Tonio Costa (Lanza) is temperamental and causes problems for his manager (Kasznar). Tonio falls in love with Christa (Koczian), who is deaf. However, she won’t marry him until she is able to hear him sing.

Trivia:
-Last film of Mario Lanza. “For the First Time” was released on Aug. 14, 1959, and Lanza died of a heart attack at age 38 on Oct. 7, 1959.
-Mario Lanza’s first film since he made Seven Hills of Rome in 1957.

Highlights:
-A dachshund at the beginning begging
-The opera montage of Mario Lanza performing Othello, Pagliacci or Aida

Continue reading

Musical Monday: Ladies of the Chorus (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:
Ladies of the Chorus (1948) – Musical #568

 

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Phil Karlson

Starring:
Adele Jergens, Marilyn Monroe, Rand Brooks, Nana Bryant, Eddie Garr, Bill Edwards

Plot:
May Martin (Jergens) and her daughter Peggy (Monroe) are both chorus girls at a burlesque theater. May is protective over Peggy, not wanting her to go out with “stage-door Johnnys.” When the head of the show walks out, Peggy becomes the main attraction and captures the interest of wealthy Randy Carroll (Brooks). Will his society family accept Peggy if they find out she is a burlesque queen?

Continue reading

Musical Monday: The Desert Song (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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
The Desert Song (1943) – Musical #500

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Robert Florey

Starring:
Dennis Morgan, Irene Manning, Bruce Cabot, Faye Emerson, Lynne Overman, Gene Lockhart, Jack La Rue

Plot:
A group of desert bandits, lead by Paul Hudson (Morgan), work against Nazis in Morrocco who want to build a railroad for the Axis.

Dennis Morgan and Irene Manning in “Desert Song” (1943)

Trivia:
-Prior to it’s 2014 DVD release, this film was difficult to see due to a copyright issue with one of the songs in the film.
-This is one of several film versions of “Desert Song.” The first was in 1929 starring John Boles and Carlotta King, and another in 1953 starring Gordon MacRae and Kathryn Grayson. Since this was filmed during World War II, the Nazi aspect would be added.
-The remake had been planned since 1936, according to The Star-Spangled Screen: The American World War II Film by Bernard F. Dick
-New songs added to the film were “Fifi’s Song,” “Gay Parisienne,” and “Long Live the Night.”

Highlights:
-Dennis Morgan
-The Technicolor cinematography

Continue reading

Musical Monday: Camelot (1967)

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:
Camelot (1967) – Musical #235

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Joshua Logan

Starring:
Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, David Hemmings, Estelle Winwood, Lionel Jeffries, Laurence Naismith,
Gary Marshal

Plot:
The story of King Arthur (Harris) and his marriage to Queen Guinevere (Redgrave). King Arthur’s philosophy is “Not might ‘makes’ right, but might ‘for’ right” so he creates the Knights of the Round Table of noble knights to help carry out a rudimentary idea of democracy and England’s unification. One of the knights is Sir Lancelot (Nero), who the Queen grows fond of, which causes problems with the other knights. Causing further problems is the arrival of Arthur’s illegitimate son Mordred (Hemmings).

Continue reading