Musical Monday: New Orleans (1947)

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:
New Orleans (1947) – Musical #602

Studio: United Artists

Director: Arthur Lubin

Starring: Arturo de Córdova, Billie Holiday, Dorothy Patrick, Marjorie Lord, Irene Rich, John Alexander, Richard Hageman, Jack Lambert, Joan Blair, Shelley Winters (uncredited)
Themselves: Louis Armstrong, Woody Herman and His Orchestra, Charlie Beal, Kid Ory, Zutty Singleton, Barney Bigard, George ‘Red’ Callender, Meade ‘Lux’ Lewis, Bud Scott

Plot:
Set in 1917 New Orleans, jazz and ragtime are growing popularity on Basin Street. Opera singing socialite Miralee Smith (Patrick), falls in love with casino owner Nick Duquesne (de Cordova) and jazz music. However, her mother (Rich) disapproves of both loves, even though she is a patron of Nick’s casino.

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Watching 1939: What a Life (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

Betty Field and Jackie Cooper in “What a Life” (1939)

1939 film:  What a Life (1939)

Release date:  Oct. 6, 1939

Cast:  Jackie Cooper, Betty Field, James Corner, John Howard, Janice Logan, Hedda Hopper, Sidney Miller, Vaughan Glaser, Lionel Stander, Dorothy Stickney, Kathleen Lockhart, Sheila Ryan, Janet Waldo, Marge Champion (uncredited)

Studio:  Paramount Pictures

Director:  Jay Theodore Reed

Plot:
Henry Aldrich (Cooper) is a flustered teenager who always gets blamed for what other people do and is considered the worst student at school. He also gets accused for stealing musical instruments. Barbara Peterson (Field) likes Henry, though he is oblivious. Barbara isn’t popular or considered pretty because of her braces and flat hair. When she gets a permanent and her braces off, Henry’s enemy George (Corner) asks Barbara to the school dance first.

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Musical Monday: Porgy and Bess (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:
Porgy and Bess (1959) – Musical #601

Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Studios

Director: Otto Preminger, Rouben Mamoulian (uncredited)

Starring: Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis Jr., Pearl Bailey, Brock Peters, Diahann Carroll, Clarence Muse, Claude Atkins

Plot:
Set in 1912 Charleston, SC, in a black fishing community, Crown (Brock) kills a man and when he flees, his girlfriend Bess (Dandridge) is left behind. Scorned by most of the community because of her past with drug abuse, Porgy (Poitier), who is a crippled beggar, takes Bess in. Bess and Porgy fall in love and she tries to turn her life around, but is tempted by Crown and drug dealer Sportin’ Life (Davis Jr).

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“Must See Musicals” Book Giveaway

If you can’t tell, Comet Over Hollywood loves musicals. To celebrate TCM’s Mad About Musicals event in June, we’re rounding out the month with a giveaway! You can win a copy of ‘Turner Classic Movies: Must-See Musicals: 50 Show-Stopping Movies We Can’t Forget” by Richard Barrios.

All you have to do is enter the below form by July 1 and names will be drawn at random on July 2. You must be 18 or older to enter and live in the United States or Canada. Good luck!

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Edith Fellows: Tossing pennies from heaven

Another star faded on Sunday, June 26.  Child star Edith Fellows died at the age of 88.

Her name may not as familiar as child stars like Freddie Bartholomew or Virginia Weidler, Fellows was still popular with audience, but usually was type cast as a brat.

She played a spoiled little pill in “She Married Her Boss” that Claudette Colbert whipped into shape.  She later played a homeless child fleeing a truant officer with the help of Bing Crosby in “Pennies From Heaven.”

Edith Fellows getting the spanking she deserves in “She Married Her Boss” with Melvyn Douglas and Claudette Colbert.

Her favorite film roles were as Polly Pepper the “Little Peppers” series because she got to play a nicer, well-behaved characters.

I will say, I did find her a little annoying in “Pennies from Heaven” but I really enjoyed her performance in “She Married Her Boss” as Melvyn Douglas’s daughter.  Since Douglas had ignored his child, he gave her whatever she wanted making her a spoiled brat. Claudette Colbert marries him and straightens her out.

It’s entertaining to see her as a brat, but hilarious when Colbert threatens her into being a good girl.

Newspaper clipping

I never knew much about Edith Fellows-except I always enjoyed seeing her in films-until I read her obituary today.

Like several child stars, Fellows was pushed into stardom. But this time, it wasn’t by a stage mother. Fellows had a stage grandmother.  Fellows had been abandoned by her mother when she was born and was taken by her grandmother.

Conveniently, Fellows’ mother reappeared once she started to make it big in the picture business.  Her mother wanted to take her child back.

Fellows said her grandmother was a tough woman, but her mother seemed worse. She stuck with her stage grandmother instead.

Looking lovely in 1941

Unfortunately, Edith Fellows suffered the same fate that Shirley Temple and Jackie Coogan did financially.

When Fellows was 21 she tried to retrieve the $150,000 that had been placed in her trust fund during her career. Through the Jackie Coogan Bill, child actor’s money goes into a trust fund so guardians don’t spend all of the earnings-such as Coogan’s parents did. Fellows was given only $900 of all the money she earned.  The rest was missing. She felt like her mother was probably responsible for it, because her grandmother had died several years before.

Fellows grew up to become a beautiful young girl.  I was just watching “Pride of the Bluegrass” (1939) last week and was surprised at how pretty of a young lady she had become. I feel like if she hadn’t been dropped from her Columbia contract and had the desire to further her career, she could have maybe turned into a glamorous star.

Though Edith Fellows wasn’t in too many movies she made a lasting impression on me in the ones she did make.  Now Fellows can send down those pennies from heaven that her character Patty Smith and Bing Crosby hoped for.

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The tears are on us: RIP Jackie Cooper

Cooper looked the same his whole life

Jackie Cooper was one of those people who looked the same all his life.  He was an adorable child, a handsome young man and then adorable again as an older man.

He had that round face that was almost too big for him as a child and large chubby cheeks which plumped up with a grin or perfectly reflected his flowing tears.

Cooper successfully went from playing the wise cracking child into being able to a adult actor; something many other child stars failed to do.

He won our hearts in “The Champ” as he steadfastly loved his alcoholic father Wallace Berry. He then tugged at our  heart-strings when tears rolled down his face when The Champ dies at the end.

Cooper later showed he could play a romantic young man to pretty actresses like Deanna Durbin in “That Certain Age.” I have to admit I thought he was rather cute and was crush worthy as a teenager.

Jackie Cooper crying

Like Margaret O’Brien and June Allyson, Jackie Cooper was famous for his crying scenes.  Once when Cooper didn’t want to cry Norman Taurog, his uncle and director of the movie “Skippy” threatened to shoot Cooper’s dog.  Joking aside about the multitude of tears, Jackie Cooper was a pretty good child actor and had a sincere childish way about him.

He acted in an era where children were allowed to be children in movies, unlike today where they seem to be little adults.  Other male actor children followed in his footsteps like the adorable Bobs Watson who cried better than any other child I’ve ever seen.

As cute as Jackie Cooper was, he also was a sort of odd-looking kid. He was pretty stocky and had a huge head.  Look at

Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Cooper and Paulette Goddard

the photo of Jackie, Paulette Goddard and Charlie Chaplin. He’s nearly as tall as both of them, and wider than either.

I always thought Jackie Cooper seemed like a genuinely friendly man from interviews and had a really good career.  I have to admit, I wish he was the one who played Ted Nickerson in the 1930s Nancy Drew series. He seemed closer to the book character than Frankie Thomas.

Rest in peace Jackie Cooper. I hope he is able to be with his wife Barbara Kraus who died in 2009.  You will be missed, Mr. Cooper, the tears are on us. You are our Champ this time.

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Attractive Stranger: RIP Farley Granger

Farley Granger in 1953

In the shadows of Elizabeth Taylor’s death, Farley Granger died on March 27, at age 85.

Sometimes I think that Farley Granger was forgotten. He wasn’t as dynamic as other 1950s actors like Marlon Brando, and he was pretty awkward compared to suave Cary Grant, but Mr. Granger was one of my passing crushes when I first dove into classic film at the age of 14.

I’m not sure what attracted me to the tall, lanky and usually angry Farley Granger, but he was one of the many random actors (along with John Kerr, Peter McEnery and James Darren) that I had fleeting crushes on.

My favorite scene in “Strangers in a Train.” Farely is in the background holding on for dear life.

Granger was also in two of Hitchcock’s most well known films: the odd film adpatation of the play “Rope” and the thrilling “Strangers On A Train.”

I think the first film I ever saw Granger in was “Strangers On A Train” (1951). It’s funny that Granger has been so overlooked when he starred in one of Hitchcock’s most important and best films. “Strangers On A Train” is one of my all time favorite. I was intrigued by several of Hitchcock’s camera angles, particularly the shot through Miriam’s glasses at the fair.  It’s hard to find a flaw in “Strangers On A Train” because it is perfect-though I would have preferred another love interest over Ruth Roman.

I next saw Granger in “Hans Christian Andersen” (1952) with Danny Kaye. It’s such a quirky, silly movie but I love it. The etherial song “Wonderful Copenhagen” and the adorable “No Two People” had me enchanted.  Granger plays an angry fellow who is mean to Danny Kaye and locks him in a closet!  Granger then goes on to play an equally hot tempered man in “Small Town Girl” with Jane Powell.  I’m not sure why Granger was always cast as a hot head, but he could play a grouch very well.

Farley Granger and Ann Blyth in “Our Very Own”

A few of my other favorite films of his are “Our Very Own” where Ann Blyth finds out she was adopted, and, one of his first films, the war film “Purple Heart.”

Granger’s film career petered off in the mid-1950s and he acted mainly on television and then made a few films in the 1970s.  It’s sad that he entered and exited the film scene so quickly.  He only had substantial roles in half of them, while several of his others were small supporting characters.

Regardless of his screen time, I am sad that yet another star has risen. Farewell Farley Granger, you will be missed.

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