Musical Monday: The West Point Story (1950)

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 West Point Story (1950) – Musical #336

Studio: Warner Brothers

Director: Roy Del Ruth

Starring: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Gordon MacRae, Doris Day, Gene Nelson, Alan Hale Jr., Roland Winters, Jerome Cowan

Plot:
Broadway director Bix Bixby (Cagney) is down on his luck because he has a problem with betting on horse races. Gambling prevents him from getting a good show and from marrying his sweetheart Eve (Mayo). Bixby is persuaded by a producer to help put on an all-male show at West Point Military Academy because the producer wants his nephew, Tom (MacRae) to leave the Academy and come perform on Broadway. Coming from a show business background, Bixby has a hard time understanding the cadets and their schedules. He’s thrown off campus and is only allowed to come back if he enrolls as a cadet.

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Hooray for Hollywood: Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival 2018

The Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival is a paradise for classic film fans.

After not being able to attend the 2017 festival, I have returned for my fifth TCM Film Fest. Throughout the festival, I will be sharing photos, short videos and tweeting quotes or facts shared during film interviews. I even hope to get in a couple of blog posts during the festival.

Outside the Hollywood Roosevelt, April 2018

Here’s how you can follow me:

· Twitter: @HollywoodComet

· Instagram: @HollywoodComet

· Facebook: Facebook.com/CometOverHollywood

For my top festival picks, I’m most looking forward to:

· Seeing actress Nancy Kwan, who I have been a fan of for awhile.

· The film “None Shall Escape” (1944) with guest star Marsha Hunt. I’m a fan of Miss Hunt and have never seen this film.

· A Star is Born (1937) on Nitrate. This is my favorite version of this story and it will be gorgeous on Nitrate film.

· Seeing fellow film fans and friends and discussing classic films with them!

Memorial Day Musical Monday: Hollywood Canteen (1944)

Musical:
Hollywood Canteen” (1944) –Musical #139

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Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Delmar Davies

Starring:
Joan Leslie, Robert Hutton, Dane Clark
Cameos:
Bette Davis, John Garfield ,The Andrews Sisters, Jack Benny, Joe E. Brown, Eddie Cantor, Kitty Carlisle, Jack Carson, Joan Crawford, Helmut Dantine, Faye Emerson, Sydney Greenstreet, Alan Hale, Sr., Paul Henreid, Joan Leslie, Peter Lorre, Ida Lupino, Dorothy Malone, Dennis Morgan, Janis Paige, Eleanor Parker, Roy Rogers (with Trigger), S.Z. Sakall, Zachary Scott, Alexis Smith, Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Wyman, Jimmy Dorsey, Donald Woods, Andrea King, Joyce Reynolds and The Golden Gate Quartet.

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Musical Monday: Sweet Kitty Bellairs (1930)

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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:
Sweet Kitty Bellairs –Musical #358

Sweet_Kitty_Bellairs_1930_Poster

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Alfred E. Green

Starring:
Claudia Dell, Ernest Torrence, Walter Pidgeon, Perry Askam, June Collyer

Plot:
Flirtatious Kitty Bellairs (Dell) goes to Bath, England, on holiday and all the men are after her, including Lord Varney (Pidgeon). Though she’s a flirt, she sings “in spite of my thirty or forty affairs, I’ve lost not a bit of my virtue.” On her way to Bath, her carriage is stopped by a robber who says he won’t rob her if he gives her a kiss. While Kitty is visiting her friend Julia (Collyer), her husband Lord Standish (Torrence) leaves her. Kitty gives Julia the advice to gussy up and pretend that she has a lover, which works in making Lord Standish jealous.

Publicity shot of Claudia Dell dressed in costume as Sweet Kitty Bellair

Publicity shot of Claudia Dell dressed in costume as Sweet Kitty Bellair

Trivia:
-This film was announced to be in Technicolor in a April 11, 1930 news brief. “Although it was reported last week, that the production was to be done in black and white, a last minute dispatch from the coast states the final decision to be in Technicolor.” Though the film was shot entirely in Technicolor, only a black and white print survives.

Highlights:
–Walter Pidgeon singing

Notable Songs:
-Highwayman Song performed by Perry Askam
-My Love, I’ll Be Waiting for You performed by Claudia Dell and Walter Pidgeon
-You, I Love But You performed by Claudia Dell
-Dueling Song performed by Ernest Torrence, Perry Askam, Edgar Norton, Lionel Belmore, Douglas Gerrard and others

Walter Pidgeon in costume for "Sweet Kitty Bellair"

Walter Pidgeon in costume for “Sweet Kitty Bellair”

My Review:
Somehow these early talkie films-whether they are musical, drama or comedy- are tiresome to me. “Sweet Kitty Bellairs” is better than most of them, but still not outstanding. It’s a humorous little musical romp lasting only an hour long. I believe it’s brief length is the only reason it’s bearable.
It has the added bonus of seeing early Walter Pidgeon and we get to hear Pidgeon and Ernest Torrence sing.
The story itself got poor reception in 1930 but received high praise for it’s color film.
It’s just disappointing the the Technicolor print no longer exists.

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

Musical Monday: Sun Valley Serenade (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.

sun valleyThis week’s musical:
Sun Valley Serenade –Musical #539

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Bruce Humberstone

Starring:
Sonja Henie, John Payne, Glenn Miller, Milton Berle, Lynn Barrie, Joan Davis, Ann Doran (uncredited)
Themselves in Specialty Performance: Tex Beneke, Ray Anthony, Angela Blue, The Nicholas Brothers, Dorothy Dandridge

Plot:
A down on their luck band lands a Christmas Eve gig in Sun Valley, Idaho, after they hook up with temper mental singer Vivian Dawn (Bari). To help with publicity for the band, their publicist Nifty Allen (Berle) set up for pianist Ted Scott (Payne) to adopt a European war orphan. While Ted and bandleader Phil Corey (Miller) have prepared for a baby orphan, their adoptee is fully grown Norwegian Karen (Henie). When the band leaves for Sun Valley, Karen sneaks along, threatening a budding romance between Ted and Vivian.

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The Rumba King and South American Influence in Film

Original caption: Picture shows Xavier Cugat, he became known as the "Rhumba King," and he and his famous band were greatly responsible for the popularity of the "Rhumba," "Samba" and the "Conga." Undated photo circa 1940s-50s. --- Image by © Underwood & Underwood/Corbis

Xavier Cugat

One of my favorite CDs to listen to while my hour long commute is “Maracas, Marimbas & Mambos: Latin Classics At M-G-M.” Along with ballads performed by Colombian singer Carlos Ramierz and toe tapping, show stoppers by Carmen Miranda, one of my favorite 1940s bandleaders multiple times on this album: Xavier Cugat.  From the fun and humorous “Take it Easy” from “Two Girls and A Sailor” (1944) to the bouncing “Walter Winchell Rumba,” Cugat’s songs are jaunty and full of spirit.

What do you think of when you hear “1940s culture”?  Big band music performed by the likes of Glenn Miller or Tommy Dorsey with teens swing dancing and Frank Sinatra crooning? Though big band and swing seem to characterize the popular perception of World War II era United States, one of the biggest fads in the United States in the 1940’s was Latin and Spanish culture.

Throughout the mid-1930s through the early-1950s, Hispanic themed music was popular and Xavier Cugat was the Rumba King.

Cugat, nicknamed Cugie, was arguably was the top Hispanic bandleader during this time, popularizing the rumba in the United States. Cugat’s popularity landed him into 17 Hollywood films, including “Luxury Liner” and “Holiday in Mexico” with Jane Powell, and “Thrill of Romance,” “Bathing Beauty” and “On an Island with You” with Esther Williams.

In most of his film appearances, Cugat was accompanied by his female singer, Lina Romay.

Cugat’s trademark was directing his musicians with his violin in one hand while holding a chihuahua in the other. Other times he may sketch a quick drawing while directing.

Xavier Cugat in “Holiday in Mexico” (1948) performing the song “Yo Te Amo Mucho-And That’s That”

Along with Cugat, other hispanic performers would be featured, but each had their own musical style and none overlapped. Carmen Miranda’s numbers were colorful and often comical, characterized by her detailed and elaborate costumes.

Pianist José Iturbi would be featured playing classical pieces, sometimes accompanied by his sister Amparo.

But the Latin fueled music didn’t stop with Cugat, Iturbi and Miranda. In “Easy to Wed” (1946), Esther Williams and Van Johnson sing in Portuguese–coached by Carmen Miranda–“Bonecu de Pixe,” accompanied by “Hit Parade” organist Hazel Smith. Williams said they were trained by Carmen Miranda and she felt ridiculous singing in Portuguese since she was butchering the language, according to her autobiography “The Million Dollar Mermaid.”

To a lesser degree, in most 1940s films, if the stars are in a nightclub, you bet they will be doing a rumba at one point. In “A Date with Judy” (1948)  Carmen Miranda teaches Wallace Beery how to rumba so he can dance with his wife, Selena Royal, for their anniversary. Even Charles Laughton was doing the rumba with Deanna Durbin in “It Started with Eve” (1941).

But this Hispanic influence didn’t stop at the music during this time period: It translated into clothing, film themes and dances.

Fashion

Donna Reed on a June 1946 cover of LIFE in peasant clothes

The Spanish and Latin influence was not just limited to night club entertainment but also rubbed off on fashion.

Popular 1940s summer fashions were influenced by Latin culture with peasant blouses, colorful fiesta skirts and espadrille shoes.

Jane Powell can be seen wearing this style in wore a  in “Luxury Liner” (1948). The July 17, 1944, LIFE magazine cover features a model wearing what was known as the “Peasant Clothes.” She is wearing a lose, capped sleeve blouse, a flared striped skirt and wedged hemp shoes.

 

Fly Rio, Rio by the sea-o

Movies reflected the Spanish influence interest with fashions, music, location and even film title. Some films in the 1940s were:

Down Argentine Way (1940)
Week-End in Havana (1941)
Holiday In Mexico (1946)
•Thrill in Brazil (1946)

Other movies like “Gilda” (1946) or “Romance on the High Seas” (1948) are located in South America and take part in Carnival.

Why was this Hispanic influence huge in United States pop culture? 

The Good Neighbor Policy.

To state it as simply as possible-During Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency starting in 1933, the policy was created with the principle for the United States not to interfere with domestic affairs in Latin America, and the United States acting like “a good neighbor.”

Specifically with stars like Brazilian Carmen Miranda, her job was to star in patriotic films such as “The Gang’s All Here” to bridge the gap between the Americas.

However, the policy declined in 1945 after World War II ended and the Cold War began.

Cugat remained popular throughout the 1950s, but much like big band performers like Harry James or Tommy Dorsey, his popularity faded as the rumbas and dance music were less relevant and rock n’ roll started to emerge. He retired in 1971 after suffering a stroke.

This is part of the Hollywood Hispanic Heritage Blogathon with Aurora’s Gin Joint.

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Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page for the latest updates. Contact us at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com or @HollywoodComet on Twitter.

Classic films in music videos: “Last Cup of Sorrow” by Faith No More

This is April’s edition of Comet Over Hollywood’s film references in music videos.

The band Faith No More, categorized as alternative metal and experimental rock, pays homage to the Alfred Hitchcock directed film, “Vertigo” (1958) in their music video “Last Cup of Sorrow.”

The band, formed in 1981 and who is coming out with a new studio album this year, released in 1997 “Last Cup of Sorrow” on their sixth album called “Album of the Year.”

FNM_-_Last_Cup_BlueThe video doesn’t just reference “Vertigo” like many music videos do, but actually plays out various scenes from the movies but in a silly, satirical manner. The single’s album art also copies the film poster’s artwork.

In the video, lead singer Mike Patton is dressed as James Stewart’s character, Scottie Ferguson, while actress Jennifer Jason Leigh is dressed as Kim Novak’s character, Madeleine. Some of the camera angles and zooms also try to mimic the cinematography by Robert Burks under Hitchcock’s direction.

Here are a few scenes from “Vertigo” with Kim Novak and James Stewart that are directly referenced in the video:

Vertigo-1958

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veritgo 2

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