Memorial Day Musical Monday: Hollywood Canteen (1944)

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

Sierra Exif JPEG

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.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Musical Monday: Sweet Kitty Bellairs (1930)

Image

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.

Continue reading

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.

hollywoods-hispanic-heritage-blogathon-1

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

vertigo6

veritgo 2

alfredhitchcock_vertigo_goldengatebridge

09c6476b26af880e1112645d866c8a9f

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

Comet Walking Around Hollywood: Turner Classic Film Festival 2015

tcmff2Comet Over Hollywood is covering the Turner Classic Film Festival for my third year this week. The festival runs from Thursday, March 26, through Sunday, March 30.

I arrived in Los Angeles, CA, by way of North Carolina on Tuesday for the sixth annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival.

Once again, I will be covering various events, film screenings and interviews throughout the festival.

Classic films have been a large part of my life so it’s a pleasure to share film experiences with others equally as passionate.

What am I most excited about this year?
-New-to-me Lizabeth Scott film “Too Late for Tears” (1949)
-New-to-me Robert Cummings film “Reign of Terror” (1949) with actor Norman Lloyd in attendance.
-“Young Mr. Lincoln” (1939) on 35mm with son of Henry Fonda, actor Peter Fonda discussing the film
-New-to-me “Don’t Bet on Women” (1931), starring Jeannette MacDonald in her only non-singing role.
-James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) with George Lazenby in attendance.
-New-to-me hilariously terrible looking “Boom” (1968) starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
-New-to-me rare Walt Disney film “So Dear to My Heart” (1948)
-“The Loved One” (1965) on the big screen with Robert Morse in attendance.

How can you follow me? 
Twitter: @HollywoodComet
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cometoverhollywood
Instagram: @HollywoodComet
Or here! CometOverHollywood.com

Though Robert Osborne can not attend the festival this year, he will be in our hearts and thoughts. #GetWellBob I'm pictured here with Mr. Osborne in 2013.

Though Robert Osborne can not attend the festival this year, he will be in our hearts and thoughts. #GetWellBob
I’m pictured here with Mr. Osborne in 2013.

Are you heading to the festival? Comment below and let us know what you are most excited about at this year’s Turner Classic Movies Film Festival.

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

 

Review: Meet Me in St. Louis (1959) CBS TV Special

It’s difficult to improve on perfection.

While this two-hour CBS 1959 TV Special may not be a remake, it pales when compared to the original.

The first “television special of 1959” was an adaptation of  the 1944 film “Meet Me In St. Louis” starring Judy Garland, Mary Astor, Leon Ames, Margaret O’Brien, Marjorie Main, Tom Drake and Lucille Bremer.

(L) Judy Garland and Tom Drake in the 1944 "Meet Me in St. Louis." (R) Jane Powell and Tab Hunter reprising their roles in a 1959 TV Special.

(L) Judy Garland and Tom Drake in the 1944 “Meet Me in St. Louis.” (R) Jane Powell and Tab Hunter reprising their roles in a 1959 TV Special.

Adapted from short stories written by Sally Benson, the story follows the Smith family who lives in St. Louis. The story begins in the Summer of 1903 and is broken into segments: Summer, Fall of 1903 with Halloween, Winter of 1903 with Christmas and Summer again in 1904. The story ends as the family goes to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

The lead, Esther, falls in love with the boy next door named John Truitt and the oldest sister Rose is a flirt who likes older men. The younger daughters Tootie and Agnes cause mischief.

The main conflict in the story is when the father announces the family has to move to New York for his job.

In the film, Garland plays Esther and Bremer plays Rose. O’Brien plays Tootie, and Ames and Astor are the parents. Tom Drake plays John Truitt, Marjorie Main is Katie the Maid, and Davenport plays Grandpa.

The 1944 film has a steller cast, but the 1959 cast is equally impressive:

Jane Powell as Esther, Jeanne Crain as Rose, Patty Duke as Tootie, Tab Hunter as John Truitt, Myrna Loy as Mrs. Anna Smith, Walter Pidgeon as Mr. Alanzo Smith, Reta Shaw as Katie the Maid, Ed Wynn as Grandpa and Kelly Brown as Lon Smith.

Many of the scenes and lines are similar to the 1944 film, if not identical, but there are some subtle differences in the film and the TV version:

-In the 1944 version, the brother Lon doesn’t have a great deal of screen time. The TV special version of the “Skip to My Lou” number at Lon’s going away party is much more elaborate. Lon becomes the star of the show. He leaps and jumps over girls. The number almost comes across more like the Barn Raising from “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” than a carefree, casual dance at a party.

-In the 1959 version, Esther’s whole family ribs her about her crush on John Truitt, and Mom even helps her pick out a hat suitable for “catching a man.” I found this pretty hokey. And who’s Mom would really do that?

-The iconic “Trolley Song” number from the 1944 film is obviously shot while the singers are on the trolley and the trolley is (supposedly) moving. The teenagers are riding the trolley to the swamp to see what progress has been made on what will be the 1904 World’s Fair grounds. In the 1959 version, the singers and dancers aren’t actually on the trolley for the majority of the song. However, I’m sure this had to do with limitations of a television studio. Also in the TV special Esther isn’t as surprised when John Truitt arrives on the trolley, they had a date to go to the swamp together.

Tab Hunter and Jane Powell in the trolley song (yes this is about how the quality is.

Tab Hunter and Jane Powell in the trolley song (yes this is about how the quality is.

-Unlike the 1944 version, we see the characters at the swamp in the television special. It’s fun but not entirely necessary. During their time at the swamp, Hunter sings “Boys and Girls Like You and Me” which was dropped from the 1944 print.

-In the Halloween scene, Tootie said John Truitt “tried to kill her” and Ether goes and hits him (and later apologizes when she learns the truth) to defend her little sister. In the 1959 version, Hunter sings “When Did This Feeling Begin” after this scene- giving John Truitt’s character two songs in the special. Truitt doesn’t sing at all in the film.

-After Esther sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” in the film- Tootie goes berserk and knocks down snowmen in the backyard. On TV, Tootie digs up her “dead” dolls from the backyard.  Mother comes to comfort her rather than Esther.

-The TV Special ends with the family walking off the porch to go to the World’s Fair, rather than them actually going to the fair like in the film. Again, this probably had to do with television limitations.

While I love every actor in the 1959 TV Special something is just severally lacking.

Jane Powell sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to Patty Duke.

Jane Powell sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to Patty Duke.

Jane Powell is one of my favorite actresses of all time, but let’s face it, she just isn’t Judy Garland. Comparing the two is really like trying to compare apples and oranges.

Garland brought a bit more sass and warmth to the role, while Powell could have easily been doing a continuation of her awkward, coming-of-age character in “Two Weeks with Love.”

Powell and Garland have very different singing styles, but they are equally pleasant. Hearing songs like “The Boy Next Door” and “The Trolley Song” sung more operatically is a bit different if you are used to hearing the songs performed the way Garland does.

Myrna Loy is another one of my favorites, but I didn’t care for her as the mother in this special. Maybe it was the script, but she was a bit dreamy and sweet. Mary Astor’s role was more of a strong mother, in my opinion.

Jeanne Crain’s Rose was less snooty than Lucille Bremer. Though it might be unbelievable, Patty Duke’s Tootie was sometimes as annoying or worse than Margaret O’Brien’s. Mainly because Duke would flat out screech, like how “John Truitt tried to kill” her. O’Brien’s specialty was tears rather than screaming.

I think the only casting I flat out disagreed with was Tab Hunter, who was an odd John Truitt to me. However, I don’t have any other suggestions for a “Boy Next Door” type in 1959.

The one actor I loved the most in the TV role was Walter Pidgeon. He has a fatherly warmth but is also a good curmudgeon.

With top-notch actors in the roles, I’m not sure what fell flat for me with the TV special. It wasn’t bad or terrible, just different.

The 1944 film is charming, colorful, nostalgic and poignant. It makes you laugh, sigh, cry and you don’t want the film to end. I wasn’t sad when the 1959 special ended. I was maybe even slightly relieved. The story was again reused in 1966 non-musical television pilot starring Shelley Fabares as Esther, Celeste Holm as Mrs. Anna Smith and Morgan Brittany as Agnes.

While I wouldn’t call the CBS “Meet Me in St. Louis” a remake, it didn’t improve upon what was already in place. With a new cast, adding extra songs and originally deleted scenes, you just can’t improve on perfection.

 If you want to watch the 1959 CBS TV Special sponsored by West Clocks, you can find it here on Youtube. The quality is terrible but watchable.

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

 

Who are your neighbors?: 60 years of peeping through the “Rear Window”

Do you know your neighbors?
The family with the dog that barks all night, the child who rides through your yard on his bike or the woman who sends flowers when a relative dies?
Stuck in his wheelchair with a broken leg, James Stewart’s character in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” (1954) got acquainted with his neighbors through a telephoto lens.
In a New York flat, the injured photographer passes the hours watching other apartment dwellers who live around a courtyard.

courtyard
While spying through his zoom lens, L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies ( James Stewart) may have stumbled across a murder.  Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), who lives across the courtyard, had an invalid wife who suddenly no longer exists and Jeff wants to know why.
While James Stewart in his wheelchair and Grace Kelly in her Edith Head gowns take center stage-flanked by Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr- those being peeped upon are equally important in this “Is this woman dead?” story.
But who were these people? As “Rear Window” celebrates its 60th birthday in Aug. 2014, premiering on the big screen Aug. 4, 1954, let’s take a look at who “Miss Torso,” “Miss Lonelyheart” and the amorous newlyweds are.

The Neighbors:

Judith Evelyn plays Miss Lonelyheart. She prepares to go on a date.

Judith Evelyn plays Miss Lonelyheart. She prepares to go on a date.

-Miss Lonelyheart: Miss Lonelyheart is the middle aged woman in the courtyard who longs for love but has yet to find it. Jeff watches her pantomime that she is on a date and then cry that she doesn’t have a lover. When she finally has a date, the man aggressively tries to make love to her and she pushes him from the house and sobs.
Miss Lonelyheart is played by Judith Evelyn who also performed in the films “The Egyptian” (1954), “Giant” (1956) and “The Tingler” (1958). Evelyn had a career on Broadway in the plays “Craig’s Wife” as Mrs. Craig in the 1947 revival and “The Shrike” as Ann Downs in 1952. Evelyn won the Drama League’s Distinguished Performance Award in 1942.
Evelyn was married to Canadian radio performer Andrew Allan. Allan, Evelyn and her father were aboard the Athenia in 1939 and were traveling through the Irish Sea, the body of water that separates Ireland and Great Britain. The ship was torpedoed by a German submarine on Sept. 3, 1939, three days after the Germans invaded Poland. This was the first British passenger liner sunk by Germans. Six out of 85 passengers survived, including Allan and Evelyn, but her father died.

Ross Bagdasarian plays the "Songwriter," pictured here with Alfred Hitchcock in his signature cameo.

Ross Bagdasarian plays the “Songwriter,” pictured here with Alfred Hitchcock in his signature cameo.

-The Songwriter: The Songwriter has the lavish apartment with large windows. His piano music serenades the apartment courtyard for much of the film as he composes. It’s in the Songwriter’s apartment where director Alfred Hitchcock makes his cameo. The Songwriter’s composing stops Miss Lonelyheart from committing suicide…and distracts Lisa (Grace Kelly) from doing some investigative work.
The songwriter is played by Ross Bagdasarian, who actually was a composer. Bagdasarian is also known as “David Seville,” father and creator of Alvin and the Chipmunks. He wrote the “Chipmunk Song” (Christmas Don’t Be Late) in 1958, which he won a Grammy Award. Bagdasarian was also the voice of David Seville in the 1960s “Alvin and the Chipmunk” cartoon.
Along with the Chipmunks, Bagdasarian wrote songs including “Come On-A to My House” made famous by Rosemary Clooney and “Alfi and Harry,” which was the theme of the Hitchcock film “The Trouble With Harry” (1955).

Georgine Darcy plays the dancer "Miss Torso"

Georgine Darcy plays the dancer “Miss Torso”

-Miss Torso: Miss Torso is the sexy ballet dancer who lives directly across the way from Jeff. She dances her way through her morning routine, entertains men and is happy to see her military boyfriend at the end of the film.
The pretty blond dancer is played by Georgine Darcy, who studied with the New York City Ballet. Her mother, however, encouraged her to be a stripper to make a “fast buck,” according to her 2004 obituary.
When cast as Miss Torso, she didn’t know who director Alfred Hitchcock was. She was paid $350 for the role, and Hitchcock encouraged her to get an agent and study acting, but she didn’t. She was only in a handful of films and television appearances from 1954 to 1971. She was married to actor and singer Byron Palmer from 1974 until her death in 2004.

Sara Berner lowers their dog down into the courtyard. Frank Handy sits inside the apartment.

Sara Berner lowers their dog down into the courtyard. Frank Handy sits inside the apartment.

-The Couple on the Fire Escape: On hot summer evenings, this couple sleeps on a mattress on their fire escape. Each night, the wife lowers their small dog down into the courtyard in a basket and then lifts the dog back up in the basket. The dog serves as a turning point in the film.
The husband is played by Frank Cady, best known for his role as Sam Drucker on the TV shows “Petticoat Junction,” “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Green Acres.”
Though best known for his television roles, Cady was also in several films including “Ace in the Hole” (1951) and “The Bad Seed” (1956).
The wife is played by Sara Berner, who was a voice actor in several Warner Brothers animated shorts from 1933 to 1946. Berner was the voice of Jerry the Mouse in “The Worry Song” when Tom danced with Gene Kelly in “Anchors Away” (1945).

Rand Harper and Havis Davenport play the newlyweds.

Rand Harper and Havis Davenport play the newlyweds.

-The Newlyweds: One of the first neighbors in the courtyard we are introduced to are the newlyweds. They are moving into their new apartment as the film starts. The landlord shows the couple the apartment, and the two keep trying to steal kisses as the landlord shows them from room to room. When he finally leaves, the husband carries his new bride through their threshold. The shade is drawn to their apartment for a great deal of the film, implying that they are….getting acquainted.
The husband is played by Rand Harper who played several bit parts in “Sabrina” (1954), “The FBI Story” (1959) and the TV show “Sea Hunt.”
The wife is played by Havis Davenport who played bit roles in film and TV such as “A Star is Born” (1954). She retired from acting in 1957.

Jesslyn Fax plays the sculpting neighbor.

Jesslyn Fax plays the sculpting neighbor.

-Sculpting Woman: The sculpting neighbor uses a hearing aid, appears to maybe be a bit of a busy body and is sculpting odd shapes in the courtyard. At the beginning she tries to say good morning to mysterious Thorwald (Burr) and he practically sneers at her.
The sculpting woman is played by Jesslyn Fax. This was not her only Alfred Hitchock project. Fax appeared in a bit role in “North by Northwest,” three “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” episodes and two “Alfred Hitchcock Hour” episodes.
Fax appeared in several films and television shows including “Music Man” (1962), “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955), “An Affair to Remember” (1957), “The Best of Everything” (1959) and an episode of “I Love Lucy.”

 Added bonus: When James Stewart talks to his editor on the telephone, the voice is actor Gig Young.

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

Musical Monday: “The Helen Morgan Story” (1957)

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.

Tthe-helen-morgan-story-movie-poster-1957-1020431163his week’s musical:
The Helen Morgan Story” –Musical #481

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Michael Curtiz

Starring:
Ann Blyth, Paul Newman, Richard Carlson, Ed Platt, Gene Evans, Alan King, Cara Williams, Virginia Vincent, Juanita Moore, Leonid Kinskey
As themselves: Rudy Vallee, Walter Winchell, Jimmy McHugh

Plot:
Biographical musical film on the life of singer Helen Morgan. The film starts with Morgan (Blyth) starting out her career dancing at a carnival show that is managed by Larry Maddux (Newman).
Morgan becomes famous, going from nightclub singer to Broadway star. Along the way, her alcoholism and on and off relationship with Maddux torment her.
Morgan hits rock bottom, broke and drunk. The movie ends with Morgan healthy and being honored by celebrities and Walter Winchell.

Trivia:

Ann Blyth and Paul Newman in a publicity still for "The Helen Morgan Story"

Ann Blyth and Paul Newman in a publicity still for “The Helen Morgan Story”

-Ann Blyth had a lovely singing voice but was dubbed by singer Gogi Grant.
In an interview, TCM Primetime Host Robert Osborne asked Ann Blyth why she was dubbed.
Blyth told Osborne she figured Warner Brothers wanted a different sound so chose Grant. When Blyth was researching the role, she listened to a record of the real Helen Morgan and her voice was actually more soprano and not very strong. But Grant was popular at the the time, and she figured the producers thought that would help promote the movie.
The critics felt Blyth’s voice would have worked better in the film.

 

-“The Helen Morgan Story” was Ann Blyth’s last theatrical film.
In an interview with Robert Osborne, she said the parts just weren’t there anymore. She later was offered the lead in “The Three Faces Of Eve” which Joanne Woodward won an Academy Award for.

-Peggy Lee, Susan Hayward, Jennifer Jones, Judy Garland, Patti Page and Doris Day were all considered for the lead.

-Doris Day turned down the role of Helen Morgan, because she thought the hard drinking character would hurt her career. Day had similar concerns before she portrayed Ruth Etting in “Love Me or Leave Me” (1955), according to her autobiography.

-The same year, five months before the film was released, Polly Bergen portrayed “Helen Morgan” on television on “Playhouse 90.” Bergen won an Emmy for Best Lead Performance by an Actress.

Notable Songs:
All of the songs are performed by Gogi Grant and are well known, including:
-“Can’t Help Loving that Man of Mine” from “Show Boat”
-“Bill” from “Show Boat”
-“The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else”
-“Someone to Watch Over Me”
-“Somebody Loves Me”
-“You Do Something to Me”
-“Why Was I Born?”

For comparison of Helen Morgan and Gogi Grant’s voices, both singing “Why Was I Born?” –

Helen Morgan:

Gogi Grant who dubbed Ann Blyth: 

My Review:

The real Helen Morgan

The real Helen Morgan

Fifty-seven years later, I’m upset that Ann Blyth was dubbed by Gogi Grant.
Blyth said she thought Warner was looking for a different sound, but Blyth would have sang the songs well.

Also, the real Helen Morgan’s voice matched Blyth’s voice more than the belting, Judy Garland-Like Grant’s voice.
Obviously as the story of Helen Morgan’s life is a bit fabricated.

Morgan was married three times, which wasn’t shown in the film. She also died of liver failure due to alcoholism in 1941, yet the film unsurprisingly painted a happy ending.

The Helen Morgan Story” isn’t a great movie, but it isn’t bad either. It is simply a run-of-the-mill sad, torch singer biopic that was characteristic of the 1950s. This time it was just Ann Blyth in the lead role, rather than Susan Hayward.

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

Musical Monday: “Call Me Madam” (1953)

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.

Call Me MadamThis week’s musical:
Call Me Madam” –Musical #430

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Walter Lang

Starring:
Ethel Merman, Donald O’Connor, Vera-Ellen, George Sanders, Billy De Wolfe, Helmut Dantine, Walter Slezak

Plot:
Set in 1951 during the Truman-era, socialite Sally Adams (Merman) heads to the fictional European country of Lichtenburg as a United States of America ambassador. Adams’ assistant Kenneth Gibson (O’Connor) falls in love with Princess Maria (Ellen) and Adams falls in love with General Cosmo Constantine (Sanders).
Based on the Broadway play with music by Irving Berlin.

Trivia:
-Film adaptation of the 1950 Broadway play that also starred Ethel Merman. The show opened Oct. 12, 1950, and ran for 644 performances through May 3, 1952. Merman won a Tony for her performance on stage.
-Sally Adams is based on based on Washington, D.C. hostess and Democratic Party fundraiser Perle Mesta. Mesta was selected by Harry Truman to be the American ambassador to Luxembourg. The musical is a satire of the behavior of gauche Americans abroad, according to Hollywood Musicals Year by Year by Stanley Green.
-Carol Richards dubbed Vera-Ellen’s singing voice.
-20th Century Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck was making “Call Me Madam” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” at the same time. Zannuck noted in his memoirs “Madam” was a better film but “Blondes” would make more. Blondes did double the gross of Madam, Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck: The Golden Years at Twentieth Century-Fox edited by Rudy Behlmer

Highlights:

Vera-Ellen and Donald O'Connor dancing to "It's a Lovely Day Today"

Vera-Ellen and Donald O’Connor dancing to “It’s a Lovely Day Today”

-George Saunders has a lovely singing voice in “Marrying for Love.”
-Three minutes into the film, Merman almost says “I don’t know what the hell your talking about” but stops herself and repeats the line. “I don’t know what the he- I don’t know what you are talking about.”
-Donald O’Connor and Vera-Ellen’s dance to “It’s a Lovely Day Today” in the garden. And all of their dances together.
-Vera-Ellen’s wardrobe.

Notable Songs:
-Hostess with the Mostest sung by Ethel Merman
-It’s a Lovely Day Today sung by Donald O’Connor and Vera-Ellen. Ellen is dubbed by Carol Richards.
-Marrying for Love sung by George Saunders
-You’re Just In Love sung by Donald O’Connor and Ethel Merman
-Mrs. Sally Adams sung by a trio of ladies answering the phone. Their voices blend beautifully

My Review:
A little bit of Ethel Merman can go a long way, but you can’t deny this is her best film role.
The film was taken from a successful Broadway show that also starred Merman, “Call Me Madam” is colorful and has an excellent cast.
Merman originated several musical roles on stage such as “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Panama Hattie,” “DuBarry was a Lady” and “Gypsy.” However, when the shows went from stage to film, Merman’s role was always recast with a younger, sexier star. However, film audiences get to see Merman in a role she originated on film with “Call Me Madam.” Though to me, her singing voice can be overwhelming, you can tell Merman’s appeal on stage with the energy and humor she shows in the film role.
Also in the film, I would say Donald O’Connor steals the show. He sings and dances beautifully and has the opportunity to sing a duet with Merman. Vera-Ellen also dances beautifully, but her performance is lessened by the terrible accent she has to speak.
George Sanders is a surprise in the musical with his beautiful singing voice.
Though “Call Me Madam” isn’t my favorite musical, its energetic, funny and fun. The Irving Berlin songs are entertaining, the costumes are beautiful and the talent is excellent.

Donald O'Connor, Ethel Merman, George Sander,  Vera-Ellen in "Call Me Madam"

Donald O’Connor, Ethel Merman, George Sander, Vera-Ellen in “Call Me Madam”

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