Musical Monday: Show Boat (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:
Show Boat (1951) – Musical #29

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
George Sidney

Starring:
Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner, Howard Keel, Joe E. Brown, Agnes Moorehead, Marge Champion, Gower Champion, Robert Sterling, William Warfield, Linda Christian (uncredited), Adele Jergens (uncredited), Regis Toomey (uncredited), Lyn Wilde (uncredited), Dee Turnell (uncredited)

Plot:
Set in the 1880s, the Cotton Blossom Show Boat is run by Capt. Andy Hawke (Brown) and his wife Parthy (Moorehead). When the boat arrives in a Mississippi town, there’s trouble for the show’s leading lady Julie Laverne (Gardner) and her husband, Steve Baker (Sterling). In revenge for Julie turning him down, riverboat worker Pete (Erickson) tells the sheriff (Toomey) that the boat has a case of miscegenation, an interracial relationship. Julie is part black, and Steve is white, and even though he cuts her hand and sucks some of it out, the two are forced out of town by the law. In a hurry to replace their leading lady and leading man, Capt. Andy recruits his daughter Magnolia (Grayson) and a gambler Gaylord Ravenal (Keel), who was seeking passage on the boat. Magnolia and Gaylord get married, though her parents object, and the two move to Chicago, where Gaylord hopes to keep them living on velvet through gambling. However, his luck soon sours.

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Watching 1939: Lady of the Tropics (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. 

1939 film:  Lady of the Tropics (1939)

Release date:  Aug. 11, 1939

Cast:  Robert Taylor, Hedy Lamarr, Joseph Schildkraut, Mary Taylor, Ernest Cossart, Gloria Franklin, Charles Trowbridge, Frederick Worlock, Cecil Cunningham, Natalie Moorhead, Willie Fung (uncredited), Charles Judels (uncredited)

Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:  Jack Conway, Leslie Fenton (uncredited)

Plot:
A wealthy, jet setting vacation group is seeing the world on a yacht and stop in French Saigon, or Indochina. The party includes American playboy Bill Carey (Taylor), who is traveling with the family of his fiancee Dolly (Mary Taylor). When they arrive, the tourists learn about people of mixed race who are half French, half Asian. A priest, Father Antoine (Cossart) who describes these individuals as flying fish “trying to stay, flying above the water only to fall into the ocean and die.” One woman who is both French and Indochinese is Manon DeVargnes (Lamarr), who desperately wants to go to Paris. Bill and Manon fall in love and marry, but society keeps them from being happy or leaving Saigon.

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Musical Monday: The Kissing Bandit (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:
The Kissing Bandit (1948) – Musical #236

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Laslo Benedek

Starring:
Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, J. Carrol Naish, Mildred Natwick, Billy Gilbert, Mikhail Rasumny, Sono Osato, Clinton Sundberg, Carleton G. Young, Edna Skinner, Nana Bryant (uncredited)
Specialty dancers: Ricardo Montalban, Cyd Charisse, Ann Miller, Sally Forrest

Plot:
Set in the 1800s, shy Ricardo (Sinatra) returns to Spanish California after receiving his education in Boston. Ricardo believes he’s taking over his deceased father’s business, running an inn. However, his father’s friend Chico (Naish) informs him, but the family business is being the Kissing Bandit, a robber who kisses women. When he meets Teresa (Grayson), the daughter of the governor, he is smitten but doesn’t kiss her, much to Teresa’s dismay. Ricardo can’t get close to her because the governor is searching for the Kissing Bandit, so Ricardo pretends to be the tax collector.

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Watching 1939: Blondie Takes a Vacation (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.

1939 film: Blondie Takes a Vacation (1939)

Release date: July 20, 1939

Cast: Penny Singleton, Arthur Lake, Larry Simms, Danny Mummert, Daisy the Dog, Donald Meek, Donald MacBride, Thomas W. Ross, Elizabeth Dunne, Robert Wilcox, Harlan Briggs, Irving Bacon, Milton Kibbee (uncredited)

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Director: Frank R. Strayer

Plot:
After originally missing their vacation, Blondie (Singleton), Dagwood (Lake) and Baby Dumpling (Simms) head to the mountains on vacation and meet a series of issues. After their reservations are canceled at their first hotel, they end up as the only guests at a mountain resort whose business is failing. The family helps get the resort back up on its feet, making their trip more work than a vacation.

1939 Notes:
• The third Blondie film of the 28 film series from 1938 to 1950.
• Three Blondie films were released in 1939: Blondie Meets the Boss, Blondie Takes a Vacation, Blondie Brings Up Baby

Other trivia:
• Harry Davenport was originally going to co-star in this film but had to drop out due to his role in “Gone with the Wind” (1939), according to the Hollywood Reporter.
• Filmed at Cedar Lake and Big Bear in California

Larry Simms, Penny Singleton, Arthur Lake in “Blondie Takes a Vacation”

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
The Blondie comic strip was re-created as a radio show and then a film series.

The film series, starring Arthur Lake, Penny Singleton and Larry Simms, had 28 films, and three of those were released in 1939: Blondie Meets the Boss, Blondie Takes a Vacation, and Blondie Brings up Baby.

“Blondie Takes a Vacation” is the usual mad-cap story with Blondie (played by Penny Singleton) putting up with Dagwood (played by Arthur Lake) being a knucklehead. Larry Simms as Baby Dumpling probably has the most sense of anyone in the family.

While “Blondie Meets the Boss” had some painful moments, “Blondie Takes a Vacation” is better. There are some slapstick moments that are predictable, like Baby Dumpling thinking he finds a “kitty,” but it’s a skunk. Or a vacuum bag swelling up like a balloon and floating to the ceiling. But I like this one because it puts the family in a different setting – on vacation.

The family goes to the mountains on the vacation that they were denied in the last film (“Blondie Meets the Boss”). But things, of course, run afoul. On the train to vacation, they irritate a man sitting near them (Donald MacBride) who happens to own the resort they are going to. When he sees the family enter, he kicks them out and refuses to house them. The family finds a nearby hotel, which is nice but failing because of the other resort. Rather than resting during their vacation, Blondie and Dagwood spend their trip working to help the elderly couple make their hotel a success.

This series of films can be tiresome to me, but these serial films were generally cheap to make and did alright in theaters. There were 28 blondie films in all. This one is more interesting because they are out of their home and also helping others.

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Musical Monday: It Happened in Brooklyn (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:
It Happened in Brooklyn (1947) – Musical #263

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Richard Whorf

Starring:
Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, Peter Lawford, Jimmy Durante, Gloria Grahame, Marcy McGuire, Aubrey Mather, Bobby Long, William Roy (billed as Billy Roy)
Themselves: The Starlighters – Pauline Byrns, Vince Degen, Tony Paris, Howard Hudson

Plot:
Danny Miller (Sinatra) has been homesick for his hometown of Brooklyn for four years while fighting in World War II. When he returns to Brooklyn, he meets music teacher and unsuccessful opera singer Anne (Grayson) who disagrees with Danny about Brooklyn being the best place in the world. Unable to find a place to live, Danny stays with old friend Nick (Durante). Nick also wants to be better liked by the students at the school, like Robert Donat in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.” Danny has his own issues to when he can’t find a job right away. Englishman Jamie (Lawford) comes to visit from England after Danny talks about Brooklyn. The problem is that Jamie and Danny both fall for Anne.

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Watching 1939: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (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. 

1939 film:  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939)

Release date:  Feb. 10, 1939

Cast:  Mickey Rooney, Rex Ingram, Walter Connolly, William Frawley, Lynne Carver, Clara Blandick, Elisabeth Risdon, Minor Watson, Jo Ann Sayers, Victor Kilian, Irving Bacon (uncredited), Delmar Watson, Billy Watson, Harry Watson

Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:  Richard Thorpe

Plot:
Huckleberry Finn (Rooney) is a troublemaking orphan living with a widow (Risdon) and her sister (Blandick). Huckleberry skips school, lies and smokes pipes. Huckleberry feels bad when he realizes that he is going to disappoint the Widow because he isn’t going to advance at school. When his father who is believed to be dead (Kilian) shows up, he kidnaps his son. Huckleberry runs away, travels down the river and finds Jim (Ingram), the Widow’s slave that Huckleberry befriended.

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Classics in the Carolinas: Kathryn Grayson

Actress, singer Kathryn Grayson

With her soprano voice and sweet, heart-shaped face, Kathryn Grayson was one of the many stars in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s constellation.

But before the singer and actress was one of the studio’s top stars, Grayson was born Zelma Kathryn Elisabeth Hedrick in Winston-Salem, N.C. Zelma was one of four children born to Charles and Lillian Hedrick. The other siblings – Bud, Hal and the youngest Millie, who were also born in North Carolina. Though Zelma was born in Winston-Salem, she spent most of her childhood in Kirkwood, Mo., near St. Louis, when her family moved due to her father’s work as a real estate contractor. Zelma aspired to be an opera singer and studied voice while she was growing up.

The family moved from Kirkwood to Texas to California. Grayson continued studying and improving her singing and was discovered in California, according to a July 1, 1944, issue of “The State,” a monthly North Carolina-focused magazine that has been published from 1933 to present, which is now titled “Our State.”

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