Review: Geordie (1955)

Never have I stumbled over a more delightful film.

While searching for films about sports, the 1955 British film “Geordie,” released in the U.S. as “Wee Geordie,” came up in the results. I hadn’t heard of this film or several of the stars, but I decided to give it a go and I’m glad I did.

Geordie is smaller than the other students and gets picked on.

Geordie is smaller than the other students and gets picked on.

Directed by Frank Launder, “Geordie” follows a young boy named Geordie MacTaggart (Paul Young) who is the smallest in his class and Scottish village. The “wee” boy is fed up with being picked on at school and harassed about his height.

Geordie spots an advertisement for a mail-order body-building course on the back of his father’s (Jameson Clark) newspaper. He orders Henry Samson’s (Francis DeWolff) exercise correspondence and continues to work through the course until he’s a tall, strong 21 year-old man (Bill Travers — who was 6′ 6″). Geordie’s girl Jean (Norah Gorsen) is aggravated by the exercises and feels like it takes up all of his time.

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Musical Monday: Sing Your Way Home (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.

singThis week’s musical:
“Sing Your Way Home” (1944)– Musical #551

Studio:
RKO Radio Pictures

Director:
Anthony Mann

Starring:
Jack Haley, Marcy McGuire, Glen Vernon, Anne Jeffreys, Donna Lee Smith, Lawrence Tierney (uncredited)

Plot:
Big headed World War II correspondent Steve Kimball (Haley) is eager to leave Europe and get back to the United States. To do so, he agrees to chaperone a group of teenagers. While Steve is very strict with the teenagers, he uses teen Bridget Foster (McGuire) to smuggle his stories through the radio in code.

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Review: Orry-Kelly and the “Women He’s Undressed” (2015)

Poster WOMEN HE'S UNDRESSED - Courtesy of Wolfe VideoAt 14, loving both classic films and fashion, I always kept my eyes peeled for the film’s costume designer. With 293 credits to his name from 1932 to 1963, Orry-Kelly was a name I often spotted.

Dark Victory (1939), Now Voyager (1940), Casablanca (1940), American in Paris (1951), Auntie Mame (1958), Some Like it Hot (1959), and Gypsy (1963) are just a few films that he added to his resume.

While many today will name Edith Head when put on the spot to name a costume designer, she wasn’t the only one in Hollywood. Head’s costumes were lovely and she deserves all her accolades, but many costume designers seem to be cast in a shadow as dark as her round black glasses.

“Women He’s Undressed” (2015), a new documentary directed by Gillian Armstrong, gives audiences the opportunity to learn more about the prolific costume designer, Orry-Kelly.

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Review: Gidget’s Summer Reunion (1985) TV Movie

From 1959 to 1986, there were nine versions of “Gidget” on TV and film, live action and animated.

I’ve refrained from calling versions made from 1959 to 1972 “the worst” of the Gidget series, because they aren’t.

“Gidget Goes Hawaiian” isn’t great but it has some bright spots and is colorful. “Gidget Goes to Rome” is a little too syrupy sweet, and “Gidget Gets Married” was just goofy.

gidgetBut the worst came in 1985 with the two hour made-for-TV movie “Gidget’s Summer Reunion.”

Gidget (Caryn Richman) and Moondoggie/Jeff (Dean Butler) are married, living in a house they can’t afford and working paycheck to paycheck. Gidget runs a travel agency and Jeff works as a contractor and has a sexy blond boss, Anne (Mary Frann). Their 15-year-old niece Kim (Allison Barron) comes to stay the summer and is ready to learn how to surf and gets tangled with a college-aged surfing jerk (Vincent Van Patten) who only has one thing on his mind.

Gidget is so busy at work that her marriage is falling apart and Anne is reaching out her claws for Jeff. Just as Gidget attempts to patch up her married and is planning a surprise birthday party for Jeff with the old surfing gang, she has to take over on a tour of Hawaii when her tour guide gets sick.

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Musical Monday: Step Lively (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.

step3This week’s musical:
Step Lively” (1944)– Musical #209

Studio:
RKO

Director:
Tim Whelan

Starring:
Frank Sinatra, George Murphy, Gloria DeHaven, Adolphe Menjou, Walter Slezak, Eugene Pallette, Anne Jeffreys, Grant Mitchell, Wally Brown, Dorothy Malone (uncredited)

Plot:
Gordon Miller (Murphy) wrecking havoc at a hotel where he’s rehearsing a musical comedy. Not only are his actors running rampant and eating all the food in the dining room, but he also doesn’t have any money to pay for the hotel, the actors or the play. Gordon’s brother-in-law and manager of the hotel Joe Gribble (Slezak) is in hot water as Gordon continues to run up his credit. Along the way, playwright Glenn Russell shows up wondering what became of his play that he sent to Gordon to produce. They find that Glenn can sing better than write and leading lady Christine (DeHaven) works to get him in the show.

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Review: Gidget Gets Married (1972) TV movie

Gidget and Moondoggie’s romance started onscreen in 1959 on the beaches of Malibu.
Though the real Gidget didn’t marry “Moondoggie,” the fictional one tied the knot in a 1972 TV movie, “Gidget Gets Married.”

At the end of the TV movie “Gidget Grows Up” (1969), Gidget and Jeff get engaged. Two years later, Gidget (Monie Ellis) has left her job at the United Nations and is now working as a first grade teacher. Jeff “Moondoggie” Stevens (Michael Burns) returns home from the Air Force and is ready to get married immediately.

Jeff/Moondoggie (Michael Burns) and Gidget (Monie Ellis)

Jeff/Moondoggie (Michael Burns) and Gidget (Monie Ellis)

The two go to Gidget’s dad (Macdonald Carey) who is wary of such a quick wedding but relents when he hears Jeff has an engineering job lined up. Former child star and Gidget’s old landlord Louis B. Latimer (Paul Lynde) attends the wedding and brings his movie cameras to capture the moment.

The movie is less about the wedding and more about the newlyweds adjusting to married life, new jobs and communities.

They move to Florida for Jeff’s job at Worldwide Dynamics. Their home is located in a company owned community and furniture is provided by Worldwide Dynamics, which doesn’t sit well with Gidget, because she can’t decorate her first home. Jets also fly over Gidget’s neighborhood. Worldwide Dynamics is separated into three communities based on status within the company and the neighborhoods aren’t supposed to fraternize.

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Musical Monday: Top Banana (1954)

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.

top bananaThis week’s musical:
“Top Banana” (1954)– Musical #550

Studio:
United Artists

Director:
Alfred E. Green

Starring:
Phil Silvers, Rose Marie, Danny Scholl, Jack Albertson, Judy Lynn, Bradford Hatton, Johnny Coy, Dick Dana

Plot:
Shot as if you are watching the Broadway play, the plot follows a demanding TV star Jerry Biffle (Silvers) trying to boost the ratings of his flailing TV program. He casts attractive young people Sally Peters (Lynn) and Cliff Lane (Scholl) as leads to raise ratings. It gets complicated when Sally and Cliff fall in love and Phil also loves Sally.

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Review: Gidget Grows Up (1969) TV movie

The world was changing in the late-1960s.

The anti-authority, anti-capitalism, anti-war and free-love movements brought a shift in popular culture.

The surf culture that erupted after Fredrick Kohner’s book “Gidget” hit the shelves was starting to fade with dissatisfaction of establishment. This caused a shift in pop culture, and films and music focused more on social movements and issues rather than wanting to hold hands or surf the USA. There no longer was a place for Technicolor fluff films focusing on beach parties, surfing and wahinis in wild bikinis.

So how does Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, the surfing “girl midget” who first appeared in 1957, fit in a changing world?

She goes to work at the United Nations.

Gidget (Karen Valentine) and her friends Diana (Susan Batson) and Minnie (Helen Funai) become United Nations guides. (Comet Over Hollywood screencap)

Gidget (Karen Valentine) and her friends Diana (Susan Batson) and Minnie (Helen Funai) become United Nations guides. (Comet Over Hollywood screencap)

After three feature “Gidget” films and a 1965 television show that lasted one season, the 1969 television film “Gidget Grows Up” places Gidget in New York City. She’s ready to change the world at the United Nations (UN), which she describes as “one of humanity’s noblest achievements.”

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Musical Monday: Music in the Air (1934)

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.

music in the airThis week’s musical:
“Music in the Air” (1934)– Musical #549

Studio:
Fox Film Corporation

Director:
Joe May

Starring:
Gloria Swanson, John Boles, Douglass Montgomery, Reginald Owen, June Lang, Al Shean, Marjorie Main, Sara Haden,

Plot:
Set in the Bavarian Alps, small town teacher Karl Roder (Montgomery) is in love with Sieglinde Lessing (Lang), who is the daughter of composer Dr. Walter Lessing (Shean). The two meet a quarreling acting couple- Bruno Mahler (Boles) and primadona Frieda Hotzfelt (Swanson). Bruno and Frieda take advantage of Karl and Sieglinde to make each other jealous. Bruno makes Sieglinde the lead in a new operetta, leaving Karl despondent.

Trivia:
-The “Music in the Air” was originally a Broadway musical. It opened at the Alvin Theatre in New York City on Nov. 8, 1932, and ran for 342 performances.
-Directorial debut of Joe May in America. May started his film career in Germany in 1910, but fled in 1934 when the Nazis started to take power.
-Actor Douglass Montgomery was dubbed by Dave O’Brien
-Actress June Lang dubbed by Betty Heistand
-Billy (billed as Billie) Wilder was one of the scriptwriters. Billy Wilder later directed Gloria Swanson in “Sunset Blvd.” (1950).
-Gloria Swanson’s voice coach during the film was Dr. Marifiotti, Caruso’s voice coach, according to Gloria Swanson’s autobiography, “Swanson.”
-Music composed by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein
-The song “The Song is You” was a hit on the Broadway play, but was cut from the film.

Highlights:
-Hearing Gloria Swanson and John Boles sing

Al Shean, Reginald Owen, Douglass Montgomery, Gloria Swanson, June Lang and John Boles

Al Shean, Reginald Owen, Douglass Montgomery, Gloria Swanson, June Lang and John Boles

Notable Songs:
-“I’ve Told Every Little Star” performed by June Lang and Douglass Montgomery
-“One More Dance” performed by John Boles
-“I’m Alone” performed by Gloria Swanson

My review:
“Music in the Air” is a quaint little film.

The cast is excellent, the songs are beautiful and the set designed to look like the Bavarian Alps is lovely.

For contemporary classic film audiences, many are mainly familiar with Gloria Swanson in her silent films and in “Sunset Boulevard.” Like audiences forget that Irene Dunne can sing, it’s also overlooked that Swanson was in multiple musicals and has a lovely operatic voice. I think these go overlooked because they aren’t aired on television often and can be difficult to find.

John Boles also has a very pleasant singing voice.

While John Boles and Gloria Swanson are the leads, June Lang and Douglass Montgomery have the most screen time as the secondary leads. They are pleasant actors, particularly Douglass Montgomery, who is handsome (you may recognize him as Laurie from “Little Women” (1933). However, both of them were dubbed in the movie.

One thing I think is interesting about this film is that it is almost divided up into acts, as the Broadway play was. But it also isn’t obvious that it was a play (as some early talking films were), with long scenes with too much talking.

The plot isn’t very dynamic and is an old story: couples using someone else to make their lover selfish. I think that is where the film lost me a little bit. While I enjoyed it, 75 minutes of the 90 minute film is the couple making each other jealous-in between songs. That seemed a bit excessive.

The most interesting fact about the film is that director Joe May was a successful director in Germany, starting from 1910. However, May, who was Jewish, had to flee the the United States when the Nazis took power in 1934. May was unable to regain the success he once had in Germany. He made his last film 1944.

Another interesting point is that Billy Wilder (then spelling his name as Bille) is billed as one of the screenwriters. Wilder and Gloria Swanson were later re-teamed for “Sunset Blvd.”

While I find the movie pleasant, it wasn’t a success.

“We all felt fairly certain of success during shooting, but the picture flopped,” Swanson wrote in her autobiography. “The nation at large ignored Music in the Air and rushed instead to see Stand Up and Cheer, a musical starring a six-year-old Shirley Temple.”

“Music in the Air” is a film I’m on the fence about. While it was light and entertaining, I also didn’t feel very engaged. However, it was a treat to see John Boles and Gloria Swanson singing together.

John Boles and Gloria Swanson in "Music in the Air" (1934).

John Boles and Gloria Swanson in “Music in the Air” (1934).

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

Musical Monday: Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)

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.

GoldDiggers1937001This week’s musical:
“Gold Diggers of 1937” (1936)– Musical #216

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Lloyd Bacon

Starring:
Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Glenda Farrell, Victor Moore, Lee Dixon, Osgood Perkins, Rosalind Marquis, Irene Ware, Carole Landis (uncredited), Jane Wyman (uncredited)

Plot:
Sickly Broadway producer J.J. Hobart (Moore) is broke but doesn’t know it. His scheming assistants, who are responsible for the financial downfall, decide to take out a $1 million insurance policy on Hobart so they can collect when he dies. While they work to keep him unhealthy with the help of Genevieve Larkin (Farrell), insurance salesman Rosmer Peck (Powell) and his girl Norma Perry (Blondell) try to keep him healthy.

Trivia:
-Choreography by Busby Berkeley
-Carole Landis and Jane Wyman played uncredited chorus girls in the film
-The song “Hush Mah Mouth” was written for the film but not used.
-This film follows four “gold diggers” movies made from 1923 to 1936: The Gold Diggers (1923), Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935). One more movie follows this film, “Gold Diggers in Paris” (1938)

Dick Powell and Joan Blondell in "Gold Diggers of 1937"

Dick Powell and Joan Blondell in “Gold Diggers of 1937”

Highlights:
-The “All’s Fair in Love and War” number choreographed by Busby Berkeley

Notable Songs:
-“With Plenty of Money and You” performed by Dick Powell
-“Life Insurance Song” performed by Dick Powell
-“Speaking of the Weather” performed by Dick Powell and Joan Blondell
-“All’s Fair in Love and War” performed by Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Lee Dixon, Rosalind Marquis

Dancers during the "All's Fair in Love and War" number in "Gold Diggers of 1937"

Dancers during the “All’s Fair in Love and War” number in “Gold Diggers of 1937”

My review:
“Gold Diggers of 1937” may not be as well known as it’s pre-code counterparts with “We’re in the Money” and “Lullaby of Broadway,” but I think it’s just as fun–if not more.

This was filmed during what we should call “The Dick Powell mustache years.” This movie is the start of the end of his crooning days, which ended officially in 1944 with Meet the People. However, Powell still sells a song as good as ever.

Glenda Farrell and Victor Moore in "Gold Diggers of 1937"

Glenda Farrell and Victor Moore in “Gold Diggers of 1937”

While Ruby Keeler and Ginger Rogers aren’t part of the gold digging teams, this film has an excellent cast. Glenda Farrell and Joan Blondell are wonderful, as always, and the lesser known Rosalind Marquis is also adorable.

While this film is fun and very witty, the best part of this musical are the songs. They are all so catchy and you’ll keep singing them for the rest of the day, especially “Plenty of Money and You.”

The “All’s Fair in Love and War” is a really fun musical number as well with a fun tune.

Catch this one. It will keep you smiling throughout the whole 100 minutes.

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