On the Small Screen: The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet — Halloween Party

Throughout the Halloween season, Comet Over Hollywood is spotlighting Halloween episodes of classic television shows. 

“The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”— “Halloween Party”
Season 1, Episode 5

Air Date: Oct. 31, 1952

Plot:
The show begins with young Ricky dressed in his skeleton Halloween costume. His mother, Harriet Nelson, says it “gives her the willies.”

Ricky Nelson in his skeleton costume.

Ricky Nelson in his skeleton costume.

“My skeleton costume makes me look real thin and people feel sorry for you and give you more cake and ice cream,” Ricky said.

Ricky’s brother David comes home with a box of Halloween goodies and decorations. He’s the class treasurer and just bought everything for a school Halloween party.

During the conversation about Halloween parties, their dad, Ozzie Nelson, comments “Yeh Halloween is a lot of fun for kids” and continues to say that as you get older, you get tired of parties and games aren’t fun. He says, “It’s time to give Halloween back to the kids.”

Despite being down on parties, Ozzie goes next door to talk to his pal Thorny (Don DeFore), and they talk about how their parties aren’t fun, because the events are poorly planned. Thorny and Ozzie decide to plan a party using their “masculine efficiency.” They decide a party with an itinerary is the answer; planning down to when they will play games, dance and eat. Thorny and Ozzie also decide only a couple of “talented fellows” (them) should dress up in Halloween costumes rather than creating confusion with a bunch of “would-be comedians” in costumes. Thorny dresses like a Scotsman and Ozzie dresses like a devil.

Thorny and Ozzie planning their perfect Halloween party.

Thorny and Ozzie planning their perfect Halloween party.

Ozzie and Thorny feel they have everything for the party scheduled down to a T. But then their wives point out one thing: the night of the party the men never set a location for the party. Knowing they had forgotten, the wives set a party venue on their own. The evening goes well until everyone discovers Thorny and Ozzie never planned for refreshments.

Ozzie and Thorny in their Halloween costumes.

Ozzie and Thorny in their Halloween costumes.

Review:
While “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” is often cited as the quintessential “perfect 1950s family” TV show, this is only the second episode I have ever seen.

This was a fun little episode, but I was disappointed that we didn’t see more of Ricky and David Nelson. Ricky and David are in the first five minutes of the 24 minute program and are not seen again. I wanted to see Ricky’s skeleton trick-or-treating antics and David’s school party. Since this is only one of two episodes I have watched, I’m not sure if it is typical for the shows to focus on Ozzie and Harriet and not their children. I think I was expecting it to be more child centered, like “Leave it to Beaver.”

Little Jerry Mathers on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet"

Little Jerry Mathers on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”

Speaking of “Leave it to Beaver,” we see tiny four-year-old Jerry Mathers in his second film or TV appearance as a trick-or-treater. He is precious! This was probably the highlight of the show.

The show is fun and light-hearted, but if I had to pick another “perfect 1950s family,” I would go with “Leave it to Beaver,” “Father Knows Best” or “The Donna Reed Show.” While this Halloween episode was entertaining, I do feel the acting of Ozzie and Harriet is a little bland, and again, I wish the focus had been more on Ricky and David.

Watch a full version of this episode.

Note: Listen for Ricky Nelson ending every sentence with “boy.”

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Musical Monday: My Sister Eileen (1955)

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:
“My Sister Eileen (1955)– Musical #320

my-sister-eilleen

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Richard Quine

Starring:
Betty Garrett, Janet Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Bob Fosse, Kurt Kasznar, Dick York, Tommy Rall, Kathryn Grant (uncredited), Lucy Marlow

Plot:
Sisters Ruth (Garrett) and Eileen Sherwood (Leigh) move from Ohio to New York City. Ruth wants to become a journalist and Eileen hopes to break into Broadway. They have a hard time finding jobs and making ends meet, while living in a shoddy Greenwich Village apartment right above Subway construction. Ruth also spends much of her time feeling sorry for herself since she isn’t as beautiful as her little sister Eileen, who is swarmed by men.

Trivia:
-Musical remake of the 1942 comedy “My Sister Eileen” starring Rosalind Russell and Janet Blair

-In 1953, a musical adaptation of the 1940s story called “Wonderful Town”premiered on Broadway. The music was written Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Adolph Green and Betty Comden. Columbia felt the the film rights to this version were too expensive so the story was rewritten for the screen and featured music by Jule Styne and Leo Robin. “All of them had a team of lawyers looking over their shoulders. Everything had to be cleared and approved legally,” Janet Leigh wrote in her autobiography “There Really was a Hollywood.”

-Judy Holliday was originally to be cast as Ruth, but Betty Garrett ended up with the role.

-The script was written by Blake Edwards and Richard Quine, who also directed the film.

-Aldo Ray turned own the role of the muscular neighbor Ted, which went to Dick York.

-“My Sister Eileen” was Janet Leigh’s first project under contract with Columbia.

my-sister3

Notable Songs:
None memorable enough to note

My review:
If it wasn’t for my Musical Monday feature, I would not have ever watched “My Sister Eileen” (1955) a second time.

As far as musical remakes of dramas and comedies go, this one is pretty bad. Based on a novel, the original “My Sister Eileen” premiered in 1942 starring Rosalind Russell as Ruth and Janet Blair as Eileen. It’s hilarious and charming.

In both stories, Eileen is gorgeous and Ruth doesn’t have a chance finding a man with her beautiful sister around. However, in the 1955 version, the plot focuses most on romance and both sisters finding romance. Unlike the 1942 version, the 1950s version casts just enough men for both leading ladies.

In the 1942 version, while Ruth would like romance, she is more concerned with her writing career and looking out for her little sister. Steve Daly of “Entertainment Weekly” noted some “1950s backlash” against feminists in the 1955 version in comparison to the 1942 version.

This movie was screened at the 2016 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival with Jack Lemmon’s son, Chris, helping present it. Of all films, I was surprised this one was selected to showcase Jack Lemmon’s career because it’s well…a lemon. Lemmon is also hardly in the movie. In an hour and 48 minutes, I would estimate he’s maybe in 20 minutes of the film.

Janet Leigh is a capable singer and dancer. According to Janet Leigh’s autobiography, choreographer Bob Fosse was pleased with her dancing skills. Dancers Tommy Rall and Bob Fosse perform some impressive dance numbers but they can’t save the film.  You also get to hear Dick York and Jack Lemmon sing. In my opinion, there aren’t any memorable songs and while the cast is relatively stellar, I enjoy the cast from the 1942 version more.

If producers had been willing to pay for “Wonderful Town,” I’m curious if the film would have been better. It’s hard to go wrong with a score by Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story) and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (Singing in the Rain). Maybe with a Bernstein/Comden/Green score, some of the songs would have been memorable. The story was also rearranged, and I’m curious how it’s different.

Maybe I would think this was a better movie if I hadn’t already watched the original. I want to like it. It’s colorful and has a good cast, but I find it irritating. Maybe you will enjoy it better.

my-sister5

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Musical Monday: Live a Little, Love a Little (1968)

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.

liveThis week’s musical:
Live a Little, Love a Little (1968) – Musical #548

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Norman Taurog

Starring:
Elvis Presley, Michele Carey, Dick Sargent, Rudy Vallee, Don Porter, Sterling Holloway, Celeste Yarnall, Marcia Mae Jones (uncredited), Ann Doran (uncredited)

Plot:
Greg Nolan (Presley) is a photographer who loses his job, apartment and freedom to do what he pleases when he meets Bernice (Carey). To pay for a new apartment that Bernice finds him, Greg works two photographer jobs at the same time while trying to his bosses (Vallee, Porter) from finding out.

Trivia:
-Director Norman Taurog retired after this film
-Based on the book Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips by Dan Greenburg, published in 1965
-Shot on location in Hollywood and around Los Angeles

Highlights:
-Elvis talking to a Great Dane during a dream sequence. But the Great Dane is actually a man dressed like a Great Dane.

live5

.Gif courtesy of Giphy.com 

The dog even dances in the next number

The dog even dances in the next number

Notable Songs:
-“A Little Less Conversation” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Edge of Reality” performed by Elvis Presley (during a dream sequence in a suit made to look like pajamas)
-“Almost in Love” performed by Elvis Presley

My review:
I watched this movie in June and I’m just now writing about it. I think I have been so stunned by how bad it was I had to recover for a few months.

And before anyone starts with saying “Well of course and Elvis movie is bad,” all of his other films (Girl Happy, GI Blues, Blue Hawaii, It Happened at the World’s Fair) look like gold in comparison to this one. It’s true: most of Elvis Presley movies have as much substance as a bunch of fluffy, sweet cotton candy.

Bernice (Carey) won't leave Greg (Presley) alone. Also pictured, Celeste Yarnall.

Bernice (Carey) won’t leave Greg (Presley) alone. Also pictured, Celeste Yarnall.

But “Live a Little, Love a Little” is different. Maybe it’s because it came in 1968, just a year before movies like “Easy Rider” were released. Films were changing and it’s obvious that “Live a Little” was trying to follow that lead. It’s shot like a weird, late-1960s movie with innovative camera work, a plot that doesn’t make much sense (or have a story line), and a story line that hops around. It also features crazy, unconventional male/female relationships and a woman out to get men and whatever she wants.

This isn’t your conventional Elvis Presley love story. He doesn’t even want the girl! The movie starts with him minding his own business when Michele Carey’s character virtually throws herself at him and then forces him to stay at her house. After sleeping there for three days, he leaves to head back to his own apartment to find it leased to a new family-thanks to his new looney girlfriend (a term I use loosely). The girl tells Elvis her name is Bernice but she goes by about two as well (Susie, Betty and Alice). Elvis then loses his job after randomly because of Bernice’s shenanigans and starts working as a photographer for two companies simultaneously.

Throughout the whole movie Elvis is trying to get rid of Bernice and then ends up with her at the end. It’s unreal. I think I only stuck with this movie because I was paralyzed by how bad it was.

In all, the movie was also more mature than other Presley films referencing drug use, adult language and sexual encounters. That wasn’t what made me dislike the movie, though it was different. While Elvis was the rebel of the 1950s, he was slipping in the new world of the late-1960s. It appears that he’s trying to keep up in this film but isn’t comfortable doing so.

There are only two notable features of this swirling mess of a film:
1. Elvis introduces the song “A Little Less Conversation”
2. A weird dream sequence with Elvis talking to a man dressed like a Great Dane. It’s only notable because it’s so weird.

live7

This film was also directed by Hollywood veteran Norman Taurog, who started in Hollywood in 1920 and directed films like “Boys Town” and “Presenting Lily Mars.” He also was famously Jackie Cooper’s uncle who made him cry on set for films. Taurog retired after this movie and I can’t help but wonder if it was related to the film just being plain bad.

If you are a die-hard Elvis Presley fan, don’t let me review deter you. Just be prepared to not see the regular Elvis you are used to seeing in his other race car driving, beach frolicking, girl loving films.

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Musical Monday: Broadway Thru a Keyhole (1933)

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.

broadway-thruThis week’s musical:
Broadway Thru a Keyhole (1933) – Musical #554

Studio:
20th Century Pictures

Director:
Lowell Sherman

Starring:
Constance Cummings, Paul Kelly, Russ Columbo, Blossom Seeley, Texas Guinan, Gregory Ratoff, Hobart Cavanaugh, Helen Jerome Eddy, Lucille Ball (uncredited), Charles Lane (uncredited), Ann Sheridan (uncredited), Esther Muir (uncredited), Dennis O’Keefe (uncredited), Walter Winchell (uncredited voice)
Themselves: Eddie Foy Jr., Frances Williams, Dewey Barto and George Mann comedy team

Plot:
A childhood friend of gangster Frank Rocci (Kelly) asks if he can help her sister Joan Whalen (Cummings) get a job. Frank does and when he meets Joan after years apart, he is smitten with Joan and puts the pressure on club owner Max Mefoofski (Ratoff) to make Joan the star of the club’s show. The only problem is that Joan falls in love with bandleader Clark Brian (Columbo).

Paul Kelly and Constance Cummings in "Broadway Thru a Keyhole"

Paul Kelly and Constance Cummings in “Broadway Thru a Keyhole”

Trivia:
-Written by famed columnist Walter Winchell. The story was said to be similar to a love-triangle between dancer Ruby Keeler, her husband singer Al Jolson and New York Gangster, Johnny “Irish” Costello. Winchell denied that the story was based on the three individuals, according to Unsung Hollywood Musicals of the Golden Era by Edwin M. Bradley.

Highlights:
-The movie begins with a hand taking a key out of the door and the camera zooms in to look through a keyhole. Following this are sights and sounds of Broadway.
-Texas Guinan’s character in the film

Notable Songs:
-“Doin’ the Uptown Lowdown” performed by Frances Williams
-“When You Were a Girl on a Scooter and I the Boy on the Bike” performed by Constance Cummings and Eddie Foy, Jr.
-“You Are My Past, Present and Future” performed by Russ Columbo
-“I Love You Pizzicato” performed by Russ Columbo and Constance Cummings

My review:
“Broadway Thru a Keyhole” was a wonderful romp. It has a great comedic supporting cast, biting Pre-Code jokes and is a fun plot all over.

The plot is nothing out of the ordinary: gangster helps young girl succeed in her career, falls in love with her, she falls in love with someone else, and the gangster doesn’t want to let her go. But though this isn’t an unusual plot line, this one little film is special because it is more joke than crime.

Maybe it’s a little different because it was written by gossip columnist Walter Winchell. There are some wonderful pre-code lines such as: “I knew a hypochondriac once and was he GOOD.”

Texas Guinan in "Broadway Thru a Keyhole."

Texas Guinan in “Broadway Thru a Keyhole.”

But even better than the pre-code jokes is famed speak easy owner and performer Texas Guinan’s role in the film. Her character is similar to her real life character and it’s a treat to see her on the screen. Sadly, Guinan died four days after this film premiered.

The musical has fairly catchy songs. Leading lady Constance Cummings isn’t a stellar singer. However, I’m not sure if this is on purpose. I was curious if Cummings was cast to show that often young women were on looks and their boyfriend’s power rather than on their talent. Or I could be thinking too much into it and Cummmings was cast to use this as a vehicle. Russ Columbo brings the singing talent in his smooth, crooner tone — though he isn’t a great actor. Knowing Columbo is dead a year after this film however, makes his performance a little sad to watch.

Many of the numbers have a Busby Berkeley feel to them, though he wasn’t involved in the film. For example, one number has girls singing faces in musical notes and there are several over-head dancing shots.

“Broadway Through a Keyhole” is a musical you don’t often hear about, but if you love pre-code and 1930s musicals, be sure to add this film to your list.

Constance Cummings and Russ Columbo in "Broadway Thru a Keyhole."

Constance Cummings and Russ Columbo in “Broadway Thru a Keyhole.”

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Musical Monday: Reveille with Beverly (1943)

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.

beverly4This week’s musical:
Reveille With Beverly (1943)– Musical #323

Studio:
Columbia

Director:
Charles Barton

Starring:
Ann Miller, William Wright, Dick Purcell, Andrew Tombes, Franklin Pangborn, Adele Mara, Douglas Leavitt, Barbara Brown, Larry Parks, Doodles Weaver (uncredited), Irene Ryan (uncredited), Lee and Lynn Wilde
As themselves:

  • Bob Crosby and his orchestra
  • Freddie Slack and his orchestra with Ella Mae Morse
  • Duke Ellington
  • Count Bassie
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Mills Brothers
  • The Radio Rogues

Plot:
A switchboard operator, Beverly Ross (Miller), at the local radio station KFEL has dreams of having her own jive radio show. She eventually gets her own time slot and features all of the top jive music. While on the radio, Beverly catches ear (and eye) of soldier Barry Lang (Wright), who is wealthy and switches places with his chauffeur buddy Andy Adams (Purcell) to see if he can win Beverly without his millions.

Andrew Tombes and Ann Miller in "Revellie with Beverly"

Andrew Tombes and Ann Miller in “Revellie with Beverly”

Trivia:
-The film is based off the radio show Reveille with Beverly which was hosted by Jean Ruth Hay. Jean Hay served as technical adviser to the film and narrates the trailer for the film.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/e48HsgRQPzM&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen><!–iframe>

Highlights:
-All of the musical performances

Notable Songs:
-“Cow Cow Boogie” performed by Ella Mae Morse
-“Big Noise from Winnetka” performed by Bob Crosby and his Bobcat Orchestra, singers Lyn and Lee Wilde
-“Take the A Train” performed by Duke Ellington, sung by Betty Roche
-“One O’Clock Jump” performed by Count Bassie
-“Night and Day” performed by Frank Sintra

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/hLc7rohX9As&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen><!–iframe>

My review:
“Reveille with Beverly” is one of those guilty pleasure musicals. It has very little plot but for fans of 1940s big band and jive, it’s a dream.

“Reveille with Beverly” is based on a real radio show called “Reveille with Beverly” which was DJed be a young lady named Jean Ruth Hay. The Los Angeles radio show was on the air from 1941 to 1944 for soldiers fighting in World War II. They could hear it on ships, fighting or in the air.

Advertisement for Jean Ruth Hay's radio show.

Advertisement for Jean Ruth Hay’s radio show.

The idea of the radio show came when soldiers Jean knew said they hated starting their day with the blast of a bugle. Hay also said that government officials would sometimes provide a script to read which included names of songs that didn’t exist. These scripts turned out to be code for the French Underground. Hay even married bandleader Freddie Slack, who is featured in this film.

The real show is merely a premise for the plot and all else is fictional. The movie has multiple laugh-out-loud funny scenes, particularly with Franklin Pangborn who is furious that Beverly’s show is in his time slot. While there is a bit of a plot, the majority of the film are musical performances of 1943 hits. When Beverly’s record starts spinning, we’re transported to a video of Bob Crosby and his band or Duke Ellington performing “Take the A Train” on a train.

All the songs had me dancing in my seat. I saw this movie for the first time in 2009 and it introduced me to Ella Mae Morse, who I wasn’t familiar with prior. Now she is one of my favorites.

Admittedly, there may be some who don’t enjoy this style of movie. If you aren’t interested in a string of jive musical numbers, you should probably stay away.

This isn’t your usual Ann Miller film, who was still early in her career. Ann only tap dances once and it’s a patriotic number at the end of the film.

Just writing this review makes me want to watch “Reveille with Beverly” again. It’s a brief hour and 18 minutes that will leave you dancing and humming by the end.

Ann Miller in her tap dancing finale.

Ann Miller in her tap dancing finale.

If anyone knows where to listen to some of Jean Ruth Hay’s original broadcasts, leave me a message! I would love to hear them.

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

Musical Monday: New Moon (1940)

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 Moon” (1940)– Musical #374

Poster - New Moon (1940)_02

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Robert Z. Leonard, W.S. Van Dyke (uncredited)

Starring:
Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Mary Boland, George Zucco, Dick Purcell, Grant Mithcell, Joe Yule, Nat Pendleton (uncredited), Buster Keaton (scenes deleted)

Plot:
Marianne de Beaumanoir (MacDonald) is heading from France to New Orleans. On the same boat as a prisoner is nobleman Duc de Villiers (Eddy), using the name of Charles Henri. Marianne meets him on board, believing that he’s the ship’s captain. He is sold as a servant in New Orleans and becomes the servant of Marianne, and she is angry that he lied to her. Little to their knowledge, Charles’ enemies are sailing to New Orleans from France.

Continue reading

Over the Rainbow: Land of Oz in North Carolina

Though Dorothy Gale and her friends are from Kansas, they also have a home in the mountains of North Carolina.

Located in Beech Mountain, N.C., the Land of Oz is a park that opens to the public a limited amount of times per year. For the last 20 years, the Autumn at Oz festival has welcomes thousands to the former amusement park. This year’s event was held Sept. 9, 10 and 11, bringing out approximately 8,200 people.

The Yellow Brick Road in the Land of Oz, Beech Mountain

The Yellow Brick Road in the Land of Oz, Beech Mountain

There was a Wizard of Oz amusement park in North Carolina?
Land of Oz was originally an amusement park that opened in 1970 and owned by Grover Robbins, who also owned Tweetsie Railroad, a train and wild west theme park in Boone, NC. Robbins leased the Beech Mountain property and wasn’t sure what to do with it until he teamed with park designer Jack Pentes, who said the trees reminded him of the haunted forest in the “Wizard of Oz” (1939), according to Land of Oz representative Sean Barrett.

Debbie Reynolds with Carrie Fisher at the opening of Land of Oz in 1970.

Debbie Reynolds with Carrie Fisher at the opening of Land of Oz in 1970.

Actor Ray Bolger, who played the Scarecrow in the film, was at the 1968 groundbreaking , according to the Land of Oz website. Actress Debbie Reynolds, who collected Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film memorabilia, partnered with Robbins to provide some costumes and props from the 1939 film for a small museum located on the amusement park property. Reynolds attended the June 1970 grand opening with her daughter Carrie Fisher. The park originally consisted of one ride, character houses, Emerald City, an amphitheater, shops and a restaurant.

But the amusement park only operated for 10 years. In 1975, a fire crippled the park which destroyed the amphitheater and adjacent shops and restaurants. The museum was also broken into and items such as Dorothy’s original dress were stolen.

The park closed in 1980, but was bought in the 1990s. Now, the park is opened part-time for the yearly fall event.

“Many people think the park is abandoned,” Barrett said. “It’s not abandoned and never was.”

Myself, my parents and the Wizard of Oz characters at Land of Oz

Myself, my parents and the Wizard of Oz characters at Land of Oz

So what is this festival?
I first learned about Autumn at Oz in 2013 and have wanted to go ever since. Unfortunately, I always was too late with ticket purchases and it was always sold out. This year, I bought my ticket the day Autumn at Oz went on sale and was finally able to make it. (Tip: If you’re interested in going, follow their Facebook page and pounce when ticket sales are announced in August)

The night before heading to Autumn of Oz, I pre-gamed for the event by revisiting the film.

Sunday morning on Beech Mountain started out as chilly and foggy. Oz fans loaded up on buses that drove up the mountain to the former amusement park. When you enter the park, everyone is greeted by Dorothy. You then follow a trail where you run into Professor Marvel, Mrs. Gulch and the farm hands before entering Dorothy’s farm home. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry shoo you into the cellar because a storm is coming.

In the tornado

In the tornado

It’s sort of like a fair fun house in the storm cellar with the sounds of the film’s tornado all around you. You exit the tornado into a crooked, disheveled house. On the other side of the rainbow, the coroner is there to inform you that you killed the Wicked Witch of the East.

You hit the Yellow Brick Road where you meet—and take pictures with—the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, Dorothy, Glinda the Good Witch and the Tin Man. The witch’s castle guards divert your path down towards the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle through the haunted woods filled with flying monkeys. You find your way out and end up in Oz to meet the great and powerful Wizard of Oz.

Oops! (Photo by Comet Over Hollywood)

Oops!
(Photo by Comet Over Hollywood)

It was fun to see the actors in character and watch small children react to each one. After seeing photos online of Land of Oz, my goal for attending Autumn at Oz was to see the old amusement park so I could take photos for Comet Over Hollywood.

The visit lasted two hours from bus ride up the mountain, seeing the sights, meeting the Oz characters and heading back down the mountain. It wasn’t too brief or too long.

While Land of Oz is a fun place for children, most of the attendees were “Wizard of Oz” loving adults.

A film released 77 years ago still touches nostalgic memories for fans and is an important part of childhood for many. Throughout the day, I heard people quoting the film, commenting that they dressed up as Dorothy for Halloween as a child, or would watch it when it aired annually from 1959 to 1991.

“Wizard of Oz” is just one of a long list of films made during the great year of 1939. And while many of the other films still resonate, none of them touched as many lives and generations as the one starring a little girl who realizes there’s no place like home.

Most of the Characters

Professor Marvel

Professor Marvel

Aunt Em

Aunt Em

Miss Gulch

Miss Gulch

The Tin Man

The Tin Man

The Cowardly Lion

The Cowardly Lion

Glenda the Good Witch

Glenda the Good Witch

The witch's guards

The witch’s guards

oz-watermark-monkey

The Wicked Witch of the West

The Wicked Witch of the West

 

Musical Monday: The Vagabond Lover (1929)

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 Vagabond Lover” (1929)– Musical #356

vagabond2

 

Studio:
RKO Radio Pictures

Director:
Marshall Neilan

Starring:
Rudy Vallee, Sally Blane, Marie Dressler, Nella Walker, Malcolm Waite, Charles Sellon, Alan Roscoe, The Connecticut Yankees band

Plot:
Saxophone player Rudy Bronson (Vallee) forms a jazz band. To get off the ground, he and his band go to the home of famous bandleader Ted Grant (Waite) for an audition. Grant isn’t interested and kicks them out of his home and then heads out of town. Grant’s neighbors Jean Whitehall (Blane) and her aunt Ethel Bertha Whitehall (Dressler) mistaken Rudy and his band for Ted Grant. Rudy and his band play along but find themselves in hot water when they’re presented at a society fundraiser as Ted Grant and his band.

Rudy Vallee and Sally Blane in "Vagabond Lover"

Rudy Vallee and Sally Blane in “Vagabond Lover”

Trivia:
-Rudy Vallee’s first feature film
-“Vagabond Lover” was briefly Vallee’s publicity nickname

Notable Songs:
-“Nobody’s Sweetheart” performed by Rudy Vallee and the Connecticut Yankees
-“If You Were the Only Girl in the World” performed by Rudy Vallee
-“A Little Kiss Each Morning (A Little Kiss Each Night)” performed by Rudy Vallee
-“I Love You, Believe Me, I Love You” performed by Rudy Vallee

My review:
“The Vagabond Lover” is both an early film with sound and also Rudy Vallee’s film. It’s interesting to see this early film to see how both musicals and Rudy Vallee acting improved.

It’s very obvious that studios are still trying to figure out hot to best use sound. While the story line is less muddled than films like “Broadway Melody of 1929,” the sound volumes are often muddy. Sometimes the music is louder than the singing or talking, and other times I feel like the actors are shouting to be picked up by the microphone.

Sally Blane and Marie Dressler in Vagabond Lover

Sally Blane and Marie Dressler in Vagabond Lover

In his first film, Rudy Vallee isn’t a very good actor. But he apparently improved his acting craft over the years because Vallee was a skilled comedic actor in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Vagabond Lover” is just over an hour-long. It’s not terrible, but rather lackluster. Marie Dressler is wasted in the film and doesn’t exercise her comedic talents. Sally Blane is lovely, but is merely window dressing in the movie.

Overall, it’s watchable but not one I would be pressed to revisit.

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Musical Monday: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

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.

wonka-poster-681x1024This week’s musical:
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)– Musical #552

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Mel Stuart

Starring:
Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, Julie Dawn Cole, Leonard Stone, Denise Nickerson, Nora Denney, Ursula Reit, Ursula Reit

Plot:
The mysterious Willy Wonka (Wilder) holds a contest for five town members to enter his candy factory for a tour for anyone who finds a golden ticket in a chocolate bar. The tour of the factory is disastrous for some of the misbehaving children on the tour. While most of the children are spoiled brats, the main character Charlie (Ostrum) comes from a poor family and takes his Grandpa (Albertson) on the tour.

Trivia:
-Director Mel Stuart wanted to make the “Willy Wonka” into a film after his 12-year-old daughter said she read it three times and wanted her father to make it into a film, according to “Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” by Mel Stuart, Josh Young
-Joel Grey was considered for the role of Willy Wonka, according to Reel Culture: 50 Movies You Should Know About by Mimi O’Connor
-The film sponsored by Quaker Oats to promote the candy bar, the Wonka Bar. In 1988, Nestle bought the rights to use the Wonka name, according to O’Connor’s book.
-The chocolate rivers was made of melted chocolate ice cream and water, according to O’Connor’s book.
-Based on the Roald Dahl book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
-Remade in 2005 with Johnny Depp

willy wonka

Awards and Nominations:
-Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score in 1972
-Gene Wilder was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical

Notable Songs:
-“Pure Imagination” performed by Gene Wilder
-“Oompa-Loompa-Doompa-De-Do” performed by the chorus
-“The Candy Man” performed by Aubrey Woods
-“(I’ve Got a) Golden Ticket” performed by Jack Albertson and Peter Ostrum

My review:
“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” wasn’t the planned film that we were going to feature this week for Musical Monday. However, Comet Over Hollywood switched gears to honor Gene Wilder who passed away at age 83.

Before revisiting “Willy Wonka” on Aug. 29, 2016, I probably hadn’t watched this movie since 1996 when I was about eight years old. As a child, I never really cared for the story though we seemed to watch the movie a good bit at my house. Roald Dahl’s story was weird and a little creepy with little girls plumping up into blueberries and little boys drowning in a river of chocolate.

Augustus gets sucked way in the chocolate river as Charlie and Grandpa try to help him.

Augustus gets sucked way in the chocolate river as Charlie and Grandpa try to help him.

While “Willy Wonka” is still not a favorite of mine, Gene Wilder’s performance is what makes the film interesting.

Author of the “Wonka” book Roald Dahl was disappointed that the film focused more on Willy Wonka than Charlie, the impoverished boy who wins a tour with his grandfather. However, I’m okay with that.

With a twinkle in his eye, Wilder’s character brings humor and charm to the movie musical. Really the scenes I enjoy the most feature Gene Wilder. I also like Jack Albertson’s character as Grandpa, because he’s adorable.

While I can’t say “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is a favorite of mine, it is colorful and filled with memorable songs. Sammy Davis, Jr, even had his only No. 1 hit with his adaptation of “The Candy Man,” which originated in this film. The song spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 in June 1972.

The film is also was a large part of childhood to many generations. That’s one reason it’s so hard to say goodbye to Gene Wilder, who passed way Aug. 29, 2016. Outside of “Willy Wonka” he starred in so many more memorable films leaving a void for fans that’s difficult to fill with any other actor.

Thank you for helping spark our “pure imagination” through your memorable roles. You will be greatly missed.

Gene Wilder and Peter Ostrum behind the scenes of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"

Gene Wilder and Peter Ostrum behind the scenes of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”

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Musical Monday: The Cat and the Fiddle (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.

cat and the fiddleThis week’s musical:
“The Cat and the Fiddle” (1934)– Musical #410

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
William K. Howard, Sam Wood (uncredited)

Starring:
Jeanette MacDonald, Ramon Novarro, Frank Morgan, Charles Butterworth, Jean Hersholt, Vivienne Segal, Sterling Holloway (uncredited), Herman Bing (uncredited), Leonid Kinskey (uncredited)

Plot:
In Brussels, struggling musician Victor (Novarro) meets American singer Shirley (MacDonald). He’s immediately infatuated with her which is very annoying to her. However, Shirley eventually falls for Victor. Both Shirley and Victor audition music they composed to Professor Daudet (Morgan), and Daudet is also immediately smitten with Shirley. Daudet uses his influence to get Shirley by trying to send Victor to Paris to perform his music.

Trivia:
-The final scene was filmed in three strip Technicolor. This was the first use of three-strip Technicolor in a live action film. It previuosly was only used in Walt Disney cartoons.
-Jeanette MacDonald’s first film with MGM, according to The Invisible Art of Film Music: A Comprehensive History by Laurence E. MacDonald
-Based on the 1931 Broadway musical “The Cat and the Fiddle” written in Jerome Kern and Otto A. Harbach
-The film version kept the entire score intact, which is unusual for film adaptations for plays. However, many songs were reassigned to different characters, according to The Jerome Kern Encyclopedia by Thomas S. Hischak

cat and fiddle4

Jeanette MacDonald, Ramon Novarro and Charles Butterworth in “The Cat and the Fiddle”

Highlights:
-Three strip Technicolor finale

Notable Songs:
-“The Night was Made for Love” performed by Jeanette MacDonald and Ramon Novarro
-“She Didn’t Say Yes” performed by Jeanette MacDonald
-“The Breeze Kissed Your Hair” performed by Ramon Novarro
-“One Moment Alone” performed by Ramon Novarro

My review:
Ever since I discovered that Ramon Novarro had a beautiful singing voice, I have really enjoyed revisiting and discovering these films.

Jeanette MacDonald, Ramon Novarro in "The Cat and the Fiddle"

Jeanette MacDonald, Ramon Novarro in “The Cat and the Fiddle”

The only problem with “The Cat and the Fiddle” (1934) is Novarro’s leading lady’s voice over powers his. While Novarro has a wonderful voice, it’s not quite strong enough to match the well-trained opera voice of Jeanette MacDonald for their duets.

Aside from our two leads, “The Cat and the Fiddle” has a great supporting cast of Frank Morgan and Charles Butterworth. Though Morgan is supposed to be the bad guy in the film, it’s hard to dislike him because he’s rather friendly and affable.

The plot is fairly light and unimportant. It mainly just revolves around the relationship of Novarro and MacDonald. Regardless, it is filled with wonderful music.

“The Cat and the Fiddle” is also a wonderful pre-code film. Novarro and MacDonald live together “in sin.” At one point she tells him that she had a dream that they were so rich that Novarro was walking around in a gold coat. He asked if that’s all he was wearing and she said yes.

While this isn’t Jeanette MacDoanld’s most memorable film, it’s still a lovely story with the added bonus of Roman Novarro in another musical.

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