Nitrate is Hot: First time at the Nitrate Picture Show

Contemporary classic film fans have the luxury of watching older films in many different forms. Stream on Netflix, buy it on BluRay or DVD, watch it on their phone on YouTube, or turn the television to Turner Classic Movies at any point in the day.

But despite all of these options and opportunities, sometimes film lovers want to see the film the way it was meant to be shown—on the big screen. But the real treat is if the movie is projected on film, but not just any film—rare nitrate film.

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Musical Monday: The Perils of Pauline (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:
The Perils Of Pauline (1947) – Musical #127

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
George Marshall

Starring:
Betty Hutton, John Lund, Billy De Wolfe, William Demarest, Constance Collier, Frank Faylen

Plot:
Biographical film about actress Pearl White, who rose to fame during the silent film era in serial where she is constantly in danger.

Trivia:
-The height of the real Pearl White’s career was from 1910 to 1924. She died at age 49 in 1938 in France.
-Actors who performed in real Peril’s of Pauline films were featured in this movie such as; Paul Panzer who was in The Perils of Pauline (1914); Creighton Hale who was in The Exploits of Elaine (1914); William Farnum who played in Riders of the Purple Sage (1918).
-Edith Head designed the costumes for the films. Head copied costumes for Pearl White’s films for historical accuracy, according to Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer by Jay Jorgensen
-Louis J. Gasnier, who directed The Perils of Pauline (1914), was a technical advisor on this film.

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Musical Monday: Anchors Aweigh (1945)

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:
Anchors Aweigh (1945) – Musical #18

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
George Sidney

Starring:
Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson, Frank Sinatra, Dean Stockwell, Pamela Britton, Rags Ragland, Billy Gilbert, Henry O’Neill, Leon Ames, Grady Sutton,
Themselves: Jose Iturbi, Carlos Ramírez

Plot:
Two sailors (Kelly, Sinatra) are on leave in Los Angeles when they meet a lost little boy, Donald (Stockwell). When they return Donald home, they meet his Aunt Susan (Grayson), who raises the boy and has dreams of becoming a singer. To impress her, the sailors mislead Aunt Susan and tell her they know famous pianist Jose Iturbi, so she can audition for him. Now they just have to find Jose Iturbi.

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Musical Monday: Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)

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:
Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) – Musical #366

Studio:
Universal Pictures

Director:
George Roy Hill

Starring:
Julie Andrews, James Fox, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Channing, John Gavin, Jack Soo, Pat Morita, Beatrice Lillie, Lisabeth Hush, Mae Clarke (uncredited)

Plot:
Set in 1922 New York, Millie Dillmount (Andrews) strives to be a modern woman; dressing as a flapper, becoming a stenographer and marrying her boss. She becomes friends with sweet, naive Miss Dorothy (Moore), who is also new to New York. Millie encounters many adventures along the way, including eccentric millionairess Muzzy Van Hossmere (Channing). She also uncovers a white slavery ring, which kidnaps orphans.

Trivia:
-The 2002 Broadway musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie” was based on the 1967 film.
-Last film of actress Beatrice Lillie
-Director George Roy Hill’s first musical film
-Director George Roy Hill and producer Ross Hunter butt heads. Hill was removed from the film in post-production and the film ended up being 2 hours and 18 minutes. Some things that Hill would have edited out, like the Jewish wedding scene, were left in. Hunter also added an intermission and brought in Andre Previn, according to the book The Films of George Roy Hill by Andrew Horton
-Music by Elmer Bernstein

Actress Beatrice Lillie in her last film role.

Highlights:
-The first few minutes of the film where Julie Andrews transforms into a flapper
-Mary Tyler Moore and Julie Andrews dancing in the elevator
-When two of the actors see each other for the first time and “Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life” starts playing
-Silent film jokes where Julie Andrews looks at the camera and a silent film card with her thoughts pop up
-When Julie Andrews meets her boss and the Hallelujah choir

Mary Tyler Moore and Julie Andrews dancing in an elevator to make it go up and down.

Notable Songs:
-“Thoroughly Modern Millie” performed by Julie Andrews
-“The Tapioca” performed by James Fox
-“Do It Again” performed by Carol Channing
-“Jazz Baby” performed by Carol Channing
-“Baby Face” performed by Julie Andrews

James Fox and Julie Andrews dancing the Tapioca

My review:
By the time “Thoroughly Modern Millie” was released in 1967, musicals had mostly lost their popularity in Hollywood. But while “Millie” comes at the end of the bright musical era, it still serves up the same breezy good time like a 1951 MGM Technicolor.

While it’s hilarious and fun, director George Roy Hill said the film was meant to be a farce, according to The Films of George Roy Hill by Andrew Horton. He said he wanted to be a light film, “I wanted it to be a souffle.”

I knew of the play, “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” but was surprised to learn that it was based on the film, since generally films are inspired by the stage play. Admittedly, it’s an odd little plot with the “white slavery” aspect, but it is still extremely entertaining.

Mary Tyler Moore and Julie Andrews in Thoroughly Modern Millie

Julie Andrews plays Millie hilariously, trying to be a modern flapper. She uses words like “terrif” or “stenog” (for stenographer), rouges her knees, and marvels at the glamour and independence of free women, like Muzzy (Carol Channing).

Mary Tyler Moore plays Miss Dorothy, a demur, naive young woman. Moore looks lovely in her costumes and with long curls. Moore dances, but it is disappointing though, that Mary Tyler Moore doesn’t get to sing her own song. She actually has very few lines.

Filling out the supporting cast is Carol Channing, John Gavin, James Fox and Beatrice Lillie. Channing is entertaining to watch, as always, James Fox is a likable leading man and John Gavin is as handsome as ever. This is 1930s’ actress Beatrice Lillie’s last film. Lillie focused more on the stage than on film and she’s always a delight. It’s a real treat to see her here.

The songs are fun. There are only a few large dance numbers, like “The Tapioca,” which are very entertaining. A running joke throughout the film is that everyone has to tap dance to make the elevator go up and down. It’s fun to see what sort of dance steps they will do each time they get on the elevator. The highlight is Mary Tyler Moore and Julie Andrew’s dance on the elevator going up to the 12th floor.

This film runs at 2 hours and 18 minutes, which is rather long. Director George Roy Hill wanted to cut the Jewish wedding dance and song, which is an unnecessary scene. Regardless, this lengthy musical moves quickly and I never found myself bored or distracted.

This is one of Julie Andrews’ last major films of the 1960s, and I think it’s one you should definitely give a chance.

The cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie: John Gavin, James Fox, Mary Tyler Moore, Julie Andrews, Carol Channing, Beatrice Lillie

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

Attending the Nitrate Picture Show 2017

This week, Comet Over Hollywood is attending the Nitrate Picture Show in Rochester, NY, which is Friday, May 5, through Sunday, May 7.

Presented by the George Eastman Museum, this is the third year of this festival that focuses on film conservation. All of the films screened are on nitrate film from the George Eastman Museum.

For the past four years, I attended the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). However, due to a scheduling conflict I was unable to attend this year.

Because of this, I decided to try something new, and I heard good things about the Nitrate Picture Show.

This is my first time at the Nitrate Picture Show so I’m not sure how it all works. The film program is not released until Friday, May 5, when the festival begins.

My boyfriend is also attending the Nitrate Picture Show for his first time as well. In addition to this page, here are other ways to follow us during our adventures:
Twitter: @HollywoodComet or @ImBrandonBrown
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cometoverhollywood
Instagram: @HollywoodComet

Musical Monday: Varsity Show (1937)

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:
Varsity Show (1937) – Musical #99

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
William Keighley

Starring:
Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane, Priscilla Lane, Ted Healy, Walter Catlett, Sterling Holloway, Johnnie Davis, Lee Dixon, Ford Washington Lee, John William Sublett, Mabel Todd, Edward Brophy, Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, Carole Landis (uncredited)

Plot:
Winfield College students (Lane, Lane, Healy, Holloway, Davis) need a successful varsity show. The last few years have been a flop and the old-fashioned staff is ready to outlaw swing in the shows. The students try to get alumnus Chuck Daly (Powell), who is now on Broadway, to stage their show. While they think he’s a New York success, his shows have been flops.

Awards and Nominations:
-Busby Berkeley was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Dance Direction. Hermes Pan won for “A Damsel In Distress

Carole Landis as an uncredited chorus girl dancing with Sterling Holloway in the finale of “Varsity Show”

Trivia:
-Priscilla Lane’s first film.
-Sisters Rosemary Lane and Priscilla Lane co-star in the movie. However, they do not play sisters and do not have many scenes together.
-The closing finale number was choreographed by Busby Berkeley
-Busby Berkeley apparently picked Carole Landis as one of the chorus girls for “Varsity Show,” according to Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak
-Reissued in 1942 and was cut to 80 minutes. The edits were cut to the original film and the original cut film was discarded. At least four songs are missing from the Turner print because of this, according to Spivak’s book.

Highlights:
-Busby Berkeley choreographed finale
-Priscilla Lane singing
-Buck and Bubbles tap number

Notable Songs:
-“Old King Cole” performed by Johnnie Davis
-“We’re Working Our Way Through College” performed by Dick Powell
-“I’m Dependable” performed by Priscilla Lane and Fred Waring
-“On with the Dance” performed by Rosemary Lane and Buck and Bubbles

My review:
“Varsity Show” (1937) is a special subset of musicals that mainly were made in the 1930s: the collegiate musical where co-eds happily sing, rarely study and put on a wham bang finish of a show.

I wish college really was like “Varsity Show” and other collegiate musicals. A whole group of students (not just theater majors) putting on a musical production, singing from class to class, boys and girls serenading their love interests, and the school’s fate sits on the success of a successful musical show. Alas, my college experience was nothing like that, but maybe your’s was.

Fred Waring as a professor directing Dick Powell and Ted Healy, and students played by Priscilla Lane, Johnnie Davis, Sterling Holloway, Mabel Todd and Lee Dixon

The collegiate musicals weren’t just making higher education look glamorous and fun, it was showing the ideal youth: smart, fun and popular.

“Varsity Show” comes at the end of Dick Powell’s crooner films, which kicked off in 1933 as the show’s juvenile in “42nd Street” — he was in films prior to this but “42nd Street” sparked his fame. By the late 1930s, Powell’s musicals were slowing down and he eventually switched to film noir, dramas and westerns in the 1940s and 1950s (his last major musical was in 1944 with Meet the People). Don’t worry, 33-year-old Dick Powell isn’t a college student but an alumnus of the college who is trying to make it on Broadway. He comes back to help the students…and his career.

Sisters Priscilla and Rosemary Lane in “Varsity Show” (1937)

Sisters Priscilla and Rosemary Lane star in the film together and are as lovely as ever. But where they have scenes and lines together in films like the “Four Daughters” series, they don’t in this film. They don’t exchange lines with each other or sing duets. However, they are both charming and we get a rare opportunity to hear lovely Priscilla Lane sing.

The cast is rounded out with energetic and entertaining cast members that were seldom seen in films after the 1930s. Long-longed dancer Lee Dixon, who was only in nine films or shorts, is a likable young man. Johnnie Davis is an energetic, raspy-voiced jazz singer whose film career spanned from 1936 to 1944. Davis was even the voice of “Owl Jolson” in the cartoon “I Love to Singa.” And then there’s Mabel Todd, who generally plays “nerdy” young women who chase men. Bandleader Fred Waring also plays a professor in his only acting role. And then of course there’s Sterling Holloway, with his unforgettable voice and prescience.

While none of these players became large stars, each of them has a great deal of screen time. Dick Powell is the lead, but this is very much an ensemble piece. Even Powell’s love interest, Rosemary Lane, doesn’t have that much screen time.

Busby Berkeley didn’t direct this film, but he choreographed the closing number of the film. It’s not as impressive as his work in films like “Footlight Parade,” but it is still visually pleasing. The finale is an ode to collegiate life, including “Boola Boola” and other college fight songs, while the chorus forms the initials of the school.

“Varsity Show” is an entertaining and energetic little film. While it isn’t one of Warner Brothers’ best musicals of the 1930s, it’s still enjoyable.

Actors as students studying in “Varsity Show” (1937)

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

Musical Monday: Girl Happy (1965)

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:
Girl Happy” (1965)– Musical #229

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Boris Sagal

Starring:
Elvis Presley, Shelley Fabares, Harold J. Stone, Gary Crosby, Jimmy Hawkins, Joby Baker, Chris Noel, Nita Talbot, Mary Ann Mobley, Jackie Coogan, Peter Brooks, Lyn Edgington

Plot:
Rusty Wells (Presley) and his band (Crosby, Hawkins) play in Big Frank’s (Stone) club in Chicago. Big Frank is protective over his daughter Valerie (Fabares), who wants to go to Fort Lauderdale for spring break. Rusty and his band members volunteer to watch Valerie and make sure she doesn’t get in to trouble.

Trivia:
-First of three films Shelley Fabares co-starred in with Elvis Presley
-Shot in California, rather than Fort Lauderdale
-“The Meanest Girl in Town” was written in 1964 by Bill Haley

Shelley Fabares in “Girl Happy”

Highlights:
-Technicolor photography
-The Clam dance number

Notable Songs:
-“Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce” performed by Elvis Presley (because it’s funny)
-“The Clam” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Girl Happy” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Spring Fever” performed by Elvis Presley and Shelley Fabares
-“The Meanest Girl in Town” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Puppet On a String” performed by Elvis Presley

Gary Crosby, Elvis Presley and Jimmy Hawkins in “Girl Happy”

My review:
To clear the air, we all know Elvis Presley films are generally colorful fluff. But they are a lot of fun. And Girl Happy (1965) is one of my favorite of the Elvis musicals.

A large part of what makes this film great is Shelley Fabares as the leading lady. In my opinion, Shelley Fabares, Dolores Hart, and Ann-Margret are Elvis’ three best leading ladies. Many of the other leading ladies weren’t well-known but these three match up to Elvis’ star caliber.

Shelley was a sweet, soft, down-to-Earth young lady in the film and not a sex pot that Elvis chased. Elvis doesn’t chase Shelley’s character but is looking after her and then falls in love.

While the plot is fluffy, it’s fun and fast-moving. Some Elvis movies can be a chore to sit through but this one is so entertaining and happy.

We even get to see Jackie Coogan in a small role!

“Girl Happy” was MGM’s attempt at the American International Pictures beach films like, “Beach Party.” If you ask me, MGM did it better than AIP. Probably because it had a larger budget.

Even my 5-month-old niece seemed to enjoy this movie, and particularly bopped around and gurgled to “The Clam.”

If you’re looking for a breezy, colorful film for the spring and summer, “Girl Happy” is an easy pick.

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

Musical Monday: Bitter Sweet (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:
Bitter Sweet” (1940)– Musical #272

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
W.S. Van Dyke

Starring:
Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, George Sanders, Ian Hunter, Felix Bressart, Lynne Carver, Curt Bois, Diana Lewis, Fay Holden, Sig Ruman, Herman Bing, Hans Conried, Edward Ashley

Plot:
Set in the 19th Century, Sarah Millick (MacDonald), falls in love with her music teacher Carl Linden (Eddy). The two elope and move to his home of Vienna, where they struggle to get by and Carl tries to sell his operetta.

Trivia:
-The play and score were written by Noel Coward
-Remake of a 1933 film of the same title “Bitter Sweet”, starring Anna Neagle and Fernand Gravey
-Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy’s seventh (and second to last) film
-When Jeanette MacDonald sings “Love In Any Language” with French accent, she was partially dubbed by Harriet Lee

Highlights:
-Technicolor photography

Notable Songs:
-“I’ll See You Again” performed by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy
-“What Is Love” performed by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy

My review:

Eddy and MacDonald in Technicolor

I enjoy almost all of the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy musicals. But “Bitter Sweet” is my least favorite of their eight films together. I even like it less than their last pairing, “I Married An Angel” (1942), which some consider their worst film.

It begins in vibrant Technicolor, showing off Jeanette’s lovely red hair and Adrian’s gowns in glorious color. You have high hopes but they fall from there.

It’s hard to pin point why this one falls flat for me. It’s the same story line we see again and again: the rich girl marries a poor composer. They struggle financially as he tries to sell his operetta and the wife ends up singing in a casino where lecherous men try to woo her.

Even though “Bitter Sweet” was written by Noel Coward, there is just nothing special about it. It’s sort of a lazy, lackluster film (despite the beautiful Technicolor). New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther describes it best in his Nov. 22, 1940 review:

“But Miss MacDonald and Mr. Eddy play it all with such an embarrassing lack of ease—she with self-conscious high-spirit and he with painful pomposity; Mr, Van Dyke’s direction betrays such a lack of imagination or zest, and the feeble attempts at comedy fall so resoundingly flat that the show, for the average customer, is likely to prove big but bad.”

As for the music for the singing duo, the songs aren’t memorable. The worst part of the film is when Jeanette MacDonald sings like a French girl. She is asked to show off her talent to her new husband’s friends at a party and then puts on this awful French accent and dances around and sings. It’s so bad, I would feel embarrassed for her if I had been at that party.

I say all this as a fan of MacDonald and Eddy. I love “Rose Marie,” “Maytime” and even “Girl of the Golden West,” but “Bitter Sweet” left me feeling sour.

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

Musical Monday: Du Barry Was a Lady (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.

This week’s musical:
“Du Barry Was a Lady” (1943)– Musical #173

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Roy Del Ruth

Starring:
Red Skelton, Gene Barry, Lucille Ball, Virginia O’Brien, Rags Ragland, Zero Mostel, Louise Beavers, Donald Meek, Ava Gardner (uncredited), Marilyn Maxwell (uncredited), George Carroll (uncredited),
As Themselves: Tommy Dorsey, Lana Turner, Dick Haymes, Jo Stafford

Plot:
All working at the same club, coat check boy Louis Blore (Skelton) and master of ceremonies Alec Howe (Kelly) are both in love with nightclub performer May Daly (Ball), where she sings a song as Madame DuBarry. May is in love with Alec, but she is holding out to marry a rich man. Louis wins $150,000 in a sweepstakes. Then he drinks a drugged drink and dreams that he’s King Louis XV and Lucille Ball is Madame DuBarry.

Lucille Ball and Red Skelton go back to the 1700s

Trivia:
-Lucille Ball’s first starring role under contract with MGM.
-Ann Sothern was originally set to star in this film, but turned it down because she was pregnant with her daughter, Tisha.
-Zero Mostel’s first film
-Lucille Ball was dubbed by Martha Mears
-Produced by Arthur Freed
-Based on the 1939 Broadway musical starring Bert Lahr, Ethel Merman and Betty Grable. The film used very little of the original Cole Porter score.

Highlights:
-Technicolor
-Virginia O’Brien’s performances
-The “Esquire Girl” number, with all the different costumes
-Lana Turner’s cameo

Notable Songs:
-“DuBarry was a Lady” performed by Lucille Balls, dubbed by Martha Mears
-“Do I Love You” performed by Gene Kelly
-“Salome” performed by Virginia O’Brien
-“I Love an Esquire Girl” performed by Red Skelton and Pied Piper
-“Friendship” performed by Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly

My review:
“DuBarry Was a Lady” isn’t the best MGM musical around, and a lot of it is nonsense, but it sure is fun.

The film revolves around a nightclub hat check, played by Red Skelton, who is in love with the club’s singer, played by Lucille Ball. Ball’s character portray’s Madame Du Barry in her act (hence the title). Lucille Ball is in love with fellow performer Gene Kelly, but she is unwilling to marry a poor man and end up happy, but broke like her parents. Skelton strikes it rich, but gets accidentally drugged, where he dreams everyone in the club is back in the days of France in the 1700s (include Tommy Dorsey and his band).

The time traveling dream sequence may seem a little random, and it does take you out of the story line, but it’s fairly entertaining.

For some reason, this 1943 Technicolor musical seems to explode color than any other 1940s MGM musical. Maybe it’s because of the costume color selections that were picked. We start with a musical number of chorus girls in Ziegfeld Girl-like blue and purple costumes. Then there is Lucille Ball with her vibrant red hair (a color MGM stylist Sydney Guilaroff called Tango Red). Of course, Red Skelton also has a shock of red hair. And then there’s Virginia O’Brien’s unforgettable chartreuse blouse. Visually, this film is off-the-charts gorgeous!

Virginia O’Brien with this chartreuse blouse

Colorful costumes for the opening number

Lucille Ball with her “Tango Red” hair

Red Skelton is the star of this film and has the most screen time. While Lucille Ball and Gene Kelly may be the reason some folks tune into this one, Kelly is really secondary to Ball and Skelton. Kelly only has one full-on dance number. According to her autobiography “Love, Lucy,” Lucille Ball enjoyed working with Red Skelton. Lana Turner even has a cameo in the film!

Zero Mostel also randomly shows up in this film and does some moderately annoying impressions. For example, he does one of Charles Boyer in “Algiers” (1938) and just repeats “Heddyyyy” about 15 times. And then there is Virginia O’Brien, who sings in her straight-faced singing style, that is somehow so appealing.

“Du Barry was a Lady” has it’s faults and is silly. But I won’t deny that I love it. Hopefully you will too.

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Musical Monday: April Showers (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:
April Showers (1948) – Musical #218

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
James V. Kern

Starring:
Ann Sothern, Jack Carson, Robert Alda, S.Z. Sakall, Robert Ellis, Billy Curtis, Joseph Crehan, Barbara Bates (uncredited), Mel Blanc (voice, uncredited)

Plot:
Married vaudeville couple Joe and June Tyme (Carson, Sothern) have a failing act. Their act takes off when their young son Buster (Ellis) joins. The only problem is that he really should be in school.

Trivia:
-Robert Ellis does impressions and Mel Blanc does the voice
-Film is loosely based on Buster Keaton who outshone his parents in their vaudeville act

Highlights:
-When the movie ended

Notable Songs:
-“April Showers” performed by Ann Sothern
-“Pretty Baby” performed by Robert Alda
-“Every Little Movement” performed by Robert Alda

Ann Sothern, Jack Carson and Robert Ellis in “April Showers” (1948)

My review:
I seek out films starring Ann Sothern. Ann could play it all: comedy, crime, fast talking dame, musical or tender-hearted mother.

And when I first saw this movie, I was excited to see Ann Sothern’s name in the credits. “April Showers” sounds like it will be a joyful, colorful romp. But it’s anything but.

Filmed in black and white, Jack Carson and Ann Sothern have a failing vaudeville act that is only saved by their son, played by Robert Ellis. While Ellis saves the act, he ruins the movie.

In his March 27, 1948, review New York Times critic Bosley Crowther calls it both “insufferable” and “death.”

“Even with expert presentation, this would be an insufferable tale. As played by Jack Carson, Ann Sothern and a kid named Robert Ellis, it is death,” Crowther wrote.

I don’t always agree with Crowther’s salty film reviews, but brother I do with this one.

As for Ann Sothern, she is a secondary character to Jack Carson and Robert Ellis, who the plot mainly revolves around. Carson is his usual goofy self, and Robert Ellis is a bigger ham than anything you have ever seen served on Thanksgiving or Easter. Robert Ellis, who was 15 when this was filmed, appears to be trying to out act, dance and joke Jack Carson. When he isn’t spouting lines, dancing or singing, he mainly sits around making dumb faces. For those not familiar with Ellis, you may remember him as the surfer Hot Shot in “Gidget” (1959).

The worst part is when Robert Ellis is supposed to be impersonating a midget (children weren’t allowed to perform in New York theaters by law), and Mel Blanc does his speaking voice so he sounds like Bugs Bunny. What?!

Robert Alda also is in the film and plays a heel. His role is large enough to be a protagonist but his talents are wasted.

While the performances are entertaining, the songs are nothing new and are all familiar vaudeville songs.

I’m not sure why this movie was made. It’s a tired plot about vaudeville performers and the longest 90 minute movie you’ll ever watch.

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