Musical Monday: Smilin’ Through (1941)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Smilin’ Through (1941) – Musical #321

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Frank Borzage

Starring:
Jeanette MacDonald, Brian Aherne, Gene Raymond, Ian Hunter, Frances Robinson, Patrick O’Moore, Jackie Horner (uncredited)

Plot:
John Carteret (Aherne) has lived alone, sad and bitter after the murder of his bride Moonyean (MacDonald) at their wedding years before. The young niece of Moonyean, Kathleen (Horner), comes to live with John after her parents die. Kathleen grows up to favor Moonyean and falls in love with Kenneth Wayne (Raymond), the son of the man who killed Moonyean.

Trivia:
-Third film version of “Smilin’ Through.” Norma Talmadge, Wyndham Standing and Harrison Ford star in the 1922 version. Norma Shearer, Fredric March and Leslie Howard star in the 1932 version.
-The film is based on the 1919 play
-Jeanette MacDonald and Gene Raymond were married in real life and this was their only film together.
-James Stewart and Robert Taylor were originally considered for the leading men, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Moonyean (MacDonald) visits John (Aherne)

Highlights:
-Filmed in gorgeous Technicolor

Notable Songs:
-“The Kerry Dance” performed by Jackie Horner and Jeanette MacDonald
-“Smilin’ Through” performed Jeanette MacDonald
-“There’s a Long, Long Trail” performed by Jeanette MacDonald

 

Gene Raymond and Jeanette MacDonald in Smilin’ Through

My review:
By 1941, “Smilin’ Through” wasn’t a new story.

It was introduced on the stage in 1919, then on screen in 1922 and 1932. This version was the third and last time it was on the screen. And while I haven’t seen the 1922 version, I like the 1932 and 1941 versions equally as much.

This adaptation with Jeanette MacDonald, Brian Ahrene and Gene Raymond has a leg up on the rest of them: It’s in Technicolor.

“Smilin’ Through” is visually gorgeous and the story is equally lovely, though bittersweet. I can’t say enough about the visual beauty of this film. The color really shows off Jeanette MacDonald’s red hair and the colors are so lush, particularly the blues and greens.

Jeanette MacDonald and Gene Raymond (married in real life) both play dual role. MacDonald plays Brian Aherne’s niece Kathleen and his deceased love, Moonyean (a name that was created for the 1919 play). Gene Raymond plays an enemy of Brian Aherne’s and the man’s son, who falls for Kathleen.

I really do love “Smilin’ Through.” It’s more of a romantic drama with songs added in (since Jeanette is in the film) than a full out musical, but it has nine songs total, which to me qualifies this as a musical. This adaptation is the only musical version of the film, but that is because of our leading star, Jeanette MacDonald.

MacDonald does a great job in the role, and she seems like a natural selection in a role Norma Shearer also played. The were two of Hollywood’s top stars and both shared similar dramatic delivery of lines. Gene Raymond is decent in his role, and it’s interesting to watch husband and wife Raymond and MacDonald together in their only film.

Brian Aherne and Ian Hunter, two underrated actors, are probably the highlights in the film to me. I love Hunter in everything. It is interesting to watch Aherne play most of the film as a bitter old man, but then in the flashback to his wedding, he is a lighthearted, happy and joking young man. It’s interesting to see him play those two personalities against each other.

While the message of the story is that love prevails and that bitterness and hate will keep you from who you love, it also is a sad story. I feel sad for Brian Aherne’s character, growing old and bitter and lonely, though his niece does bring him some comfort.

But while parts of the movie make me sad, I do love “Smilin’ Through.” It’s colorful, the lead actors are wonderful and a great mix of sweet and sad romance.

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

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Musical Monday: The Bamboo Blonde (1946)

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 Bamboo Blonde (1946) – Musical #236

Studio:
RKO

Director:
Anthony Mann

Starring:
Frances Langford, Ralph Edwards, Russell Wade, Jane Greer, Tommy Noonan, Jean Brooks, Iris Adrian, Paul Harvey, Regina Wallace, Richard Martin

Plot:
Lt. Patrick Ransome, Jr. (Wade) meets nightclub singer Louise Anderson (Langford) at a club that is out of bounds for military personnel. The two dance and dine before Lt. Ransome has to ship out, but he forgets to ask her name. The crew ends up painting her portrait on the side of their B29 and name her “The Bamboo Blonde,” which brings them luck in battle. Their success and the painting brings publicity to the crew, Louise and the nightclub.

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Musical Monday: Shine on Harvest Moon (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.

This week’s musical:
Shine on Harvest Moon (1944) – Musical #131

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
Ann Sheridan, Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, Irene Manning, S.Z. Sakall, Marie Wilson, Robert Shayne

Plot:
Set in the early 1900s, this fictional biographical film follows vaudeville and Broadway stars Nora Bayes (Sheridan) and Jack Norworth (Morgan). As the couple rises to the top, they are blackballed by an old show business enemy who buys all theater chains.

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Musical Monday: Song of the Islands (1942)

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.

islandsdThis week’s musical:
Song of the Islands” (1942)– Musical #393

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Walter Lang

Starring:
Betty Grable, Victor Mature, Thomas Mitchell, Jack Oakie, Billy Gilbert, George Barbier, Hilo Hattie, Harry Owens and His Royal Hawaiians

Plot:
Eileen O’Brien (Grable) returns to her beachcombing father’s (Mitchell) home in Hawaii after going to school in the states. At the same time, Jeff Harper (Mature) shows up on the island with his buddy Rusty (Oakie) on the island to help transport his father’s (Barbier) cattle. Jeff and his father want Dennis O’Brien’s (Mitchell) land to build a pier to help transport the cattle. The cattle business gets in the way of the budding romance of Jeff and Eileen.

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Musical Monday: “Cairo” (1942)

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.

cairoThis week’s musical:
Cairo” (1942)–Musical #477

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
W.S. Van Dyke
Starring:
Jeannette MacDonald, Robert Young, Ethel Waters, Reginald Owen, Grant Mitchell, Lionell Atwill, Rhys Williams, MonaBarrie

Plot:
Small town reporter Homer Smith (Young) is picked to travel abroad to cover the war after his newspaper is chosen as “America’s Typical Small Town Newspaper.” On his way to Cairo, his ship sinks and he floats along the ocean with another survivor (Owen) who gives him a message to deliver if they both survive. Hence, Homer gets mixed up in a spy ring. Once the message is delivered, Homer becomes convinced that singer and movie star Marcia Warren (MacDonald) is also a spy and begins working as her butler so he can investigate her. Marcia also believes Homer is a spy. While they investigate each other, the real spy ring is working to explode an Allied convoy.

Trivia:
-Director W.S. Van Dyke is credited as “Maj. W.S. Van Dyke.” Dyke was promoted to Major prior to World War II and set up a Marine Corps recruiting center in his MGM office. He convinced several actor to join up.

-Lena Horne was originally cast as the Ethel Water’s role as MacDonald’s maid. However, Horne refused to play roles that made her domestic servants, according to Leading Ladies: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses of the Studio Era

-The movie was originally to be shot in Technicolor but was switched to black and white, according to TThe Espionage Filmography by Paul Mavis.

-Jeannette MacDonald’s film that she was fully the star.

-One of Jeanette MacDonald’s least popular films, according to The Hollywood Musical Goes to War by Allen Woll. (Even more than I Married an Angel?)

-Jeannette MacDonald singing “Les Filles de Cadiz” in the credits and on the movie screen is edited footage from the 1937 film “Maytime.”

Jeanette MacDonald is worried Robert Young has fallen into hands of spies. Also pictured- Ethel Waters and Rhys Williams.

Jeanette MacDonald is worried Robert Young has fallen into hands of spies. Also pictured- Ethel Waters and Rhys Williams.

Highlights:
-Ethel Waters sings operatically in response to Jeanette’s singing.

-Robert Young’s hilarious fake English accent he uses to get a job as MacDonald’s butler.

Funny quotes such as:
-Robert: Have you ever been in San Francisco?
Jeanette MacDonald: Yes. Once with Gable and Tracey and the joint fell apart.

Notable Songs:
-Buds Won’t Bud sung by Ethel Waters and Dooley Wilson
-Waiting for Robert E. Lee sung by Jeanette MacDonald and Ethel Waters (notable for the fact that MacDonald lets loose and isn’t singing in an opera voice)
-Les Filles de Cadix sung by Jeanette MacDonald. (We only hear this song over the credits and see footage of MacDonald singing it in “Maytime,” but I love this song and had to add it).
-“Il Bacio” sung by Jeanette MacDonald in a bathtub and Ethel Waters echoing back in a faux opera voice. Hilarious.
-From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water sung by Jeanette MacDonald
-Beautiful Ohio sung by Jeanette MacDonald

Review:
This is not your typical Jeanette MacDonald musical where she is singing with Nelson Eddy as a princess, opera singer or duchess. In fact, this is a lot more fun. Really, this is more an MGM comedy with a few songs added in for MacDonald and Ethel Waters.

I really enjoyed seeing MacDonald in a comedic role. She was funny, down to Earth, had great comedic delivery and I wish she made movies like this. There are even jokes in the film picking fun of MacDonald’s films such as “San Francisco.” The ever underrated Robert Young is also a delight, as always. Waters is hilarious as well and we get the opportunity to hear her sing.

Plain and simple, I loved this film.  No, there is real no message or heartfelt moment and it is one of Jeanette MacDonald’s least popular films but….I found it enjoyable. There is just something about a W.S. Van Dyke directed film. It had several laugh out loud moments and I plan on buying it on DVD very soon.

Publicity photo of Robert Young and Jeanette MacDonald for "Cairo."

Publicity photo of Robert Young and Jeanette MacDonald for “Cairo.”

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Musical Monday: Seven Sweethearts (1942)

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:
Seven Sweethearts” (1942) –Musical #62

seven sweethearts

Studio:
MGM

Director:
Frank Borzage

Starring:
Kathryn Grayson, Van Heflin, Marsha Hunt, S.Z. Sakall, Cecilia Parker, Donald Meek, Louise Beavers

Plot:
News reporter Henry Taggart (Heflin) goes to Little Delft, Michigan to cover the Tulip Festival. While there, he stays at the quaint House of the Seven Tulips inn, run by Mr. Van Maaster (Sakall). Maaster’s seven daughters-all who have boy names-help run the inn. Spoiled Regina (Hunt) tries to woo Henry but he falls for Billie (Grayson). The only problem is old-fashioned Mr. Maaster won’t let his younger daughters marry before Regina marries.

Trivia:
-This film is a family affair: Kathryn Grayson’s brother Michael Butler and sister Frances Raeburn are in the film. Grayson had a larger career than her siblings.
-Ann Rutherford was originally supposed to be in the film but she had measles. She was replaced by Peggy Moran.
-A film adaptation of a Hungarian play called “Seven Sisters.” The film appeared on Broadway in 1911.
-Producer Joe Pasternak’s first film at MGM.
-Remake of the 1915 film “The Seven Sisters”

Highlights:
-Van Heflin attempting to dance a traditional dance during the Tulip Festival.

Van Heflin and Kathryn Grayson in "Seven Sweethearts"

Van Heflin and Kathryn Grayson in “Seven Sweethearts”

Notable Songs:
There aren’t any songs that really stand out or leave you humming after the movie. However, you have the opportunity to hear Grayson since several songs such as “Tulip Time” and Mozart’s “Cradle Song.”

My Review:
This song is fun and adorable. Though she’s a brat, Marsha Hunt looks adorable, and I swoon every time Van Heflin smiles. This is only Kathryn Grayson’s fourth film, so you get to see her as she is still blossoming into stardom MGM. “Seven Sweethearts” isn’t one of MGM’s huge, glittering musicals, and usually goes under the radar. However, it’s adorable and a lot of fun.

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