Musical Monday: Lillian Russell (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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Lillian Russell – Musical #633

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Irving Cummings

Starring:
Alice Faye, Don Ameche, Henry Fonda, Edward Arnold, Warren William, Leo Carrillo, Helen Westley, Dorothy Peterson, Ernest Truex, Nigel Bruce, Lynn Bari, Eddie Foy Jr., Una O’Connor, Elyse Knox, Joan Valerie, Alice Armand, Irving Bacon, Diane Fisher, Joseph Cawthorn, Lew Fields, Joe Weber

Plot:
In a biographical musical of performer Lillian Russell (Faye), the story follows Helen Louise Leonard and her transformation to the big star Lillian Russell. After she is discovered in 1890 by Tony Pastor (Carrillo), Russell is rises to fame and has many suitors including Diamond Jim Brady (Arnold), Jesse Lewisohn (William), Alexander Moore (Fonda) and Edward Solomon (Ameche).

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Watching 1939: Tail Spin (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film: 
Tail Spin (1939)

Release date: 
Feb. 19, 1939

Cast: 
Alice Faye, Constance Bennett, Nancy Kelly, Joan Davis, Jane Wyman, Charles Farrell, Wally Vernon, Joan Valerie, Edward Norris, J. Anthony Hughes, Harry Davenport

Studio: 
20th Century Fox

Director: 
Roy Del Ruth

Plot:
Trixie Lee (Faye) and Babe Dugan (Davis) are two financially strapped girls who have joined a cross-country air competition, which goes from Los Angeles to Cleveland. When her plane cracks up, Trixie and Babe stay in Cleveland for their plane to be fixed and join a Powder Puff Flight Race. Their flight rivals include sensitive Lois Allen (Kelly) and socialite Gerry Lester (Bennett), who has her own custom plane.

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Musical Monday: The Gang’s All Here (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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
The Gang’s All Here (1943) – Musical #310

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Director: Busby Berkeley

Starring: Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, James Ellison, Phil Baker, Eugene Pallette, Charlotte Greenwood, Edward Everett Horton, Dave Willock, Sheila Ryan, Jeanne Crain (uncredited), June Haver (uncredited), Adele Jergens (uncredited), Adele Jergens (uncredited), Mary Stewart (uncredited), Frank Faylen (uncredited), Charles Saggau (uncredited)
Themselves: Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, Tony De Marco

Plot:
Nightclub performer Edie Allen (Faye) meets soldier Andy Mason (Ellison) in a night club. Andy falls for her, but gives her a false name. Edie writes to Andy (or Casey which is the name he gave her), while he is fighting in the Pacific. When he returns home a hero, a War Bond benefit is given in his honor starring Edie and the rest of the nightclub performers. The problem is, Andy is engaged to another girl (Ryan).

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Musical Monday: That Night in Rio (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:
That Night in Rio (1941) – Musical #308

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Irving Cummings

Starring:
Alice Faye, Don Ameche, Carmen Miranda, S.Z. Sakall, Leonid Kinskey, Curt Bois, J. Carrol Naish, Maria Montez, Fortunio Bonanova
As themselves: Flores Brothers Trio

Plot:
Nightclub performer Larry Martin (Ameche) looks similar to the Baron Duarte (Ameche) and has an act where he poses as him. When Baron Duarte falls into financial issues and has to travel to Buenos Aires, his business partners have Larry step in to impersonate the Baron while he’s gone. Larry agrees, only if the Baron’s wife (Faye) isn’t informed that he is a stand-in.

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Musical Monday: Stowaway (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.

stowaway2This week’s musical:
Stowaway – Musical #544

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
William A. Seiter

Starring:
Shirley Temple, Robert Young, Alice Faye, Eugene Pallette, Arthur Treacher, Willie Fung, Philip Ahn, Allan Lane

Plot:
Barbara (Temple), nicknamed Ching-Ching, is an orphan in China after her missionary parents were killed and now lives with other missionaries. When there’s danger in town, Ching-Ching’s friend, Sun Lo (Philip Ahn) puts her on a boat for Shanghai so she will be safe. Ching-Ching gets lost in Shanghai and is befriended by American Tommy Randall (Young). Ching-Ching accidentally ends up on a boat for the United States. On the ship, Tommy and Susan Parker (Faye) care for Barbara/Ching-Ching, but neither can adopt her because they aren’t married. The two get married to give Barbara a home.

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Musical Monday: Week-End in Havana (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.

Week-end_in_havanaThis week’s musical:
Week-End in Havana” (1941)–Musical #479

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Walter Lang

Starring:
Alice Faye, John Payne, Cesar Romero, Carmen Miranda, Cobina Wright, Leonid Kinskey, George Barbier

Plot:
Macy’s shop girl Nan Spencer (Faye) saves up her money to go on her first cruise to Havana. The only problem is, the ship hits a sandbar in Florida and the ship company has to reimburse everyone and offer them another trip. When ship employee Jay Williams (Payne)-who is also engaged to the boss’s daughter- is sent to reimburse the passengers and have them sign waivers, Nan isn’t satisfied with a check. She saved for years for this trip and also knows what the captain was doing when the ship crashed, which could threaten a lawsuit for the company.
Jay’s company sends Nan on an all expenses paid trip to Havana so she will sign the company’s waiver. Jay has to go along-postponing his wedding- to make sure Nan has a good time. Along the way she falls for Monte Blanca (Romero), who is the boyfriend/manager of Rosita Rivas (Miranda). Monte thinks Nan is wealthy and thinks he is using her to pay off his gambling debts.

Trivia:
-This is one of many films made in the 1940s with a “good neighbor” feel to it. Several films visited Latin American countries such as Cuba, Argentina or Brazil to showcase these countries and strengthen United States relations with Latin American government.
-Carmen Miranda’s second film.
-This was the second of three films Miranda and Faye made together. The other two films were “That Night in Rio” (1941) and “The Gang is All Here” (1943).

John Payne, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda and Cesar Romero in "Week-End in Havana."

John Payne, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda and Cesar Romero in “Week-End in Havana.”

Highlights:
-Every colorful Carmen Miranda performance
-Alice Faye and Cesar Romero dancing to “Romance and Rhumba.” It gives the audience an opportunity to see Romero’s smooth dance moves.

Notable Songs:
-Tropical Magic sung by Alice Faye and John Payne
-Rebola a Bola sung by Carmen Miranda
-The Ñango sung by Carmen Miranda complete with a lavish dance number
-Romance and Rhumba sung by Alice Faye and Cesar Romero

Review:
Alice Faye once said her singing voice was deeper than the plots of the films she made.
This may be the case with “Week-End in Havana,” but this film is a lot of fun. The colorful costumes and scenery are gorgeous in Technicolor, Carmen Miranda and Alice Faye are equipped with catchy songs and the two leading men are nice to look at.
The four leads seem to have fairly equal screen time- each delivering witty lines and offering scenes filled with charm.
Week-End in Havana” is a lighthearted 1940s “good neighbor” film, that is full of color and fun.

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Musical Mondays: Rose of Washington Square (1939)

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, I’m starting a weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Rose of Washington Square” (1939)- Musical #462

roseStarring:
Alice Faye, Tyrone Power, Al Jolson, William Frawley, Joyce Compton

Director: 
Gregory Ratoff

Studio:
Twentieth Century Fox

Plot:
Set in the 1920s, Rose (Faye) and Ted (Jolson) dream of becoming singing stars. While Ted’s career takes off, Rose works her way up while singing in speakeasies. Then Rose meets and falls in love with gambling, con-artist Bart (Power). Bart has trouble with the law but somehow keeps his troubles away from her. When Rose is discovered by Ziegfeld and makes it big on Broadway, she and Bart marry but he disappears because of trouble with the law.

Trivia:
The plot of this film strongly resembled Fanny Brice’s relationship with Jules W. Arndt Stein. Faye even sings Brice’s signature song “My Man.”

Alice Faye as Rose falls in love with gambler Tyrone Power who plays Bart.

Alice Faye as Rose falls in love with gambler Tyrone Power who plays Bart.

Brice sued 20th Century Fox for $750,000 and the studio settled with Brice for an undisclosed amount, according to the Biography documentary on Alice Faye.

The publicity made “Rose of Washington Square the biggest musical hit of 1939.

Notable songs:
-Al Jolson sings his signature songs “My Mammy,” “Toot, Toot, Tootsie” and “California, Here I Come”

-Alice Faye sings Fanny Brice’s signature ballad “My Man”

Highlights:
-Louis Prima has an appearance playing the trumpet as Alice Faye sings. Not only is it always great to have a Prima appearance in a film, but Faye later married Phil Harris who performed with Prima in Disney’s “The Jungle Book.”

-When Alice Faye sings “Rose of Washington Square” specialty dancers Igor and Tanya perform a dizzying dance. Also dancers sing and dance as they smoke a cigarette, toss the cigarette and another appears in their hand.

"Rose of Washington Square" cigarette dancing

“Rose of Washington Square” cigarette dancing

My review:
Alice Faye once said, “My voice was deeper than the plot” of many of her movies and this applies to “Rose of Washington Square.”

I love Alice Faye and will watch her in anything, but my favorite part was getting to see her perform with Louis Prima. Though Jolson was in black face, it was interesting to see him perform several of the songs that made him famous.

The movie was released during Hollywood’s best year, has a stellar cast and well-known songs, but it lacks something. Aside from the Brice vs. 20th Century Fox publicity, it is a run of the mill singer-trying-to-make-it-big musical.

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