Musical Monday: Go West, Young Lady (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:
Go West, Young Lady (1941) – Musical #593

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Alfred E. Green

Starring:
Penny Singleton, Glenn Ford, Ann Miller, Charles Ruggles, Allen Jenkins, Jed Prouty, Onslow Stevens, Bob Wills, Chief Many Treaties (or Bill Hazlet), Waffles the Dog, The Foursome, The Texas Playboys

Plot:
The western town of Headstone is looking for a new sheriff to get rid of outlaw Killer Pete. Jim Pendergast (Ruggles) think it’s going to be his “nephew,” Bill Pendergast. Bill turns out to be Belinda (Singleton) (with the nickname Bill) and is headed on a stagecoach with the newly appointed sheriff Tex Miller (Ford).

Trivia:
– Edgar Buchanan was originally cast as Jim Pendergast, but couldn’t get out of a film commitment. Charles Ruggles, who was cast in another role, switched roles and Jed Prouty was brought on.
– The only non-Blondie film that Penny Singleton worked on while she was under contract at Columbia.
– The film included many people who worked on the Blondie films: director Frank Strayer, producer Robert Sparks, actor Penny Singleton and writers Richard Flournoy and Karen DeWolf

Allen Jenkins and Ann Miller performing in “Go West, Young Lady”

Highlights:
-Allen Jenkins singing
-Pie falling because of shooting

Notable Songs:
-“Go West, Young Lady” performed by Ann Miller
-“I Wish I could Be a Singing Cowboy” performed by Allen Jenkins
-“Dogie Take Your Time” performed by Penny Singleton

My review:
Go West, Young Lady (1941) is a delightful and charming film. It is classified as a musical, but it is more comedy western with a hint of musical natures in it.

The B-budget film stars Penny Singleton, Glenn Ford and Ann Miller. Today, Ford and Miller are the big names of this film, but in 1941, Singleton was more famous than her co-stars. At this point in time, Singleton was knee-deep performing in “Blondie” movies. Singleton had starred in nine Blondie films by the time “Go West, Young Lady” was released in 1941, and this was the only none-Blondie role she starred in from 1938 to 1946.

While the Blondie films were fun, it was refreshing to see Penny Singleton in a different role. This was still a comedic role, but it gave Singleton the opportunity to sing, dance and act with new co-stars that weren’t Dagwood or Baby Dumpling.

Singleton performs the lilting western tune, “Dogie Take Your Time.” She also performs a funny song and dance in the saloon “Most Gentlemen Don’t Prefer a Lady,” where she dances in her pantaloons.

Glenn Ford and Ann Miller were still finding their way in their careers and hadn’t yet reached the level of stardom we later know them for. However, Miller had been in more high-quality films than either of her co-stars, like “Stage Door” and “You Can’t Take it with You.”

Ann Miller plays the bad girl saloon dancer who has some entertaining musical numbers. She dances and sings the title song, “Go West, Young Lady.” A real treat is a comedic number Miller sings and dances with character actor – Allen Jenkins, yes he does sing! Jenkins doesn’t have the voice of a canary, which makes the song even more funny.

Glenn Ford doesn’t do any singing or dancing but brings the heroics. His chemistry with Singleton is surprisingly sweet and charming.

While “Go West Young Lady” is more a comedy, it has enough songs, dancing and novelty numbers for me to consider it a musical. It’s only 70 minutes but is quite fun and entertaining. I love this film, because it gives a rare glimpse at Penny Singleton not playing Blondi (in the midst of the Blondie series). This musical doesn’t show up often, but when you have the chance, give it a watch.

Penny Singleton and Glenn Ford in “Go West, Young Lady.”

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Musical Monday: Hit the Deck (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:
Hit the Deck (1955) – Musical #63

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Roy Rowland

Starring:
Jane Powell, Tony Martin, Debbie Reynolds, Ann Miller, Russ Tamblyn, Walter Pidgeon, Vic Damone, Gene Raymond, J. Carrol Naish, Richard Anderson, Jane Darwell, Kay Armen, Alan King, Henry Slate, Alvin Greenman (uncredited), Dabbs Greer (uncredited)

Plot:
Three sailors go on leave — Bill Clark (Martin), Rico Ferrari (Damone), and Danny Smith (Tamblyn). Bill goes to find his girlfriend Ginger (Miller), Rico goes to find his mother (Armen), and Danny goes home to visit his admiral father (Pidgeon) and sister Susan (Powell). The sailors find that everyone is too busy to see them or uninterested in their visit. Danny finds out that his sister Susan is on a date in the hotel room of actor Wendell Craig (Raymond). Danny worries about Susan’s safety and he and his friends break into Wendell’s hotel room to beat him up and protect his sister. Because of this, they have to outrun shore patrol for the remainder of their leave.

Debbie Reynolds in “Hit the Deck”

Trivia:
– The last film Jane Powell made for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
– Russ Tamblyn was dubbed by two different people in the film: Rex Dennis and Clark Burroughs
– A version of Follow the Fleet (1936), which starred Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire
– Kay Armen was billed as “introducing.”

Ann Miller performing in “Hit the Deck”

Notable Songs:
– “Why, Oh Why?” performed by Tony Martin, Russ Tamblyn and Vic Damone, and also by Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell and Ann Miller
-“Lucky Bird” performed by Jane Powell
– “The Lady from the Bayou” performed by Ann Miller

Jane Powell and Vic Damone in “Hit the Deck”

My review:
Coming off the high of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” singing actress Jane Powell thought she was going to start getting better and more adult roles. However, “Seven Brides” was the beginning of the end of her musical career.

And “Hit the Deck” was her last musical and film at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, just a year after “Seven Brides” was released.

“Hit the Deck” is fun and star-studded but it’s not the quality that she hoped for. The cast includes some of MGM’s many musical stars, Jane Powell, Tony Martin, Debbie Reynolds, Ann Miller, Russ Tamblyn, Walter Pidgeon, Vic Damone and Gene Raymond.

Jane Powell is the star of the film, but I do feel like her role takes a backseat to Debbie Reynolds and Ann Miller. They certainly get the better numbers than Powell. However, all three girls are charming.

With the exception of Russ Tamblyn, I’m not a fan of the romantic leads of Tony Martin and Vic Damone, simply because they aren’t my favorite crooners. I do love seeing Walter Pidgeon and Gene Raymond, which is a special treat. Kay Armen is built up with a big “introducing” in the credits. Armen sings a few songs but she didn’t have a large film career.

Along with the large cast, the film is very colorful. But the songs aren’t very catchy (except for “Why, Oh Why.”)

One odd thing is Russ Tamblyn is able to sing but is dubbed in the song “Hallelujah.” And the voice he’s given is ridiculous, especially when he has a high-pitched while performing that song.

While “Hit the Deck” isn’t my favorite musical or one of MGM’s best, but it is an enjoyable way to spend two hours.

Jane Powell and Vic Damone, Ann Miller and Tony Martin, and Debbie Reynolds and Russ Tamblyn

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Musical Monday: The Thrill of Brazil (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 Thrill of Brazil (1946) – Musical #570

Studio:
Columbia Pictures Corporation

Director:
S. Sylvan Simon

Starring:
Evelyn Keyes, Keenan Wynn, Ann Miller, Allyn Joslyn, Tito Guízar, Felix Bressart
Themselves: Veloz, Yolanda, Enric Madriguera

Plot:
Steve Farraugh (Wynn) is a musical producer in Rio de Janeiro. He is dating his dancing leading lady Linda Lorens (Miller), but he still misses and loves his ex-wife Vicki Dean (Keyes). And he misses her creative ideas for his shows. However, Vicki is prepared to marry John Habour (Joslyn). Steve does everything in his power to keep Vicki from getting married. Meanwhile Tito Guízar (himself) is also in love with Linda.

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Musical Monday: Eve Knew Her Apples (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:
Eve Knew Her Apples (1945)– Musical #282

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Will Jason

Starring:
Ann Miller, William Wright, Robert Williams, Charles D. Brown, Ray Walker

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Musical Monday: Two Tickets to Broadway (1951)

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.

broadwayThis week’s musical:
Two Tickets To Broadway (1951) – Musical #130

Studio:
RKO Pictures

Director:
James V. Kern

Starring:
Janet Leigh, Ann Miller, Gloria DeHaven, Barbara Lawrence, Tony Martin, Eddie Bracken, Charles Dale, Joe Smith, Joi Lansing (uncredited), Vera Miles (uncredited)
Themselves: Bob Crosby

Plot:
Nancy Peterson (Leigh) is given a big send off from her hometown, Pelican Falls, as she leaves to get her start on Broadway. On her bus trip to New York, she meets three down-on-their-luck performers: Hannah Holbrook (DeHaven), Joyce Campbell (Miller) and S.F. Rogers (Lawrence). Their agent (and Hannah’s boyfriend), Lew Conway (Bracken) continuously sets them up with dead-end gigs. Nancy also meets (and falls in love with) another down-on-his-luck performer, Dan Carter (Martin). To save face, Lew Conway lies to Dan, Nancy and the three girls; telling them that they have a huge performance spot on Bob Crosby’s TV show. The crew forms an act and starts rehearsing, not knowing that they may not be performing the act anywhere.

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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.

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

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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.

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Musical Monday: Small Town Girl (1953)

Image

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.

b70-14305This week’s musical:
Small Town Girl” (1953)– Musical #76

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
László Kardos

Starring:
Jane Powell, Farley Granger, Ann Miller, Fay Wray, Billie Burke, S.Z. Sakall, Bobby Van, Robert Keith, Robert Hyatt, Chill Wills (uncredited)
Themselves: Nat King Cole

Plot:
Judge Kimbell (Keith) throws big city hotshot Rick Livingston (Granger) in jail for going 80 miles per mile in a small town with his Broadway girlfriend Lisa Bellmount (Miller). The judge’s daughter Cindy (Powell) ends up falling for Rick.

Trivia:
-Nicholas Brodszky and Leo Robin were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song for the song “My Flaming Heart.”
-Dances choreographed by Busby Berkeley.
-Ann Miller’s “I’ve Gotta Heart That Beat” performance has 86 instruments up through the floor and the musicians are hidden beneath the floor, according to The Rough Guide to Film Musicals by David Parkinson
-Musical director is André Previn.
-Costumes by Helen Rose.

Highlights:
-Nat King Cole’s appearance and performance
-Ann Miller’s “I’ve Gotta Hear that Beat” number
-Bobby Van’s exhausting 3-minute jump through town.

Notable Songs:
I’ve Gotta Hear That Beat performed by Ann Miller tap dancing and hands coming out of the floor playing drums and holding saxophones, clarinets and violins.
My Flaming Heart performed by Nat King Cole

My review:
“Small Town Girl” is a fun, colorful musical with an outstanding cast. However, of Jane Powell’s MGM films, this is not her best. The storyline isn’t a bad one and it has some cute, humorous moments, but I prefer other Powell films such as “Luxury Liner” and “Holiday in Mexico.”

Farley Granger plays the arrogant, rich playboy well but is a poor romantic match for Powell.

While Jane Powell is known for her beautiful, operatic voice, she doesn’t have many notable songs or musical numbers. The real stand out musical numbers come from the supporting cast of Ann Miller, Bobby Van and an appearance from singer Nat King Cole as himself.

Ann Miller’s Busby Berkeley choreographed “Gotta Hear That Beat that Beat” is a visually amazing piece. The number is complete with Miller’s high-speed tap dancing feet and instruments being played by bodiless hands.

A second impressive, though exhausting, number is Bobby Van jumping through his small town. While this is quite a feat, it also makes my knees hurt just watching him bound down the street, shaking hands and jumping across hedges.

Also, while Van’s jumping is interesting, his character is fairly annoying.

For Nat King Cole fans, you also have the opportunity to see the velvet voice singer during a nightclub scene, which is a real treat.

The film has a terrific supporting cast with Robert Keith and Fay Wray as Powell’s parents, Billie Burke as Farley Granger’s mother, and S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall as Van’s father. You also get the comical Chill Wills as the jailer.

Once big stars of the 1930s Burke and Wray seem wasted in this film as they both have less than 10 or 15 minutes of screen time.

For me, Robert Keith and Cuddles Sakall provided the most comedic entertainment and were honestly my favorite part of this film.

While I enjoy “Small Town Girl,” but I wouldn’t suggest it as a “must see,” unless you are a huge fan of any of the stars in this movie.

Publicity photo of Farley Granger, Jane Powell and Bobby Van for "Small Town Girl."

Publicity photo of Farley Granger, Jane Powell and Bobby Van for “Small Town Girl.”

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