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.
Lana Turner, Ann Rutherford, Richard Carlson, Roscoe Karns, Lee Bowman, Thurston Hall, Monty Woolley, Leon Errol, Mary Field, Walter Kingsford, Mary Beth Hughes, June Preisser, Chester Clute, Edward Arnold Jr. (uncredited), Robert Walker (uncredited), Lynn Lewis (uncredited)
Himself: Artie Shaw and his Orchestra
S. Sylvan Simon
Before starring in another film together, husband and wife dancing duo Freddy (Bowman) and Toddy Tobin (Hughes) discover they are going to have a baby and Toddy has to be replaced in their upcoming film, “Dancing Co-Ed.” In a publicity stunt, the studio announces that they are going to have a contest at colleges across the country to find a dancing student. The only thing is that dancer Patty Marlow (Turner) has already been planted at Midwestern College to win the contest. School newspaper reporter Pug Braddock (Carlson) suspects that the contest is phony and tries to uncover a plant.
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.
Paulette Goddard, Fred Astaire, Artie Shaw, Burgess Meredith, Charles Butterworth
Danny O’Neill (Astaire) and Hank Taylor (Meredith) are seventh year college students who flunk on purpose to continue playing the trumpet in their college jazz band.
They meet Ellen Miller (Goddard) who becomes their manager for the band. And when band leader Artie Shaw (as himself) hires Ellen, Danny and Hank scheme and double cross each other to get into Shaw’s band.
-Astaire and Meredith are both supposed to be college students. Though they were supposed to be in college for seven years, they were both much too old to be students. Astaire was 41 and Meredith was 33.
-Meredith and Goddard were married at one time, but no during this film. The two actors didn’t get married until 1944.
-Billy Butterfield dubbed Meredith’s trumpet playing and Bobby Hackett dubbed Astaire’s. If you play a musical instrument or were ever in band, it’s pretty obvious that neither is playing. They are pretty terrible at faking it.
Artie Shaw and his band performing in “Second Chorus.”
-No song really stands out, though you do get to hear Artie Shaw and his band perform several time. This is another example of having the opportunity to hear a popular band leader of that time period.
-Goddard and Astaire dance together in the song “Dig It.”
-A good comedic moment for Goddard is when she talks to varying groups of people to sell the Astaire and Meredith’s bands. She talks to proper old women, thugs and teenagers-acting like she is one of them with each.
-Astaire works in a Russian restaurant and plays in the restaurant band, dressed as a Cossack. He does the Cossack dance while (pretending) to play the trumpet.
Astaire, dressed as a Cossack, does the Cossack dance while playing the trumpet. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screencap by Jessica Pickens)
-The finale includes Astaire directing a band while tap dancing and eventually while tap dancing and playing the trumpet. Far-fetched but fairly entertaining.
Astaire leaps while directing Artie Shaws band and tap dancing in the finale of “Second Chorus.” (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen cap by Jessica Pickens)
This is a fairly enjoyable film but one of Fred Astaire’s more forgettable movies. However, I would rank it better than the Astaire and Joan Fontaine musical, “A Damsel In Distress.”
Also, for a Fred Astaire musical, he had far fewer musical numbers than usual and the film seemed more like a vehicle to highlight Artie Shaw and his band.
The thing that bugged me the most were how badly Meredith and Astaire faked playing the trumpet. Bad form, puffing of cheeks, one hand playing. I guess that comes from being in the band for several years.
Also, though Astaire and Meredith are good actors, I would say Paulette Goddard acted circles around them both and was the best part of the movie.