TCMFF Musical Monday: The Dolly Sisters (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:
The Dolly Sisters (1945) – Musical #333

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Irving Cummings

Starring:
Betty Grable, John Payne, June Haver, S.Z. Sakall, Reginald Gardiner, Frank Latimore, Sig Ruman, Gene Sheldon, Trudy Marshall, Elmer the Seal, Theresa Harris, J. Farrell MacDonald, Collette Lyons (uncredited), Mae Marsh (uncredited), Ricki Van Dusen (uncredited), Evon Thomas (uncredited), Donna Jo Gribble (uncredited)

Plot:
A fictional biographical musical of the life of Hungarian acting sisters Jenny (Grable) and Rosie (Haver) Dolly. The sister act rose to fame during the 1910s and 1920s and were a top Broadway and European act. Jenny marries songwriter Harry Fox (Payne), who is envious of Jenny’s success.

The real Dolly Sisters

Betty Grable and June Haver as the Dolly Sisters

Trivia:
– The real Dolly sisters were acted from 1907 to the early 1920s. The sisters retired in 1929 and their later life was tumultuous. In 1921, Jenny was in a severe car accident that left required her to have reconstructive facial surgery and multiple other surgeries (her stomach was in her lung chamber). Jenny committed suicide in 1921. Rosie died of a heart attack in 1970.
– Betty Grable originally wanted Dick Haymes for the role as Harry Fox, but Zanuck refused and suggested Perry Como, who Grable said was too short, according to the biography “Pin-Up: The Tragedy of Betty Grable” by Spero Pastos
– George Jessel’s film debut as a movie producer
– The character of Flo Daly is based on Fanny Brice
– Gale Robbins, Janet Blair, Vivian Blaine, Patricia Romero and the Dowling Twins were all considered for roles.

Highlights:
– Orry-Kelly costumes, particularly in the makeup box number

Orry-Kelly costume for lipstick

Orry-Kelly costume for mascara

Notable Songs:
-“The Vamp” performed by June Haver and Betty Grable
-“I Can’t Begin to Tell You” performed by John Payne
-“Give Me the Moonlight, Give Me the Girl” performed by John Payne and Betty Grable
-“Don’t Be Too Old Fashioned (Old Fashioned Girl)” performed by Betty Grable and June Haver
-“Powder, Lipstick and Rouge” performed by the chorus
-“I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” performed by John Payne and Betty Grable

My review:
I adore Betty Grable. I love to watch her candy-coated Technicolor films, her exuberant dancing and the way she can sell a song. I even own a CD of her songs and drive around singing to it.

But in the grand scheme of her films, like “Moon Over Miami” and “Springtime in the Rockies,” I just don’t enjoy “The Dolly Sisters.”

Let’s start with the good points: It’s very colorful and it has some wonderful costumes.

But as far as a the plot of this fictionalized biographical musical, it is not the best of 20th Century Fox’s Technicolor musical extravaganzas.

For me, one thing that taints this movie for me is the co-starring of Betty Grable and June Haver. Appearance wise, Grable and Haver look extremely similar. But their sisterly bond was strictly for the screen. Grable didn’t like or trust June Haver. Grable always remained professional toward her, but also she felt that Haver was gunning for her star status, according to the book Betty Grable: The Reluctant Movie Queen by Doug Warren.

The plot of this movie is also frustrating. Harry Fox, played by John Payne, is bitter that his wife, Jenny Dolly played by Betty Grable, is more famous than he is and wants her to quit. But you can’t just quit a sister act …

The real life Dolly Sisters also ended up having a pretty grim life. They both partied and dated some of the same men, and, as depicted in the film, Jenny Dolly was in a severe car wreck. In real life, Jenny was left destitute and depressed after this, selling her jewels to pay for gambling debts and medical bills. Jenny killed herself in 1941.

As far as the musical numbers, many of them are glittering with great costumes and familiar songs.

However, one is rather cringey. “The Darktown Strutters’ Ball” is a cringey number. After Grable and Haver perform the initial chorus, chorus girls come out in blackface in costumes that perpetuate stereotypes. This includes a performed with a gambling/money motif on her dress and another with a muff that is a watermellon. The sisters then come out in stereotypical child blackface costumes. It’s just bad.

Other costumes in the film are worth mentioning, though. Designed by Orry-Kelly, the costumes for “Powder, Lipstick and Rouge” are so fun. Each chorus girl is dressed as a different cosmetic item. Including a woman with a tall hat to signify lipstick and another with a skirt that looks like a powder puff.

While “The Dolly Sisters,” isn’t my favorite Betty Grable film, it does exhibit the sparkling appeal of 20th Century Fox.

This musical screened at TCMFF on nitrate this weekend.

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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-Academy Award Winners: Mother Wore Tights (1947)

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.

This week’s musical:
Mother Wore Tights– Musical #215

mother wore tights

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Walter Lang

Starring:
Betty Grable, Dan Dailey, Mona Freeman, Connie Marshall, Sara Algood, William Frawley, Sig Ruman, Lee Patrick, Robert Arthur, Vanessa Brown, Kathryn Grimes (uncredited), Mae Marsh (uncredited), Kathleen Lockhart (uncredited)
Narrator: Ann Baxter

Plot:
Narrated from the point of view of a grown daughter, the story follows Myrtle McKinley (Grable) who graduates from high school and accidentally finds herself in vaudeville; shirking her original plans of business college. In vaudeville, she meets and falls in love with fellow performer, Frank Burt (Dailey). The two eventually get married, have children and adjust to life on the road with their children.

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Musical Monday: Wabash Avenue (1950)

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.

wabash-avenue-movie-poster-1950-1020197109This week’s musical:
Wabash Avenue” (1950)– Musical #522

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Henry Koster

Starring:
Betty Grable, Victor Mature, Reginald Gardner, Phil Harris, James Barton, Barry Kelley, Margaret Hamilton

Plot:
In 1892, Ruby Summers (Grable) is the queen of burlesque with her rousing songs, outlandish costumes and shaking of hips. The owner of her dance hall, Mike Stanley (Harris) has cheated Andy Clark (Mature) out of his half ofthe business, and Andy is set to get even. Andy works to ruin Mike’s business and make Ruby into a lady while also making her fall for him.

Trivia:
-Remake of Betty Grable film, “Coney island” (1943), which co-starred George Montgomery and Cesar Romero.
-Josef Myrow and Mack Gordon were nominated for Best Music, Original Song for the song “Wilhelmina”

Notable Songs:
-“I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” performed by Betty Grable
-“May I Tempt You With a Big Red Rosey Apple” performed by Betty Grable
-“Honey Man” performed by Betty Grable
-“Baby Won’t You Say You Love Me” performed by Betty Grable
-“Wilhelmina” performed by Betty Grable

Victor Mature, Betty Grable, Reginald Denny and Phil Harris in

Victor Mature, Betty Grable, Reginald Denny and Phil Harris in “Wabash Avenue.”

My review:
It was rumored that all screenwriters did was take 1943’s “Coney Island,” which also starred Betty Grable, and put a new title page on it to create “Wabash Avenue.”

While I don’t actually think this is the case, “Wabash Avenue” is very similar and nearly is a scene-by-scene remake. I’m not sure why 20th Century Fox decided to remake the same film with the same lead actress, but it’s almost a little off putting.

However, in any film with Betty Grable, it’s difficult not to be drawn to her energetic delivery of a song and dance and “Wabash Avenue” is no exception. In this film, Grable’s Technicolor costumes and songs are fantastic and entertaining.

I of course still enjoyed this film, because I also liked “Coney Island,” but of the two, I prefer “Coney Island” due to the superior male co-stars of Cesar Romero and George Montgomery.

It’s hard to believe that Betty Grable would have anything romantic with Phil Harris-also if you have knowledge of Grable’s friendship with his wife Alice Faye. Though Victor Mature is believable for a grifting cad.

However, “Wabash Avenue” still offers Technicolor fun, regardless of its puzzling similarities to “Coney Island.”

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Musical Monday: My Blue Heaven (1950)

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.

Poster - My Blue Heaven (1950)_01This week’s musical:
“My Blue Heaven” –Musical #274

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Henry Koster

Starring:
Betty Grable, Dan Dailey, David Wayne, Jane Wyatt, Mitzi Gaynor, Una Merkel, Louise Beavers, Elinor Donahue (uncredited)

Plot:
Married radio stars Kitty (Grable) and Jack (Dailey) Moran want to have a baby. After Kitty miscarries, the couple moves to television and tries to adopt a baby.

Trivia:
-Film debut of Mitzi Gaynor
-Third of four films of Dan Dailey and Betty Grable. The others were “Mother Wore Tights” (1947), “When My Baby Smiles at Me” (1948) and “Call Me Mister” (1951).
-Montage dancing shots of Dailey and Grable are numbers edited from “Mother Wore Tights” (1947).
-Ranked No. 10 in the top grossing films of 1950.
-Alternative title: “Stork Don’t Bring Babies”

Betty Grable and Dan Dailey in "My Blue Heaven."

Betty Grable and Dan Dailey in “My Blue Heaven.”

Highlights:
-Dan Dailey’s Enzio Pinza impersonation during the “Friendly Islands” number which is modeled after the “South Pacific.”
-“Don’t Rock the Boat, Dear” number.
-Mitzi Gaynor in her first feature role.

Notable Songs:
-“Don’t Rock the Boat, Dear” performed by Betty Grable and Dan Dailey
-“My Blue Heaven” performed by Betty Grable and Dan Dailey
-“I Love a New York” performed by Betty Grable and Dan Dailey

My Review:
“My Blue Heaven” is a sweet, adorable and emotional little musical.
Two performers learn they won’t be able to have children after having a miscarriage, and try to adopt. However, this is during a time that it was difficult for performers to adopt children, because they seemed unreliable due unconventional work schedules and were more apt to divorce.
While a 1950 New York Times review ripped this to shreds calling it old fashioned, mishmash, I enjoy “My Blue Heaven.”
In the old fashion of her other films, Betty Grable shows off her beautiful legs and sells a song better than anyone else can. However, it also gives both Grable and Dan Dailey the opportunity to give an emotionally charged performance.
Grable shows her elation of pregnancy, and her despair when she loses a baby and as she struggles to adopt a child.
Along with their performances in this film, Grable and Dailey also are an underrated screen team. Starring in four films together, their chemistry is always through the roof.
The topics in this film is also interesting for two reasons:

Mitzi Gaynor in "My Blue Heaven."

Mitzi Gaynor in “My Blue Heaven.”

-As shown in other films such as “Close to My Heart” (1951) and “Blossoms in the Dust” (1941), adopting or promoting adoption was taboo during this time, because parents wouldn’t know what sort of background these “foundlings” came from. However, “My Blue Heaven” doesn’t really focus on that aspect.
-The lead characters are television stars at a time that TV was a large threat to films (and still is).
It’s also fun to see Mitzi Gaynor in her first film role playing a not so savory woman.
My Blue Heaven is heartwarming; making me smile at one point and tear up at the next.

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Musical Monday: Meet Me After the Show (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.

This week’s musical:
“Meet Me After the Show” –Musical #497

meet_me_after_the_show

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Richard Sale

Starring:
Betty Grable, MacDonald Carey, Eddie Albert, Rory Calhoun, Lois Andrews, Irene Ryan, Fred Clark

Plot:
Broadway star Delilah Lee (Grable) is about to start another successful run of a new show written by her husband Jeff Ames (Carey). Jeff discovered Delilah as a cheap singer in Florida and groomed her to be a top star. When Delilah finds out Gloria Carstairs (Andrews) is backing the show and also has the hots for her husband, Delilah leaves him and the show. When Jeff can’t pay the alimony, Delilah feigns amnesia-going back to her performance roots in Florida- to win him back.

Trivia:
-Produced by George Jessel

Highlights:
-Chorus sing “Me-Oh-Miami” as scenes of Miami are shown. Same song was used in the Betty Grable film, “Moon Over Miami.”
-Gwen Verdon as a specialty dancer

Notable Songs:
-Meet Me After the Show performed by Betty Grable
-Betting on a Man performed by Betty Grable

My Review:
For a film that is a musical, I preferred the plot lines over the singing and dancing.
“Meet Me After the Show” has a fairly funny plot line and the non-singing leading men – Eddie Albert and MacDonald Carey- make the film for me. While I love Betty Grable, her performance was overshadowed by the terrible songs that were in this film.
Grable, 20th Century Fox’s top star since the 1940s, has always been able to sell a song with her energy and dancing. But the material she’s given is lousy. One song consists of a lot of body builder-looking men dressed as Romans and Grable dancing around and repeatedly saying “Joe.” I wasn’t sure what Joe and Romans had to do with anything, but the song was annoying. In the number “I Feel Like Dancing” with Gwen Verdon, the two start out dressed like robbers, talk about how they feel like dancing and then suddenly they have Grable in an evening gown. I felt like I missed a major plot line in this song.
The overall film and plot line are fun and funny, but most of the songs had me wishing they would in. However, I wouldn’t overlook it just because of the silly songs. Any Betty Grable film is generally a fun one.

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Back to School Musical Monday: “Old Man Rhythm” (1935)

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.


Old Man posterThis week’s musical:

“Old Man Rhythm” –Musical #267

Studio:
RKO Radio Pictures

Director:
Edward Ludwig

Starring:
Charles “Buddy” Rogers, George Barbier, Barbara Kent, Grace Bradley, Betty Grable, Eric Blore, Erik Rhodes, John Arledge, Johnny Mercer, Donald Meek, Evelyn Poe, Joy Hodges, Lucille Ball (uncredited), Douglas Fowley (uncredited)

Plot:
John Roberts, Sr. (Barbier) hears his son John Roberts, Jr. (Rogers) is doing poorly at college. His grades dropped when he started dating Marion (Bradley), rather than Edith (Kent), who John’s father prefers.
To help get John’s grades back on track and together with Edith, John, Sr. enrolls at the college as a freshman.
But while studying at school, wealthy Roberts’s company begins to suffer.

Trivia:
-Johnny Mercer acts in this film and wrote the lyrics to all of the songs.

Highlights:
-Betty Grable tap dancing in toe shoes after the “Comes a Revolution” number.

Notable Songs:
-“Boys Will Be Boys” sung by Betty Grable, Evelyn Poe, Joy Hodges
-“Comes a Revolution, Baby” sung by Johnny Mercer and Evelyn Poe
-“There’s Nothing Like a College Education” sung by the whole cast

Charles Buddy Rogers, Barbara Kent and George Barbier.

Charles Buddy Rogers, Barbara Kent and George Barbier.

My Review:
“Old Man Rhythm” is an entertaining B-musicals with some actors who later became big names in Hollywood.
It’s hard to resist an old Hollywood collegiate film that makes you wish- Why wasn’t college really like this? The students ride on a train to school together, the dorm rooms like like a 4-star hotels and there is a weenie roast every night.
Of course all the while, the co-eds are singing songs that have lyrics like, “There’s nothing like a college education to teach you how to fall in love.”
This movie is also fun because you can spots stars who later became big names in Hollywood. Betty Grable is one, who has a couple of songs and close-ups in the film. Songwriter Johnny Mercer is also in the film, and not only does he sing, he wrote all of the songs in the film.
There is also an uncredited Lucille Ball as a student.
I would also say that the father, George Barbier, steals the show here-even though the film ends with him goofily beating on timpani drums-alluding that he is “Old Man Rhythm.”
I am also always happy to see actor John Arledge in most films.
This is a cute little film that could help occupy a dull afternoon.

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