Watching 1939: The Day the Bookies Wept (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.

bookkies wept1939 film:
The Day the Bookies Wept (1939)

Release date:
Sept. 13, 1939

Cast:
Joe Penner, Betty Grable, Richard Lane, Tom Kennedy, Thurston Hall, Bernadene Hayes, Carol Hughes, Chill Wills (uncredited)

Studio:
RKO Pictures

Director:
Leslie Goodwins

Plot:
New York taxi drivers are tired of losing money at the race track, so they decide to buy and train their own race horse. They send dopey taxi driver Ernie (Penner) to Kentucky to buy the horse, and he is tricked into buying a horse that has a yen for alcohol.

Continue reading

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

pigskin paradeThis week’s musical:
Pigskin Parade (1936) – Musical #179

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
Stuart Erwin, Jack Haley, Patsy Kelly, Johnny Downs, Arline Judge, Betty Grable, Dixie Dunbar, Judy Garland, Tony Martin (billed as Anthony Martin), Grady Sutton, Julius Tannen, Fred Kohler, Jr.
Themselves: The Yacht Club Boys

Plot:
Texas State University is accidentally picked as the team to play against Yale in a big football game. When new coach Slug Winters (Haley) and his wife Bessie (Kelly) realize the football team is hopeless, they look for an answer. That comes in the form of hillbilly Amos Dodd (Erwin), who has never played football but can kick and throw like a dream. The only issue is getting Amos and his sister Sairy (Garland) enrolled in the college.

Continue reading

Musical Monday: Thrill of a Lifetime (1937)

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.

thrill of a lifetime2This week’s musical:
The Thrill of a Lifetime (1937) – Musical #673

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
George Archainbaud

Starring:
Leif Erickson, Judy Canova, Betty Grable, Buster Crabbe (as Larry Crabbe), Ben Blue, Johnny Downs, Eleanore Whitney, Franklin Pangborn, Anne Canova, Zeke Canova, the Yacht Club Boys (Charles Adler, George Kelly, Billy Mann, Jimmie Kern), Marjorie Reynolds (uncredited),
Themselves: Dorothy Lamour

Plot:
Betty Jane (Whitney) and Judy (Canova) have a sister act with Stanley (Downs). When Stanley and Betty Jane are offered a performing gig without Judy, they decide to go to Camp Romance to find Judy a husband. The camp is for singles looking for love and is run by Howard Nelson (Erickson), who doesn’t believe in love and has written a play called “There Ain’t Not Such Thing as Love.” While Howard doesn’t believe in love, his secretary Gwen (Grable) is in love with him.

Continue reading

Musical Monday: Student Tour (1934)

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:
Student Tour (1934) – Musical #255

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Charles Reisner

Starring:
Jimmy Durante (billed as Jimmie Durante), Charles Butterworth, Maxine Doyle, Phil Regan, Douglas Fowley, Florine McKinney, Monte Blue, Mischa Auer (uncredited), Bruce Bennett (uncredited), James Ellison (uncredited), Dick Foran (uncredited), Ann Rutherford (uncredited), Arthur Treacher (uncredited)
Himself: Nelson Eddy

Plot:
The Bartlett College crew team is scheduled to sail for a world tour competition. The problem is, the whole team is flunking philosophy class. So they don’t miss out on the tour, Ann (Doyle) convinces the philosophy teacher, who is her uncle, (Buttersworth) to travel with the crew team and give the exam aboard. This is because she’s in love with the team’s captain, Bobby Kane (Regan).

Continue reading

Musical Monday: Springtime in the Rockies (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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Springtime in the Rockies (1942) – Musical #163

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Irving Cummings

Starring:
Betty Grable, Carmen Miranda, John Payne, Cesar Romero, Charlotte Greenwood, Edward Everett Horton, Iron Eyes Cody (uncredited), Jackie Gleason (uncredited), Russell Hicks (uncredited), Trudy Marshall (uncredited)
Himself: Harry James and His Music Makers, Six Hits and a Miss, Bando da Lua, Helen Forrest

Plot:
Vicky Lane (Grable) and Dan Christy (Payne) are a Broadway performing duo and also an item. But Vicky gets tired of Dan’s philandering and takes an offer performing at a resort in Lake Louise, located in the Canadian Rockies with her old dance partner Victor Prince (Romero). Dan follows Vicky to the Rockies to try to win her back, and because his career is sunk without her. Along the way he picks up a valet (Horton) and secretary (Miranda), who Vicky thinks he’s in love with.

Continue reading

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.

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

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.”

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

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.

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