Musical Monday: Going My Way (1944)

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:
Going My Way (1944) – Musical #595

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Leo McCarey

Starring:
Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Frank McHugh, Risë Stevens, Gene Lockhart, Jean Heather, James Brown, Porter Hall, Fortunio Bonanova, Eily Malyon, Stanley Clements, Carl ‘Alfalfa’ Switzer, Adeline De Walt Reynolds, William Frawley (uncredited), Anita Sharp-Bolster (uncredited)
The Robert Mitchell Boy Choir

Plot:
Father Fitzgibbon (Fitzgerald) is the head of a church that is facing financial troubles. Father Chuck O’Malley (Crosby) is assigned to help get the church back on its feet. Father O’Malley has new, unconventional ideas of how to help the community and raise money for the church. O’Malley and Fitzgibbon face differences of opinions, while they both try to do what’s best.

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Musical Monday: Going Hollywood (1933)

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.

going hollywoodThis week’s musical:
Going Hollywood” (1933)– Musical #123

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Raoul Walsh

Starring:
Marion Davies, Bing Crosby, Fifi D’Orsay, Stuart Erwin, Ned Sparks, Patsy Kelly, Bobby Watson, Sterling Holloway (uncredited)

Plot:
Sylvia Bruce (Davies) is board as a French teacher at Briarcroft’s School for Girls. After hearing a romantic tune on the radio performed by Bill Williams (Crosby), Sylvia packs her bags to head out to find excitement, romance and to thank Bill for inspiring her. Bill is heading to Hollywood to make a film with French actress Lili Yvonne (D’Orsay) and Sylvia follows him.

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Musical Monday: We’re Not Dressing (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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

we're not posterThis week’s musical:
“We’re Not Dressing” –Musical #264

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Norman Taurog

Starring:
Carole Lombard, Bing Crosby, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Ethel Merman, Leon Erroll, Ray Milland, Jay Henry

Plot:
-Heiress Doris Worthington (Lombard) is on a yatch trip with her friends (Erroll, Merman) and two princes who want to marry her (Milland, Henry). However, Doris keeps going between making eyes at and arguing with singing sailor Stephen Jones (Crosby). An accident causes the yacht to sink, and Jones ends up with Doris and her helpless, wealthy friends on an uninhabited island. None of them are used to working and Jones is the only one with survival skills. He soon has everyone except Doris working. Also on the island are husband and wife explorers (Burns, Allen).

Carole Lombard and Bing Crosby in "We're Not Dressing"

Carole Lombard and Bing Crosby in “We’re Not Dressing”

Trivia:
-The song “The Animal in Me” was performed by Ethel Merman but was cut from the film. It was later used instead in “The Big Broadcast of 1936” (1935). Merman’s song “He Reminds Me Of You” was also cut from the film.
-Based on a 1902 play, “The Admirable Crichton.”
-Filmed on Santana Catalina Island.

Highlights:
-During the credits, the waves are used as a transition.

-Gracie Allen and George Burns

Droopy the Bear swoons for Bing Crosby's singing.

Droopy the Bear swoons for Bing Crosby’s singing.

Notable Songs:
-“Goodnight, Little Lady” performed by Bing Crosby
-“She Reminds Me of You” performed by Bing Crosby
-“I Positively Refuse to Sing” performed by Bing Crosby
-“Love They Neighbor” performed by Bing Crosby
-“It’s Just an Old Spanish Custom” performed by Ethel Merman and Leon Errol (Only notable because it’s only one of two songs the famous singer performs)

My Review:
If you’re looking for a film complete with a shipwreck and dancing bear who swoons for Bing Crosby’s crooning, this is your movie.
“We’re Not Dressing” is odd, off-beat and mildly irritating at times. But for me- none of that is really a commentary on any of the stars. Except maybe for Leon Errol. He always annoys me.
Lombard and her gaggle of socialites are sailing on the Pacific ocean. We are never told what their destination was supposed to be, but I don’t think that is actually important in the script. I think the fact that they were aimlessly sailing in a yacht with two princes was just to emphasize spoiled Lombard’s wealth.

Lombard and her two princes- Ray Milland and Jay Henry.

Lombard and her two princes- Ray Milland and Jay Henry.

Also to reiterate the wealth is her pet bear named Droopy. Droopy loves when Bing Crosby sings. At one point Droopy the Bear even roller-skates around the boat.
The boat crashes when drunken Leon Errol attempts to steer the boat, causing it to capsize.
Once on the island, Lombard is angry because Crosby won’t act as a servant to her, even though she fired him while they were on the boat. Predictably, Lombard ends up falling in love with Crosby.
Bing Crosby’s character is probably the only sane person in the bunch. He also gives the best performance. But you better love Crosby’s crooning if you watch this film, because he sings roughly seven songs in this 74 minute film.
Carole Lombard is beautiful and her comedy isn’t overwhelming (I love My Man Godfrey, but I feel like I have to catch my breath at the end). Her character is very huffy though, so that was a bit annoying.
Ethel Merman was wasted, singing only two songs, and so were Gracie Allen and George Burns. For me, Allen and Burns were the true bright spot of this movie.
With a cast boasting so many big names, I think the real issue here is the goofy story line.
I won’t say I didn’t like “We’re Not Dressing,” it just sort of left me feeling scattered and scratching my head at the end, wondering what I just watched.

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Christmas Musical Monday: “Holiday Inn” (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.

holiday inn posterThis week’s musical:
Holiday Inn” (1942) –Musical #22

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Mark Sandrich

Starring:
Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, Walter Abel, Louise Beavers

Plot:
Singer Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) and dancer Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire) are both in love with Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale). When Lila jilts Jim for Ted, Jim decides to quit show business and live on a farm.Jim ends up converting his farm into a nightclub and hotel called the Holiday Inn which is only opened during the 15 holidays of the year.
When Jim meets Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), she agrees to appear in his shows at the inn, and the two fall in love. However, Jim works to keep Linda from meeting Ted -who was also jilted by Lila-so he doesn’t steal her for an act and her heart.
Holidays and their songs include:
Christmas (twice)-  “White Christmas”
New Years (twice) -“Happy Holidays” and “Let’s Start the New Year Right”
Valentines Day- “Be Careful, It’s My Heart”
Abraham’s Birthday: “Abraham”
Washington’s Birthday: “I Can’t Tell a Lie”
Easter: “Easter Parade”
Fourth of July: “Song of Freedom” and “Let’s Say it with Fireworks”
-Thanksgiving- “I’ve Got Plenty to Be Thankful For”

Trivia:
-The hotel chain Holiday Inn was inspired by the title of this film, according to the hotel founder Kemmons Wilson’s New York times obituary.
-This film introduced the song “White Christmas.” Irving Berlin thought of the song “White Christmas” in 1935 on the set of “Top Hat” and wanted to use it for a Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film. Astaire liked the tune but it was never used until their film. Irving Berlin and Moss Hart worked and copyrighted the idea for a musical revue revolving around tunes for each holiday, according to “The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin” by Robert Kimball and Linda Emmett.

– Irving Berlin had a hard time writing the Christmas song “White Christmas” since he was Jewish. He ran the song by Bing Crosby, who thought it would be great, according to “Christmas’s Most Wanted” by Kevin Cuddihy.

Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds (dubbed by Martha Mears) sing "White Christmas" at the end of the film.

Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds (dubbed by Martha Mears) sing “White Christmas” which became a hit due to this film.

-The film originally was supposed include a dance number for Labor Day.

-The original version of the song “White Christmas” talked about basking in Los Angeles and longing for an old fashioned Christmas in New England. But the version we know now is more nostalgic, discussing a Christmas that a person won’t experience first hand-much like the soldiers fighting over seas during World War II, according to “World War II and the Postwar Years in America.”

-Mary Martin turned down the role of Linda played by Marjorie Reynolds because she was pregnant, according to her autobiography.

-Fred Astaire’s shoes he danced in during the Firecracker routine were auctioned off for $116,000 that went towards the war effort.

-The popularity of the song “White Christmas” created the spin off film “White Christmas” (1954) also starring Bing Crosby and co-starring Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney, according to the book “Christmas’s Most Wanted.”

-Fred Astaire was the first choice for the Danny Kaye Role in “White Christmas” (1954) to be a reunion after “Holiday Inn,” but Astaire turned down the role, according to the “Christmas Encyclopedia” by William D. Crump

-Paramount Pictures did not market this film as a Christmas movie since it covers many other holidays, according to “World War II and the Postwar Years in America” by William and Nancy Young.

Fred Astaire in firecracker number for the Fourth of July.

Fred Astaire in firecracker number for the Fourth of July.

-The Fourth of July number was expanded and made more patriotic after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; including the song “Song of Freedom,” “Let’s Say it with Firecrackers” and a movie reel of war workers and soldiers marching.

-Paramount thought “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” would be the hit from the film. Though it made the Hit Parade first with Tommy Dorsey’s Band, “White Christmas” was the true hit, according to “World War II and the Postwar Years in America.”

-Won an Academy Award for Best Original Song- “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score by Robert Emmett Dolan and Best Original Story by Irving Berlin.

-Marjorie Reynolds is dubbed by Martha Mears.

Highlights:

Fred Astaire dances with Marjorie Reynolds during the New Years scene where he took drinks of bourbon before each take.

Fred Astaire dances with Marjorie Reynolds during the New Years scene where he took drinks of bourbon before each take.

-Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby imitate each other in the number “I’ll Capture Your Heart Singing.” 
-Fred Astaire’s drunken New Years Eve dance. Supposedly Astaire had a drink of bourbon before each take-it took seven-to appear drunk in the scene.
-Fred Astaire’s “Say it With Fireworks” dance for the Fourth of July number where he throws down fireworks while he taps.
-The cartoon turkey on the calendar that runs between the dates for Thanksgiving Day. This is referring to “Franksgiving,” a controversy that occurred during the Roosevelt administration. President Roosevelt wanted to make Thanksgiving a week earlier.

 

Notable Songs: 
Since the music is by Irving Berlin, all of the songs are fantastic. The top songs include:
-“White Christmas” sung by Bing Crosby. This is the most famous song in the movie. The version sung by Cosby in the movie is the one you hear most on the radio.
-“You’re Easy to Dance With” sung and danced by Fred Astaire and Virginia Dale
-“I Can’t Tell a Life” sung by Fred Astaire for Washington’s Birthday dressed in period clothing.
-“Easter Parade” sung by Bing Crosby to Marjorie Reynolds for the Easter portion.

My Review:
When I first saw this movie several years ago, I didn’t like it.
I thought Fred Astaire was a bit of a heel and had no redeeming features. However, as I rewatch it, I see both men are heels at different points in the movie.
Characters aside- the thing that stands out the most is the music-all revolving around holidays. Irving Berlin’s songs written for each holiday are catchy and clever.
Fred Astaire also is able to show off his dancing abilities both with partners and in solo numbers. Bing Crosby has an excellent score and sings the song he is most remembered for.
“Holiday Inn” is an interesting topic for a film and is musically beautiful.
If you are looking for a Christmas movie, it doesn’t completely revolve around the holiday (but Christmas is in the film three times) and introduced one of the most loved holiday songs.

Bing Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds, Fred Astaire, Virginia Dale

Bing Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds, Fred Astaire, Virginia Dale

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Metropolitan Opera singer dies at age 99

Actress, opera singer Rise Stevens in 1941

Actress, opera singer Rise Stevens in 1941

A Kennedy Center Honoree, 351 performances at the Metropolitan Opera House and handful of Hollywood films.

Opera singer and actress Risë Stevens had an impressive resume, including a 62 year marriage.

The singer who performed “Carmen” 124 times passed away March 20 at the age of 99.

Stevens with Barry Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby in Going My Way, 1944

Stevens with Barry Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby in Going My Way, 1944

She is best known in the opera world for being a successful operatic singer on the stage. However, classic film fans will recognize her from her role in the Bing Crosby film “Going My Way” (1944).

In the film, Stevens plays an old girlfriend of Crosby, who is now a Catholic priest, Father O’Malley. After he turned to life as a priest Stevens becomes a successful singer and performs selections from “Carmen” in the movie. Stevens helps save the church from financial troubles by performing a piece of music written by Father O’Malley, “Going My Way.”

“I probably would never have reached that vast public had I not done films,” said Stevens. “At least, I won a lot of people over to opera.”

Stevens’s first film was in 1941 with fellow opera singer, Nelson Eddy in “The Chocolate Soldier.”

Rise Stevens and Nelson Eddy in The Chocolate Soldier, 1941

Rise Stevens and Nelson Eddy in The Chocolate Soldier, 1941

“He really could have had an operatic career, but he just made too much money, too soft and too easy,” she said.

But her career is much vaster than a few Hollywood films.

Stevens performed with the Metropolitan Opera from 1938 until 1961, leaving the opera while she still had her voice, according to her obituary in the Miami Herald.

“It always bothered me, these great singers when I heard them again and again, remembering how magnificent they sounded once and no more,” she said.

Born in New York, she sang on the “Children’s Hour” radio show when she was a little girl. She later studied at Julliard. When she was invited to perform with the Metropolitan Opera, she declined. She said she wasn’t ready and made her formal debut in Europe, according to her New York Times obituary.

“I had a good career,” she is quoted in her Miami Herald obituary. “Now the joy is in watching the young musicians grow, mature, and perhaps become successes.”

Rest in peace to one of America’s best singers: Rise Stevens.

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Happy Thanksgiving from Bing

Here’s to a Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and hoping that you are having a better time than Bing Crosby sings this song in “Holiday Inn” (1942).

Few classic films talk about Thanksgiving but if you are looking for some before jumping into Christmas movies here are a couple:

Holiday Inn (1942): It is mainly considered a Christmas film, but all holidays, including Thanksgiving, are celebrated in this movie.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947): This also is mainly a Christmas film, but the movie starts off with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Maureen O’Hara coordinating the parade. Natalie Wood watches the parade from  John Payne’s apartment window and later invites Payne to dinner.

Plymouth Adventure (1952): Gene Tierney, Spencer Tracy and Van  Johnson don’t sit down and eat a turkey dinner during the film, but it is the story of pilgrims traveling over on the Mayflower to the new world.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

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