Musical Monday: Gold Diggers of 1935 (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.

This week’s musical:
Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935) – Musical #149

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Busby Berkeley

Starring:
Dick Powell, Gloria Stuart, Adolphe Menjou, Alice Brady, Hugh Herbert, Glenda Farrell, Grant Mitchell, Wini Shaw, Frank McHugh, Joseph Cawthorn, Dorothy Dare, Virginia Grey (uncredited), Dennis O’Keefe (uncredited)

Plot:
The luxury hotel, The Wentworth, opens to wealthy patrons. Rich Mrs. Prentiss (Brady) is controlling of her daughter Ann Prentiss (Stuart) and is pushing her to marry T. Mosley Thorpe (Herbert). Mrs. Prentiss relents to letting Ann have a fun and free summer as long as she marries Mosley at the end of the summer. Mrs. Prentiss strikes a deal with hotel desk clerk Dick Curtis (Powell) if he agrees to escort Ann through the summer.

Dick Powell and Gloria Stuart

Trivia:
-Chorus dancer Jack Grieves died at age 26 on the set of “Gold Diggers of 1935” while Berkeley was directing “Lullaby of Broadway.” The cause of Grieves’ death was written as “acute indigestion,” according to Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak

-Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell were originally set to star in this film. But after Flirtation Walk, Keeler and Powell asked to not star together for a little while because they were being type-cast. Gloria Stuart replaced Ruby Keeler for the film, according to The Women of Warner Brothers by Daniel Bubbeo

-Busby Berkely’s first film directing the entire film (both the dance numbers and narrative)

-Busby Berkeley used 56 pianos (that didn’t have to play music) in the “Words Are in My Heart” number, according to Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak

-In the “Lullaby of Broadway” number, Wini Shaw’s head turns and she starts smoking a cigarette. This was supposed to model Man Ray’s 1920 photograph “Woman Smoking a Cigarette,” according to Spivak’s book.

-The fourth “Gold Diggers” film in the series that began in 1929 and ended in 1938.

-Music by Harry Warren and Al Dubin

-Costumes by Orry-Kelly

Highlights:
-Film begins with people at the hotel dancing
-The Lullaby of Broadway number

Notable Songs:
-“The Words Are in My Heart” performed by Dick Powell and ensemble
-“The Lullaby of Broadway” performed by Wini Shaw and Dick Powell, ensemble
-“I’m Going Shopping with You” performed by Dick Powell and Gloria Stuart

My review:
“Gold Diggers of 1935” is a funny and entertaining musical filled to the gills with 1930s Warner Brothers stars. The storyline is similar to other Warner Brothers musicals starring Dick Powell in this time frame. Powell is the clean-cut young man and falls in love with a wealthy young girl (Gloria Stuart) that he’s supposed to be chaperoning. Alice Brady plays the girl’s wacky, penny-pinching mother trying to get her to marry Hugh Herbert. And Adolphe Monjou is a Russian dance director. In this film, the gold diggers aren’t showgirls as they are in the previous films. The gold diggers are the hotel workers who don’t receive a salary and only work for tips.

Adolphe Menjou, Joseph Cawthorn, Alice Brady, Grant Mitchell and Glenda Farrell in Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)

While the storyline has several humorous moments (especially Adolphe Monjou directing chorus girls with a meat cleaver), the truly memorable segment of this movie is the 9-minute long “Lullaby of Broadway” number.

It begins in darkness with only Wini Shaw’s face as she sings “Lullaby of Broadway.” From there, the number tells a story of a “Broadway Baby” and her boyfriend who enjoy the nightlife of New York (all filled with Busby Berkeley’s imaginative shots and designs). The couple’s story ends rather grimly.

While “The Words Are In My Heart” features ladies at rotating pianos, “Lullaby of Broadway” is the Berkeley highlight in this film. It’s funny, I can think of this number and know the choreography, visuals, costumes and story by heart…but I often can’t remember which Berkeley film it’s frome. That’s how memorable it is…and it also speaks to how the film is entertaining, but not easy to distinguish from other films starring Dick Powell with direction by Berkeley. (I actually thought this number was in another film because I didn’t remember Gloria Stuart’s story being remarkable).

Pianos for the The Words Are In My Heart number

There are only three actual songs performed in the film, which is surprising especially for a Dick Powell film. But this is undeniably a musical, especially because it opens with groundskeepers and staff of the hotel dancing as they prepare for the opening.

I do have one beef with this film: Glenda Farrell was completely wasted. Farrell plays Hugh Herbert’s chiseling stenographer but has very little screentime. At one point, it had been so long since we had seen her that I forgot she was in the film!

Something else odd about this film: a dancer Jack Grieves collapsed on the set on Jan. 10, 1935, while filming the “Lullaby of Broadway” number. I wasn’t able to find much on Grieves, except for Jan. 11, 1935, news clippings that said Grieves collapsed and died from “acute indigestion” and was survived by wife Feleta Crawford and had an 11-month-old baby.

If you are a fan of Busby Berkeley musicals, don’t miss this one. Especially since it includes some of his best directed numbers.

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Musical Monday: Varsity Show (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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Varsity Show (1937) – Musical #99

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
William Keighley

Starring:
Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane, Priscilla Lane, Ted Healy, Walter Catlett, Sterling Holloway, Johnnie Davis, Lee Dixon, Ford Washington Lee, John William Sublett, Mabel Todd, Edward Brophy, Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, Carole Landis (uncredited)

Plot:
Winfield College students (Lane, Lane, Healy, Holloway, Davis) need a successful varsity show. The last few years have been a flop and the old-fashioned staff is ready to outlaw swing in the shows. The students try to get alumnus Chuck Daly (Powell), who is now on Broadway, to stage their show. While they think he’s a New York success, his shows have been flops.

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Musical Monday: Gold Diggers of 1937 (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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

GoldDiggers1937001This week’s musical:
“Gold Diggers of 1937” (1936)– Musical #216

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Lloyd Bacon

Starring:
Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Glenda Farrell, Victor Moore, Lee Dixon, Osgood Perkins, Rosalind Marquis, Irene Ware, Carole Landis (uncredited), Jane Wyman (uncredited)

Plot:
Sickly Broadway producer J.J. Hobart (Moore) is broke but doesn’t know it. His scheming assistants, who are responsible for the financial downfall, decide to take out a $1 million insurance policy on Hobart so they can collect when he dies. While they work to keep him unhealthy with the help of Genevieve Larkin (Farrell), insurance salesman Rosmer Peck (Powell) and his girl Norma Perry (Blondell) try to keep him healthy.

Trivia:
-Choreography by Busby Berkeley
-Carole Landis and Jane Wyman played uncredited chorus girls in the film
-The song “Hush Mah Mouth” was written for the film but not used.
-This film follows four “gold diggers” movies made from 1923 to 1936: The Gold Diggers (1923), Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935). One more movie follows this film, “Gold Diggers in Paris” (1938)

Dick Powell and Joan Blondell in "Gold Diggers of 1937"

Dick Powell and Joan Blondell in “Gold Diggers of 1937”

Highlights:
-The “All’s Fair in Love and War” number choreographed by Busby Berkeley

Notable Songs:
-“With Plenty of Money and You” performed by Dick Powell
-“Life Insurance Song” performed by Dick Powell
-“Speaking of the Weather” performed by Dick Powell and Joan Blondell
-“All’s Fair in Love and War” performed by Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Lee Dixon, Rosalind Marquis

Dancers during the "All's Fair in Love and War" number in "Gold Diggers of 1937"

Dancers during the “All’s Fair in Love and War” number in “Gold Diggers of 1937”

My review:
“Gold Diggers of 1937” may not be as well known as it’s pre-code counterparts with “We’re in the Money” and “Lullaby of Broadway,” but I think it’s just as fun–if not more.

This was filmed during what we should call “The Dick Powell mustache years.” This movie is the start of the end of his crooning days, which ended officially in 1944 with Meet the People. However, Powell still sells a song as good as ever.

Glenda Farrell and Victor Moore in "Gold Diggers of 1937"

Glenda Farrell and Victor Moore in “Gold Diggers of 1937”

While Ruby Keeler and Ginger Rogers aren’t part of the gold digging teams, this film has an excellent cast. Glenda Farrell and Joan Blondell are wonderful, as always, and the lesser known Rosalind Marquis is also adorable.

While this film is fun and very witty, the best part of this musical are the songs. They are all so catchy and you’ll keep singing them for the rest of the day, especially “Plenty of Money and You.”

The “All’s Fair in Love and War” is a really fun musical number as well with a fun tune.

Catch this one. It will keep you smiling throughout the whole 100 minutes.

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Musical Monday: I Live for Love (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.

i live for loveThis week’s musical:
“I Love for Love” (1935)– Musical #547

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Busby Berkeley

Starring:
Dolores Del Rio, Everett Marshall, Guy Kibbee, Allen Jenkins, Berton Churchill, Hobart Cavanaugh, Don Alvarado

Plot:
Donna (Del Rio) is a diva of the stage and wants her lover Rico (Alvarado) as her leading man. To keep this from happening, the producers (Churchill, Cavanaugh) grab Roger Kerry (Marshall) off the street and say he has a contract. Donna and Roger butt heads, he’s replaced by Rico, and Donna’s play flops. While her fame flops, Roger rises as a huge radio star. The two eventually fall in love, and Roger wants both of them to leave their careers behind.

Trivia:
-This is the second and last film of the film’s leading man, Everett Marshall. Marshall was a Metropolitan Opera singer and preferred the stage.
-Originally titled “Romance in a Glass House, according to Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak

Benton Churchill and Dolores Del Rio in "I Live for Love."

Benton Churchill and Dolores Del Rio in “I Live for Love.”

Highlights:
-Allen Jenkins dancing and singing to a ridiculous tune

Notable Songs:
-“Mine Alone” performed by Everett Marshall
-“I Live for Love” performed by Everett Marshall

My review:
“I Live for Love” is a fairly forgettable hour-long film.

Though this musical was directed by Busby Berkeley directed films, there are no Berkeley numbers—really no dance numbers in the film at all. The only musical numbers in the film are performed by opera singer, Everett Marshall.

Dolores Del Rio is always photographed beautifully and capable in her films, but t

Not familiar the name Everett Marshall? That’s not surprising. Marshall, a Metropolitan Opera and Broadway performer, was only in two films and this was his last film.

Though Marshall and Del Rio are the stars, character actors Allen Jenkins, Berton Churchill, Hobart Cavanaugh and Guy Kibbee are the real stars of the show. They carried the film and were the most memorable characters.

If you are a fan of Warner Brother’s fan or trying to see Busby Berkeley, I suggest seeing it. If not, don’t waste your time.

Dolores Del Rio and Everett Marshall in "I Live for Love."

Dolores Del Rio and Everett Marshall in “I Live for Love.”

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Musical Monday: Dames (1934)

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:
Dames (1934) – Musical #225

dames poster

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Ray Enright, Busby Berkeley

Starring:
Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Hugh Herbert, Zasu Pitts, Guy Kibbee

Plot:
Eccentric cousin Ezra Ounce (Herbert) decides to divide up his fortune of $10 million before he dies. Part of this will go to his cousin Mathilda and her husband. However, Ezra hates actors and their daughter is looking at going into show business.

Trivia:
-Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell’s fourth film together.
-Ruby Keeler’s last film with Busby Berkely.

Notable Songs:
-Dames performed by Dick Powell
-I Only Have Eyes for You performed by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler
-Try to See It My Way performed by Dick Powell
-The Girl at the Ironing Board performed by Joan Blondell

Ruby Keeler dancing in "Dames."

Ruby Keeler dancing in “Dames.”

Publicity photo of Dick Powell and several "Dames."

Publicity photo of Dick Powell and several “Dames.”

Highlights:
-The elaborate “Only Have Eyes for You” number that features several large shots and blown up pictures of Ruby Keeler. The best part is when Keeler rises up from below the stage through a trap door, that happens to be in the pupil of her eye.

 

blondell

Joan Blondell causing trouble for Guy Kibbee in “Dames.”

My review:
While “42nd Street” and “Footlight Parade” are my top two favorite Busby Berkeley directed films starring Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell (one of seven), “Dames” comes in at a close third.
Like the other two, “Dames” has it all: An excellent cast, breathtaking Berkeley directed musical numbers, toe tapping songs, humor and it’s very pre-code. In fact, I find “Dames” to be pretty hilarious.
An great example of humor and pre-code in “Dames” is when Guy Kibbee finds Joan Blondell stowing away in his bed on a train. Blondell isn’t wearing pajamas and Kibbee is fearful of a scandal that would make him lose the millions of dollars his very moral cousin has agreed to leave him. When Kibbee orders her to leave, she says “Why? I don’t snore.”
More humor comes when cousins Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell are in love, but we learn Powell is Keeler’s 13th cousin.
The film’s plot mainly revolves around Cousin Ezra’s (Herbert) moral code and hating theater people. This is why Ezra has disowned his relative Jimmy (Powell), because he is in the theater and trying to put on a show. As long as his family members Horace (Kibbee), Mathilda (Pitts) and Barbara (Keeler), don’t interact with Jimmy, they will get $6 million. However, Barbara is in love with Jimmy and also plans to audition to for his show.
Further complications arise when Mabel (Blondell) plans to blackmail Horace for money, know he would lose the $6 million if Ezra knew of their run in on the train.
Joan Blondell is wonderful in this film, as she is with everything else. We learn in these musicals that she really lacks the pipes to carry a tune, but her character and humor make up for it.
The “Only Have Eyes for You” number is really outstanding. it’s really a solid 5 minute homage to Ruby Keeler, complete with people dancing with large cut outs of her face and her face becoming the dance floor.
As far as Busby Berkeley, pre-code musicals go, “Dames” is the tops. Add it to your list of “must sees.”

 

Some Busby Berkeley shots: 

dames4 dames5 dames busby dames3 dames2 Dames1

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Classic Films in Music Videos: Aeroplane by Red Hot Chili Peppers

This is November’s edition of Comet Over Hollywood’s film references in music videos.

Director/choreographer Busby Berkeley was known for his elaborate nature and kaleidoscope-like musical numbers.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers used scenes from Esther Williams films such as "Million Dollar Mermaid" for inspiration in their music video "Aereoplane"

The Red Hot Chili Peppers used scenes from Esther Williams films such as “Million Dollar Mermaid” for inspiration in their music video “Aereoplane”

His work has been mimicked in movies such as “The Great Muppet Caper” to music videos such the the 1995 Red Hot Chili Peppers song “Aeroplane.”

The music video begins with girls in gold sequined body suits.

Esther Williams in her gold sequined costume for "Million Dollar Mermaid" (1952)

Esther Williams in her gold sequined costume for “Million Dollar Mermaid” (1952)

Berkeley directed swimming star Esther Williams in two films, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (1949) and the biographical film on Annette Kellerman, “Million Dollar Mermaid ” (1952.)

In “Million Dollar Mermaid,” Williams wears an aluminum crown and a gold swimsuit, made of 50,000 sequins. Williams said in her autobiography, “The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography” that it weighed her down like chain-mail.

When Williams dove into the water, the crown hit the water, she broke three vertebrae and was in a full body cast for six months, she wrote.

Also, in the Red Hot Chilli Peppers video, girls swing on trapezes- like in “Easy to Love” (1953) or “Million Dollar Mermaid” (1952). At another part in the video girls dive sideways into the pool, reminiscent of a scene from “Bathing Beauty” (1944).

Another example of a Busby Berkeley kaleidoscope-like shot can be scene at 2:51, which is similar to scene from “42nd Street” (1933). 

Thank you our friends over at Hollywood Revue for telling us the references in this video a few months ago!

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