Musical Monday: Wintertime (1943)

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.

winterposterThis week’s musical:
Wintertime” (1943) – Musical #560

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
John Brahm

Starring:
Sonja Henie, Cornel Wile, Cesar Romero, Jack Oakie, Carole Landis, S.Z. Cuddles Sakall, Helene Reynolds
Himself: Woody Herman

Plot:
Business partners Skip Hutton (Oakie) and Freddy Austin (Wilde) own a struggling Canadian hotel and are on the brink of foreclosure. When a Norwegian millionaire Hjalmar Ostgaard ( Sakall) and his niece Nora (Henie) stay at the hotel, Uncle Hjalmar is conned into buying the hotel. Nora falls in love with Freddy, but she’s mad that he has to spend most of his time with pretty reporter Marion Daley (Reynolds) so that the hotel can get publicity. Nora also starts performing as an ice skater to earn more money. While Nora is chasing Freddy, singers for Woody Herman’s band Flossie and Brad (Landis, Romero) are having love problems of their own.

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Memorial Day Musical Monday: Four Jills In a Jeep (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.

four jillsThis week’s musical:
“Four Jills and a Jeep” –Musical #514

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
William A. Seiter

Starring:
Carole Landis, Kay Francis, Martha Raye, Mitzi Mayfair, Phil Silvers, John Harvey, Dick Haymes
Themselves: Betty Grable, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, George Jessel, Jimmy Dorsey

Plot:
This musical is based on Carole Landis’s book “Four Jills in a Jeep” about her USO tour in the UK and Northern Africa with Martha Raye, Kay Francis and Mitzi Mayfair. The actresses play themselves.

Trivia:
-Dick Haymes first film.
-The character of Ted Warren is based on Capt. Thomas Wallace, who Landis met abroad and was married to from 1943 to 1945.
-The film opens with a “Command Performance” radio program. These were recorded from 1942 through 1949 and were broadcast on the Armed Forces Radio Network (AFRS) with a direct shortwave transmission to the troops overseas. It was not broadcast over domestic U.S. radio stations.
-Betty Grable’s last black and white film.
-Mitzi Mayfair’s last film.

Publicity photo of Mitzi Mayfair, Martha Raye, Carole Landis and Kay Francis

Publicity photo of Mitzi Mayfair, Martha Raye, Carole Landis and Kay Francis

Notable Songs:
-“You’ll Never Know” performed by Alice Faye
-“I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi (I Like You Very Much)” performed by Carmen Miranda
-“Crazy Me” performed by Carole Landis

My Review:
The New York Times review said, “It (Four Jills in a Jeep) gives the painful impression of having been tossed together in a couple of hours.” This sadly is true. Carole Landis’s 1943 book “Four Jills in a Jeep,” which the film is based off of, is touching and interesting. The film doesn’t half of the charm that the book does.

Landis, Francis and Raye during their USO tour, which this film was based off of.

Landis, Francis and Raye during their USO tour, which this film was based off of.

The book–written in first person by Landis–follow Landis, Kay Francis, Mitzi Mayfair and Martha Raye on their USO tour in England, Ireland, Scotland and Northern Africa which began in October 1942. Not shown in the film, Raye stayed behind in Africa and continued performing on her own; returning in March 1943.
In the book, Landis describes some of their hardships such as freezing cold accommodations and lacks of amenities that they were used to, which is hardly referenced in the film. (Read more about Raye’s USO efforts in this Comet post).
The book also follows Landis’s romance with Capt. Thomas Wallace. This thrown together film mainly focuses on this romance with “Ted Warren” (Harvey), who is supposed to be Wallace.
This musical film does feel thrown together: it is 80 percent musical performances and 20 percent gags written into a thin plot. There is very little attempt at trying to structure a story line that is followable.
The storyline focuses more on these musical numbers and gives very little screen time to Landis, Francis, Mayfair or Raye.
These four actresses spent time overseas to raise the morale for soldiers, and it doesn’t feel like this film even tries to honor their service. Instead, it makes it look like the trip is a constant manhunt. The scenes in Africa (which is the last 20 minutes of the 90 minute film) is the only part that shows some of their services: the actresses help out as nurses and then give a show after working all day in the hospital.
The disappointing thing about “Four Jills in a Jeep” is that this could have been a really warm film if some time had been spent on it. Maybe some of the Phil Silvers corn could have been cut, the storyline could more closely and truthfully followed the real events of Landis, Francis, Mayfair and Raye.

Left: Carole Landis marrying Capt. Thomas Wallace in 1943.  Right: Landis with actor John Harvey in

Left: Carole Landis marrying Capt. Thomas Wallace in 1943.
Right: Landis with actor John Harvey in “Four Jills in a Jeep” who played “Ted Warren,” who was supposed to be Thomas Wallace.

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Musical Monday: “Moon Over Miami” (1941)

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:
“Moon Over Miami” –Musical #162

Poster - Moon Over Miami_04

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Walter Lang

Starring:
Betty Grable, Carole Landis, Don Ameche, Robert Cummings, Charlotte Greenwood, Jack Haley

Plot:
Kay and Barbara Latimer (Grable and Landis) work with their Aunt Susan (Greenwood) at a burger joint in Texas. They think they are going to come into a windfall of money, but only ends up being $4,000. Kay comes up with a scheme where they will go to Miami on the money and get rich husbands. Kay poses as an heiress with her sister acting as her secretary and her aunt poses as her maid. Kay meets two millionaires who are smitten with her- Jeff (Cummings) and Phil (Ameche). Which will she pick and are they everything that they seem they are?

Trivia:
-Joan Davis was cast in the Carole Landis role in March 1941.
-John Payne and Dana Andrews were considered for the male leads.
-Originally supposed to star Virginia Gilmore and Gene Tierney or Arline Judge were conceived to appear in the roles of Barbara and Susan.
-Remake of “Three Blind Mice” (1938)-starring Loretta Young and Joel McCrea-and “The Greeks Had a Word for Them” (1932) starring Joan Blondell, Madge Evans and Ina Claire.
-Remade with “Three Little Girls in Blue” (1946) starring June Haver (who once was called the Pocket Betty Grable), Vivian Blaine and Vera-Ellen.

Highlights:
-The Condos Brothers (Frank and Harry) dance with Grable and then perform in an elaborate South American dance number. Grables dance in “You Started Something” with them is one of my favorite dances in the film.
-Charlotte Greenwood’s flexible, high leg swinging dance moves

One of Charlotte Greenwood's signature dance moves (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen cap by Jessica P)

One of Charlotte Greenwood’s signature dance moves (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen cap by Jessica P)

-In “The Kindergarten Congo,” Grable dances with Hermes Pan, who choreographed many of Fred Astaire’s musical numbers in musical films.
-Betty Grable’s wardrobe. She buys a new wardrobe to catch a millionaire husband and every single outfit is adorable. Here are some picture of my favorites:

moonovermaimi5

My favorite dress in Moon Over Miami. Grable is dancing with the Condos Brothers in “You Started Something” (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen cap by Jessica P.)

Lovely peach evening gown worn by Grable. (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen cap by Jessica P)

Lovely peach evening gown worn by Grable. (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen cap by Jessica P)

Another favorite outfit Grable wears in "The Kindergarten Conga" (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen Cap by Jessica Pickens)

Another favorite outfit Grable wears in “The Kindergarten Conga” (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen Cap by Jessica Pickens)

 

Notable Songs:
-“You Started Something” sung by Robert Cummings and Betty Grable
-“Kindergarten Conga” sung by Betty Grable, which is my favorite number in the film
-“Loveliness and Love” sung by Don Ameche
-“Is That Good?” sung by Charlotte Greenwood and Jack Haley

My Review:
This is my favorite Betty Grable movie and a movie I pop in when I have the blues. It’s colorful, the fashion is great and the songs are catchy and lighthearted. Grable looks her most beautiful and the supporting cast is excellent. Landis isn’t featured as much as Grable but does a great job in all of her scenes. Charlotte Greenwood is always a delight, especially with her goofy dancing. Both leading men are also entertaining and likeable. There are few things I can find wrong with “Moon Over Miami,” other than the fact that it has to end.
It isn’t a heavy film with some great intelligent message. But if you are looking for a pleasant way to spend an hour and a half, I suggest you spend it with “Moon Over Miami”

 
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What does 2012 bring for Comet?

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope everyone has had a great, safe holiday season and are prepared for 2012- if the world does indeed end, please refer to my Mad Max survival post.

Happy New Year around the world from Ann Sheridan and myself.

So what is in store for Comet Over Hollywood in 2012?

A blogathon!

I’ve hinted that I’m planning on doing a blogathon- I’ve actually been thinking about it since this summer, but I was waiting until the holidays ended to formally announce it.

The blogathon will be called “Gone Too Soon” dedicated to actors who passed away before the age of 50, such as Natalie Wood, Jean Harlow, Carole Landis, Bobby Driscol, John Hodiak-just to name a few.

I’m scheduling the blogathon for March 9 and 10.  I will do another post listing rules, banners and the process later on but I would like to go ahead and start gauging interest.

Also in 2012 I plan on doing:

A contest!

I haven’t decided the format yet, but I think I’m planning on doing it in February. More details will come about this too.

Thank you all for reading Comet Over Hollywood this year.  It’s been a really fun year in the blog world, with some really awesome posts and blogathons from my peers. I have to say I think my favorite blogathons I particpated in was the 1939 blogathon, Hollywood Revue’s Fashion blogathon and the Guilty Pleasures blogathon was lots of fun too.

Look for January’s beauty tip soon and more classic film fun.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page for the latest updates.

What happened to Carole Landis?

My sophomore year of high school I had one of the best teacher’s I’ve ever had during my student career.

Her name was Leslie Pierce and she taught honors English. We read a lot of really boring books like “The Scarlett Letter” and “Ethan Frome” but she somehow made them exciting and described them like a day time soap opera.

I remember Ms. Pierce drooling over Robert Redford in the “Great Gatsby” and Daniel Day-Lewis in “The Crucible,” turning the TV around during the steamy parts of the film “Ethan Frome” and playing us a silly rap of “The Raven.”

Her motto was “Carpe Diem”-seize the day. She would have her students stand on their desks like they did in “The Dead Poets Society.”  Ms. Pierce once was a dancer and excitedly talked to me when I wore my “Oklahoma” shirt after seeing the play at the Peace Center.  There were also humorous stories told about jack rabbits pelting her car as she drove through Indiana and the time she thought it would be a good idea to cut her eyelashes.

She was a crazy, intelligent, fun and interesting woman who genuinely loved English and her students. And in October 2005, Ms. Pierce killed herself. I found out during marching band practice and just pretended to play my clarinet because I was crying so much.

Ms. Pierce didn’t show up to school one day and the assistant principal and school police officer went to her home and found her. It came as a great shock and her students, including myself, were inconsolable. I still tear up when I think about it and other times I swear I see her when I’m at the store or downtown.

I tell this story because I’d like to draw a parallel to actress Carole Landis.

Carole Landis

Miss Landis was a vibrant, beautiful young star in the late 1930s and 1940s, starring in films like “Moon Over Miami” with Betty Grable and Four Jills in a Jeep,” a film based off a book she wrote.  Landis was friendly, well-liked and traveled overseas during World War II.

Unexpectedly Landis was found dead at 4 a.m. on July 5, 1948.  It’s been ruled suicide by overdose of sleeping pills, but her family isn’t convinced.

Carole Landis was discovered in her apartment after a big 4th of July party followed by an intimate dinner with Rex Harrison.

Rex Harrison and Carole Landis had been involved in a wildly known extra-marital affair. At the time, Harrison was married to actress Lilli Palmer. Landis and Harrison had broken up and recently gotten back together around the time of the party.

On the Official Carole Landis website, run by her great-niece, the Landis family is convinced that Rex Harrison murdered her to avoid scandal surrounding the affair they’d been having.

“Aunt Carole’s death has haunted my family for 62 years and knowing Rex Harrison never paid for what he did only makes it worse. We may never know the truth about her death but we do know that the official version just doesn’t make sense.”

Here are a few reasons the Landis family suspects murder:

Landis selling war bonds

•Carole was happy and friendly. This means she couldn’t have depression like people say.

•Carole was dating actor Turhan Bey after her affair with Rex Harrison ended. They say Harrison was the one who came back to her to rekindle the romance.

•Harrison couldn’t/wouldn’t divorce his wife for Carole Landis.

•The Landis family doesn’t think Carole would have a large, expensive 4th of July party if she was planning on killing herself. Carole was quoted as saying that she had never been happier.

•Carole had made a few suicide attempts in the past but the website describes them as “attention grabbing” for publicity and family. These suicide attempts were supposedly Carole’s version of a temper tantrum.

• Rex Harrison was the last person with Carole and the first one to find her body.

• Rex Harrison apparently lied to and paid the police and told them he was just friends with Carole.

• Newspaper clippings in years following her death wrote about new evidence, but police dismissed it and Carole’s police record is missing.

• Esther Williams said Lilli Palmer, Rex’s wife, “lied” in her autobiography about the event.

The problem with all of these explanations is that I can think of a dozen reasons why they aren’t true. For example:

•Saying Carole was happy and friendly to her friends doesn’t mean she wasn’t inwardly depressed. Look at my description of Ms. Pierce.

•Actor Turhan Bey was a lady’s man and dated everyone. Singling him out as Landis’s boyfriend is silly, particularly during studio era Hollywood when actors and actresses were frequently set up on dates for premieres or publicity (i.e. June Allyson and Van Johnson, Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood).

• Claiming that a divorce would ruin Harrison’s career is an interesting speculation, granted that many actors were married and divorced frequently in Hollywood. Harrison did eventually divorce his wife Lilli Palmer to marry Key Kendal.

•Dismissing suicide attempts as “attention grabbers” is ridiculous. I think that is the biggest warning sign of all. Even if a suicide attempt is to gain attention, the fact that it was even tried means there is some sort of problem.

Landis looking beautiful in a Dole ad

• In regards to the 4th of July part, it’s possible that she spent so much money on a party with her friends because it was her way of saying goodbye. Carole may have “never been happier” because she knew her troubles were over.

• As far as Rex Harrison lying, being the first to find Carole and her police record missing, I don’t know. There may be explanations to this either way. It’s possible her studio bought the police record to avoid scandal. In quotes by Esther Williams below, Harrisons lies were constructed by studio publicity agents and he was most likely told to say these things.

•Esther Williams did discuss the incident in her autobiography “The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography” but she doesn’t exactly say that Lilli lied. Williams discusses being at Palmer’s house waiting for Rex to come home to discuss business with him. The two women talked until 2 a.m. but he never returned so Williams went home:

“His (Rex Harrison) affair with Carole Landis was the worst-kept secret in Hollywood. The gossip columnists referred to them as the ‘English star whose name begins with an H and the local glamour girl whose name begins with L.’ Glamour girl was putting it mildly-Landis was not exactly a paragon of virtue….At the age of twenty-nine she was already a waning starlet who was separated from her fourth husband….

 The following morning the scandal broke-Miss L was dead. Carole Landis had committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. The newspapers conjectured that she became despond because Rex Harrison had told her their affair was over. There was some factual underpinning for this speculation-Rex was leaving Hollywood for New York to appear as Henry VII in the new play “Anne of the Thousand Days”….

 Lilli knew, as I did, that Rex must have been with Carole the night of the suicide…Lilli knew that her husband had been having an affair, but she kept her head high through the maelstrom that followed…She answered questions from the press and stood by him through the coroner’s inquest…The two of them denied that there was any romantic relationship with Landis at all. Rex and Carole were just ‘good friends’…” (164-165).

Williams tells how the studio created an alibi for Harrison and Palmer the weekend Landis died and Palmer does discuss this in her autobiography “Change Lobsters and Dance.”  Studios were very powerful during that era and could quickly cover something up if they felt the need to.

Before reading this website, I had never heard claims Landis was murdered. Robert Osborne has even said that Landis committed suicide as did LIFE magazine.

Lovely Carole

If you look at the website, it discusses the special relationship she had with her sisters and mother, shows pictures of her grand niece wearing Landis’s jewelry and short bios of Landis’s relatives dead and living.

Maybe I would also take the murder claim more seriously if I didn’t wonder if the family or other parties were trying to somehow capitalize off Carole Landis with their grief.

I also feel the family might not fully accept suicide as a possibility because of the stigma of it, particularly during the 1940s.

However, the only two people who truly know the truth are dead.

I understand missing a loved one, but I think it is time to let Carole Landis rest. Harping on old memories of her death and how it happened isn’t helping anyone.

Instead of the curious way she died, why not remember the joy she brought to film audiences and service men.

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First radio show of the semester! Listen!

Carole Landis on the radio

It’s the first show of the semester with some changes in the format so be sure to listen!

“Radio  Waves Over Hollywood” will be streaming live Thursday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m (Eastern time).

Topics for Jan. 20:
-New movie endeavors and other things in my life movie related
-Assessment of TCM Movie Moguls Documentary and Hollywood history
-One actress’s suicide and its controversy
-And more…

So be sure to listen at 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.  live stream on www.winrfm.com (go to Listen Live) or  the old WINR website.

Call in at 803-323-2122, whether you know me or not, to contribute to the discussion.  I would love to hear from you!

And remember, non-Winthrop students can listen and call in too!

Also, if you listen to the “Radio Waves Over Hollywood” show, leave feedback for me in the comments area. Let me know what I need to work on or what you want to hear!

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page and Radio Waves Over Hollywood Facebook page.