Watching 1939: Only Angels Have Wings (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. 

1939 film:  Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Release date:  May 12, 1939

Cast: 
Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth, Richard Barthelmess, Thomas Mitchell, Allyn Joslyn, Sig Ruman, John Carroll, Noah Beery Jr., Milisa Sierra, Pat Flaherty, Don ‘Red’ Barry (billed as Donald Barry), Victor Kilian

Studio:  Columbia Pictures

Director:  Howard Hawks

Plot:
Barranca Airways is run by Geoff Carter (Grant) in South America. Geoff and his pilots fly hazardous missions over mountains and in bad weather to carry air mail in and out of South America. His closest friend is veteran flyer Kid Dabb (Mithcell). Performer Bonnie Lee (Arthur) gets off a boat one night and meets Geoff and some of the fliers while waiting for her next boat. She ends up staying; intrigued by the flying business and Geoff. The business is complicated when Bat MacPherson (Barthelmess) and his wife Judy (Hayworth) arrive. Bat previously bailed out of a crashing plane which had the brother Kidd (Mitchell), and Bat’s wife is also Geoff’s old flame.

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TCM Classic Film Festival Musical Monday: When You’re in Love (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.

love2This week’s musical:
“When You’re in Love” (1937)– Musical #547

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Robert Riskin

Starring:
Grace Moore, Cary Grant, Aline MacMahon, Henry Stephenson, Thomas Mitchell, Catherine Doucet, Luis Alberni, Gerald Oliver Smith, Emma Dunn, George C. Pearce, Scotty Beckett (uncreditd)

Plot:
Opera singer Louise Fuller (Moore) who is stuck in Mexico and needs to get back so she can hold a music festival that she promised her uncle (Stephenson), but she can’t get back into the U.S. Jimmy Hudson (Grant) is unable to pay his hotel bill in Mexico. Fuller and Hudson’s lawyer’s decide the two should get married so they can get home, Fuller pays Hudson’s debts and they could divorce after six months. Though they start off fighting, love blossoms.

Trivia:
-The world premiere of the film’s restoration was at the 2016 Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival.
-Director Robert Riskin wrote and directed the film. It was a very loose retailoring of “It Happened One Night” for Moore, The Merchant Prince of Poverty Row: Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures by Bernard F. Dick
-Writer Robert Riskin’s only try at directing

Grace Moore and Cary Grant in "When You're in Love"

Grace Moore and Cary Grant in “When You’re in Love”

Highlights:
-Grace Moore performing Minnie the Moocher

Notable Songs:
-“Minnie the Moocher” performed by Grace Moore
-“Our Song” performed by Grace Moore
-“The Whistling Boy” performed by Grace Moore
-“Vissi D’Arte” performed by Grace Moore

My review:
I’ve seen all of Cary Grant’s films–except for some of his early 1930s movies. Not only was it a treat to finally see this rare film, it was even more amazing to see it on the big screen and in all it’s newly restored glory, thanks to the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. I didn’t even arrive at the festival, thinking I would be getting a Musical Monday post out of it.

I really enjoyed “When You’re in Love.” While everyone knows Cary Grant as a huge star, at the time of this film he wasn’t as famous as his operatic leading lady: Grace Moore, a name many people don’t remember today. As I’ve watched musicals over the years, I’ve seen almost all of Miss Moore’s nine films made during her brief Hollywood career and I find her likeable. She’s beautiful and has a gorgeous voice.

Nicknamed the “Tennessee Nightingale,” Moore was a Ziegfeld Girl in the Ziegfeld Follies and had 16 seasons with the Metropolitan Opera. Her Hollywood films helped make opera popular with mainstream audiences. Sadly, Moore died in 1947 at age 48 in a plane crash near Copenhagen.

While watching this movie with an audience, I realized few of them were familiar with Grace Moore. When I saw that “When You’re in Love” paired Cary Grant and Grace Moore, I automatically knew it was a musical. But when leaving the theater, I heard some grumblings of “I didn’t know that was going to be a musical” from fans who only wanted to see Cary Grant.

Grant and Moore are both very funny, and there is a fun scene with Grace Moore performing Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher” while Grant plays the piano. Another favorite scene of mine involves Moore singing with a group of children and little uncredited Scotty Beckett is on her lap. There are close-ups of the various children’s faces and some of their reactions were hilarious.

But you can’t give all the credit for this film’s charm to the lead actors. The supporting cast is what really makes the film special, especially Aline MacMahon and Henry Stephenson who are always fantastic. One character actor, elderly George C. Pearce, had what I think was the funniest moment in the film: He answers the phone, asks them to hold on, puts on his glasses, and tells them to go ahead. Funny, because relevant to everyone’s life.

If you have the opportunity to every catch this film, do. It’s great fun and one that we haven’t been able to really enjoy for a long time.

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Cary Grant’s “Christmas Lullaby”

late 1940s --- Cary Grant --- Image by © CinemaPhoto/Corbis

Cary Grant in the 1940s

Cary Grant is often noted as one of the best and most attractive actors of all-time. His film resume includes some of Hollywood’s best films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s “Notorious” (1946) to the comedy “His Girl Friday” (1940).

But out of all of that, Cary Grant said his best production was his daughter Jennifer.

Grant became a father for the first time at age 62 with his fourth wife, Dyan Cannon. The two were married from 1965 to 1968. Grant retired from films in 1966 when Jennifer was born; a career that began in 1932 and ended with the film “Walk, Don’t Run.”

Grant doted on his daughter and this is exhibited in the only record he ever made, “A Christmas Lullaby,” which was recorded for her. The 45 was made through Columbia Records and the b-side included the song “Here’s to You.”  Continue reading

Musical Monday: Night and Day (1946)

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:
“Night and Day” –Musical #101

night-and-day-1946 

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Michael Curtiz

Starring:
Cary Grant, Alexi Smith, Jane Wyman, Donald Woods, Ginny Sims, Selena Royle, Eve Arden, Dorothy Malone, Henry Stephenson, Alan Hale, Sig Ruman, Carlos Ramírez
As themselves: Mary Martin, Monty Woolley

Plot:
Fictional biographical film of songwriter Cole Porter.

Cole Porter and his wife Linda Lee

Cole Porter and his wife Linda Lee

Trivia:
-Cole Porter is a celebrated songwriter who was active from post-World War I teens through the 1950s. He was born in 1891 and died in 1964.
-Warner Brothers chose “Night and Day” to mark the studio’s 20th anniversary of sound films, according to an Oct. 4, 1946, article in the Montreal Gazette.
-“Script writers had a hard time finding crisis in his life to sustain a storyline,” according to a mention of the film in his Oct. 16, 1964, Associated Press obituary in the Gettysburg Times.
-Footage shown of Roy Rogers singing “Don’t Fence Me In” is from the Warner Brothers film “Hollywood Canteen” (1944)
-Ray Heindorf and Max Steiner were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.

Highlights:
-Eve Arden as a French performer, simply because it’s ridiculous.
-Mary Martin cameo

Notable Songs:
-“Night and Day”
-“I’m in Love Again” performed by Jane Wyman
-“Let’s Do It” performed by Jane Wyman
-“You Do Something to Me” performed by Jane Wyman
-“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” performed by Ginny Simms
-“Don’t Fence Me In” footage of Roy Rogers
-“Begin the Beguine” performed by Carlos Ramirez

Cary Grant as Cole Porter  and Alexis Smith as Linda Lee in "Night and Day"

Cary Grant as Cole Porter and Alexis Smith as Linda Lee in “Night and Day”

My Review:
There were about 10 years between my first and second viewings of this film. I didn’t find it any better.

Starring Cary Grant and filmed in gorgeous Technicolor, you know you are about to hear some fantastic music going into this film. It’s basically Cole Porter’s Greatest Hits.

But the celebrated songs by Porter can’t save this film. The ridiculous story line of the highlighly fictionalized biography is just a dud. The fact that the biography is fictionalized isn’t surprising. Musical Monday has highlighted the “fictionalized musical biography” many, many times before now.

The San Francisco News said in a review, “This is no more the story of Cole Porter’s life than a two-cent stamp is of Washington.” LIFE magazine said “Film About Cole Porter’s Life is an Example of What’s Wrong with Hollywood Musicals,” saying the numbers were tasteless, the dialogue forcefully recreated from real conversations and a timeworn plot. I can’t say that I disagree. But a made up life story is more forgivable if it is at least entertaining and enjoyable. “Night and Day” is just fairly painful.

Even Cole Porter said, “If I could survive that, I can survive anything,” after the premiere of the film.

Some of the scripts of these biographical films, such as this one, are reviewed by the topic person-Porter did not die until 1964- and the 2011 William McBrien Porter biography discusses Porter reading over the script. With any of these biographical films, I’m not sure how much say the subject matter or their family members have in the script. Maybe it is simply that they don’t want the film to be accurate and their private lives on display.

However, there are almost too many inaccuracies to list in a brief review.

In the film, Alexis Smith plays Porter’s wife Linda Lee Porter, Porter’s wife from 1919 until her death in 1954. It is rare for the romantic lead in a biographical film, to be based off of a real person. Many times, the romantic lead is made up or a mix of multiple people. An example of this is Evelyn Keye’s character in “The Al Jolson Story.” It is obvious that she is supposed to be Ruby Keeler, but her character is named something different. Probably because Keeler was still alive and didn’t want to be associated with the film.

Though Porter and Linda were married, the culture of 1946 and the Hays Production Code prevented the prevented the film from giving the true nature of their relationship and marriage. Porter and Linda’s marriage was more of a marriage of convenience. Porter was gay and his marriage to Linda gave a heterosexual appearance during a time when homosexuality was not as accepted. The marriage gave Linda prominence in society.

Monty Woolley, Jane Wyman and Mary Martin’s brief role are probably the only highlights of the film. Woolley and Martin play themselves, as they were connected with Porter in real life.

It’s not the highly inaccurate plot that makes “Night and Day” bad. “Yankee Doodle Dandy” is also fiction but is an entertaining film. It’s really just that the fictionalized premise is terrible and often downright ridiculous.

The only thing thing “Night and Day” has going for it is the music. In that case, buy some of Cole Porter’s songs instead.

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An education from “The Philadelphia Story”

The Philadelphia Story” taught me what a hangover was when I was nine.

And who knew what yare meant before Katharine Hepburn used the word?

My fourth grade education was enhanced when I learned the meaning of those words the first time I saw “The Philadelphia Story” (1940) in 1998.

Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord with too many men after her

Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord with too many men after her

My dad was out of town one summer evening and my mother, sister and I picked a movie to watch. We loved it.

“Why did she shield her eyes from the sun like that?” I asked my mom. She explained the consequences people face the next morning after drinking too much.

For years after, I even tried to imitate Hepburn’s silly little laugh she does in the film.

I had forgotten not only about my new vocabulary words the first time I saw the film but many of the charming scenes in “The Philadelphia Story” until I saw it last night for the first time on the big screen.

Moonlight Movies at Falls Park in Greenville, SC

Moonlight Movies at Falls Park in Greenville, SC

I drove an hour to my hometown of Greenville, SC where outdoor classic films are shown every week in May at the Reedy River Falls Park.

Classic film screenings are a treat for me. Where I live, viewing movies on the big screen is rare.

It had been several years since I had seen this movie. Though I knew it was good- boasting a cast of Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, Virginia Weidler and Roland Young-I forgot how wonderful it really was.

The leads are perfect in nearly every film but Virginia Weidler steals the show.

On paper, the film sound dizzy: A divorced woman is remarrying, the ex-husband pops back in the picture and then a reporter-who already has a girlfriend-becomes a potential romantic partner. It’s a love pentagon.

But somehow the story works when it’s acted out.

The only time it doesn’t work is in the horrible Grace Kelly remake, “High Society.”

The script of The Philadelphia Story was written specifically for Katharine Hepburn who originated the role on Broadway and reprised her role as Tracy Lord on screen. The film helped rid Hepburn of her box office poison status. 

Katharine Hepburn with Van Heflin in the stage version of The Philadelphia story

Katharine Hepburn with Van Heflin in the stage version of The Philadelphia story

In the play, Joseph Cotten played C. K. Dexter Haven (played by Cary Grant in the film version) and Macaulay Connor was played by Van Heflin (played by James Stewart). While watching the movie last night I couldn’t help picture those two performing those roles.

I have only been to one other Moonlight Movie series in Greenville back in 2011 to see Strangers on a Train. It wasn’t a pleasant experience due to people talking and continuously getting up and down during the film.

However, last night was much more relaxing and everyone was respectful of the movie.

The only disappointing thing is no one applauded when the film started or when actors entered their first scene like at the Turner Classic Film Festival, however I heard several people around me say they had never seen the movie again.

Revisiting “The Philadelphia Story” was fun and I reminded me how great a movie it was. I’m discovering seeing movies on the big screen is a very special experience.

After all-they were made to be seen that way.

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Turner Classic Film Festival: MacMurray, Harlow, Hitchcock, Bow and Wayne

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Friday (April 26) is the first full day of the Turner Classic Film Festival and it has been amazing.
Above is a photo of Kate MacMurray, daughter of Fred MacMurray and June Haver introducing “Suddenly It’s Spring” (1947).
The next photo is the ceiling of the Egyptian Theater where I saw “Notorious” (1946) and “It” (1927).
Today’s films that I saw:
-Libeled Lady (1936) starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy. I’ve seen it several times and can say its a favorite comedy of mine.
TCM’s Scott McGee introduced the film and said, “Screwball comedy is a lost art” which I would agree with.
Libeled Lady was advertised the first “all-star cast” since Dinner at Eight, McGee said.
It’s really amazing to sit in a theater where people applaud when Harlow comes on screen and die with laughter during Powell’s trout fishing scene.
-Suddenly It’s Spring (1947) starring Paulette Goddard and Fred MacMurray.
I LOVED this one. A really fun comedy about a couple who decides to get a divorce in 1941 but both serve during WW2. When they return, Goddard, who’s career as a WAC is giving marriage advice, isn’t so sure about the divorce but MacMurray already has a new bride picked out.
MacMurray’s daughter Kate spoke before the movie and told wonderful stories such as:
-John Wayne set up her parents June Haver and Fred MacMurray at a costume party. MacMurray’s previous wife had passed away as did Haver’s boyfriend.
“Mother was dressed as a saloon girl, maybe that’s what did it,” MacMurray said.
-MacMurray, a saxophonist and also once a singer for a jazz band, played the saxophone for the My Three Sons TV show theme song.
-After making The Apartment-where he plays a cad-the MacMurray family was at DisneyLand. A woman approached him and hit him with her purse because she had taken her family to see the movie. “That wasn’t a Disney movie,” she told him. MacMurray felt uncomfortable playing his roles in Billy Wilder films “The Apartment” and “Double Indemnity” since they weren’t his customary nice guy, comedic roles.
-Carole Lombard got him a raise at Paramount
-Haver met MacMurray before the costume party while making a film. Haver said he was so sweet and would bring his lunch, usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

-Notorious (1946) starring Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. Rose McGowan spoke before the film and said it was a favorite of her’s. Hitchcock’s creative shots looked excellent on the big screen, but I must confess I dozed off. Not because I was bored but the 3 hour time change and lack of food (there’s literally no time to eat) made me tired.

-It (1927) starring Clara Bow. This was the first time I had seen a silent film with a live orchestra accompanying and it was AMAZING. Biographer David Stenn who wrote “Clara Bow: Running Wild” spoke before the film and called her a “great natural talent of movies.”
It is a really fun silent film, which coined Bow as the “It” girl. But as a dachshund owner, my favorite line is “I feel so low I could walk underneath a dachshund on stilts.”

-Hondo (1954): starring John Wayne and Geraldine Page. This was the first 3D movie I’ve EVER seen. It was amazing. I’ve always said She Wore a Yellow Ribbon was my favorite Wayne film but seeing Hondo for a second time may have changed my mind. The film is a perfect example of Wayne’s ruggedness and western appeal as he fights off the Apaches. In short, John Wayne is my ideal man.

That’s all for tonight! I opted to skip out on the midnight showing of Plan 9 from Outer Space to gear up for tomorrow’s films.
For updates during the day: check me out on Twitter @HollywoodComet or @StarJPickens. If you don’t have a twitter account, you should still be able to find me even by googling my name and Twitter.
Apologies in advanced for any typos. I’m using WordPress on my phone which is slightly cumbersome.

2nd Annual Birthday mini-Blogathon at Comet

Last year, I celebrated my 23rd birthday reviewing one of my favorite films each day leading up to my birthday.

I had so much fun last year, the Comet Over Hollywood Birthday mini-Blogathon is back!

Starting Monday, and leading to my 24th birthday on Sunday, Nov. 18, I will watch and review one of my favorite films as a little birthday treat to myself.

Cary Grant blows out the candles.

Favorite movies reviewed last year are: 

1. Battleground (1949) – World War II film about the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne. Film stars Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Riccardo Montalbon and James Whitmore.

2. Shadow of a Doubt (1942) – Hitchcock’s own personal favorite film about a sinister character visiting a small, California town. Starring Theresa Wright and Joseph Cotton

3. State Fair (1945) – Rodger’s and Hammerstein musical about finding love at the Iowa State Fair. Starring Jeanne Crain, Dick Haymes and Dana Andrews.

4. Since You Went Away (1944)– Film about life on the World War II home front for the wives and families of service men. Starring Claudette Colbert, Joseph Cotton, Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple, Monty Wooley and Robert Walker.

Check back through out the week to see what other movies are my favorite. Feel free to share your favorite films as well!

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