Musical Monday: Sun Valley Serenade (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.

sun valleyThis week’s musical:
Sun Valley Serenade –Musical #539

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Bruce Humberstone

Starring:
Sonja Henie, John Payne, Glenn Miller, Milton Berle, Lynn Barrie, Joan Davis, Ann Doran (uncredited)
Themselves in Specialty Performance: Tex Beneke, Ray Anthony, Angela Blue, The Nicholas Brothers, Dorothy Dandridge

Plot:
A down on their luck band lands a Christmas Eve gig in Sun Valley, Idaho, after they hook up with temper mental singer Vivian Dawn (Bari). To help with publicity for the band, their publicist Nifty Allen (Berle) set up for pianist Ted Scott (Payne) to adopt a European war orphan. While Ted and bandleader Phil Corey (Miller) have prepared for a baby orphan, their adoptee is fully grown Norwegian Karen (Henie). When the band leaves for Sun Valley, Karen sneaks along, threatening a budding romance between Ted and Vivian.

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Musical Monday: Silver Skates (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.

Belita7This week’s musical:
Silver Skates” (1943)– Musical #518

Studio:
Monogram Pictures

Director:
Leslie Goodwins

Starring:
Belita, Kenny Baker, Patricia Morison, Joyce Compton, Frank Fraylen, Irene Dare, Danny Shaw
Specialty performances: Skating team Frick and Frack-Werner Groebli and Hans Mauch, Eugene Turner, Ted Fio Rito Orchestra

Plot:
Claire Thomas (Morison) owns an ice show that is financially on the rocks. The only thing keeping the show afloat is ice skater Belita (as herself). However, Belita is leaving the show to get married. Show member Eddie (Fraylen) starts a rumor that Belita is in love with the show’s singer Danny (Baker) so she will stay. However, Danny is engaged to Claire. Along the way, Claire meets a war orphan, Katrina (Dare), who joins the skating show and Claire would like to adopt. The only issue is, she needs to be married to adopt Katrina.

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Christmas on Film: “We’re No Angels” (1955)

Guardian angels can come in many forms, and in the film “We’re No Angels” (1955), help arrives from three convicts.

angels3

Early Christmas Eve, Joseph (Humphrey Bogart), Albert (Aldo Ray), Jules (Peter Ustinov) and Adolf the poisonous snake, escape from prison on French colonial Devil’s Island in 1895. Joseph embezzled money and Albert and Jules are murderers. They are able to blend in easily in the town in their prison clothes, as many paroled convicts work out in the open.

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A Gift from Comet Over Hollywood

Almost every Christmas for the past four years, I try to film a special Christmas video for the readers and supporters of Comet Over Hollywood.

This year — as my gift to you — my mother and I re-enacted one of my favorite Christmas scenes from a classic film. I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved making it.

For context, here is a snippet from the trailer.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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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

Christmas on Film: Junior Miss (1945)

junior missThe same year Peggy Ann Garner performed her award winning role in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” the 13-year-old actress found herself in a coming of age comedy, “Junior Miss” (1945).

Similar to “And So They Were Married” (1936), Christmas is merely a backdrop to adolescent antics in “Junior Miss” (1945), but the holidays play larger roles in this coming of age film.  Continue reading

A Familiar Face: Character actor John Ridgely

Character actor John Ridgely

Character actor John Ridgely

They are the highlights of most of our favorite films; coming in with the most striking lines and comedic moments.

A character actor is often the best part of the film. Not the star and a little lower than the secondary lead, a character actor has something distinct that they carry from film to film; whether it’s a funny voice, a physical appearance or personality trait. Think S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall’s chubby cheeks, Joyce Compton’s southern drawl or Una O’Connor’s fussy Irish habits.

But there are character actors who are just below these sidekick-like roles. The audience recognizes their face but may not know their name. These actors usually perform a role in the film that helps move the plot along, even if it is something as simple as being a police officer arresting the bad guy or a hotel clerk checking the lead actors into a hotel.

This role describes the versatile “every man” actor, John Ridgely (sometimes spelled Ridgeley). Born John Huntington Rea in Illinois, Ridgely was a graduate of Stanford University with plans to go into an industrial career. After performing in plays with the Pasadena Playhouse, Ridgely entered films in the 1930s.

If you have watched a Warner Brother’s film made between 1935 and 1948, chances are you have spotted Ridgley. The tall, dark haired vaguely attractive actor appeared in 145 feature films. His roles ranged from police officers, doctors, heavies, truck drivers, salesmen, orchestra leaders, part of a double date, cab drivers, hotel clerks, coroners and reporters.

John Ridgely as a hotel clerk in

John Ridgely as a hotel clerk in “Nancy Drew-Reporter.”

Some of his films include The Big Sleep (1946), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), “They Died With Their Boots On (1941), The Letter (1940) and Dark Victory (1939), humorously listed as Man Making Crack About Judith.

Actress Lauren Bacall’s first screen test was with Ridgely for the film “To Have and Have Not” (1944), performing the famous “put your lips together and blow” scene. The scene was written without any real intention of keeping it in the film, but after seeing the screen test, director Howard Hawks changed his mind, according to Bacall’s autobiography “By Myself.”

But Ridgely received top billing in the 1943 World War II film “Air Force;” co-starring with John Garfield, Arthur Kennedy, Gig Young and Harry Carey.

John Ridgley had top billing in

John Ridgley had top billing in “Air Force.”

For his first (and last) time in a lead role, Ridgely does an excellent job. In the Feb. 4, 1943, New York Times film review, critic Bosely Crowther called Ridgely’s performance “refreshingly direct.”

“Mr. Hawks very wisely recruited a cast with no outstanding star, thus assuring himself the privilege of giving everyone a chance. And his actors have responded handsomely,” Crowther wrote.

Two years later, Ridgely acted with John Garfield in “Pride of the Marines” (1945). Though the role is not as large as “Air Force,” Ridgely has a sufficient amount of screen time as a next door neighbor and friend of Garfield and his wife, played by Eleanor Parker.

But regardless how much screen time he received in films, Ridgley garnered media attention, as most film stars in the classic era did. This included:

  • April 10, 1943: A humorous newspaper story in an April 10, 1943, article where Ridgely gave a few kids a ride. The kids asked to be let out of the car when they found out he was an actor.
  • July 20, 1943: “Theater Gossip” John Garfield and John Ridgley announced to be acting with Cary Grant in “Destination Tokyo.” The two Johns are both noted for just coming from the film “Air Force.”
  • Nov. 11, 1943:The Evening Independent, “Playhouse Film Provides Thrills, Flynn Stars in Hudson Bay Story of Nazi Spies”: Ridgley is noted for acting in the upcoming Errol Flynn film, “Northern Pursuit.”
  • Feb. 11, 1944: “Sign on Windshield Almost Ruins Actor,” an article tells how Ridgely almost was in a car accident due to his surprise of seeing an old woman driving a 1903 Baker Electric.
  • Oct. 27, 1944: “The Evening Independent” under “Theater Gossip”: John Ridgley is noted for playing a “heavy” in the upcoming film, “The Big Sleep.” “Assignment of Ridgely was announced at the same time it was disclosed Regis Toomey was signed for an important role as a fast talking muscle man…Ridgely portrayed a meteorologist in Destination Tokyo and a confused husband in The Doughgirls.”
  • April 6, 1945: Ridgely is mentioned in the sub-head of a review on “God is My Co-Pilot” starring Dennis Morgan.
  • May 27, 1951: article mentions Ridgely was celebrating his 19th anniversary in film and his next upcoming project, playing a doctor in the “The Blue Veil.”
Arthur Kennedy, Gig Young, John Ridgely and Charles Drake in

Arthur Kennedy, Gig Young, John Ridgely and Charles Drake in “Air Force.”

Ridgely left the industry in 1953 and died in Manhattan in 1968 of heart failure. Conflicting reports say he is buried in New York while other says Forest Lawn in Hollywood. Ridgley was married to Virginia Robinson and had a son, John Ridgely Rea.

While he wasn’t a huge star, Ridgely was still considered important enough to be noted by the press. Regardless of the role, Ridgely always adds something to the film and it’s fun to pick him out in his various roles.

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