Musical Monday: The Jazz Singer (1952)

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.

Poster_of_the_movie_The_Jazz_SingerThis week’s musical:
Jazz Singer (1952) – Musical #431

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Michael Curtiz

Starring:
Danny Thomas, Peggy Lee, Eduard Franz, Mildred Dunnock, Allyn Joslyn, Tom Tully

Plot:
Korean War veteran Jerry Golding (Thomas) returns home from the war. His father (Franz) has dreams of Jerry becoming a Jewish Cantor, but Jerry wants to become a famous jazz singer.

Trivia:
-Remake of the 1927 Al Jolson film The Jazz Singer, but with new songs.
-Doris Day was originally offered Peggy Lee’s role, but Day turned down the role. Just coming from “I’ll See You in My Dreams” with Danny Thomas, she felt it was too soon for them to be recast, according to TCM host Robert Osborne.
-Danny Thomas did not make another film after this movie, according to Osborne.
-Ray Heindorf and Max Steiner were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture

Notable Songs:
-What Are New Yorkers Made Of performed by Peggy Lee and Danny Thomas
-This Is a Very Special Day performed by Peggy Lee and Danny Thomas

Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee in

Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee in “The Jazz Singer” remake.

My review:
This lengthy, full sound and Technicolor remake of the 1927 “Jazz Singer” is visually lovely but is a tad dull story wise. In my opinion, the original film is dull but is important because of its influence on sound in music. But this 1952 remake doesn’t really pack any sort of punch and is overly long.

The songs by Sammy Fain, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart are toe-tapping-worthy, but all seemed like pretty safe songs for well-known, talented singers like Peggy Lee and Danny Thomas.

While Doris Day didn’t take the role, Peggy Lee seems to have been groomed to sound like her. While Lee talked and sang, I could picture Day in the role.

I also love Danny Thomas and adore the film “I’ll See You in my Dreams,” but he never seemed as comfortable in his films as he did in television, where he ultimately his largest success.

While this movie it’s a terrible movie, it’s not one that I would want to watch over and over again mainly due to how long Warner Brothers dragged out the story. I feel many of the early-1950s Warner Brothers color musicals-particularly the biopics- like this one tried too hard and ended up falling flat.

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Musical Monday: I’ll See You in My Dreams (1951)

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.

ill see you in my dreamsThis week’s musical:
I’ll See You in My Dreams” (1951)–Musical #180

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Michael Curtiz

Starring:
Doris Day, Danny Thomas, Frank Lovejoy, Patrice Wymore, James Gleason, Mary Wickes, Jim Backus, Hans Conreid (uncredited)

Plot:
A biographical film about lyricist Gus Khan (Thomas) who wrote several popular songs such as “It Had To Be You,” “Pretty Baby,” “San Francisco,” “The Carioca” and “Tootise” just to name a few. The film Khan as he meets his composing partner Grace (Day) who he eventually marries.
Grace is a song plugger and Gus wanted her help publishing songs. She gave him advice to write a love song:
“Do you know why you write a popular song? Boys and girls don’t know how to say I love you, so you help them with 32 bars of music.”
The film shows the songwriter’s ups and downs in his career from getting started and having his songs in the Ziegfeld Follies to losing everything in the 1929 stock market crash and moving to Hollywood and rebuilding his career. The whole way, his wife is there helping him make the next move in his career. The film starts in 1908 and ends in the 1930s.

Gus (Thomas) missed the birth of his child because he was writing "It Had to Be You." Day wrote this scene made her emotional because of her life experiences.

Gus (Thomas) missed the birth of his child because he was writing “It Had to Be You.” Day wrote this scene made her emotional because of her life experiences.

Trivia:
-When Danny Thomas sings to Doris Day at her maternity bedside in the film, Day got very emotional thinking about how her first husband, Al Jordan was not present when her son Terry was born, she wrote in her autobiography, Doris Day: Her Own Story.
“In the way Danny played the scene, there was a sense of his remorse in having not been with me when the baby came (in the movie. His character was writing a song and lost track of time.),” she wrote. “When Danny started his song, I couldn’t help but cry, for what came to mind was the birth of my own baby, how Al Jorden had not been with me, and how alone and unfulfilled I felt.”

-Grace Kahn, Gus’s wife, was the technical adverser for the film, according to TThe Casablanca Man: The Cinema of Michael Curtiz by James C Robertson.

-Gordon MacRea was director Michael Curtiz’s first choice to play Gus Kahn, according to Robertson’s book.

The real Gus Kahn (left) with composer Arthur Johnson in 1935 at MGM.

The real Gus Kahn (left) with composer Arthur Johnson in 1935 at MGM.

-Grace LeBoy Kahn, who Doris Day portrayed, was still alive when the film was made. Gus Kahn, played by Danny Thomas, died in 1941. The two were married in 1916 until his death. Grace died in 1983.

-“I’ll See You in My Dreams” was Warner Brother’s second top grossing film for 1952 and was Curtiz’s last financial success for the studio, according to Robertson’s book.

-The album soundtrack from this film reached number one on the Billboard charts.

 

 

Notable Songs:
-“Gee, I Wish That I Had a Girl” sung by Doris Day
-“My Buddy” sung by Doris Day
-“Pretty Baby” sung by Danny Thomas
-“She’s Nobody’s Sweetheart Now” sung by Doris Day
-“The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else) sung by Doris Day
-“It Had to Be You” sung by Danny Thomas
-“Makin’ Whoopee” sung by Doris Day and Danny Thomas
-“Ain’t We Got Fun” played on a record but sung as a duet by Day and Thomas on the album

Review:

The record my Mom and I nearly wore out.

The record my Mom and I nearly wore out.

I knew all the songs before I saw this movie.
When Mom was in middle school, her father (my grandfather) had a 78 record of the “I’ll See You in My Dreams” soundtrack. He was going to throw it away, so she asked to keep when she saw Doris Day on the album cover. When I began getting interested in Doris Day when I was 13, my mom pulled out the record and I listened to it constantly.
When I first saw this movie back in 2005, Mom and I both knew all the words to the songs Kahn made popular because of that 78 but neither of us had ever seen the movie before.
When Mom and I rewatched this movie on Sunday, we both softly sang along to all of his hit tunes.
Clearly this movie has a special place in my heart.
Sentimentality aside, I love the cast and the music. Mary Wickes is always hilarious and Day and Thomas are wonderful.
Though it is questionable about how accurate biographical films are, this one is still a lot of fun with an excellent score to accompany a fairly touching story.

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