Actress Beauty Tips #37: Exercising Debbie’s Way

This is the 37th installment of the classic actress beauty tips that I have read about and tested.

Comet Over Hollywood is no stranger workout videos. I grew up on Jane Fonda, Callan Pinckney’s Callanetics, and have even tried out actress Jane Powell’s Fight Back with Fitness.

debbie2

Debbie Reynolds in the 1950s

But none of them are quite like Debbie Reynolds’ 1983 “Do It Debbie’s Way.” Reynolds’ Hollywood career began when she was 16 in 1948 playing a bit role in the Bette Davis film “June Bride.” In the 1950s, Debbie became one of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s top stars and she continued performing until her last film role in 2013. She passed away in 2016.

Debbie was unstoppable, energetic and unsinkable, and the fact that she jumped on the exercise video bandwagon isn’t all-together surprising. She was a dancer and was slim most of her life.

But her workout video isn’t quite the same as other videos you may be used to.

The always original and over-the-top Reynolds decorates her workout studio with a chandelier, a diaphanous pink backdrop curtain, and lights behind the curtain spelling “DEBBIE” in eight foot tall letters.

“My set, I hope you like it. Usually you would work out in a gym, but I was in MGM for years in musicals so I thought we would do it up sort of pink, not brown,” Reynolds said in the video.

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Musical Monday: I Love Melvin (1953)

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.

melving7This week’s musical:
I Love Melvin” (1953)– Musical #167

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Don Weis

Starring:
Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Una Merkel, Allyn Joslyn, Richard Anderson, Jim Backus, Noreen Corcoran, Les Tremayne, Barbara Ruick, Steve Forrest (uncredited), Robert Fuller (uncredited as acrobatic cheerleader), Ned Glass (uncredited)
Themselves: Robert Taylor

Plot:
Judy Schneider (Reynolds) is a struggling actress with dreams of becoming a Hollywood star. In the mean time, she’s playing a football in a musical number in a Broadway show. Melvin Hoover (O’Connor) is a Look magazine photographer’s assistant. The two bump into each other in Central Park ,and Melvin exaggerates the importance of his job to impress Judy and her family, who want her to marry Harry Flack (Anderson). Melvin’s exaggerations go too far when he promises to put Judy on the cover of Look magazine. All the while, Judy is daydreaming about her fame.

Trivia:
-The “Lady Loves” number was originally supposed to be performed with Debbie Reynolds in a farm setting, according to “That’s Entertainment III” (1994). It was re-shot with Debbie Reynolds dressed as a sophisticated lady.
-Howard Keel was originally supposed to be the star cameo in Reynolds’ dream, rather than Robert Taylor.

Highlights:
-Robert Taylor’s cameo
-The Football Ballet
-Noreen Corcoran’s song and dance with Donald O’Connor
-Dancers in Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly masks and costumes

Notable Songs:
-A Lady Loves performed by Debbie Reynolds
-Saturday Afternoon Before the Game performed by a chorus
-Where Did You Learn To Dance performed by Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor
-We Have Never Met, As Yet performed by Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor
-Life Has Its Funny Little Ups and Downs performed by Noreen Corcoran and Donald O’Connor

My review:
“I Love Melvin” (1953) is an adorable and joyous little movie. It isn’t a big, serious award-winning extravaganza like “Singin’ in the Rain” or “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” but it’s a simple story that’s plain fun.

In his April 10, 1953, review, New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther doesn’t call the film bad or good, but “chromium-plated spun-sugar” and that it lacks substance. Crowther isn’t incorrect. “I Love Melvin” is pure escapism and there’s nothing wrong with that.

And while this isn’t a serious film, the cast is excellent. Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds are on-screen together two years after “Singin’ in the Rain” (1951). The two dance and perform with energy and professionalism. They are wonderful to watch and Reynolds and O’Connor have wonderful chemistry.

The outstanding supporting cast is rounded out by Una Merkel, Allyn Joslyn, Richard Anderson, Jim Backus, and Noreen Corcoran. For fans of the TV show “Emergency!,” actor Robert Fuller dances in the football ballet.

Mr. Crowther also wrote, “The music, while undistinguished, is sufficient to get them around and the decor is in the most splendid and expensive Metro style.”

Debbie Reynolds dressed as a football, showing how much she is struggling in her dancing and acting career.

Debbie Reynolds dressed as a football, showing how much she is struggling in her dancing and acting career.

Many of the songs are forgettable but fun. The only real memorable song is “A Lady Loves,” which sometimes gets stuck in my head. The other performances include Noreen Corcoran and Donald O’Connor skating together and Debbie Reynolds is tossed around like a football among dancing football players. The football ballet may be one of the most creative and odd dance numbers I have ever watched. While goofy and bizarre, the football number is meant to be weird to show that Judy is far from fame.

A note to North Carolina football fans: the uniforms, colors and initials of the purple and gold team are similar to East Carolina University in North Carolina. I haven’t been able to find any facts to see if this was intentional.

Along with the football ballet, there are other hilariously goofy scenes as Judy daydreams such as Robert Taylor as her love interest and dancers dressed in Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire costumes.

Debbie Reynolds dreaming that she's in a film with Robert Taylor

Debbie Reynolds dreaming that she’s in a film with Robert Taylor

Debbie Reynolds in a daydream with dancers dressed as Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire

Debbie Reynolds in a daydream with dancers dressed as Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire

While this movie is fun, it is a little sad to watch now. Both child star Noreen Corcoran and actress Debbie Reynolds passed away in 2016. Both are delightful in this movie. This may be one of my favorite Debbie Reynolds films (at least in my top 5).

If you are feeling down, give “I Love Melvin” a watch. The plot is silly and it’s not a serious film, but what does that matter? It’s pure joy.

Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds in "I Love Melvin"

Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds in “I Love Melvin”

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Musical Monday: Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956)

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:
“Meet Me In Las Vegas” – Musical #151

UP_MEET_ME_IN_LAS_VEGAS_MOV

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Roy Rowland

Starring:
Dan Dailey, Cyd Charisse, Agnes Moorehead, Paul Henreid, Lili Darvus, Jim Backus, George Chakiris, Betty Lynn, Sammy Davis Jr. (voice only), Robert Fuller (uncredited)
As themselves: Lena Horne, Frankie Laine, Pier Angeli, Vic Damone, Debbie Reynolds, Peter Lorre, Tony Martin, Dewey Martin, The Four Aces, Steve Forrest, Jeff Richards, Frank Sinatra, Elaine Stewart, Jerry Colonna

Plot:
Ballet dancer Maria Corvier (Charisse) is performing at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Gambling rancher Chuck Rodwell (Dailey) makes his yearly visit to Las Vegas and is notorious for poor luck with gambling. Chuck finds that he has consitent luck winning big every time he holds Maria’s hand.

Trivia:
-Composers George Stoll and Johnny Green were Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.
-Filmed in Las Vegas.

Highlights:
-Cameos by Lena Horne, Frankie Laine, Pier Angeli, Vic Damone, Debbie Reynolds, Peter Lorre, Tony Martin, Dewey Martin, Steve Forrest, Jeff Richards, Frank Sinatra, Elaine Stewart, Jerry Colonna
-The “Frankie and Johnny” dance number narrated by Sammy Davis, Jr.
-Dan Dailey dancing and singing with Mitsuko

Notable Songs:
-“Frankie and Johnny” sung by Sammy Davis Jr.
-“The Girl with the Yaller Shoes” sung by Dan Dailey
-“If You Can Dream” sung by Lena Horne
-“My Lucky Charm” sung by Dan Dailey and Mitsuko Sawamura; also performed by Jerry Colonna

My Review:
“Meet Me in Las Vegas” has a simple and nonsensical plot: holding the hand brings good luck while gambling.
But while the plot is silly and simple, this is a charming musical, and the cast has a lot to do with that.
Cyd Charisse is stunning with beautiful clothes and impressive dances, as always, and Dan Dailey always feels like an old friend in his films.
As an added bonus you get 13 cameos from other MGM players throughout the film from Charisse’s husband Tony Martin to actress Debbie Reynolds.
While the songs aren’t terribly memorable, the dancing is outstanding. Charisse has the opportunity to exhibit both her classical ballet style with Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Ballet and her modern dance with the “Frankie and Johnny” number.
This brightly colored Technicolor musical is one that keeps me smiling throughout.

Cyd Charisse and Dan Dailey in "Meet Me in Las Vegas" (1956).

Cyd Charisse and Dan Dailey in “Meet Me in Las Vegas” (1956).

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Musical Monday: “Two Weeks with Love” (1950)

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.

two weeksThis week’s musical:
Two Weeks With Love” (1950)-Musical #71

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Ray Rowland

Starring:
Jane Powell, Ricardo Montalban, Ann Harding, Louis Calhern, Debbie Reynolds, Carleton Carpenter, Phyllis Kirk, Tommy Retting, Gary Gray

Plot:
In the early 1900s, the Robinson family takes their annual summer vacation to Kissimee in the Catskills. It’s a coming of age story as 17-year-old Patti (Powell) is ready to grow up and wear corsets and date men but her mother (Harding) and father (Calhern) still thinks she is too young. That summer a handsome young Cuban named Demi (Montalban) visits the resort. While Patti swoons, her older friend Valerie (Kirk) works to keep Demi’s attention on her. In the background, Patti’s younger teenage sister Melba (Reynolds) has a crush on Billy (Carpenter) who is chasing Patti.

Patti's rival Valerie is always making it hard for Patti and Demi to be alone. (Kirk, Montalban, Powell) (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen Cap by Jessica P.)

Patti’s rival Valerie is always making it hard for Patti and Demi to be alone. (Kirk, Montalban, Powell) (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen Cap by Jessica P.)

Trivia:
-Debbie Reynolds wrote in her memoir “Unsinkable,” that her mother packed her lunch of ground up bologna and pickle juice sandwiches every day. Louis Calhern’s lunches were prepared for him by the studio, but he usually traded with Debbie for her sandwiches.

Famous stars in the 1930s, Ann Harding and Louis Calhern play Horatio and Katherine Robinson in "Two Weeks with Love." (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen Cap by Jessica P.)

Famous stars in the 1930s, Ann Harding and Louis Calhern play Horatio and Katherine Robinson in “Two Weeks with Love.” (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen Cap by Jessica P.)

-Jane Powell says this is one of her favorite movies, according to her autobiography “The Girl Next Door and How She Grew.”
“I loved making ‘Two Weeks with Love’ because it was a very special experience,” Powell wrote in her book. “The cast was so wonderful, I feel happy even now when I think about the film.”
-Debbie Reynolds plays the French horn during the song “That’s How I Love You.” Whether she is really playing the horn in the film or not, Reynolds played the French horn in high school.
-Louis Calhern once said he was miscast as playing the father of Debbie Reynolds and Jane Powell. “Me, with my long nose, and being as tall as I am, playing the father of two little button noses like Janie and Debbie,” Powell quoted in her book.
-Phyllis Kirk’s third movie.
-Debbie Reynolds fourth movie.
-The hotel where the family is staying in “Two Weeks with Love” is the same hotel in the first scene of “Annie Get Your Gun” (1951).
-The dances in the film were choreographed by Busby Berkeley, who was known for his kaleidoscope shots in 1930s films such as “42nd Street.”

Highlights:

Patti's mischievous little brothers hide fireworks under their bed, and father (Calhern) accidentally lights a fuse. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen cap by Jessica P.)

Patti’s mischievous little brothers hide fireworks under their bed, and father (Calhern) accidentally lights a fuse. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen cap by Jessica P.)

-The two youngest boys hide hundreds of firecrackers under their bed. They accidentally get lit when their father unknowingly lights it with his cigar. Chaos ensues.
-Powell has a few dream sequences where she imagines Montalban is fawning over her. Both are hilarious and adorable. One is when she is alone in a canoe. She imagines he proposes to her and he tells her that she is full of “latent fire” and then is outraged that she doesn’t wear a corset.
-The second dream sequence is Powell glamorously dressed in only a corset, hat and umbrella. Everyone at the hotel is admiring her. Then, everyone’s outfits turn to royal wear and Montalban and Carpenter have a sword fight over Powell. Powell sings “My Hero” as she waltzes with Montalban.
-Calhern tries to help Powell and buys her a corset in the film, not knowing what he’s buying, he gets a surgical corset. During a dance with Montalban, it locks.

Patti (Powell) dreams of being a grown up lady who wears a corset in this dream sequence. (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen Cap by Jessica P.)

Patti (Powell) dreams of being a grown up lady who wears a corset in this dream sequence. (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen Cap by Jessica P.)

Notable Songs:
-“Abba Dabba Honeymoon” sung by Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter. This is the most notable song in the movie. Carpenter and Reynolds fast, energetic singing style is what makes it memorable. The song made the Hit Parade and Reynolds and Carleton went on tour to promote the song and the film.

-“By the Light of the Silvery Moon” sung by Ann Harding and Louis Calhern. They don’t have great voices but it’s a very sweet moment.
-“My Hero” sung by Jane Powell during the corset dream sequence.

Patti (Powell) dances the tango with Demi (Montalban) in the resort's talent show. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen Cap by Jessica Pickens)

Patti (Powell) dances the tango with Demi (Montalban) in the resort’s talent show. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen Cap by Jessica Pickens)

My Review:
Two Weeks With Love” is a joy to watch. It has an excellent cast, is fun and colorful with it’s Technicolor. But not only is it lighthearted, it’s hilarious. There are so many jokes in the movie that keep me laughing, keeping it charming and witty. It’s wonderful to see Ann Harding and Louis Calhern later in their career if you know them more from their 1930s role. In the 1930s, Harding usually played intellectual women with lose morals and Calhern played cads with gun. But later in their career, they fill the role of loving parents perfectly. Jane Powell was an established star by now and is 21 in the film, and is delightful as always. In her first major role, Debbie Reynolds energy and enthusiasm that made her famous is already shining. If you haven’t seen “Two Weeks with Love,” I highly suggest it. It may not be as famous as other 1950s MGM films, but you will remember it once you watch it.

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Forgotten holiday films I even forgot

Errol Flynn as you have never seen him before

A couple of days ago, I enlightened you with some Christmas movies you may have forgotten. With a couple of days left to spare before the 25th (Where did the season go?) here are a few Christmas movies I even forgot in my last post.

I hope you have time to fit them in before the holiday season ends-Christmas officially ends on January 5 with the 12 days of Christmas- or remember the films for next year. Enjoy!

All Mine to Give (1957): This is a Christmas movie, but it’s a real downer. Jo (Glynis Johns) and Robert (Cameron Mitchell) raise a large family, and then they both tragically die. The kids (including Patty McCormack of “The Bad Seed”) try to continue living together, but the town threatens to split them up. However, they somehow are able to fight the greedy townsfolk and stay together. To review: This isn’t a particularly happy Christmas movie, and I only really thought it was okay. But it reminds us that family is important and shouldn’t be seperated.

Never Say Goodbye(1946): Not your typical Christmas film, but you see Errol Flynn dressed up like Santa Claus!  Phil (Errol) and Ellen (Eleanor Parker) Gayley are divorced. Their daughter Flip (Patti Brady) and Phil aren’t very happy about the divorce and hope to win Ellen back from her new boyfriend, Rex (Donald Woods).  All of this takes place during Christmas as Phil and Rex both dress up like Santa and a comedic mix-up occurs. To review: A cute movie that really takes place during Christmas by chance, but still shows the importance of family. This is actually one of my favorite Errol Flynn movies, because we get to see him in a comedic, husband type role in New York, rather than a swashbuckling role in Spain.

Doris Day, Gordon McCrea, Rosemary DeCamp and Leon Ames in “By the Light of the Silvery Moon”

On Moonlight Bay (1951)/ By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953):

I put these two films together since they are similar and the second is the sequel to the first. In a nutshell: tomboy Margie Winfield (Doris Day) falls in love with idealistic Bill Sherman (Gordon McCrea) and her parents -mostly her father-disapprove. In the midst of both of these movies, there is Christmas. Margie breaks her leg and can’t go to the Christmas dance with Bill in “On Moonlight Bay“. Margie still manages to limp out on the porch and sing “Merry Christmas to All” with carolers.  In “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,”  Bill meets the family at a skating pond and surprises Margie and finally decides to marry her after bickering throughout the movie. To review: These are both similar to “Meet Me in St. Louis”: it takes you through a year of a family during the turn of the century and manages to fit in Christmas.  Like the others, this is a  really fun, happy family film.  “On Moonlight Bay” and “Silvery Moon” are probably my favorite Doris films. I have always enjoyed her and Gordon MacRea in films together.

Susan Slept Here (1954): Juvinile delinquent Susan Landis (Debbie Reynolds) is sent to spend the holidays with screenwriter Mark Christopher (Dick Powell) so he can study a delinquent for a script he’s writing. Lots of comedic events ensue, and the much older Christopher falls in love with the very young Landis. To review: This is a pretty well known Christmas movie, but I feel like it gets over looked as we grab for “Holiday Inn” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Though Powell is 28 years older than Reynolds, its a very cute movie and worth looking into. Also keep an eye out for a much older Glenda Farrel. She is still as beautiful and funny as she was in the 1930s.

Swiss Family Robinson (1960): The Robinson family shipwrecks on a tropical island on their way to New Guinea.  Mom (Dorothy McGuire), Dad (John Mills), Fritz (James MacArthur), Ernst (Tommy Kirk) and Frances (Kevin “Moochie” Corcoran) learn how to live life on an island away from civilized Switzerland. This includes catching baby elephants, fighting off pirates (played by Sessue Hayakawa) and even celebrating Christmas. Surprisingly, yes, this movie does have Christmas in it. Fritz and Ernst return on Christmas to the treehouse after exploring the island for several months. They bring back Roberta (Janet Munro), a girl they rescued from pirates, and fight over who gets to dance with her during the Christmas celebration. To review: Sure they are in the tropics, but they find time to celebrate Christmas. Even if they didn’t, it’s still a really nice family film, and my roommate, Sybil, and her family watch it every Christmas.

Margaret O’Brien crying in Tenth Avenue Angel (1948)

Tenth Avenue Angel (1948):

If you have ever had an urge to see Margaret O’Brien cry, here is your chance. Flavia (O’Brien) feels like everyone is lying to her. Her mother (Phyllis Thaxter) has told her old wives tales that aren’t true. Some of these are that mice turn into money, so that Flavia wouldn’t be afraid of mice (I have never heard, this have you?) and that cows kneel at midnight on Christmas Eve for Jesus. Flavia also finds out that her friend Steve (George Murphey) really didn’t travel around the world, but was in jail. After having a temper tantrum and potentially risking her pregnant mother’s life, Flavia realizes Christmas miracles do come true when she sees a cow kneeling for the Savior and her mother lives. To review: Parts of this movie are fine, but when Margaret starts shedding those tears start getting a bucket to bail out the water. I really like George Murphy, Phyllis Thaxter and Angela Lansbury in this movie, but O’Brien was also getting a little too old to play a six year old girl, when she was really 11.  

Happy holidays! Be sure to check back from one more special holiday post on Christmas day!

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