Musical Monday: Colleen (1936)

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:
Colleen” (1936)– Musical #284

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Alfred E. Green

Starring:
Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Jack Oakie, Joan Blondell, Hugh Herbert, Louise Fazenda, Paul Draper, Marie Wilson, Luis Alberni, Hobart Cavanaugh, Berton Churchill, J.M. Kerrigan, Addison Richards

Plot:
Donald Ames, III, (Powell) runs the Ames Company and works to keep his uncle Cedric (Herbert) out of business decision. But when Donald heads out on a business trip, Uncle Cedric wreaks havoc by hiring grifter Joe Cook (Oakie) and pretty chocolate dipper Minnie (Blondell), and buys a dress shop where Colleen (Keeler) works for Minnie because she loves fashion. When Donald returns, he has to clean up the mess.

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Musical Monday: Footlight Parade (1933)

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 for Footlight Parade. I’m not sure why the girls aren’t wearing clothes.

This week’s musical:
Footlight Parade (1933)– Musical #230

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Lloyd Bacon

Starring:
James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Frank McHugh, Guy Kibbee, Ruth Donnelly, Hugh Herbert, Claire Dodd, Gordon Westcott, Arthur Hohl, Billy Barty (uncredited)

Plot:
Chester Kent’s (Cagney) Broadway musicals are failing, because of talking films, so he reinvents himself and begins producing the musical numbers shown before the movie begins. His secretary Nan (Blondell) is in love with him and helps him with ideas, but they learn that some of his ideas are leaking out to other similar agencies. To get a movie theater contract, Chester makes a dormitory out of the theater so that no one can leak the ideas.

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Musical Monday: Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)

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:
Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935) – Musical #149

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Busby Berkeley

Starring:
Dick Powell, Gloria Stuart, Adolphe Menjou, Alice Brady, Hugh Herbert, Glenda Farrell, Grant Mitchell, Wini Shaw, Frank McHugh, Joseph Cawthorn, Dorothy Dare, Virginia Grey (uncredited), Dennis O’Keefe (uncredited)

Plot:
The luxury hotel, The Wentworth, opens to wealthy patrons. Rich Mrs. Prentiss (Brady) is controlling of her daughter Ann Prentiss (Stuart) and is pushing her to marry T. Mosley Thorpe (Herbert). Mrs. Prentiss relents to letting Ann have a fun and free summer as long as she marries Mosley at the end of the summer. Mrs. Prentiss strikes a deal with hotel desk clerk Dick Curtis (Powell) if he agrees to escort Ann through the summer.

Dick Powell and Gloria Stuart

Trivia:
-Chorus dancer Jack Grieves died at age 26 on the set of “Gold Diggers of 1935” while Berkeley was directing “Lullaby of Broadway.” The cause of Grieves’ death was written as “acute indigestion,” according to Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak

-Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell were originally set to star in this film. But after Flirtation Walk, Keeler and Powell asked to not star together for a little while because they were being type-cast. Gloria Stuart replaced Ruby Keeler for the film, according to The Women of Warner Brothers by Daniel Bubbeo

-Busby Berkely’s first film directing the entire film (both the dance numbers and narrative)

-Busby Berkeley used 56 pianos (that didn’t have to play music) in the “Words Are in My Heart” number, according to Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak

-In the “Lullaby of Broadway” number, Wini Shaw’s head turns and she starts smoking a cigarette. This was supposed to model Man Ray’s 1920 photograph “Woman Smoking a Cigarette,” according to Spivak’s book.

-The fourth “Gold Diggers” film in the series that began in 1929 and ended in 1938.

-Music by Harry Warren and Al Dubin

-Costumes by Orry-Kelly

Highlights:
-Film begins with people at the hotel dancing
-The Lullaby of Broadway number

Notable Songs:
-“The Words Are in My Heart” performed by Dick Powell and ensemble
-“The Lullaby of Broadway” performed by Wini Shaw and Dick Powell, ensemble
-“I’m Going Shopping with You” performed by Dick Powell and Gloria Stuart

My review:
“Gold Diggers of 1935” is a funny and entertaining musical filled to the gills with 1930s Warner Brothers stars. The storyline is similar to other Warner Brothers musicals starring Dick Powell in this time frame. Powell is the clean-cut young man and falls in love with a wealthy young girl (Gloria Stuart) that he’s supposed to be chaperoning. Alice Brady plays the girl’s wacky, penny-pinching mother trying to get her to marry Hugh Herbert. And Adolphe Monjou is a Russian dance director. In this film, the gold diggers aren’t showgirls as they are in the previous films. The gold diggers are the hotel workers who don’t receive a salary and only work for tips.

Adolphe Menjou, Joseph Cawthorn, Alice Brady, Grant Mitchell and Glenda Farrell in Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)

While the storyline has several humorous moments (especially Adolphe Monjou directing chorus girls with a meat cleaver), the truly memorable segment of this movie is the 9-minute long “Lullaby of Broadway” number.

It begins in darkness with only Wini Shaw’s face as she sings “Lullaby of Broadway.” From there, the number tells a story of a “Broadway Baby” and her boyfriend who enjoy the nightlife of New York (all filled with Busby Berkeley’s imaginative shots and designs). The couple’s story ends rather grimly.

While “The Words Are In My Heart” features ladies at rotating pianos, “Lullaby of Broadway” is the Berkeley highlight in this film. It’s funny, I can think of this number and know the choreography, visuals, costumes and story by heart…but I often can’t remember which Berkeley film it’s frome. That’s how memorable it is…and it also speaks to how the film is entertaining, but not easy to distinguish from other films starring Dick Powell with direction by Berkeley. (I actually thought this number was in another film because I didn’t remember Gloria Stuart’s story being remarkable).

Pianos for the The Words Are In My Heart number

There are only three actual songs performed in the film, which is surprising especially for a Dick Powell film. But this is undeniably a musical, especially because it opens with groundskeepers and staff of the hotel dancing as they prepare for the opening.

I do have one beef with this film: Glenda Farrell was completely wasted. Farrell plays Hugh Herbert’s chiseling stenographer but has very little screentime. At one point, it had been so long since we had seen her that I forgot she was in the film!

Something else odd about this film: a dancer Jack Grieves collapsed on the set on Jan. 10, 1935, while filming the “Lullaby of Broadway” number. I wasn’t able to find much on Grieves, except for Jan. 11, 1935, news clippings that said Grieves collapsed and died from “acute indigestion” and was survived by wife Feleta Crawford and had an 11-month-old baby.

If you are a fan of Busby Berkeley musicals, don’t miss this one. Especially since it includes some of his best directed numbers.

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Musical Monday: Varsity Show (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.

This week’s musical:
Varsity Show (1937) – Musical #99

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
William Keighley

Starring:
Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane, Priscilla Lane, Ted Healy, Walter Catlett, Sterling Holloway, Johnnie Davis, Lee Dixon, Ford Washington Lee, John William Sublett, Mabel Todd, Edward Brophy, Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, Carole Landis (uncredited)

Plot:
Winfield College students (Lane, Lane, Healy, Holloway, Davis) need a successful varsity show. The last few years have been a flop and the old-fashioned staff is ready to outlaw swing in the shows. The students try to get alumnus Chuck Daly (Powell), who is now on Broadway, to stage their show. While they think he’s a New York success, his shows have been flops.

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Musical Monday: Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)

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.

GoldDiggers1937001This week’s musical:
Gold Diggers of 1937” (1936)– Musical #216

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Lloyd Bacon

Starring:
Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Glenda Farrell, Victor Moore, Lee Dixon, Osgood Perkins, Rosalind Marquis, Irene Ware, Carole Landis (uncredited), Jane Wyman (uncredited)

Plot:
Sickly Broadway producer J.J. Hobart (Moore) is broke but doesn’t know it. His scheming assistants, who are responsible for the financial downfall, decide to take out a $1 million insurance policy on Hobart so they can collect when he dies. While they work to keep him unhealthy with the help of Genevieve Larkin (Farrell), insurance salesman Rosmer Peck (Powell) and his girl Norma Perry (Blondell) try to keep him healthy.

Trivia:
-Choreography by Busby Berkeley
-Carole Landis and Jane Wyman played uncredited chorus girls in the film
-The song “Hush Mah Mouth” was written for the film but not used.
-This film follows four “gold diggers” movies made from 1923 to 1936: The Gold Diggers (1923), Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935). One more movie follows this film, “Gold Diggers in Paris” (1938)

Dick Powell and Joan Blondell in "Gold Diggers of 1937"

Dick Powell and Joan Blondell in “Gold Diggers of 1937”

Highlights:
-The “All’s Fair in Love and War” number choreographed by Busby Berkeley

Notable Songs:
-“With Plenty of Money and You” performed by Dick Powell
-“Life Insurance Song” performed by Dick Powell
-“Speaking of the Weather” performed by Dick Powell and Joan Blondell
-“All’s Fair in Love and War” performed by Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Lee Dixon, Rosalind Marquis

Dancers during the "All's Fair in Love and War" number in "Gold Diggers of 1937"

Dancers during the “All’s Fair in Love and War” number in “Gold Diggers of 1937”

My review:
“Gold Diggers of 1937” may not be as well known as it’s pre-code counterparts with “We’re in the Money” and “Lullaby of Broadway,” but I think it’s just as fun–if not more.

This was filmed during what we should call “The Dick Powell mustache years.” This movie is the start of the end of his crooning days, which ended officially in 1944 with Meet the People. However, Powell still sells a song as good as ever.

Glenda Farrell and Victor Moore in "Gold Diggers of 1937"

Glenda Farrell and Victor Moore in “Gold Diggers of 1937”

While Ruby Keeler and Ginger Rogers aren’t part of the gold-digging teams, this film has an excellent cast. Glenda Farrell and Joan Blondell are wonderful, as always, and the lesser known Rosalind Marquis is also adorable.

While this film is fun and very witty, the best part of this musical is the songs. They are all so catchy and you’ll keep singing them for the rest of the day, especially “Plenty of Money and You.”

The “All’s Fair in Love and War” is a really fun musical number as well with a fun tune.

Catch this one. It will keep you smiling throughout the whole 100 minutes.

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Musical Monday: Dames (1934)

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:
Dames (1934) – Musical #225

dames poster

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Ray Enright, Busby Berkeley

Starring:
Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Hugh Herbert, Zasu Pitts, Guy Kibbee

Plot:
Eccentric cousin Ezra Ounce (Herbert) decides to divide up his fortune of $10 million before he dies. Part of this will go to his cousin Mathilda and her husband. However, Ezra hates actors and their daughter is looking at going into show business.

Trivia:
-Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell’s fourth film together.
-Ruby Keeler’s last film with Busby Berkely.

Notable Songs:
-Dames performed by Dick Powell
-I Only Have Eyes for You performed by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler
-Try to See It My Way performed by Dick Powell
-The Girl at the Ironing Board performed by Joan Blondell

Ruby Keeler dancing in "Dames."

Ruby Keeler dancing in “Dames.”

Publicity photo of Dick Powell and several "Dames."

Publicity photo of Dick Powell and several “Dames.”

Highlights:
-The elaborate “Only Have Eyes for You” number that features several large shots and blown up pictures of Ruby Keeler. The best part is when Keeler rises up from below the stage through a trap door, that happens to be in the pupil of her eye.

 

blondell

Joan Blondell causing trouble for Guy Kibbee in “Dames.”

My review:
While “42nd Street” and “Footlight Parade” are my top two favorite Busby Berkeley directed films starring Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell (one of seven), “Dames” comes in at a close third.
Like the other two, “Dames” has it all: An excellent cast, breathtaking Berkeley directed musical numbers, toe tapping songs, humor and it’s very pre-code. In fact, I find “Dames” to be pretty hilarious.
An great example of humor and pre-code in “Dames” is when Guy Kibbee finds Joan Blondell stowing away in his bed on a train. Blondell isn’t wearing pajamas and Kibbee is fearful of a scandal that would make him lose the millions of dollars his very moral cousin has agreed to leave him. When Kibbee orders her to leave, she says “Why? I don’t snore.”
More humor comes when cousins Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell are in love, but we learn Powell is Keeler’s 13th cousin.
The film’s plot mainly revolves around Cousin Ezra’s (Herbert) moral code and hating theater people. This is why Ezra has disowned his relative Jimmy (Powell), because he is in the theater and trying to put on a show. As long as his family members Horace (Kibbee), Mathilda (Pitts) and Barbara (Keeler), don’t interact with Jimmy, they will get $6 million. However, Barbara is in love with Jimmy and also plans to audition to for his show.
Further complications arise when Mabel (Blondell) plans to blackmail Horace for money, know he would lose the $6 million if Ezra knew of their run in on the train.
Joan Blondell is wonderful in this film, as she is with everything else. We learn in these musicals that she really lacks the pipes to carry a tune, but her character and humor make up for it.
The “Only Have Eyes for You” number is really outstanding. it’s really a solid 5 minute homage to Ruby Keeler, complete with people dancing with large cut outs of her face and her face becoming the dance floor.
As far as Busby Berkeley, pre-code musicals go, “Dames” is the tops. Add it to your list of “must sees.”

 

Some Busby Berkeley shots: 

dames4 dames5 dames busby dames3 dames2 Dames1

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Musical Monday: Meet the People (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.

meet the peopleThis week’s musical:
“Meet the People” –Musical #104

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Charles Riesner

Starring:
Lucille Ball, Dick Powell, Bert Lahr, Virginia O’Brien, Rags Ragland, June Allyson, Howard Freeman
Themselves: Vaughn Monroe and his Orchestra

Plot:
William Swanson (Powell), a shipyard worker has written a musical about the war industry and want glamorous Broadway actress Julie Hampton (Ball) to star in the show. But when the show gets to the stage, William is curious to see that it glosses over the war and heighten the glamour. Pulling his play and heading back to Delaware, Julie follows William to get a glimpse at war work and convince him to reconsider.

Trivia:
-In her autobiography “Love Lucy,” Lucille Ball said she was “just another clothes horse” in this film.
-Ball wrote in her autobiography she loved working with Dick Powell and didn’t feel he ever received proper credit for his talents.
-At the time of this film, actress June Allyson was going to be dropped by MGM. Her next project was going to be “Two Girls and a Sailor” with Gloria DeHaven. Allyson was to play the secondary role as the beautiful sister and DeHaven the lead. Dick Powell advised her to ask Mayer to switch the roles, he did and it made her a star.
-It was on the set of “Meet the People” that June Allyson and Dick Powell became friends, and later married.
-Lucille Ball’s third project under contract at MGM.
-Lucille Ball’s singing was dubbed by Gloria Grafton.
-This movie was shown overseas to servicemen before it was released in the United States.
-According to MGM records the movie earned $670,000 in the US and Canada and $290,000 elsewhere resulting in a loss of $717,000.

Dick Powell, Virginia O'Brien, June Allyson and Lucille Ball in "Meet the People"

Dick Powell, Virginia O’Brien, June Allyson and Lucille Ball in “Meet the People”

Highlights:
-Singer Vaughn Monroe’s film appearance

Notable Songs:
-“Meet the People” performed by Dick Powell
-“I Like to Recognize the Tune” performed by Vaughn Monroe and June Allyson
-“Say We’re Sweethearts Again” performed by Virginia O’Brien

My Review:
Today, most of the world knows Lucille Ball as one of the greatest female comedians of all time due to her highly successful television career.
But at the beginning of her career, studios did not see that talent and were not too sure what to do with the actress. Studios like MGM groomed her to be the same as their other starlets- beautiful, coiffed and highly fashionable, and that simply didn’t fit Lucy.
In her autobiography, Lucille Ball ball dismisses this film and says she was “just another clothes horse.” However, she really enjoyed working with Dick Powell and felt he was an underrated talent and director.
While Dick Powell had a successful career in the 1930s, you can almost see that he was tired of the dry musicals. This was made the same year as “Murder, My Sweet” when Powell showed he could do more than croon.
The thing that makes “Meet the People” notable is June Allyson right before she hit it big and performer Vaughn Monroe.
Monroe is a terrific singing and very popular in the 1940s and 1950s, but isn’t spotted in films very often. Monroe was only in one other film than this, “Carnegie Hall.”
But Monroe and Allyson’s number about “I Like to Recognize the Tune” is one of the few songs you even remember after watching “Meet the People.” Allyson was on the drop list at MGM but only continued to be successful after this film from encouragement from Lucille Ball and advice from her (later husband) Dick Powell.
“Meet the People” is not one of MGM’s more memorable musical. However, it is entertaining and has some funny moments. Don’t write it off completely, but don’t expect anything amazing.

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