Musical Monday: The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968)

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:
The One And Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968)– Musical #571

Walt Disney Productions

Michael O’Herlihy

Walter Brennan, Buddy Ebsen, Janet Blair, Lesley Ann Warren, Kurt Russell, Jon Walmsley, Pamelyn Ferdin, John Davidson, Wally Cox, John Davidson, Richard Deacon, Bobby Rhia, Goldie Hawn, Butch Patrick (uncredited)

Set in 1888, the musical Bower family auditions to play at the Democratic convention for Grover Cleveland in the election of Cleveland vs. Benjamin Harrison. The Bower family moves from Missouri to the Dakota Territory, which is largely Republican. The family gets involved in a local political battle as grandpa (Brennan) is a Democrat and the rest of the town is mostly Republican.

-The film is a true story based on a book written by Laura Bower Van Nuys, who was the youngest of the Bower family.

-Filmed in 1966, this was supposed to be a two-part, hour-long TV special called “The Family Band.” Walt Disney thought the project was flat and asked the Sherman brothers to help write songs.

Goldie Hawn in an uncredited role as a dancer with John Davidson

-Goldie Hawn’s film debut. She was credited as “giggly girl.”

-Music written by brother songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. The Sherman brothers wrote a total of 11 songs for the production while eight were used in the final product.

-750 children were interviewed for roles in the film, according to a June 15, 1968, article in the El Paso Herald.

-Walter Brennan singing

Notable Songs:
-“Let’s Put It Over with Grover” performed by the whole Bower family
-“The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band” performed by the Bower Family
-“The Happiest Girl Alive” performed by Lesley Ann Warren
-“Dakota” performed by John Davidson
-“‘Bout Time” performed by John Davidson and Lesley Ann Warren

My review:
The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968) isn’t a well-known Disney film. I actually had never heard of it until I picked up one of those inexpensive three movie sets because it included “The Happiest Millionaire,” the only Greer Garson movie I have yet to see.

And while IMDB does not list this movie as a musical, there is no doubt that it is one. The film opens with the family singing and I don’t think anyone stops singing for the first 20 minutes of the movie. It really isn’t much of an exaggeration to say that the first half of this film has more lyrics than lines.

The film starts out with the family practicing and auditioning to perform at the 1888 Democratic convention for Grover Cleveland with a song that Grandpa (Walter Brennan) wrote about Grover Cleveland. So that’s what the movie is going to be about, right? The family’s adventures of traveling to the convention, performing and becoming a big sensation?

Wrong. The family doesn’t perform at the convention because they decide to move to the Dakota territory. And then we follow their adventures there where the mostly Republican territory takes issue with Democrat Grandpa’s political ideas. And the family band plays every so often.

Now, this movie was based on the real Bowers family and an autobiography the youngest daughter of the family wrote, so I guess this is close to what happened with the family. But real life doesn’t always make sense when it comes to a film script. By the last half of the film I was scratching my head thinking, “So is this ploy just about people disagreeing about politics? I thought this would be more about a family band!”

At one hour and 50 minutes, I think this storyline could have been 20 to 30 minutes shorter. Had it simply been about a family band performing, one hour and 40 minutes may have been permissible, but I’m not really sure why this is so long or what filled the time.

What’s really interesting about “Family Band” is it’s cast. Knowing nothing about the film, I had no idea about the unique blend of actors and was surprised by some of the cast members. I really only knew Lesley Ann Warren, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn (in an uncredited role) were in the film. First, I was shocked to see Janet Blair, who seemingly had not aged since My Sister Eileen (1942) and looked beautiful as ever. Also, if you’re a Waltons” fan, Jon Wamsley (who plays Jason Walton on the show) is in the film as one of the younger siblings.

Oh, and did I mention that Walter Brennan sings? I did love that. I was also happy to see Buddy Ebsen dancing in the film. Ebsen danced in a few 1930s and 1940s MGM musicals but it seems to be a rare sight in his later films. Lesley Ann Warren does some great dancing in the film and Goldie Hawn appears as a dancer, stealing Warren’s boyfriend.

While there are multiple songs, the Sherman brothers did a great job with some toe-tapping tunes that will get stuck in your head (especially since they are performed so many times throughout the film).

I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t like the film…it was delightful. It just wasn’t what I expected and I had several questions once it ended. If you’re a Disney fan and haven’t seen this one, you should round out your Disney viewing and give it a watch.

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Musical Monday: “Summer Magic” (1963)

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, I’m starting a weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Summer Magic (1964) — Musical Number 44

summer magic poster

Hayley Mills, Burl Ives, Dorothy McGuire, Deborah Walley, Una Merkel, Peter Brown, James Stacey, Eddie Hodges, Jimmy Mathers

James Neilson

Walt Disney Studios

Set at the turn of the century, the Carey family finds themselves penniless after their father dies. The family moves from Boston, Mass. to Beulah, MN to a home Nancy (Mills) remembers the family admiring while they were on vacation. Once they arrive at the home, they find it run-down, but with the help of post master Osh Popham (Ives), the family fixes up the home. Surrounding the bustle of fixing up the home, the Carey’s snobby orphan cousin Julia (Walley) comes to live with them, and Julia and Nancy fall for the same boy (James Stacey).

Nancy (Mills) and Julia (Walley)

Nancy (Mills) and Julia (Walley)

-“Summer Magic” is based off the book “Mother Carey’s Chickens” by Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin
-The film is also a remake of the non-musical 1938 film “Mother Carey’s Chickens” starring Anne Shirley, Ruby Keeler, James Ellison, Walter Brennan, Fay Bainter, Virginia Weidler and Ralph Morgan.
-The movie was originally supposed to star Annette Funicello
-The song “On the Front Porch” is songwriter Robert Sherman’s personal favorite song from his own work, according to Sherman’s 1998 book “Walt’s Time: Before and Beyond”
-Walt Disney didn’t like the song “Ugly Bug Ball” sung by Burl Ives. Sherman persuaded Disney to keep the song and it went on to be a popular song from the film, according to Sherman’s book.
-The youngest brother, Peter Carey, is played by Jimmy Mathers—brother to Jerry Mather’s of “Leave It To Beaver” fame.
-Dorothy McGuire’s singing is dubbed by Marilyn Hooven

Osh (Burl Ives) sings “On the Front Porch”

Notable Songs:
-Most of the songs are silly and forgettable but are still pretty catchy, lighthearted and enjoyable. Some of my favorites include:
– Femininity- Nancy (Mills) and Julia (Walley) sing this song to Lallie Joy Popham (Wendy Turner) so that Nancy’s brother Gilly (Hodges) will notice her.
The song tells Lallie Joy to “hide the real you,” “men adore good listeners” and “don’t laugh too loud”
-Pink of Perfection- Gillie (Hodges) and Nancy (Mills) sing a song making fun of Julia saying she is a “dainty baboon,” has the “the charm of a moose” and has knock knees. The song is sung in their distain when they hear Julia is coming to stay with them.
-Ugly Bug Ball sung by Osh (Ives) and Peter (Mathers). It’s not personally my favorite song in the film and is mainly footage of different bugs crawling, but it’s catchy and cute.
-Flitterin’- sung by Mills, Hodges and McGuire (dubbed). The family sings it when they get a player piano as they are packing to Maine. It’s a brief little tune, but it’s catchy. Really, I enjoy it because I sang this song in the four times I have moved in the last two years.

My Review:
I’ll never forget the summer my mom introduced “Summer Magic” to my sisters and I. My dad was out of town on a business trip and she recorded it special off the Disney Channel for us to watch.

Since then, it has been a special favorite, filled with color, catchy Sherman brothers’ songs, and an outstanding cast. The turn-of-the-century costumes by Bill Thomas are also beautiful. Thomas dressed Deborah Walley in pink and Hayley Mills in yellow and it’s just gorgeous to see.

“Summer Magic” isn’t as well known as other Disney films such as “Old Yeller” or “The Parent Trap,” but it is a lot of fun and is a movie I grew up on.

If you like Hayley Mills films, you can’t go wrong with this one. But aside from Hayley, the supporting cast is gold! Dorothy McGuire as the mom and Burl Ives and Una Merkel are a hilarious treat as a quarreling married couple. Not to mention James Stacey and Peter Brown who round out the cast as handsome male leads (though Peter Brown disappointingly has very little screen time). You also see pre-Bonnie and Clyde Michael J. Pollard.

This is a remake of the 1938 film “Mother Carey’s Chickens,” starring Anne Shirley, Ruby Keeler, James Ellison, Frank Albertson, Fay Bainter and Donnie Dunagan (the voice of Bambi). While that is a fun (non-musical) film, I do prefer this one better. “Mother Carey’s Chickens” shows the audience when the father (Ralph Morgan) passes away. But I don’t feel like we get as deep into the romance aspect as “Summer Magic.” Also, Donnie Dunagan’s character is just annoying.

I would have loved to see what this movie would have been like had it really starred Annette Funicello, but it’s still pretty wonderful with Hayley Mills.

Even through it’s silly, forgettable songs and sometimes crazy plot, “Summer Magic” is one of my favorites. I’m fairly certain you will be “flitterin'” also.

Nancy (Mills) enters the Halloween party with handsome Tom Hamilton (Peter Brown) in “Summer Magic”

Check back next week for Musical Monday.

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