Watching 1939: Midnight (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult.

midnight 19391939 film:
Midnight (1939)

Release date:
March 17, 1939

Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Francis Lederer, Mary Astor, Elaine Barrie, Hedda Hopper, Rex O’Malley, Monty Woolley, William Hopper (uncredited), Eddie Conrad (uncredited)

Paramount Pictures

Mitchell Leisen

Eve Peabody (Colbert) is a penniless chorus girl, stranded in Paris with only the evening gown she’s wearing. Eve is helped by taxi driver Tibor Czerny (Ameche), but she leaves him and sneaks into a ritzy party. She meets Georges Flammarion (Barrymore) who suspects she’s an imposter, and hires Eve to break up the romance between his wife (Astor) and her lover (Lederer).

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Musical Monday: That Night in Rio (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.

This week’s musical:
That Night in Rio (1941) – Musical #308

20th Century Fox

Irving Cummings

Alice Faye, Don Ameche, Carmen Miranda, S.Z. Sakall, Leonid Kinskey, Curt Bois, J. Carrol Naish, Maria Montez, Fortunio Bonanova
As themselves: Flores Brothers Trio

Nightclub performer Larry Martin (Ameche) looks similar to the Baron Duarte (Ameche) and has an act where he poses as him. When Baron Duarte falls into financial issues and has to travel to Buenos Aires, his business partners have Larry step in to impersonate the Baron while he’s gone. Larry agrees, only if the Baron’s wife (Faye) isn’t informed that he is a stand-in.

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Musical Monday: Down Argentine Way (1940)

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 - Down Argentine Way_01This week’s musical:
Down Argentine Way” — Musical #273

20th Century Fox

Irving Cummings

Betty Grable, Don Ameche, Charlotte Greenwood, J. Carroll Naish, Carmen Miranda (as herself), Henry Stephenson, Leonid Kinskey, Fayard and Harold Nicholas (as themselves)

Ricardo Quintana (Ameche) travels from his home in Argentina to New York to sell his prized race horse. His father (Stephenson) tells him not to sell his horse to any relative of Binnie Crawford (Greenwood), who’s brother cheated him and the two have been in a feud ever since. In New York, Ricardo meets Glenda Crawford (Grable) and falls for her. She also wants to buy his horse, unaware of the feud. When he learns who she is, he takes back his agreement to let her buy the horse. Glenda angrily follows Ricardo to Argentina.

-Remake of the 1938 film, “Kentucky” starring Loretta Young, Richard Greene and Walter Brennan. “Kentucky” is set in the American south and also deals with horse racing. Young and Greene’s families are feuding, because of an incident that occurred during the Civil War.

-Originally supposed to star Alice Faye, who had to drop out. Caesar Romero was supposed to play Leonid Kinskey’s role. The film ended up being a break through film for Betty Grable, who had been in films since the early 1930s, according to Hollywood Musicals Year by Year.

-First screen appearance of Carmen Miranda. Her scenes were shot in New York at the Movetone studio in Manhattan and edited into the Hollywood film, so her only film appearances are two songs and no dialogue with the characters. Miranda was performing on Broadway in “The Streets of Paris.” She made an impression on audiences and was signed to 20th Century Fox, according to Memo from Darryl F. Zannuck.

-Film gossip columnist Louella Parsons compared Don Ameche to Rudolph Valentino in this movie. She said he “has a good singing voice, but he has never been the least exciting until this movie,” she said in a Oct. 6, 1940, column.

-Don Ameche’s role was originally offered to Desi Arnaz, according to Life on the Hyphen: The Cuban-American Way by Gustavo Pérez Firmat

-Director Irving Cummings originally wanted to cut the Nicholas Brother’s three minute tap dance scene, according to Brotherhood in Rythm: The Jazz Tap Dancing of the Nicholas Brothers by Constance Valis Hill.

-The Nicholas Brother’s tap dance performance.

-Carmen Miranda’s first screen appearance.

Notable Songs:
-“Down Argentine Way” sung by Betty Grable
-“Two Dreams Met” sung by Betty Grable and Don Ameche
-“Mamãe Yo Quero” sung by Carmen Miranda
-“South American Way” sung by Carmen Miranda

Betty Grable and Don Ameche in "Down Argentine Way"

Betty Grable and Don Ameche in “Down Argentine Way”

My Review:
“Down Argentine Way” may be looked upon as another colorful, fluffy Technicolor musical. But it’s an important step in two of the star’s careers and in Hollywood’s involvement with American foreign relations.
Catapulting star careers
Betty Grable, known for her “Million Dollar Legs,” started in films in bit roles in 1929. From 1929 through the late 1930s, she appeared as chorus girls-even in Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films. “Down Argentine Way” was her first major Technicolor film, showcasing her beauty and musical talents. After this film, she became one of 20th Century Fox’s top stars.
Carmen Miranda arrived in New York via Brazil in May 1939 and started in Broadway in June 1939. “Down Argentine Way” was released in October 1940, only a little over a year from the time she arrived in the United States. Her brief appearance in the film, launched an American career, primarily from 1940 to 1945, and dubbing her the Brazilian Bombshell.
Foreign policy
Now it’s time for a brief history lesson thanks to my South American History and Policy class at Winthrop University. (I even semi led a Carmen Miranda discussion in the class):
During the President F. D. Roosevelt administration in 1933, FDR said (in a nutshell) that he wanted to be a good neighbor to other nations. The Secretary of State said no country had the right to intervene in internal or external affairs of another country. The United States had troops in South America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Due to the Good Neighbor Policy, the United States withdrew Marines who were occupying Haiti and Nicaragua.
To promote these neighborly relations, the United States worked to promote Latin America in culture. You can see the cultural impacts in films like “Down Argentine Way,” “That Night in Rio” or “Week-End in Havana.” Fashion was affected with espadrille shoes, fiesta blouses and peasant blouses. Music had a South American influence with bandleaders such as Xavier Cugat.
What does this have to do with movies? “Down Argentine Way” was one of the first Hollywood films that promoted the Good Neighbor Policy- showcasing the beautiful countries (via soundstage) and how wonderful and romantic the culture is.
“Down Argentine Way” isn’t the best film of Betty Grable, Carmen Miranda or Don Ameche. But it’s fun and beautifully colorful. The story is simple but it is important in the careers of a few Hollywood favorites.

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Musical Monday: One in a Million (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.

one-in-a-million-sonja-henie-1936-everettThis week’s musical:
One In A Million” (1936)–Musical #478

20th Century Fox

Sidney Lanfield

Sonja Henie, Don Ameche, Adolph Menjou, Jean Hersholt, Ned Sparks, June Wilkins, the Ritz Brothers

Tad Spencer (Menjou) is broke and takes his female band (including his wife) to the Swiss Alps. They come to an inn run by Henriech Muller (Hersholt) and his daughter Greta (Henie). Greta is a figure skater training for the Winter Olympics. Henriech lost out on a figure skating medal in 1908 and has been training his daughter as a skater. Tad sees dollar signs when he see her skate and wants him in her act. The only problem is Greta is being paid for a nightclub act would hurt her amateur standing in the games. Bob Harris (Ameche) and his photographer Danny Simpson (Sparks), also arrives at the hotel to investigate a fire that may have been an assassination attempt.

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Classic film in daily life: Room and Work space

Back in November I said I was going to start writing short snippets detailing classic film in my daily life.  You may remember my post about writing a Media Ethics paper researching whites playing ethnic roles in films. 

As I finish up my last week of college classes forever, I wanted to show how classic film helped to decorate my college dorm room and my desk at our student newspaper office.

I even cleaned up my room for all of you 🙂

My room:

My desk area with Nancy Drew, White Cargo, West Side Story posters on top and Brandon Flowers, Betty Grable and Doris Day below. Also on the desk is a "White Christmas" photo, Robert Osborne bobble head and my desk top background is from "Since You Went Away"

My closer has photos of LIFE magazine photos above it, I tried to be clever and put actresses looking in mirrors on my mirror, Deanna Durbin and Esther Williams autographs on top of TV and Im watching the Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine in "The Guardsman"


More LIFE magazines over my bed

 I also have different film books lying around (I’m currently reading Betty Hutton’s “Backstage You Can Have”) and several VHS tapes and DVDs trying waiting to be watched. I didn’t add those because that seemed a bit much.

 My desk in The Johnsonian office:

My desk. Thats me on the desk top background with "I love Robert Osborne" written on the photo. As a joke each editor had their mug shot set as the background and something that defined them written about themselves.

Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Carmen Miranda and Betty Grable help me work.


Ruth Chatteron, Harry James, Don Ameche and Betty Grable also decorate my desk.

 Hope you enjoyed your little tour 🙂

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Tune in for your weekly fireside

Don Ameche, Ginger Rogers, Cecil B. DeMille and Charles Winneger performing on the Lux Radio Theater

“Radio  Waves Over Hollywood” will be streaming live Thursday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m (Eastern time).

Topics for Jan. 27:
-Film actors who made it big on TV
-Kay Kyser, Georgia Carroll and other big bands
-Actors who got married
-And more…

So be sure to listen at 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.  live stream on (go to Listen Live) or  the old WINR website.

Call in at 803-323-2122, whether you know me or not, to contribute to the discussion.  I would love to hear from you!

And remember, non-Winthrop students can listen and call in too!

Also, if you listen to the “Radio Waves Over Hollywood” show, leave feedback for me in the comments area. Let me know what I need to work on or what you want to hear!

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