Musical Monday: The West Point Story (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.

This week’s musical: The West Point Story (1950) – Musical #336

Studio: Warner Brothers

Director: Roy Del Ruth

Starring: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Gordon MacRae, Doris Day, Gene Nelson, Alan Hale Jr., Roland Winters, Jerome Cowan

Plot:
Broadway director Bix Bixby (Cagney) is down on his luck because he has a problem with betting on horse races. Gambling prevents him from getting a good show and from marrying his sweetheart Eve (Mayo). Bixby is persuaded by a producer to help put on an all-male show at West Point Military Academy because the producer wants his nephew, Tom (MacRae) to leave the Academy and come perform on Broadway. Coming from a show business background, Bixby has a hard time understanding the cadets and their schedules. He’s thrown off campus and is only allowed to come back if he enrolls as a cadet.

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Christmas Musical Monday: By the Light of the Silvery Moon (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.

This week’s musical:
By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)– Musical #174

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp, Billy Gray, Mary Wickes, Russell Arms, Maria Palmer, Walter ‘PeeWee’ Flannery, Merv Griffin (uncredited)

Plot:
A sequel to On Moonlight Bay (1951), the story picks up in 1918 when Bill (MacRae) returns from World War I. Marjorie (Day) is anxious to discuss their wedding plans, as he promised when he left, but Bill doesn’t want to rush into wedlock. This causes a rift in their relationship. Marjorie’s brother Wesley (Gray) is still causing trouble in this film.

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Christmas Musical Monday: On Moonlight Bay (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.

This week’s musical:
On Moonlight Bay (1951) – Musical #118

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Roy Del Ruth

Starring:
Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp, Billy Gray, Mary Wickes, Jack Smith, Ellen Corby

Plot:
Starting in 1916, the film looks at a year in the life of the Winfield family. The films starts when the family moves to a new neighborhood hoping to refine their tomboy daughter Marjorie (Day). Marjorie falls in love with college student William Sherman (MacRae), whose has college ideas have him saying he doesn’t believe in marriage and that banks are parasites. These ideas don’t please her parents (Ames and DeCamp), so Marjorie dates several other young men, but she is preoccupied with thoughts of William. The film is filled with antics of her younger brother (Gray).

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Musical Monday: Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962)

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.

jumboThis week’s musical:
Billy Rose’s Jumbo” (1935)– Musical #23

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Charles Walters

Starring:
Doris Day, Stephen Boyd, Martha Raye, Jimmy Durante, Dean Jagger, John Astin (uncredited)

Plot:
Set in the early 1900s, the Wonder Circus is run by Pop Wonder (Durante) and his daughter Kitty (Day) with their main attraction Jumbo the Elephant. The circus is floundering financially and unpaid performers are quitting left and right to join other shows. Kitty hires a drifter Sam (Boyd) who does odd jobs and various performances. Kitty falls for Sam, but does Sam have the circus’s best interest in mind?

Awards and Nominations:

  • George Stoll was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment

Trivia:

  • Though she sang the title track for some of her films, this was Doris Day’s last musical film.
  • The film is based on a Billy Rose produced show, which opened on Broadway on Nov. 16, 1935, at the Hippodrome.
  • Day and Boyd in "Jumbo"

    Day and Boyd in “Jumbo”

    The film rights were bought by MGM in 1943 to co-star Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Wallace Beery and Frank Morgan, according to the book “Charles Walters: The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance” by Brent Phillips.

  • Though the four leads had doubles for the circus routines, they all went to circus school so the actor’s shots and would blend with the stunt doubles, according to Charles Walters: The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance by Brent Phillips.
  • Jimmy Durante starred in both the 1935 Broadway show and the 1962 film. Aside from a cameo in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” this was Durante’s last major role in a feature film.
  • Director Charles Walters originally wanted Richard Burton as the male lead, according to Phillips’ book.
  • Choreographed by Busby Berkeley. This was Berkeley’s last film. Director Charles Walters hired Berkeley because he felt he was the only one who could effectively stage the large circus numbers in the manner they were performed on Broadway, according to Charles Walters: The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance by Brent Phillips.
  • Music written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
  • Stephen Boyd is dubbed by James Joyce

Highlights:

  • Doris Day’s costuming
  • Circus acts
  • Jumbo the elephant
  • Martha Raye dressed as a lion during the “Circus On Parade” number

Notable Songs:

  • “Over and Over Again” performed by Doris Day
  • “This Can’t Be Love” performed by Doris Day
  • “Circus On Parade” performed by Jimmy Durante, Martha Raye, Doris Day
  • “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” performed by Stephen Boyd, dubbed by James Joyce, and reprised by Jimmy Durante
  • “My Romance” performed by Doris Day
  • “Why Can’t I?” performed by Doris Day and Martha Raye

My review:
I will watch any film that includes:
1. Doris Day
2. Circus themes
And “Jumbo” has both of those features that would pull me into the film. The first time I saw this movie in 2003 at the dawn of my Doris Day love, I don’t remember particularly loving this movie. Revisiting it more than 10 years later, I enjoyed it for the most part but it does have its flaws.

Shot in gorgeous in Metrocolor, the movie is visually pleasing with circus costumes, big tops and Doris’s long blond (wig) hair. The Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart written music also helps. “This Can’t Be Love,” “My Romance” and “Over and Over Again” are lovely and enjoyable songs.

“Jumbo” starts off as incredibly enjoyable. The ending leaves me a little deflated, not because it’s sad, but because the last eight minutes is a ridiculous long rendition of “Saw Dust, Spangles and Dreams.” This is complete with the lead cast (including Stephen Boyd) doing a clown act and Boyd is even a lion tamer.

Jimmy Durante is, as always, humorous and adorable. And because he always seems so sweet, your heart breaks with him at the thought of potentially losing his circus and beloved elephant Jumbo. I also love that Durante was in the original 1935 Broadway show, as well as this film.

Doris Day, Syd the Elephant and Jimmy Durante

Doris Day, Syd the Elephant and Jimmy Durante

In some films, Martha Raye’s prescience can be a bit much for me, but I enjoy her role in this movie. She’s funny and she and Doris Day perform a lovely duet. I’m not positive how they got along offset, but they make a charming set of female friends in this movie.

As for our star: With all of her films, Doris Day shines in this movie. Though it’s obviously a wig, her long turn-of-the-century hairstyle looks nice on her and her costumes are colorful. She makes an energetic, joyful and fun circus performer. The only issue is I can’t help but feel that this movie would have been more effective 10 years earlier when Day was under contract with Warner Brother’s.

While “Jumbo” is fun, I just feel that it’s a 1952 movie musical trying to fit in 1962. By 1962, movie musicals were starting to decline. They were also taking a more serious tone, such as “West Side Story” (1961), which looked at racism and gang violence. “Jumbo” producer Joe Pasternak produced many of MGM’s Technicolor extravaganzas in the 1940s and 1950s, such as “Thrill of Romance” (1944) starring Esther Williams, “Anchors Away” (1945) starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, and “In the Good Old Summertime” (1949) starring Judy Garland. Even he knew that “Jumbo” didn’t fit in anymore.

“We were getting older while the audiences were getting younger. Doris Day wasn’t a kid,” Pasternak said.

The film rights to the 1935 Broadway play were purchased by MGM in 1943, to co-star Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Wallace Beery and Frank Morgan. Later in 1947, it was set to star Garland or Kathryn Grayson with Frank Sinatra. And again, in 1952, Debbie Reynolds, Red Skelton, and Donald O’Connor were to be in the film, according to the book “Charles Walters: The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance” by Brent Phillips.

I can picture this film with any of the above listed in the time frame they were originally considered. Doris Day, Durante and Raye would have been even better in this film in 1952. Maybe Gordon MacRea could have played the leading man.

Raye, Durante, Day, Boyd in "Jumbo"

Raye, Durante, Day, Boyd in “Jumbo”

Another flaw was casting actor Stephen Boyd as the leading man. I love Stephen Boyd (and I had a major crush on him after first seeing this film) and I think he’s a great actor. However, Boyd doesn’t fit in a musical. This just doesn’t seem his style and he ended up being dubbed.

Director Charles Walters said Boyd worked hard on the film but wasn’t right for the film. Walters did say Boyd had a good sense of humor on set, which I was happy to hear. However, instead of Boyd, Walters wanted Richard Burton instead, which would not have been better than Boyd.

jumboThe only lead star in this film that didn’t receive enough screen time was the film’s namesake: Jumbo, played by Syd the elephant. For a film named after the elephant’s character, Syd probably only was on screen for 15 minutes of the 126 film.

For a movie about Jumbo, you see very little of the elephant, but his scenes are enjoyable. You get to see Jumbo do a few acts and play the tuba. I love elephants, so I particularly enjoyed his scenes.

Though “Billy Rose’s Jumbo” should have been released in theaters at least five years earlier to be relevant to audiences, it still is a fairly enjoyable film.

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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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Doris Day: From Hollywood party to leading role

romance on the high seasGeorgia Garrett is a fast talking, cigarette smoking, flirtatious night club singer–and she is the character played by Doris Day in her very first film “Romance on the High Seas” (1948).

While other actresses worked their way up to stardom through bit parts and uncredited roles, Day starred in her first movie.

And she continued starring in all 41 of her films from 1948 to 1968.

In the film, newly married Elvira Kent (Janis Paige) and Michael Kent (Don DeFore) worry that the other spouse is having an affair.

Georgia, a broke singer in a sleazy nightclub, frequents the travel agency and plans trips she never goes on and gets passport photos taken each time. Elvira meets Georgia in the travel agency while booking her trip to South America.

“But you have already had seven passport photos taken,” one travel agent says.

“But never as a blond,” Georgia coyly says.

Day as Georgia Garrett in the travel agency

Day as Georgia Garrett in the travel agency

On their third wedding anniversary, the Kents have to cancel a third anniversary trip due to business.  Michael tells Elvira to go without him.

Suspecting that Michael is going to fool around with his pretty new secretary, Elvira sends Georgia on the cruise in her place so she can stay behind and spy on her husband.

Also afraid that his wife is going to fool around on the cruise without him, Michael sends private detective Peter Virgil (Jack Carson) on the cruise to look after his wife.

Paige as Elvira instructing Day as Garrett

Paige as Elvira instructing Day as Garrett

Georgia, while posing as Elvira Kent, falls for Peter, and Peter thinks he is going to lose his job.

Romance on the High Seas” isn’t Doris Day’s most well-known film, but it’s my favorite.

While in the 1950s and 1960s Day was known for her squeaky clean, virginal persona, but her character in “Romance” has some sass.

Day started her career as a girl singer in 1939 for big band leaders such as Les Brown and Bob Crosby, brother of Bing Crosby.

By 1945, she had her first hit with “Sentimental Journey” which resonated with soldiers fighting over seas. More hits followed such as “My Dreams are Getting Better all the Time.”

“In a sense, ‘Sentimental Journey’ became the serviceman’s theme song,” Day wrote in her autobiography, “Doris Day: Her Own Story.

Before heading back East after a visit to Los Angeles, Day was convinced to attend a party at the home of Jule Styne, an American songwriter.

When everyone started performing songs at the party, Day began to get uneasy.

Day as a nightclub singer singing "I'm in Love"

Day as a nightclub singer singing “I’m in Love”

“These people loved singing for each other but I am painfully shy at parties, and particularly shy about performing impromptu,” she wrote.

Day was also going through a divorce at the time with child actress Virginia Weidler’s older brother, George.

She was asked to sing and was convinced to sing the chorus of “Embraceable You.”

The Gershwin tune landed Day her first film role, as the star of a musical comedy.

Styne wrote the score to the Warner Brothers film “Romance on the High Seas.” Judy Garland was originally slated to play Georgia Garrett, but the deal fell through.

Then Betty Hutton was set for the film, but she got pregnant and couldn’t be in the film, according to Day’s autobiography.

“Acting in films had never so much crossed my mind. I was a singer…” she wrote. “They kept telling me how lucky I was to be testing for the lead in a major musical and how many girls would die to be in my shoes, but I was sitting glumly looking out the window, only half listening.”

Her look was made to resemble Betty Hutton and she was encouraged to sing in Hutton’s signature energetic style during the test.

“But when we shot the scene, I did it my own way,” she wrote. “I instinctively understood something then that was to sustain with me through all the years that followed-to thine own self be true. Don’t imitate.”

Jack Carson and Doris Day meet on board the ship

Jack Carson and Doris Day meet on board the ship

Through being herself, Day gives a hilarious performance in the sparklingly musical, comedy which included one of her top hit songs, “It’s Magic.”

After the film became a hit, Day’s option was picked up for more Warner films. However, she wasn’t pleased with the movie. She dressed very casually and didn’t like the ultra glamorous look she had in the film.

Though Day wasn’t pleased with her first film appearance, “Romance on the High Seas” is my favorite Doris Day film—and I have seen all but two of her movies.

Along with the main cast of Jack Carson, Day, Don DeFore and Janis Paige—the movie has top notch character actors. Supporting actors include S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Oscar Levant and Eric Blore.

Paige and Day would later star with each other again in “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” (1960). Carson starred with Day in her next two films “It’s a Great Feeling” (1949) and “My Dream Is Yours” (1949).

“Romance on the High Seas” has it all: glamorous wardrobes, sparkling color, hilarious jokes and quality songs written by Sammy Kahn and Jules Styne.

Though Day is best known for her bedroom farce films such as “Pillow Talk” (1959) with Universal, her early Warner Brothers films are some of her best.

Fresh faced films, sunny and shining with Day’s smile.

This is part of the Summer Under the Stars blogathon. Check here for other posts on Doris Day.

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Day and MacRae: A forgotten screen team

Doris Day.

The sunny blond who can brighten a day with a smile.

On her birthday, I wanted to remember one of my favorite leading men who starred in five films with her.

But I don’t mean Rock Hudson.

Day and Hudson joined in the late 1950s to create one of Hollywood’s most memorable screen teams.

The two starred in three films together: “Pillow Talk” (1959), “Lover Come Back” (1961) and “Send Me No Flowers” (1964).

But before Rock entered into the picture, Day was teamed five times with another tall, dark and handsome actor-but this one could sing.

Doris Day and Gordon MacRae in "On Moonlight Bay"

Doris Day and Gordon MacRae in “On Moonlight Bay”

Gordon MacRae starred in five films with Day while she was under contract at Warner Brothers. Day was under contract at Warner from 1948 to 1955 and made 17 pictures, according to her autobiography, “Doris Day: Her Own Story.” (111)

“With pictures assigned to me one after the other, I found myself performing with the same Warner Brothers actors over and over again,” she wrote. “Three pictures with Jack Carson, five with Gordon MacRae, two with Ronald Reagen, four with Gene Nelson. A major studio was really a big repertory company that constantly shuffled its employees around so as to keep them busy as much of the time as possible.” (111)

"Tea for Two" (1950)

“Tea for Two” (1950)

Her first movie with MacRae was “Tea for Two” (1950).

“It was my first movie with Gordon MacRae and Gene Nelson, two cheerful, amusing young men,” she wrote.

Tea for Two” is based off the play “No, No Nanette.” Day, as Nanette, bets her uncle $25,000, played by S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, that she can say to no to everything for 48 hours. If she wins, she can back her boyfriend’s Broadway show.

Of course there are misunderstandings along the way and affect her romance with MacRae.

Doris Day plays a tom boy in "On Moonlight Bay" before she goes on her first date with McCrae

Doris Day plays a tom boy in “On Moonlight Bay” before she goes on her first date with McCrae

“In those Warner Brothers years, the pictures I enjoyed the most (not the scripts but the fun I had making them) were the nostalgic musicals-Tea for Two, Lullaby of Broadway, On Moonlight Bay, I’ll See You in My Dreams, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, Calamity Jane,” she wrote. “I liked the old songs, and the good old times that those films captured. I guess I’m really an old-fashioned girl at heart.” (117)

Of those films Day listed, Tea for Two, On Moonlight Bay and By the Light of the Silvery Moon also starred MacRae as her singing boyfriend. Other films they were in together included  “West Point Story” and “Starlift.”

Prior to his films with Day, MacRae starred in a few forgettable films and two June Haver vehicles. “Tea for Two” was his sixth film. Their last film “By the Light of the Silver Moon” (1953) was followed by “Oklahoma!” (1955)-the film he is remembered for today.
My favorite Day-MacRae films are “On Moonlight Bay” (1951) and “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” (1953).

Rosemary DeCamp, Doris Day, Leon Ames, Gordon MacRae in "On Moonlight Bay"

Rosemary DeCamp, Doris Day, Leon Ames, Gordon MacRae in “On Moonlight Bay”

The two films are a series based on the Booth Tarkington “Penrod” stories but revolve around the sister Marjorie, played by Day. Set at the early 1900s, Day is a tomboy and starts going on dates with Bill, played by MacRae. At first Bill has big, philosophical ideas, saying marriage is stupid.

The first film ends with Bill going to fight in World War I. The second movie picks up when he returns and follows the dilemma of when the two will get married.

The movies are heartwarming and include antics by Day’s little brother Wesley, played by Billy Grey, and her parents, played by Leon Ames and Rosemary DeCamp.

Though Day and MacRae are not remembered as a great screen team today, I feel they had great chemistry and their voices blended well in musicals.

MacRae’s personal life may have been stormy in his later years, but he had a sunny, boy next door characteristic that worked well with Day’s persona.

Happy birthday to my favorite actress since I was in eighth grade and who consistently puts a smile on my face.

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Who’s that turkey?

Happy Thanksgiving from Gordon and Doris.

Several holiday themed TV shows and films have the theme of having a pet turkey that is destined to be Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  Through the months, the turkey has become a friend to the main character so they are reluctant to cover it with cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving day.

Here are two films that show this:

Wesley (Billy Gray) getting nervous at Thanksgiving dinner.

By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953): This is the sequel of the Doris Day-Gordon MacRea romance “Moonlight Bay” (1951). These films are also based off of Booth Tarkington’s “Penrod” series, which is where Wesley Winfield’s (played by Billy Gray) shenanigans come from.
The Winfield’s have been raising a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner and naturally Wesley has gotten attached to the turkey named Gregory. He sets the turkey free and steals another. The family invites Mr. Winfield’s (Leon Ames) boss to Thanksgiving dinner and wants to impress.  Gregory somehow finds his way into the dining room during the meal. You can see what happens in the video below

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Jack Carson is the Easter bunny this year…

Since Easter is tomorrow, I wanted to do a post today and tomorrow. Today’s will be contemporary Easter in films complete with dying eggs, Easter bunnies and large bonnets. Tomorrow’s post will focus on the religious and Biblical aspect of the holiday.

Judy Garland and Fred Astaire posing for the photographers in “Easter Parade”

Easter Parade (1948): Who saw that coming?  This is probably the only feature film that isn’t set in Biblical times that prominately features Easter throughout the movie.  Though the movie really isn’t about Easter and its importance, it begins and ends with the holiday and the prominance of being featured in the newspaper while walking in the “Easter parade” in one’s Sunday best.  The actual film is about show business and how back stabbing dance partners can be when you are trying to hit it big with the Ziegfeld Follies.
This is a great favorite at my house. It has a wonderful cast, several funny scenes and one of the best musical soundtracks you can find. Below is a clip from the beginning of the movie featuring the songs “Happy Easter” and “Drum Crazy.” Unfortunately, Youtube didn’t have the famous “Easter Parade” scene at the end.

My Dream Is Yours  (1949): You may think: What? Isn’t this a Lee Bowman-Jack Carson-Doris Day remake of “Twenty Million Sweethearts”? Why yes, yes it is, but there is a VERY humorous scene where Doris Day’s son, Freddie has a dream the night before Easter. Doris and her soon to be boyfriend Jack Carson are dressed up like Easter bunnies and singing and dancing with Bugs Bunny. I really like this movie, Doris looks beautiful and the plot is a bit more serious than “Twenty Million Sweethearts.”  However,  singing like Easter rabbits is a bit silly. Before the dream, Freddie and Doris also dye Easter eggs, and that’s about all there is to the Easter references.

Other than those two films, there aren’t many films that focus a significant amount of time on Easter in contemporary time. I searched Easter as a keyword on IMDB, other films that feature the holiday are:
What Price Hollywood (1932): In this “A Star Is Born” take off, I think Constance Bennett’s husband either tries to commit suicide or dies on Easter, but I don’t remember clearly.
Holiday Inn (1942): This should come as no surprise. Bing sings Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade” song in the film that features every other holiday under the sun.
Peyton Place (1957): I think Allison goes to pick up Selena for Easter service, and Selena’s step-father was trying to make a move on her.

It’s disheartening that Easter is in so few films. I know Lent isn’t as exciting a holiday season as Advent, but Easter is a much more important holiday than Christmas. We will explore this more tomorrow in the Biblical representation of Easter in films.

Stay tuned for tomorrow!

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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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