Musical Monday: Music in My Heart (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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Music in My Heart (1940) – Musical #261

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Director: Joseph Santley

Rita Hayworth, Tony Martin, Edith Fellows, Alan Mowbray, Eric Blore, George Tobias, Joseph Crehan, Marten Lamont, Joey Ray, Julieta Novis
Themselves: Andre Kostelanetz and His Orchestra, The Brian Sisters

Hopeful musical understudy Robert Gregory (Martin) is going to be deported. He’s given a chance to be the lead in a show as long as he gets on a boat at 12 a.m. His taxi wrecks with another taxi with passenger Patricia O’Malley (Hayworth) who is racing to meet the same boat to marry a millionaire (Mowbray). When they both miss the boat, Patricia takes in Robert and her younger sister (Fellows) tries to play matchmaker while Robert is avoiding being deported.

Continue reading

Christmas on Film: “And So They Were Married” (1936)

and so they were marriedBefore twin Hayley Mills was trying to get their parents together in “The Parent Trap” (1961), Jackie Moran and Edith Fellows worked to keep their parents apart in “And So They Were Married” (1936).

In this fun, comedic romp, divorced Edith Farnham (Mary Astor) and her daughter Brenda (Fellows) are spending the Christmas holidays at the gala opening of a ski lodge. Because of Edith’s divorce, both she and Brenda are anti-men.

Widower Stephen Blake (Melvyn Douglas) is also heading to the same lodge and tailgates their car up the mountain. This leaves both Edith and Brenda with a sour taste and no interest in socializing with Stephen.

After they all arrive at the ski lodge, an avalanche occurs, and the three are the only guests at the new hotel for a few days until the roads can be cleared. Brenda develops a cold, forcing Stephen and Edith to eventually socialize, and they begin to fall in love.

Continue reading

Classics in the Carolinas: Edith Fellows

Comet Over Hollywood is doing a mini-series of “Classics in the Carolinas.” I’ll be spotlighting classic movie related topics in South Carolina (my home state) and North Carolina (where I currently live).

Before heading to Hollywood, child star Edith Fellows lived her early years in Charlotte, NC.

Before heading to Hollywood, child star Edith Fellows lived her early years in Charlotte, NC.

With her bobbed brown hair, big eyes and a face more mature than other child stars, Edith Fellows acted with some of Hollywood’s top stars including Claudette Colbert, Bing Crosby and Melvyn Douglas.

In films such as “She Married Her Boss” (1935) or “And So They Were Married” (1936), Fellows seemed to specialize in playing brats who were reformed by the end of the film. Fellows once said she liked playing brats because she, “Couldn’t do those things at home,” according to actor Dickie Moore’s book about child stars ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.’

But before Fellows made her way to Hollywood, she spent her early years down South. Born in May 1923 in Boston, MA, her mother left Fellows and her father, Willis Fellows, when she was only a year old. Fellows’ father found a job in Charlotte, NC, and moved there with his parents. Fellows said her first recollection of living in Charlotte was having the measles on Christmas day.

While in Charlotte, Fellows started taking dance lessons at the Henderson School of Dancing located on the 200 block of South Tryon Street, according to the University of North Carolina – Charlotte archives.

The Henderson School of Dancing in Charlotte, NC on Tryon Street. (Source: UNC Charlotte archives)

The Henderson School of Dancing in Charlotte, NC on Tryon Street. (Source: UNC Charlotte archives)

“I was so pigeon-toed that I kept falling over myself,” Fellows said in an interview in the book “Growing Up on Set” by Tom and Jim Goldrup. “My grandmother took me to an orthopedics man and he suggested that she get me some dancing lessons.”

By the time she was three, Fellows was singing, dancing and reciting poetry in local productions.

“I used to sing and recite, they put me in a one woman show when I was only 3 and a half,” Fellow said in the Goldrup book.

A talent scout visited the Henderson School of Dancing and said he could get little Edith into a Hal Roach film. If Fellows’ grandmother paid $50, the talent scout could get her a screen test in Hollywood. Her dance class collected the money so she could go to California, according to a February 1986 issue of “Orange Coast Magazine.”

“It was terribly sad saying goodbye to my friends and dancing buddies. They all came to the railroad to see us off,” Fellows was quoted in Moore’s book. “Nobody asked if I wanted to go. I don’t know how I felt about it. I didn’t know what Hollywood was. My grandmother did, and because she was excited and happy, I caught her excitement without understanding why.”

However, Fellows’ father wasn’t able to go along with them to California.

“Daddy wasn’t able to go. I was standing on the observation platform at the back of the train looking for my daddy and remember crying so much because he hadn’t come,” Fellows was quoted in the Goldrup book. “…I was looking down the track and I could see a small figure on a white horse. It was my father. The train was picking up speed…and he rode alongside…”

When Fellows and her grandmother arrived in Hollywood, they found they had been conned. The address the “talent scout” gave them was an empty lot. Fellows’ grandmother was too proud to return to North Carolina and began cleaning houses. Fellows would stay with neighbors and go along with then children went to work as extras in films and Fellows got a role when the neighborhood boy had chicken pox, according to Moore’s book.

While some young stars had domineering stage mother’s, it was Fellows’ possessive and strong-willed grandmother that pushed her career.

“When I threw something at Claudette Colbert in a movie, I was really throwing at grandma,” she was quoted in Moore’s book.

During a meeting with Columbia studio head Harry Cohen and her grandmother, Cohen yelled at grandma for dressing Fellows in cheap clothing because it reflected poorly on the studio.

Edith Fellows, 14, and her grandmother in a 1937 newspaper clipping.

Edith Fellows, 14, and her grandmother in a 1937 newspaper clipping.

“I’m sitting there smiling because I’d no idea that my boss was my friend. I almost started falling in love with Harry Cohen,” Moore quoted Fellows. “…Grandma said, ‘Well, Shirley Temple’s mother gets a salary for taking care of Shirley, so I certainly think I deserve a salary for taking care of Edith.’ Cohen said, ‘You’ll get nothing and good day.’”

While Fellows felt earning money was a way to do nice things for her grandmother, she still resented how overbearing she was; not allowing Fellows to have birthday parties with children or to date boys. Grandma died in 1941 when Fellows was 18.

“Grandma’s funeral was one of the best performances I ever gave. When I found her dead one morning, it was a terrible shock, but it didn’t last too long. At the service, I kept my head down because I couldn’t cry…,” Fellows was quoted in Moore’s book. “I felt a great relief. I was almost laughing all the way to the cemetery.”

Fellows was dropped from her contract in 1940, but made plays and films through the late 1980s and early 1990s. She passed away in 2011.

In a 1980s radio interview, she was asked if she could start over and pick to go to Hollywood, would she? She first muttered “No” before saying “Yes, I guess so.”

“It did afford me wonderful opportunities to meet and work with different people,” Fellows was quoted in the Goldrup book. “That was an education in itself.”

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at

Edith Fellows: Tossing pennies from heaven

Another star faded on Sunday, June 26.  Child star Edith Fellows died at the age of 88.

Her name may not as familiar as child stars like Freddie Bartholomew or Virginia Weidler, Fellows was still popular with audience, but usually was type cast as a brat.

She played a spoiled little pill in “She Married Her Boss” that Claudette Colbert whipped into shape.  She later played a homeless child fleeing a truant officer with the help of Bing Crosby in “Pennies From Heaven.”

Edith Fellows getting the spanking she deserves in “She Married Her Boss” with Melvyn Douglas and Claudette Colbert.

Her favorite film roles were as Polly Pepper the “Little Peppers” series because she got to play a nicer, well-behaved characters.

I will say, I did find her a little annoying in “Pennies from Heaven” but I really enjoyed her performance in “She Married Her Boss” as Melvyn Douglas’s daughter.  Since Douglas had ignored his child, he gave her whatever she wanted making her a spoiled brat. Claudette Colbert marries him and straightens her out.

It’s entertaining to see her as a brat, but hilarious when Colbert threatens her into being a good girl.

Newspaper clipping

I never knew much about Edith Fellows-except I always enjoyed seeing her in films-until I read her obituary today.

Like several child stars, Fellows was pushed into stardom. But this time, it wasn’t by a stage mother. Fellows had a stage grandmother.  Fellows had been abandoned by her mother when she was born and was taken by her grandmother.

Conveniently, Fellows’ mother reappeared once she started to make it big in the picture business.  Her mother wanted to take her child back.

Fellows said her grandmother was a tough woman, but her mother seemed worse. She stuck with her stage grandmother instead.

Looking lovely in 1941

Unfortunately, Edith Fellows suffered the same fate that Shirley Temple and Jackie Coogan did financially.

When Fellows was 21 she tried to retrieve the $150,000 that had been placed in her trust fund during her career. Through the Jackie Coogan Bill, child actor’s money goes into a trust fund so guardians don’t spend all of the earnings-such as Coogan’s parents did. Fellows was given only $900 of all the money she earned.  The rest was missing. She felt like her mother was probably responsible for it, because her grandmother had died several years before.

Fellows grew up to become a beautiful young girl.  I was just watching “Pride of the Bluegrass” (1939) last week and was surprised at how pretty of a young lady she had become. I feel like if she hadn’t been dropped from her Columbia contract and had the desire to further her career, she could have maybe turned into a glamorous star.

Though Edith Fellows wasn’t in too many movies she made a lasting impression on me in the ones she did make.  Now Fellows can send down those pennies from heaven that her character Patty Smith and Bing Crosby hoped for.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page for the latest updates.