Musical Monday: I Dood It (1943)

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:
I Dood It” (1943)– Musical #176

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Vincente Minnelli

Starring:
Eleanor Powell, Red Skelton, Richard Ainley, Patricia Dane, Sam Levene, Thurston Hall, Butterfly McQueen, John Hodiak, Joe Yule (uncredited)
Themselve: Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Lena Horne, Hazel Scott, Helen O’Connell, Bob Eberly

Plot:
Pants presser Joseph Renolds (Skelton) is in love with Broadway star Constance Shaw (Powell) and attends every performance of her show. To get back at her cheating leading man, Constance married Joseph, thinking he’s rich. When she finds out Joseph just works at a laundry, she leaves him. In a subplot, actor in the Broadway show Roy Hartwood (Hodiak) is a Nazi spy who plans to blow up a warehouse next to the theater.

Trivia:
-Edited dance numbers from Born to Dance (1936) and Honolulu (1939)
-Eleanor Powell was knocked unconscious during the lasso number
-Loose remake of Buster Keaton’s Spite Marriage (1929)
-Eleanor Powell’s last star-billing film. Her last under contract with MGM film was Thousands Cheer (1945) where she was a specialty performance.

Highlights:
-Eleanor Powell tap dancing with lassos. She then jump ropes around a line of ropes
-Cameo by Tommy Dorsey watching his brother Jimmy Dorsey
-Hazel Smith’s performance

Notable Songs:
-“Star Eyes” performed by Bob Eberly and Helen O’Connell
-“So Long Sarah Jane” performed by Bob Eberly
-“Jericho” performed by Hazel Scott and Lena Horne
-“Taking a Chance on Love” performed by Hazel Scott on the piano

My review:
Throughout the mid-1930s to the early 1940s, Eleanor Powell cemented herself as one of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s top female tap dancers. But she doesn’t really get to exhibit it in “I Dood It” (1943).

“I Dood It” is seemingly a one man show starring Red Skelton with other characters occasionally popping in. He’s a pants presser with big dreams of living large and courting a famous Broadway star, played by Powell. His gags are funny, particularly a scene where he fills in for an actor in Powell’s Broadway show — love struck Skelton saw the show 63 times and could literally recite the lines backwards.

As a fan of Eleanor Powell, this film is a little disappointing. The character written for Powell isn’t terribly likable and you feel bad for Red Skelton as she uses him. As far as Powell’s dancing goes, she does one impressive western themed dance early in the film where she tap dances in lassos and jump ropes across girls swinging the lassos. But that’s where any “new” Powell dances ends. In one scene, Skelton doses off and dreams of Eleanor Powell dancing, but his dream takes us back to a tap dancing hula number from the 1939 film “Honolulu.” And again, at the end of the film when all problems are resolved, the grand finale is more MGM archived footage: Powell dancing in the grand finale of the 1936 film “Born to Dance.”

Eleanor Powell and Red Skelton in “I Dood It”

This is irksome to me. I’m not sure if MGM did this because of Eleanor Powell’s injury during the lasso dance, or if they decided they didn’t want to put more money into this film and reused old dances. While audiences in 1943 weren’t able to rewatch films like we are now, it’s still insulting to assume that these audiences wouldn’t remember that they had already seen these dances before. And that audiences wouldn’t notice that Eleanor Powell looked a little different in 1943 then she did in 1936 or 1939. Rather than dancing much, Powell is more Skelton’s “foil” for his jokes.

It’s also telling that this was Eleanor Powell’s last top billing film. After “I Dood It,” she had a small performance role in “Thousands Cheer” and then a cameo in “Duchess of Idaho.” Also in 1943, she married actor Glenn Ford and left films. It’s disappointing that Powell’s career fizzled with reused dance footage, and this magnificent dancer wasn’t able to end with a bang.

Since Eleanor Powell didn’t sing and Red Skelton’s voice isn’t strong, the musical numbers rely heavily on Jimmy Dorsey’s big band music and a musical interlude by pianist/singer Hazel Scott and singer Lena Horne. This is a really great number, but also sort of is random and thrown in taking you out of the plot. I almost think this was thrown in because the writers or producers weren’t sure what else to do.

Despite the disappointing dance numbers and some of my criticisms, “I Dood It” is an entertaining film and I do enjoy it. I like Red Skelton, and you also get to see John Hodiak in his third film. I’m just disappointed as a fan of tap dancing and Eleanor Powell.

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Musical Monday: Rosalie (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:
Rosalie” (1937)– Musical #140

rosalie

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
W.S. Van Dyke

Starring:
Eleanor Powell, Nelson Eddy, Frank Morgan, Edna May Oliver, Ray Bolger, Ilona Massey, Reginald Owen, Virginia Grey, Billy Gilbert, Jerry Colonna, William Demarest, Tommy Bond, Tom Rutherford

Plot:
Rosalie (Powell) is a student at Vassar and also a princess from the country Romanza. She falls for West Point student Dick Thorpe (Eddy), who will be joining the Army after he graduates. When Rosalie is commanded home, she tells Dick to meet her in Romanza at a spring festival. The only problem is that Rosalie is betrothed to Prince Paul (Rutherford).

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Musical Monday: Honolulu (1939)

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.

Honolulu_(1939)This week’s musical:
Honolulu” (1939)– Musical #172

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Edward Buzzell

Starring:
Eleanor Powell, Robert Young, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Rita Johnson, Willie Fung, Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, Sig Ruman, Ruth Hussey, Phillip Terry
As Themselves: The Pied Pipers, Jo Stafford, The King’s Men, Andy Iona’s Orchestra

Plot:
Popular Hollywood star Brooks Mason (Young) has a lookalike George Smith (Young). To get a rest from his fans, Mason sends Smith to New York for a personal appearance tour and heads to Smith’s Hawaiian plantation for a rest, meeting dancer Dorothy March (Powell) on the way. Complications arise when Mason meets Smith’s girl Cecila (Johnson).

Trivia:
-George Burns and Gracie Allen’s last film appearance together. After this movie, George Burns wouldn’t appear again on screen until 1952.
-Eleanor Powell’s “Hola E Pae” number was re-edited and put in “I Dood It” (1943).
-Eleanor Powell’s tap dance number “I Got a Pair of New Shoes” was cut from the film and can be found here.
-From an April 26, 1939, “Hollywood Shots” column: “There’s a good reason why Eleanor Powell calls Honolulu her favorite films: its the only one that ever gave her a foot bruise costing her at least one toenail.”

Robert Young plays a double role in

Robert Young plays a double role in “Honolulu”(1939)

Highlights:
-Eleanor Powell’s hula routine with a native tap dance routine
-Robert Young plays a double role
-Costume party featuring Bing Crosby impersonator and Gracie Allen as Mae West

Notable Songs:
-“Honolulu” performed by Gracie Allen, The Pied Pipers
-“The Leader Doesn’t Like Music” performed by Gracie Allen, The King’s Men
-“Hawaiian Medley” performed by The King’s Men, danced by Eleanor Powell
-“Hola E Pae” performed by Andy Iona’s Orchestra, danced by Eleanor Powell

My review:
“Honolulu” is not your usual MGM glittery musical, but it’s a lot of fun. Primarily, the movie is a comedy of lookalikes/mistaken identity with Robert Young. Eleanor Powell is merely a tap dancing backdrop.

Robert Young and Eleanor Powell in

Robert Young and Eleanor Powell in “Honolulu” (1939)

Since Powell does not sing, any songs are performed by Gracie Allen. The one that’s the most fun is “The Leader Doesn’t Like Music” as she is dressed like Mae West for a costume party and her backup singers are dressed like the Marx Brothers.

Married comedians Gracie Allen and George Burns have very little screen time together in their last film together.

The most notable dance number is the amazing hula/tap number that Eleanor Powell does. She starts off barefoot and in a grass skirt doing an impressive Hawaiian dance and then switches into tap shoes to mix tap dancing and hula steps. It’s truly the highlight of the film.

Gracie Allen even does a little tap dancing with Eleanor Powell at the start of the film.

The unfortunate part of this film is Eleanor Powell’s dance in blackface. This is off putting and takes away from Powell’s fantastic dancing, however, it was meant to be a tribute to Bill Robinson. Robinson was a close friend of Powell’s. She was not interested in tap dancing but knew it was the best form of dance to break into the business, and Bill Robinson served as her mentor. Robinson, along with Pearl Bailey, was also a godparent to her son Peter Ford. The two often performed together.

“Honolulu comes from the magical year of 1939 which hailed so many top notch films. It isn’t on the same level of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” or “Ninotchka,” but it does still hold a certain level of charm and glitter typical of other 1939 lower budget films.

While “Honolulu” isn’t the most inspiring MGM musical, it’s still a good slice of fun with some amazing tap dancing numbers.

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Musical Monday: “Broadway Melody of 1936” (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.

BROADWAY MELODY 1936This week’s musical:
Broadway Melody Of 1936” (1935) –Musical #206

Studio:
MGM

Director:
Roy Del Ruth

Starring:
Eleanor Powell, Robert Taylor, Jack Benny, Una Merkel, Buddy Ebsen, June Knight, Frances Langford (as herself)

Plot:
This is the second “The Broadway Melody” film, following the “Broadway Melody of 1929” and is considered one of the best Broadway Melody films, according to “All about Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards” By Emanuel Levy. Bob Gordon (Taylor) wants to put on a show and his high school sweetheart Irene (Powell) is hoping he will recognize her talent. However, Lillian Brent (Knight) is putting money in the show and wants to star in the show in return. Irene poses as a sexy French star in order to get the leading role. Bert Keeler (Benny) is a Broadway columnist adding comic relief, always getting punched in the nose.

Trivia:

Parker posing as Mademoiselle Arlette-the fake French star invented by gossip columnist Bert Keeler

Powell posing as Mademoiselle Arlette-the fake French star invented by gossip columnist Bert Keeler

-MGM was apparently in danger of going bankrupt in 1935. “Broadway Melody of 1936” and other Eleanor Powell films is what saved the studio, according to the musical documentary “That’s Entertainment III” (1994).
-Powell was originally given the smaller role of a secretary played by Una Merkel and along with another dance. Powell did a dance a screen test before the film started to see her versatility and she did a dance combination of tap, ballet and acrobatics, according the book “American Classic Screen Profiles” edited by John C. Tibbetts, James M. Welsh. Because of the dance, Powell was moved to a role with higher billing.
-Buddy Ebsen performs with his real life sister Vilma Ebsen in the film. Broadway Melody of 1936 is Vilma’s only film. The two started out as a vaudeville act and were once known as the “Baby Astaires”
-Part of a series of “Broadway Melody” films starting with “Broadway Melody” (1929) and followed by “Broadway Melody of 1938” (1937) and “Broadway Melody of 1940” (1940). Taylor, Powell and Ebsen starred again together in “Broadway Melody of 1938.” However, other than show business, the movies have no plot connection.
-Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. “Mutiny on the Bounty” was the Best Picture winner that year.
-Also nominated for Best Writing, Original Story and won for Best Dance Direction.
-Tap dancer Eleanor Powell’s first leading role.
-Buddy Ebsen’s first film.
-Powell’s singing is dubbed by Marjorie Lane.

Robert Taylor as Bob Gordon.

Robert Taylor as Bob Gordon.

Highlights:
-Robert Taylor singing “I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin’.” Taylor is not known for his singing, but he does a good job performing. The song is performed on a rooftop dance floor and tables and chairs pop up out of the floor.  The number is a great example of the excessively wealthy often represented in early to mid-1930s films.

-The odd man at the talent agency who is looking to get into show business with his different snoring sounds.
-Buddy Ebsen tap dancing with his real life sister Vilma Ebsen in the fun song “Sing Before Breakfast.”
-Eleanor Powell does a Katharine Hepburn impression from “Morning Glory.”
-In a dream sequence, Powell ballet dances to “You Are My Lucky Star” showing her versatility of dance
-Bert Keeler’s stooge dresses up like a woman to fool people about a fake French actress.

Notable songs:
The whole score is excellent because it is made up by song by composer Nacio Herb Brown including:
-“Broadway Rhythm” sung by Frances Langford
-“You Are My Lucky Star” sung by Frances Langford. Langford sings it straight and sweet and then swings the song, characterizing it with her singing style.
-“Broadway Melody”
-“I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin'” sung by Robert Taylor and June Knight
-“Sing Before Breakfast” performed by Buddy and Vilma Ebsen

Powell in the film's finale

Powell in the film’s finale

My review:
“Broadway Melody of 1936” is a fun musical with excellent songs. It’s a good example of the frothy, escapism films that were relevant during the Great Depression. Eleanor Powell is a delight to watch tap dancing in any film, but especially her first starring role. While tap dancers were a dime a dozen in the 1930s, she was innovative and stood out against the rest. Robert Taylor was still in his “pretty boy” phase of his career, but aside from his looks, you can see that he has talent as an actor.
The Ebsens are wonderful to watch and it’s a treat to see the brother and sister dance together in their only film.
My only complaint is joke about the man who snores wears very thin.
“Broadway Melody of 1936” is considered the best of the “Broadway Melody” films. “Broadway Melody of 1938” is very similar with a similar cast-with the addition of Judy Garland and the great Sophie Tucker. “Broadway Melody of 1940” teams Eleanor Powell for the only time with Fred Astaire.

Check back next week for Musical Monday.

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