Watching 1939: The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

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. 

1939 film:  The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

Release date:  Sept. 27, 1939

Cast: 
Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Donald Crisp, Alan Hale, Vincent Price, Henry Stephenson, Henry Daniell, James Stephenson, Nanette Fabray (as Nanette Fabares), Ralph Forbes, Robert Warwick, Leo G. Carroll

Studio: 
Warner Brothers

Director: 
Michael Curtiz

Plot:
The film is a dramatic depiction of the political and romantic relationship between Queen Elizabeth I (Davis) Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex (Flynn). While Queen Elizabeth I is in love with Essex, her duty to her country comes first.

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Musical Mondays: “Thank Your Lucky Stars” (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, I’m starting a weekly feature about musicals.

Poster - Thank Your Lucky Stars_01

This week’s musical:
Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) –Musical Number 470

Starring:
All top Warner Brothers stars: Eddie Cantor, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Olivia De Havilland, Ida Lupino, Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan, John Garfield, George Tobias, Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, Dinah Shore, Alexis Smith, Joan Leslie, Alan Hale, S.Z. Sakall, Edward Everett Horton,

Director:
David Butler

Studio:
Warner Brothers Studios

Plot:
Thank Your Lucky Stars” is a movie with less of a plot and more musical numbers from the top stars of the 1940s.
The plot that runs between the musical numbers is about producers (played by S.Z Sakall and Edward Everett Horton) who want to put on a wartime charity event for soldiers. Egotistical Eddie Cantor, playing himself, takes over the production. Singer Tommy Randolph, played by Dennis Morgan, and his girlfriend Pat, played by Joan Leslie, try to get into the show and replace the real Cantor with a bus driver who looks just like Cantor (also played by Eddie Cantor). Zany comedic moments and confusion ensue as Eddie Cantor has to prove he is the real Eddie Cantor.
Stars who usually don’t appear in musicals perform in the film such as Bette Davis, Ida Lupino and Errol Flynn.

Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie are one of the few stars in "Thank Your Lucky Stars" who don't play themselves.

Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie are one of the few stars in “Thank Your Lucky Stars” who don’t play themselves.

Trivia:
-This is one of the few movies where Bette Davis sings- another film where she sings is “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.” She performs the musical number “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old.”

-During Bette Davis’s musical number, she jitterbugs with champion jitterbugger Conrad Wiedell. Davis never rehearsed the dance with Wiedell, because she was afraid she could only get through the dance once, according to the book “The Girl Who Walked Home Alone” by Charlotte Chandler.
 “Look, I’m not a movie star. I’m just some dame you picked up at the dance hall,” she told him.
She hurt her leg during the dance, and you can see she is limping at the end of the dance and rubs her leg but completes the number. Davis didn’t want to spoil the take, because she didn’t think she could do the dance again, according to Chandler’s book.
-This is the last of nine movies Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland star in together.
-Though not dubbed in every movie, Joan Leslie is dubbed by Sally Sweetland.
-Olivia De Havilland is dubbed by Lynn Martin.
-All of the stars were paid $50,000 for the film which was donated to the Hollywood Canteen, according to “Errol Flynn: The Life and Career” by Thomas McNulty.
-Errol Flynn proposed singing as the cockney bar patron, because he wanted to do something different, according to McNulty’s book.

Notable Songs and Highlights:
Almost every song in the movie is worth noting because so many unique performances from stars you usually don’t get to hear singing:
-Errol Flynn sings “That’s What You Jolly Well Get” as a braggart Cockney. Flynn does an EXCELLENT job. He dances and sings with ease and sells the song well, while being humorous at the same time.
-John Garfield sings “Blues in the Night.” Garfield is no crooner and the song is a bit rough. However, he gives it his all-while telling a story between the lyrics-and is very entertaining.
-Ida Lupino, George Tobias and Olivia de Havilland sing “The Dreamer.” Lupino and De Havilland sings as gum chomping, jitterbugging dames and make a hilarious trio with Tobias.
My only disappointment is that de Havilland is dubbed and it’s obvious. Tobias and Lupino sing well but their unpolished voices don’t mix well with the de Havilland’s dubbed voice.

-Hattie McDaniel belts out sings “Ice Cold Katie
-Bette Davis sings “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” and jitterbugs. The song was nominated for an Academy Award and became a hit because of Davis.
-Ann Sheridan sings “Love Isn’t Born” with a group of Warner Brothers starlets, including Joyce Reynolds. Her song is one of the best in the movie. Sheridan is a great singer was in a few musicals, though that isn’t what she’s known for.
My Review:
This movie is a delight!
If you are expecting a movie with a firm plot and a moral, this may not be for you. But if you want to laugh and smile, “Thank Your Lucky Stars” will do the trick. Every single musical performance brings a smile to my face, especially those performed by Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan and John Garfield.
Movies that were basically musical reviews were not rare in the 1940s. Several World War II films took on a canteen-style approach with thin plots and dominate musical numbers such as Hollywood Canteen (1944), Stage Door Canteen (1943), Two Girls and A Sailor (1944) and Thousands Cheer (1943). Warner Brothers made a similar, but less appealing, musical review in the 1950s for the Korean War called “Starlift.”
Thank Your Lucky Stars ” also gives you an education of who the top actors and actresses were at Warner Brothers Studios during the 1940s.
I own this movie via the Warner Brothers Homefront Collection which includes “This is the Army” and “Hollywood Canteen” released in 2008. If you don’t own it, I highly suggest it.

Eddie Cantor in the "Thank Your Lucky Stars" finale

Eddie Cantor in the “Thank Your Lucky Stars” finale

Check back next week for Musical Monday.

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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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