Musical Monday: The Gay Divorcee (1934)

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.

divorceThis week’s musical:
The Gay Divorcee” (1934)– Musical #121

Studio:
RKO Radio Pictures

Director:
Mark Sandrich

Starring:
Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Alice Brady, Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, Erik Rhodes, William Austin, Betty Grable, Lillian Miles

Plot:
Mimi (Rogers) is traveling with her Aunt Hortense (Brady) and is looking for a

Trivia:
-This was Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ second film together (out of 10 films). Following their success in “Flying Down to Rio” (1933), RKO teamed them together again.

-“The Continental” lasts 17.5 minutes. This was the longest musical number until Gene Kelly’s ballet in “An American In Paris” (1951).

-The Academy Awards for 1934 were the first to include the category for Best Original Song. Con Conrad and Herb Magidson were the first to receive this award for “The Continental.”

-Based on the 1932 Broadway show “The Gay Divorce,” which starred Fred Astaire and Claire Luce. For the film, the title was changed to “Divorcee.” Fred Astaire’s autobiography “Steps in Time” says the change was to show that the film was about the amorous adventures of a woman.

-Costumes designed by Walter Plunkett

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Musical Monday: “Follow the Fleet” (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.

follow the fleet 2This week’s musical:
Follow the Fleet” (1936) — Musical #155

Studio:
RKO

Director:
Mark Sandrich

Starring:
Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott, Harriet Hilliard, Betty Grable, Lucille Ball

Plot:
Bake Baker (Astaire) joined the Navy after his former dance partner Sherry Martin (Rogers) turned him down when he asked her to marry him.
Now he’s back on shore leave and he meets her by chance at a 10 cents a dance joint.
Sherry’s bookish sister Connie (Hilliard) meets Bake’s sea mate Bilge Smith (Scott) and falls in love with him. But Bilge isn’t read to settle down and starts running around with a rich divorcee.

follow the fleet

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire dance to “Let Yourself Go”

Trivia:
-This movie was made after the success of “Roberta.” RKO wanted to bring Randolph Scott and Irene Dunne back together again for another film with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as the secondary leads, according to TCM host Robert Osborne. Dunne’s contract expired with RKO and she went on to star in “Showboat” (1936). New comer Harriet Hilliard was selected to fill the Irene Dunne role, Osborne said.
-The beaded dress Ginger Rogers wears in “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” was very heavy. Fred Astaire said the dress was too heavy to be made for dancing. During the first take, a long sleeve hit Astaire in the face. After 20 more takes, Astaire felt like the first take was their best, said Robert Osborne.
-Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ fifth film together.
-The couple in the dance contest with Astaire and Rogers were unknowns picked by choreographer Hermes Pan.
-Lucille Ball and Betty Grable have small roles in the film.
-Actor/singer Tony Martin has an uncredited role in the film.
-Irving Berlin wrote “Get Thee Behind Me, Satan” was originally written for “Top Hat.”
-Adapted from the play “Shore Leave.”

Highlights:
-Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in the dance contest. They do impressive dance steps and Rogers is wearing pants so you can actually see the dance moves she’s doing.

Notable Songs:
All the songs are quality because the score is written by Irving Berlin but my favorites are:
-“Let Yourself Go” sung by Ginger Rogers
-“I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket” sung by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
-“Let’s Face the Music and Dance” sung by Fred Astaire

Harriet Hilliard and Randolph Scott in "Follow the Fleet"

Harriet Hilliard and Randolph Scott in “Follow the Fleet”

My Review:
While this was following the success of “Roberta,” it isn’t quite as good as “Roberta.” Harriet Hilliard is fine, but I would have loved to see Irene Dunne in the role.
The music in this Astaire and Rogers film is terrific since the score is written by Irving Berlin. It is also a real treat that all but one of Rogers’ dance performances are done in pants so you can see her footwork better than when she is wearing a ballgown.
The plot isn’t bad but some of the lines said in the film could be bothersome to the contemporary viewer. Such as Ginger Rogers saying you have to be dumb to get a man. Or that Harriet salvages a boat for a man she doesn’t even know.
Regardless of my issues with silly parts of the plot, if you are a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers fan, this is definitely a movie you should see. 

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Musical Monday: “You’ll Never Get Rich” (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.

richposterThis week’s musical:
You’ll Never Get Rich” (1941) –Musical #48

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Sidney Lanfield

Starring:
Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Robert Benchley, Osa Massen, John Hubbard, Frieda Inescourt, Guin ‘Big Boy’ Williams

Plot:
Broadway choreographer Robert Curtis (Fred Astaire) gets mixed up in the philandering of producer Martin Cortland (Benchley). Cortland buys a bracelet for a pretty chorus girl Shelia Winthrop (Hayworth) but Cortland’s wife (Frieda Inescourt) find the bracelet after Shelia refuses it. Robert gets mixed up in Courtland’s explanations to his wife, and is able to escape the confusion when he is drafted into the Army.

Trivia:
-Rita Hayworth’s first starring role in a large budget film for Columbia Pictures. It was successful at the box office and turned Hayworth into a star.
-During the filming of this movie, the famous LIFE photo of Rita Hayworth in a negligee on a bed was published, making her even more famous along with this movie.
-Nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Music, Original Score by Cole Porter for the song “Since I Kissed My Baby Goodbye.” The second was for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture by Morris Stoloff.

Robert Benchley tries to woo Rita Hayworth with a bracelet in "You'll Never Get Rich"

Robert Benchley tries to woo Rita Hayworth with a bracelet in “You’ll Never Get Rich”

-Fred Astaire appeared in two pictures with Hayworth. This film and “You Were Never Lovelier.” Though he liked dancing with Hayworth, he didn’t want to do any more pictures with her. He wanted to get away from being associated as a team with any particular actress, such as Ginger Rogers, according to “Encyclopedia of American Cinema.”
-Astaire said Hayworth danced with “trained perfection and individuality,” according to his autobiography “Steps in Time: An Autobiography.”
-The film had a working title of “He’s My Uncle,” according to “The Complete Lyrics Of Cole Porter.”

The Stars on the Film:
Rita Hayworth on the film:
-“The brass at Columbia had forgotten the fact that I was a dancer, until Fred Astaire, who knew my background, reminded them,” Rita Hayworth is quoted in the book “Hollywood Gold: Films of the Forties and Fifties” by John Howard Reid. “When Fred came to Columbia to make ‘You’ll Never Get Rich,’ they asked who they wanted as a dancing partner. Fred asked for me! That surprised me, but Fred knew what he was about. He knew my work. The film was a huge success and as a result, I was loaned out to Fox for ‘My Gal Sal.'”

Fred Astaire on the film:
Rita danced with trained perfection and individuality. Of course, she knew through experience what the dancing business was all about,” Fred Astaire is quoted in the book “Hollywood Gold: Films of the Forties and Fifties” by John Howard Reid. “That was apparent when I started working with her. I enjoyed making both ‘You’ll Never Get Rich’ and ‘You Were Never Lovelier‘ because of Rita.”

“She’s a natural. She’s constantly surprising me. Nothing is too difficult for her. She watches, goes up, practices up and the next day she has it perfect,” in the Oct. 1941, “Born to Dance-Together” in Movie Stars Parade.

Highlights:
-The film begins with Robert Benchley riding in a vehicle. He tells the chauffeur to slow down and we see the credits in the form of billboards along the road.
-The first musical number is an interesting dance number that mixes modern dance and tap dancing together.

-Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth’s duet tap dance at the beginning of the film when Astaire is showing her how to do a dance in the show. The number show’s off just how good a dancer Hayworth is.

-Popular 1940s singer Martha Tilton shows up at the end as a specialty performance for the “Wedding Cake Walk” number.

Singer Martha Tilton makes an appearance singing "The Wedding Cake Walk."  (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen Cap by Jessica Pickens)

Singer Martha Tilton makes an appearance singing “The Wedding Cake Walk.” (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen Cap by Jessica Pickens)

Notable Songs:
-Shootin’ the Works for Uncle Sam sung by Fred Astaire
-The Wedding Cake Walk sung by Martha Tilton

My Review:
The biggest point of interest with “You’ll Never Get Rich” is this is the film that made Rita Hayworth a star and showed Fred Astaire could have other dancing partners besides Ginger Rogers.
While Fred Astaire sings a few songs and we hear two songs from the Four Tones group, this musical seems to focus more on dancing. It’s a vehicle for Rita Hayworth, showing off how good of a dancer she is, so she isn’t dubbed like she is in musicals in the future.
The plot is a bit zany and runs on miscommunication jokes, however it’s a fairly cute and entertaining film. The thing that stands out the most are the excellent dancing numbers with Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire.

Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire dancing in the "So Near and Yet So Far" number.

Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire dancing in the “So Near and Yet So Far” number.

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Christmas Musical Monday: “Holiday Inn” (1942)

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.

holiday inn posterThis week’s musical:
Holiday Inn” (1942) –Musical #22

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Mark Sandrich

Starring:
Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, Walter Abel, Louise Beavers

Plot:
Singer Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) and dancer Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire) are both in love with Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale). When Lila jilts Jim for Ted, Jim decides to quit show business and live on a farm.Jim ends up converting his farm into a nightclub and hotel called the Holiday Inn which is only opened during the 15 holidays of the year.
When Jim meets Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), she agrees to appear in his shows at the inn, and the two fall in love. However, Jim works to keep Linda from meeting Ted -who was also jilted by Lila-so he doesn’t steal her for an act and her heart.
Holidays and their songs include:
Christmas (twice)-  “White Christmas”
New Years (twice) -“Happy Holidays” and “Let’s Start the New Year Right”
Valentines Day- “Be Careful, It’s My Heart”
Abraham’s Birthday: “Abraham”
Washington’s Birthday: “I Can’t Tell a Lie”
Easter: “Easter Parade”
Fourth of July: “Song of Freedom” and “Let’s Say it with Fireworks”
-Thanksgiving- “I’ve Got Plenty to Be Thankful For”

Trivia:
-The hotel chain Holiday Inn was inspired by the title of this film, according to the hotel founder Kemmons Wilson’s New York times obituary.
-This film introduced the song “White Christmas.” Irving Berlin thought of the song “White Christmas” in 1935 on the set of “Top Hat” and wanted to use it for a Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film. Astaire liked the tune but it was never used until their film. Irving Berlin and Moss Hart worked and copyrighted the idea for a musical revue revolving around tunes for each holiday, according to “The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin” by Robert Kimball and Linda Emmett.

– Irving Berlin had a hard time writing the Christmas song “White Christmas” since he was Jewish. He ran the song by Bing Crosby, who thought it would be great, according to “Christmas’s Most Wanted” by Kevin Cuddihy.

Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds (dubbed by Martha Mears) sing "White Christmas" at the end of the film.

Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds (dubbed by Martha Mears) sing “White Christmas” which became a hit due to this film.

-The film originally was supposed include a dance number for Labor Day.

-The original version of the song “White Christmas” talked about basking in Los Angeles and longing for an old fashioned Christmas in New England. But the version we know now is more nostalgic, discussing a Christmas that a person won’t experience first hand-much like the soldiers fighting over seas during World War II, according to “World War II and the Postwar Years in America.”

-Mary Martin turned down the role of Linda played by Marjorie Reynolds because she was pregnant, according to her autobiography.

-Fred Astaire’s shoes he danced in during the Firecracker routine were auctioned off for $116,000 that went towards the war effort.

-The popularity of the song “White Christmas” created the spin off film “White Christmas” (1954) also starring Bing Crosby and co-starring Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney, according to the book “Christmas’s Most Wanted.”

-Fred Astaire was the first choice for the Danny Kaye Role in “White Christmas” (1954) to be a reunion after “Holiday Inn,” but Astaire turned down the role, according to the “Christmas Encyclopedia” by William D. Crump

-Paramount Pictures did not market this film as a Christmas movie since it covers many other holidays, according to “World War II and the Postwar Years in America” by William and Nancy Young.

Fred Astaire in firecracker number for the Fourth of July.

Fred Astaire in firecracker number for the Fourth of July.

-The Fourth of July number was expanded and made more patriotic after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; including the song “Song of Freedom,” “Let’s Say it with Firecrackers” and a movie reel of war workers and soldiers marching.

-Paramount thought “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” would be the hit from the film. Though it made the Hit Parade first with Tommy Dorsey’s Band, “White Christmas” was the true hit, according to “World War II and the Postwar Years in America.”

-Won an Academy Award for Best Original Song- “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score by Robert Emmett Dolan and Best Original Story by Irving Berlin.

-Marjorie Reynolds is dubbed by Martha Mears.

Highlights:

Fred Astaire dances with Marjorie Reynolds during the New Years scene where he took drinks of bourbon before each take.

Fred Astaire dances with Marjorie Reynolds during the New Years scene where he took drinks of bourbon before each take.

-Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby imitate each other in the number “I’ll Capture Your Heart Singing.” 
-Fred Astaire’s drunken New Years Eve dance. Supposedly Astaire had a drink of bourbon before each take-it took seven-to appear drunk in the scene.
-Fred Astaire’s “Say it With Fireworks” dance for the Fourth of July number where he throws down fireworks while he taps.
-The cartoon turkey on the calendar that runs between the dates for Thanksgiving Day. This is referring to “Franksgiving,” a controversy that occurred during the Roosevelt administration. President Roosevelt wanted to make Thanksgiving a week earlier.

 

Notable Songs: 
Since the music is by Irving Berlin, all of the songs are fantastic. The top songs include:
-“White Christmas” sung by Bing Crosby. This is the most famous song in the movie. The version sung by Cosby in the movie is the one you hear most on the radio.
-“You’re Easy to Dance With” sung and danced by Fred Astaire and Virginia Dale
-“I Can’t Tell a Life” sung by Fred Astaire for Washington’s Birthday dressed in period clothing.
-“Easter Parade” sung by Bing Crosby to Marjorie Reynolds for the Easter portion.

My Review:
When I first saw this movie several years ago, I didn’t like it.
I thought Fred Astaire was a bit of a heel and had no redeeming features. However, as I rewatch it, I see both men are heels at different points in the movie.
Characters aside- the thing that stands out the most is the music-all revolving around holidays. Irving Berlin’s songs written for each holiday are catchy and clever.
Fred Astaire also is able to show off his dancing abilities both with partners and in solo numbers. Bing Crosby has an excellent score and sings the song he is most remembered for.
“Holiday Inn” is an interesting topic for a film and is musically beautiful.
If you are looking for a Christmas movie, it doesn’t completely revolve around the holiday (but Christmas is in the film three times) and introduced one of the most loved holiday songs.

Bing Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds, Fred Astaire, Virginia Dale

Bing Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds, Fred Astaire, Virginia Dale

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Musical Monday: “Funny Face” (1957)

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.

funny face posterThis week’s musical:
Funny Face” -Musical #32

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Stanley Donen

Starring:
Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, Kay Thompson
Model cameos: Dovima, Suzy Parker, Sunny Hartnett

Plot:
An intellectual book store clerk (Hepburn) gets caught up in a fashion shoot. Photographer Dick Avery (Astaire)-based off of real life photographer Richard Avedon- feels she would add something unique to the fashion magazine he works for.

Fred Astaire's character was modeled after photographer Richard Avedon. Astaire is pictured with model, Dovima.

Fred Astaire’s character was modeled after photographer Richard Avedon. Astaire is pictured with model, Dovima.

Trivia:
-This movie was originally going to be an MGM film in the Freed Unit. However, since both Astaire and Hepburn were both working for Paramount, the film was moved to that studio. The MGM executives also weren’t in love with the script, according to The Fifties: Transforming the Screen, 1950-1959 by Peter Lev.
-Fred Astaire only wanted Audrey Hepburn for the film. Filming was delayed, because she wanted husband Mel Ferrer to be with her, according to “Audrey: A Life in Pictures” by Carol Krenz.
-Hepburn was self-conscious about being too skinny and flat chested. Fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy said everyone would be looking more at her eyes, Krenz said.
-Astaire’s role is based on the life of famed fashion photographer Richard Avedon. Stanley Donen hired Avedon for the visual consultant, according to “The Audrey Hepburn Treasures.”
-During the “He Loves, She Loves” number when Hepburn is in the wedding dress, it was difficult for Astaire and Hepburn to dance due to slippery and muddy grass.
-Hepburn’s own dog appears in the train fashion shoot scene.
-The white socks Hepburn wears in the jazz dancing scene caused trouble on set. Hepburn thought all black, including the socks looked better. Director Stanley Donen said if she wore all black, she would fade into the the background in the dimly lit scene and there would be no definition in her movement, according to the Sam Irvin book “Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise.”

Highlights:
-“Think Pink” isn’t an excellent song but the pink fashion sequence that goes along with the song is to die for. The number has models, including famous Suzy Parker, modeling pink bathing suits, day wear, evening gown and using pink shampoo and tooth paste.

Funny Face pink photogrid

“Think Pink” fashion segment in “Funny Face.” Models include Sunny Hartnett and Suzy Parker. (Film strip made by Comet Over Hollywood)



-The fashion shoot with Audrey Hepburn. The different scenarios are fun and the clothes are gorgeous.

model funny face

Audrey Hepburn fashion shoot (Film strip made by Comet Over Hollywood)

Notable Songs:
All of the music is by George and Ira Gershwin, so most of it is familiar and fairly enjoyable. However, some of the songs aren’t as recognizable Gershwin favorites like “Lady Be Good” and “I Got Rhythm.”
-“Funny Face” sung by Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn as he convinces Hepburn to model. Probably the most memorable song in the film.
-“S’Wonderful” sung by Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn
-“Let’s Kiss and Make Up” sung by Fred Astaire
-“How Long Has This Been Going On?” sung by Audrey Hepburn

My Review:
Though it’s said Fred Astaire wouldn’t do the film without Audrey Hepburn, Astaire is sadly wasted in this film. Astaire has two major dance numbers, but I don’t feel like it gives him an opportunity to really show off his talent.
However, “Funny Face” gives Audrey Hepburn a rare time to show off her dancing skills on screen. Hepburn originally trained to be a ballet dancer before going into films. Hepburn dances with Astaire and does the bohemian jazz, modern dance number.
Hepburn also does her own singing, rather than being dubbed like she was in “My Fair Lady.” Her voice, though, is better suited for the Gershwin tunes than the operatic score of “My Fair Lady.”
On a whole, though the plot isn’t fantastic- this movie is GORGEOUS. Beautiful color, beautiful clothing and my favorite are the fashion montages.
On a personal note: This film taught me the definition of empathy and made me want a black turtleneck.

Astaire and Hepburn dancing in "Funny face"

Astaire and Hepburn dancing in “Funny face”

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Musical Monday: Three Little Words (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:
Three Little Words” (1950) — Musical #280

three little words

Studio:
MGM

Director:
Richard Thorpe

Starring:
Fred Astaire, Red Skelton, Vera-Ellen, Arlene Dahl, Keenan Wynn, Gloria DeHaven, Debbie Reynolds, Carleton Carpenter

Plot:
Set in the early 1920s, the movie is a biographical film about Tin Pan Alley songwriters Bert Kalmar (Astaire) and Harry Ruby (Skelton).
Kalmar and his partner Jessie Brown (Vera-Ellen) have a vaudeville act, but he has ambitions of being a magician. After failing at that, Brown and Kalmar have a successful routine until Bert hurts his knee and can’t dance for a year.
Bert hears a song written by Harry Ruby and the two team up to write more music together, eventually writing popular songs, music for films and Broadway plays.

Trivia:
-Actress Gloria DeHaven makes a cameo playing her mother, Flora Parker DeHaven. Flora acted on stage and screen with her husband Carter Davis during the 1920s.
-Songwriters Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar were friends with Fred Astaire, who played Bert Kalmer, during his vaudeville days. Kalmer died in 1947, before the film was made but had agreed to it before his death. Ruby died in 1974. 

The real Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar.

The real Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar.

-Arlene Dahl plays real life actress Eileen Percy. Percy was in films 1917 to 1933. In the film and in real life, Percy and Harry Ruby were married from 1936 until her death in 1973.
-In the film Jesse Brown and Bert Kalmar marry. They did in real life as well but eventually divorced.
-The real Harry Ruby makes a cameo in one of the baseball scenes with Red Skelton.
The dress worn by Gale Robbins in the “All Alone Monday” number is the same dress worn by Ann Miller in the “Girl on the Magazine Cover” in Easter Parade (1948).
-Debbie Reynolds has a cameo in the role of real life actress Helen Kane. Kane dubs Reynolds’s singing.

Debbie Reynolds dressed as Helen Kane with Carleton Carpenter singing "I Wanna Be Loved By You."

Debbie Reynolds dressed as Helen Kane with Carleton Carpenter singing “I Wanna Be Loved By You.”

-Vera-Ellen is dubbed by Anita Ellis

Highlights:
-Gloria DeHaven plays her mother in the film. B
-Debbie Reynolds acts in the role of Helen Kane-who was later the voice of Betty Boop. Reynolds’s singing voice is dubbed by Kane.

Notable Songs:
-“All Alone Monday” sung by Gale Robbins. My favorite song in the film. Though 1930s recordings of the song I came across later were more upbeat and happy sounding, Robbins sang it with a bluesy and mournful feel.
-“Three Little Words” sung by Fred Astaire. The title song isn’t sung or written until the very end of the film but it is the most memorable and leaves you humming after the movie is over.
-“I Wanna Be Loved By You” sung by Debbie Reynolds who is dubbed by Helen Kane, who originated the song. Personally, Kane’s voice grates on my nerves but it is a memorable and famous song.

My Review:

Though parts of this film are fictional-such as the conflict between Bert Kalmer and Harry Ruby- is a good movie as far as biographical pictures go. In many biographical films, the love interest is made up of several different people that the main character had relations with during their career. The love interest also sometimes different name to protect the real life person-examples of this could be Jayne Mansfield’s character in the “George Raft Story” who is supposed to be Betty Grable, or Evelyn Keyes’s character in “The Al Jolson Story,” who is supposed to be Ruby Keeler.
In comparison, both men in this movie were represented with wives that they were involved with in real life.
I also liked the added cameos of people like Gloria DeHaven who plays her mother in the film.
My only beef is that the clothing worn by the female leads isn’t period appropriate and looks more suitable for 1950 and not the 1920s.
In all, “Three Little Words” is an excellent mix of gorgeous Technicolor, excellent dance numbers with Vera-Ellen and Astaire, comedy from Red Skelton and catchy songs.

Red Skelton, Vera-Ellen and Fred Astaire in "Three Little Words"

Red Skelton, Vera-Ellen and Fred Astaire in “Three Little Words”

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Musical Mondays: “Second Chorus” (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, I’m starting a weekly feature about musicals.

second chorusThis week’s musical: 
Second Chorus” (1940) – Musical #169

Starring:
Paulette Goddard, Fred Astaire, Artie Shaw, Burgess Meredith, Charles Butterworth

Director:
H.C. Potter

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Plot:
Danny O’Neill (Astaire) and Hank Taylor (Meredith) are seventh year college students who flunk on purpose to continue playing the trumpet in their college jazz band.
They meet Ellen Miller (Goddard) who becomes their manager for the band. And when band leader Artie Shaw (as himself) hires Ellen, Danny and Hank scheme and double cross each other to get into Shaw’s band.

Trivia:
-Astaire and Meredith are both supposed to be college students. Though they were supposed to be in college for seven years, they were both much too old to be students. Astaire was 41 and Meredith was 33.
-Meredith and Goddard were married at one time, but no during this film. The two actors didn’t get married until 1944.
-Billy Butterfield dubbed Meredith’s trumpet playing and Bobby Hackett dubbed Astaire’s. If you play a musical instrument or were ever in band, it’s pretty obvious that neither is playing. They are pretty terrible at faking it.

Artie Shaw and his band performing in "Second Chorus."

Artie Shaw and his band performing in “Second Chorus.”

Notable Songs:
-No song really stands out, though you do get to hear Artie Shaw and his band perform several time. This is another example of having the opportunity to hear a popular band leader of that time period.

Highlights:
-Goddard and Astaire dance together in the song “Dig It.”


-A good comedic moment for Goddard is when she talks to varying groups of people to sell the Astaire and Meredith’s bands. She talks to proper old women, thugs and teenagers-acting like she is one of them with each.

-Astaire works in a Russian restaurant and plays in the restaurant band, dressed as a Cossack. He does the Cossack dance while (pretending) to play the trumpet.

Astaire, dressed as a Cossack, does the Cossack dance while playing the trumpet. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screencap by Jessica Pickens)

Astaire, dressed as a Cossack, does the Cossack dance while playing the trumpet. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screencap by Jessica Pickens)

-The finale includes Astaire directing a band while tap dancing and eventually while tap dancing and playing the trumpet. Far-fetched but fairly entertaining.

Astaire leaps while directing Artie Shaws band and tap dancing in the finale of "Second Chorus." (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen cap by Jessica Pickens)

Astaire leaps while directing Artie Shaws band and tap dancing in the finale of “Second Chorus.” (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen cap by Jessica Pickens)

 

My Review:
This is a fairly enjoyable film but one of Fred Astaire’s more forgettable movies. However, I would rank it better than the Astaire and Joan Fontaine musical, “A Damsel In Distress.”
Also, for a Fred Astaire musical, he had far fewer musical numbers than usual and the film seemed more like a vehicle to highlight Artie Shaw and his band.
The thing that bugged me the most were how badly Meredith and Astaire faked playing the trumpet. Bad form, puffing of cheeks, one hand playing. I guess that comes from being in the band for several years.
Also, though Astaire and Meredith are good actors, I would say Paulette Goddard acted circles around them both and was the best part of the movie.

Astaire, Goddard and Meredith in "Second Chorus"

Astaire, Goddard and Meredith in “Second Chorus”

Check back next week for Musical Monday.

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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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Serenade me, Mr. Powell

Ginger Rogers was the Star of the Month for March on Turner Classic Movies. Ginger Rogers is a triple threat. She can sing, act and dance. She even won an Oscar for her 1941 performance in “Kitty Foyle.”

I taped several of her films that I haven’t seen (I’m trying to see all of her movies). One of these movies that I taped was “20 Million Sweethearts” (1934). The movie features Ginger Rogers and Dick Powell with a supporting cast of Allen Jenkins and Pat O’Brien.

Ginger Rogers is best known for the 10 films that she made with Fred Astaire. The screen team is recognized for their singing and dancing, but Astaire is generally the only one who gets to sing. Rogers only had the chance to sing solo in two of their 10 films together. These rare times occurred when Astaire refused to sing a song that was originally written for him. An example of this is “The Yam” in “Carefree” (1938).

The treat about the movie “Twenty-Million Sweethearts” is we actually heard Ginger sing several songs. I find it ironic that Ginger Rogers had the chance to sing more in a movie with Dick Powell than she does in her movies with Fred Astaire.

Dick Powell was one of the top “crooners” in the 1930s. His smooth voice could make women melt like butter. Fred Astaire was known more for his dancing. I’m sure women wouldn’t mind if he sang to them, but I have a feeling they would rather it be in their ear as he whisked them around on a dance floor.

Here is a comparison of the two men’s singing qualities:

Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers in “Twenty Million Sweethearts.” (1934)

Fred Astaire singing “The Way You Look Tonight” to Ginger Rogers in “Swing Time” (1936)

I personally would rather have Powell sing to me over Astaire. Who do you prefer?

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