Musical Monday: Finian’s Rainbow (1968)

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:
Finian’s Rainbow (1968) – Musical #603

Studio: Warner Bros. – Seven Arts

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Fred Astaire, Petula Clark, Tommy Steele, Don Francks, Keenan Wynn, Barbara Hancock, Al Freeman Jr., Ronald Colby, Dolph Sweet, Wright King, Vince Howard (uncredited)

Plot:
Father and daughter Irish immigrants Finian (Astaire) and Sharon (Clark) McLonergan travel to the American southern town of Rainbow Valley. Finian wants to bury his gold at Fort Knox thinking that it will grow more gold, but he is followed by a Leprechaun Og (Steele) who wants to retrieve the gold before he is turned human.

When a bigoted senator (Wynn) realizes gold is buried on the property, he tries to get the land from Finian.

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Musical Monday: The Sky’s the Limit (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:
The Sky’s The Limit (1943) – Musical #210

Studio:
RKO Radio Pictures

Director:
Edward H. Griffith

Starring:
Fred Astaire, Joan Leslie, Robert Benchley, Robert Ryan, Elizabeth Patterson, Marjorie Gateson, Fred Aldrich, Robert Andersen, Richard Davies, Norma Drury, Dorothy Kelly, Neil Hamilton (uncredited), Peter Lawford (uncredited) Eric Blore (uncredited), Amelita Ward (uncredited)
Himself: Freddie Slack and his Orchestra, Ella Mae Morse

Plot:
Fred Atwell (Astaire) is one of the Flying Tiger pilots during World War II and has been named a hero for all of his successful missions. During his leave back home, he is taken on a personal appearance tour. Tired of the strict schedule, he gets off the train at a stop and decides he’s going to have fun. He meets photographer Joan Manion (Leslie), who he falls for but she believes it just a drifter.

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Musical Monday: Silk Stockings (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.

This week’s musical:
Silk Stockings (1957) – Musical #50

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Rouben Mamoulian

Starring:
Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Janis Paige, Peter Lorre, Jules Munshin, George Tobias, Wim Sonneveld, Barrie Chase (uncredited)

Plot:
Russian composer Peter Illyich Boroff (Sonneveld) is living and working in Paris, France. Film producer Steve Canfield (Astaire) plans to use Boroff as the composer for his upcoming musical film, but this is complicated when three comrades from Russia — Comrades Brankov (Lorre), Bibinski (Munshin) and Ivanov (Buloff) — come to Paris to take Boroff back to Russia. However, Canfield steps in and charms the comrades with the highlights of Paris in the spring. Russia sends Ninotchka Yoschenko (Charisse) to Paris to bring Boroff and the comrades home, and Canfield works to charm her with Paris as well.

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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.

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

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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