Musical Monday: Anchors Aweigh (1945)

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:
Anchors Aweigh (1945) – Musical #18

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
George Sidney

Starring:
Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson, Frank Sinatra, Dean Stockwell, Pamela Britton, Rags Ragland, Billy Gilbert, Henry O’Neill, Leon Ames, Grady Sutton,
Themselves: Jose Iturbi, Carlos Ramírez

Plot:
Two sailors (Kelly, Sinatra) are on leave in Los Angeles when they meet a lost little boy, Donald (Stockwell). When they return Donald home, they meet his Aunt Susan (Grayson), who raises the boy and has dreams of becoming a singer. To impress her, the sailors mislead Aunt Susan and tell her they know famous pianist Jose Iturbi, so she can audition for him. Now they just have to find Jose Iturbi.

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Musical Monday: Du Barry Was a Lady (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:
“Du Barry Was a Lady” (1943)– Musical #173

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Roy Del Ruth

Starring:
Red Skelton, Gene Barry, Lucille Ball, Virginia O’Brien, Rags Ragland, Zero Mostel, Louise Beavers, Donald Meek, Ava Gardner (uncredited), Marilyn Maxwell (uncredited), George Carroll (uncredited),
As Themselves: Tommy Dorsey, Lana Turner, Dick Haymes, Jo Stafford

Plot:
All working at the same club, coat check boy Louis Blore (Skelton) and master of ceremonies Alec Howe (Kelly) are both in love with nightclub performer May Daly (Ball), where she sings a song as Madame DuBarry. May is in love with Alec, but she is holding out to marry a rich man. Louis wins $150,000 in a sweepstakes. Then he drinks a drugged drink and dreams that he’s King Louis XV and Lucille Ball is Madame DuBarry.

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Musical Monday: For Me and My Gal (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.

This week’s musical:
For Me and My Gal” –Musical #10

Poster - For Me and My Gal_03

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Busby Berkeley

Starring:
Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, George Murphy, Ben Blue, Richard Quine, Mártha Eggerth, Keenan Wynn (uncredited)

Plot:
Set in 1916 right before the United States entered World War I, the film follows vaudeville team Jo Hayden (Garland) and Jimmy Metcalf (Murphy). While traveling, Jo and Jimmy meet self-centered Harry Palmer (Kelly), who is looking for any way to reach the top. Jo falls for Harry and leaves Jimmy to start an act with Harry. Right before Jo and Harry are going to hit the big time, Harry is drafted into World War I. Harry takes extreme measures to stay out of the military and risks his relationship with Jo at the same time.

Judy Garland and George Murphy in the

Judy Garland and George Murphy in the “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” number in “For Me and My Gal.”

Trivia:
-Gene Kelly’s first film.
-The first time Judy Garland’s name was listed above the title, according to Judy: A Legendary Film Career by John Fricke
-“For Me and My Gal” is loosely based on Kelly’s character, the vaudeville performer Harry Palmer, who did become form a team and become engaged to performer Jo Hayden.
-The title was originally “The Big Time” and then “Applause” with hopes a title song would be written by Arthur Freed, according to DVD commentary by Judy Garland historian John Fricke.
-The script was written with Judy Garland in mind and George Murphy originally was going to have Gene Kelly’s role. When Murphy lost the role, he said it was one of the greatest disappointments of his life, according to Fricke.
-Eleanor Powell and Dan Dailey were originally slated in the cast. There were going to be two female roles (a dancer and a singer), but it was combined into Judy’s role, according to Fricke.

Notable Songs:
-“For Me and My Gal” performed by Judy Garland and Gene Kelly
-“Oh, You Beautiful Doll” performed by George Murphy
-“After You’re Gone” performed by Judy Garland
-“Ballin’ the Jack” performed by Judy Garland and Gene Kelly

My Review:
“For Me and My Gal” is a fun film with a plot that revolves around the art form of vaudeville, which was popular in nostalgia movie musicals in the 1930s and 1940s. The introduction to the film says it is “fondly dedicated” to the vaudeville performers who traveled from town to town and lived out of trunks.

Set in 1916, this musical was released in October 1942, right after the United States entered World War II. Production planning started for this film in 1940.

“For Me and My Gal” has catchy songs, great costuming and a compelling story line. But for me, the film is more interesting for two major reasons: This is the first truly adult role for Judy Garland.

Audiences were able to see Garland as a sophisticated young woman with an adult romantic lead and complex dance numbers. She wasn’t playing second fiddle to Rooney’s antics, which sometimes happened in her previous films, and her singing and dancing talents are further showcased.

Gene Kelly, Judy Garland and George Murphy in a publicity still for

Gene Kelly, Judy Garland and George Murphy in a publicity still for “For Me and My Gal.”

Before this film, Garland was primarily in child or teenager roles. Garland’s role in “Little Nelly Kelly” before “For Me and My Gal” also gave her the opportunity to play an adult role. However, it was a dual role- she was an adult who marries George Murphy and then Murphy’s child. It wasn’t quite the same as the woman she plays in “For Me and My Gal,” and part of the film kept her a child.

The second notable fact about this film is that it’s Gene Kelly’s first film role. Fresh from Broadway playing “Pal Joey,” studio heads were uncertain how Kelly would photograph, but Garland fought for him to be in the film.

A fact new to me is that “For Me and My Gal” is loosely based on Kelly’s character, the vaudeville performer Harry Palmer, who did become form a team and become engaged to performer Jo Hayden. The film closely follows Palmer and Hayden’s relationship with some changes. In real life, Hayden had a friend named Danny Metcalf who was killed in action. In the film, Danny Metcalf was split into two people- Jo’s brother Danny who is killed and her friend Jimmy Metcalf, played by George Murphy. Hayden and Palmer married in 1919 and Palmer died in 1962.

“For Me and My Gal” is an entertaining MGM musical that allows you to watch two Garland grow and Kelly start an impressive career. My only complaint is there isn’t enough George Murphy. Otherwise, it’s a ton of fun.

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Musical Monday: “Thousands Cheer” (1943)

t’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.

thousands cheer posterThis week’s musical:
“Thousands Cheer” — Musical #188

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
George Sidney

Starring:
Kathryn Grayson, Gene Kelly, Mary Astor, John Boles, Ben Blue, Odette Myrtil (uncredited), Henry O’Neill (uncredited), Frances Rafferty (uncredited), Mary Elliot (uncredited)

As themselves: Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, June Allyson, Gloria DeHaven, Red Skelton, Eleanor Powell, Ann Sothern, Lucille Ball, Virginia O’Brien, Jose Iturbi, Frank Morgan, Lena Horne, Marsha Hunt, Marilyn Maxwell, Donna Reed, Margaret O’Brien, Kay Kyser, Georgia Carroll, Bob Crosby, Cyd Charisse, Sara Haden

Band leaders: Kay Kyser and his band, Bob Crosby and his orchestra.

Plot:
Opera singing Kathryn Jones (Grayson) leaves her mother (Astor) to live on base with her military father (Boles), who is a colonel. Kathryn is also hoping to convince her divorced parents to reconcile. While on base, Kathryn hopes to build morale on the military base before the men are shipped off to fight in World War II. She meets former acrobat Pvt. Eddie Marsh (Kelly), who is not cooperative and isn’t pleased with being in Army. He hopes to transfer to the Army Air Corp, until the two end up falling in love.
The plot is a backdrop to a lavish military show Kathryn helps organize filled with comedic skits and music put on by MGM’s top contract players.

Trivia:

-Eleanor Powell’s first color film. Powell’s contract was not renewed with MGM after this film, according to “A to Z of American Women of Performing Arts” by Liz Sonnebon.

-Fifth role for Cyd Charisse and it is uncredited. After several small roles, Charisse was signed to MGM in 1946, according to Sonnebon’s book.

-Fourth film role for Gene Kelly.

Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson in a publicity photo for "Thousands Cheer"

Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson in a publicity photo for “Thousands Cheer”

-First film for concert pianist Jose Iturbi. Iturbi is one of many classically trained musicians that MGM studio head L.B. Mayer signed on to give the studio class.

-Ranks number 29 in MGM’s top grossing musicals. “Thousands Cheer” made $3,500,000 in the box office, according to “The Rough Guide to Musicals” by David Parkinson.

Highlights:

-Jose Iturbi. I enjoy seeing him in any film, whether he is acting or playing the piano.

-Gene Kelly tap dancing with the broom.

-Eleanor Powell in Technicolor. She again was filmed in color in her last film “Duchess of Idaho” (1950).

Notable Songs:
-“I Dug a Ditch” sung by several men

-“Daybreak” sung by Kathryn Grayon with Jose Iturbi on the piano

-“Three Letters in the Mail Box” sung by Kathryn Grayson

-“In a Little Spanish Town” sung by June Allyson and Gloria DeHaven

-“Should I” sung by Georgia Carroll with Kay Kyser’s band

-“Honeysuckle Rose” sung by Lena Horne

-“The Joint is Really Jumpin’ in Carnegie Hall” sung by Judy Garland with Jose Iturbi on the piano

My Review:
As I have mentioned in previous posts, there are several war time films just like “Thousands Cheer” – a thin plot with a ton of musical performances by big name stars.

However, “Thousands Cheer” stands out against “Star Spangled Rhythm,” “Thank Your Lucky Stars” or “This is the Army.” Maybe it’s because of the caliber of the MGM stars that makes it more enjoyable. Or maybe it’s the Technicolor.

But truthfully, I think it’s the way the film and the showcase of stars is structured. The first half of the film is a straight musical with a plot sprinkled with songs. The last hour to 45 minutes is roughly seven musical performances and skits designed as a show to entertain troops. The performances are shown like an actual show with Mickey Rooney as the emcee between each performance.

“Thousands Cheer” holds a rare quality against other talent showcasing films-the musical performances don’t grow tiresome. I was entertained the whole time, unlike films such as “This is the Army,” where my finger was itching for the fast-forward button.

Kay Kyser's singer and wife Georgia Carroll singing "Should I" in "Thousands Cheer"

Kay Kyser’s singer and wife Georgia Carroll singing “Should I” in “Thousands Cheer”

All of the performances and songs are quality entertainment. Frank Morgan and Red Skelton’s skits are humorous and all of the music is fantastic. The two songs that I think bring down the house are Judy Garland’s “The Joint is Really Jumpin’ in Carnegie Hall” (which should be no surprise) and Kay Kyser’s band with his wife Georgia Carroll as the singer. Carroll’s glowing closeup almost makes the movie for me.

This film is still early in Gene Kelly’s film career- this was his fourth film- but you can already see his star potential in his performance and the few dance numbers he was given. Kelly and Grayson also have good chemistry, and apparently MGM agreed, pairing them two years later in “Anchors Aweigh” (1945).

If you enjoy star spangled World War II films made for morale boosting and bursting with songs, this is for you.

Fun promotional pamphlet of caricatures of the "Thousands Cheer" songs.

Fun promotional pamphlet of caricatures of the “Thousands Cheer” songs.

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