Musical Monday: The Life of the Party (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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
The Life of the Party (1937) – Musical #624

RKO Radio Pictures

William A. Seiter

Joe Penner, Gene Raymond, Harry Parke (billed as Parkyakarkus), Harriet Hilliard (also known as Harriet Nelson), Victor Moore, Ann Miller, Helen Broderick, Franklin Pangborn, Margaret Dumont, Richard Lane, Ann Shoemaker,

Mitzi (Hilliard) aspires to be a singer and is traveling with her aunt Pauline (Broderick) to California for her big chance. The issue is that Mitzi’s mother (Shoemaker) wants her to give up her dream of singing. On the way, she meets Barry (Raymond) when she gets her shoe heel stuck on the train. Barry has to wait to get married until he is 30 so he doesn’t lose his inheritance, but he falls in love with Mitzi.

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Musical Monday: Smilin’ Through (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.

This week’s musical:
Smilin’ Through (1941) – Musical #321


Frank Borzage

Jeanette MacDonald, Brian Aherne, Gene Raymond, Ian Hunter, Frances Robinson, Patrick O’Moore, Jackie Horner (uncredited)

John Carteret (Aherne) has lived alone, sad and bitter after the murder of his bride Moonyean (MacDonald) at their wedding years before. The young niece of Moonyean, Kathleen (Horner), comes to live with John after her parents die. Kathleen grows up to favor Moonyean and falls in love with Kenneth Wayne (Raymond), the son of the man who killed Moonyean.

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Musical Monday: Hit the Deck (1955)

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:
Hit the Deck (1955) – Musical #63


Roy Rowland

Jane Powell, Tony Martin, Debbie Reynolds, Ann Miller, Russ Tamblyn, Walter Pidgeon, Vic Damone, Gene Raymond, J. Carrol Naish, Richard Anderson, Jane Darwell, Kay Armen, Alan King, Henry Slate, Alvin Greenman (uncredited), Dabbs Greer (uncredited)

Three sailors go on leave — Bill Clark (Martin), Rico Ferrari (Damone), and Danny Smith (Tamblyn). Bill goes to find his girlfriend Ginger (Miller), Rico goes to find his mother (Armen), and Danny goes home to visit his admiral father (Pidgeon) and sister Susan (Powell). The sailors find that everyone is too busy to see them or uninterested in their visit. Danny finds out that his sister Susan is on a date in the hotel room of actor Wendell Craig (Raymond). Danny worries about Susan’s safety and he and his friends break into Wendell’s hotel room to beat him up and protect his sister. Because of this, they have to outrun shore patrol for the remainder of their leave.

Debbie Reynolds in “Hit the Deck”

– The last film Jane Powell made for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
– Russ Tamblyn was dubbed by two different people in the film: Rex Dennis and Clark Burroughs
– A version of Follow the Fleet (1936), which starred Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire
– Kay Armen was billed as “introducing.”

Ann Miller performing in “Hit the Deck”

Notable Songs:
– “Why, Oh Why?” performed by Tony Martin, Russ Tamblyn and Vic Damone, and also by Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell and Ann Miller
-“Lucky Bird” performed by Jane Powell
– “The Lady from the Bayou” performed by Ann Miller

Jane Powell and Vic Damone in “Hit the Deck”

My review:
Coming off the high of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” singing actress Jane Powell thought she was going to start getting better and more adult roles. However, “Seven Brides” was the beginning of the end of her musical career.

And “Hit the Deck” was her last musical and film at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, just a year after “Seven Brides” was released.

“Hit the Deck” is fun and star-studded but it’s not the quality that she hoped for. The cast includes some of MGM’s many musical stars, Jane Powell, Tony Martin, Debbie Reynolds, Ann Miller, Russ Tamblyn, Walter Pidgeon, Vic Damone and Gene Raymond.

Jane Powell is the star of the film, but I do feel like her role takes a backseat to Debbie Reynolds and Ann Miller. They certainly get the better numbers than Powell. However, all three girls are charming.

With the exception of Russ Tamblyn, I’m not a fan of the romantic leads of Tony Martin and Vic Damone, simply because they aren’t my favorite crooners. I do love seeing Walter Pidgeon and Gene Raymond, which is a special treat. Kay Armen is built up with a big “introducing” in the credits. Armen sings a few songs but she didn’t have a large film career.

Along with the large cast, the film is very colorful. But the songs aren’t very catchy (except for “Why, Oh Why.”)

One odd thing is Russ Tamblyn is able to sing but is dubbed in the song “Hallelujah.” And the voice he’s given is ridiculous, especially when he has a high-pitched while performing that song.

While “Hit the Deck” isn’t my favorite musical or one of MGM’s best, but it is an enjoyable way to spend two hours.

Jane Powell and Vic Damone, Ann Miller and Tony Martin, and Debbie Reynolds and Russ Tamblyn

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Or maybe like The Prison of Zenda

Back in September, I wrote a blog post called Just like the prince and in the pauper about actors who have an uncanny resemblance. I realized I left out a few actors who look like they could be relatives.
This post, like the other, is named after another famous mix up of identities. In the “The Prisoner of Zenda” (1937), commoner Ronald Colman looks exactly like prince Ronald Colman and is asked to impersonate him for the prince’s safety. There was a 1954 remake with Stewart Granger as well, but I like Colman better.

Nelson Eddy and Gene Raymond

Nelson Eddy and Gene Raymond: These two men have an uncanny resemblance and I can’t believe I forgot to add them in my last look-a-likes post. I only remembered when I was telling my grandmother about the post and she mentioned that she always thought they looked similar. The odd thing about these two men’s similar appearance is that they both had strong connections to actress and opera singer Jeanette MacDonald.
•Gene Raymond and Jeanette MacDonald were married from 1937 until her death in 1965. They were paired in “Smilin’ Through” (1941) together.  They seemed to have a long and happy marriage, both gushing about the other in quotes.  Gene seemed to love Jeanette very much. In 1972, seven years after her death he said, “”We had 28 glorious years. Jeanette and I respected and loved each other, very deeply. We put one another before anyone or anything. I am blessed to have known her, loved her and been loved by her – absolutely, an incredible lady!”
Jeanette seemed equally enthralled with her husband. In 1943, Jeanette said, “I can’t believe how blessed I am! I’m married to the most wonderful man, Gene Raymond, whom I’m deeply in love with, and, my career is right where I want it to be. I can live like this forever!”  And again in 1947 she gushed, “Gene, is the most wonderful man I’ve ever known. He’s warm, sensitive, loving, funny and very handsome. Being Mrs. Gene Raymond, I admit I’m biased!”
•However, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald had a curious and rumored connection. I’ve heard that they hated each other and would eat garlic when they had to sing to each other. I’ve also heard that they had a secret love affair. I’m really on the fence about both, because I’ve seen a lot of conflicting information. Supposedly during the 1950s, Jeanette MacDonald was asked by her friend Samuel Griffin why she married Gene instead of Nelson and she said, “I must have had rock in my head.”  I still really don’t think they had an affair though, especially when in 1957, Nelson said, “I don’t know why people still want to believe that Jeanette MacDonald and I were a couple off the set. There’s no truth to that rumor, at all. She’s happily married to Gene Raymond and I’m happily married to Anne. I guess people want to believe that what they see on the screen is reality while in actuality, it’s just a movie!”
Regardless of romantic involvement with Jeanette MacDonald, both men looked startlingly similar.

Harve Presnell and Howard Keel

Harve Presnell and Howard Keel: Not only do these men look very similar, they also have the same deep and bellowing baritone singing voice. Howard Keel broke into the MGM musical extravaganza in the early 1950s with his rich, vibrating voice. He stared in big budget musicals like “Annie Get Your Gun” (1951) and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954).
Similarly, Harve Presnell has the same semi-operatic, rumbling voice and physique, but was about five or 10 years too late for the musical game. His first big musical was “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” in 1964, which was toward the end of the golden age of musicals and a major turn in films. He was in other musicals like “Paint Your Wagon” (1968) and acted until his death in 2009, but one can only wonder what his career could have been like in the 1950s. You can really see the resemblance if you compare Presnell in “Paint Your Wagon” and Keel in “Kiss Me Kate.”

Dick Powell and Kenny Baker

Dick Powell and Kenny Baker: Dick Powell was the ultimate crooner and Kenny Baker was a singer on Jack Benny’s radio show. Both singers look very similar, sing the same crooning style, but Baker was never the same star caliber as Powell.
Powell was every woman’s heartthrob as he cuddled Ruby Keeler and sang about June and the moon. He was clean cut, attractive, always grinning and the sweet young all-American guy who won the girl. His career rocketed in “42nd Street” and never looked back as he went on to do film noir movies like “Murder, My Sweet” and even direct films.
The first time I saw Baker in “Goldwyn Follies” (1938), I thought “This must be Sam Goldwyn’s answer to Dick Powell.” Baker looks like Powell’s twin brother, who is slightly less attractive. Baker started his film career two years later than Powell, but ended it earlier as well. His film appearances in low budget movies like “Goldwyn Follies” and “52nd Street” (1937) are forgettable. He was in the larger budget “The Harvey Girls” (1948) as Cyd Charisse’s love interest, but does not have a substantial role. One could wonder if his lack of fame is because of Powell’s and Baker’s similar mugs.

Andrea Leeds and Olivia deHavilland

Andrea Leeds and Olivia deHavilland: Olivia deHavilland was compared to Anne Shirley in the last look-a-like post, but one cannot over look the similarities of Leeds and deHavilland’s film demeanor and appearance. Both have delicate features, soft eyes and soothing voices. Leeds and deHavilland were both Warner players, so I often wonder if Leeds was groomed to be a deHavilland replacement. Her first substantial role was in “Stage Door” in 1937, which is when deHavilland was in the midst of court battles with Warner Brothers.
However, there probably wasn’t a motive, they just happen to look nearly the same with the same mild mannerisms. Interestingly enough, Leeds was strongly considered for the role of Melanie Hamilton in “Gone with the Wind,” the role deHavilland made famous and was nominated for.

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