Musical Monday: Look for the Silver Lining (1949)

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:
“Look for the Silver Lining” — Musical #133


Warner Brothers

David Butler

June Haver, Gordon MacRae, Ray Bolger, Charles Ruggles, Rosemary DeCamp, Lee Wilde, Lyn Wilde, S.Z. Sakall, Will Rogers Jr. (uncredited), Dick Simmons

Biographical film of musical star Marilyn Miller, played by June Haver. The film follows Miller’s rise to fame as a singer and dancer, starting with her family vaudeville act until she is the top star on Broadway. The film begins when Miller joins her family’s act, “The Five Columbians,” with her mother, father and two sisters. Miller meets famous vaudeville dancer Jack Donahue (Bolger) who helps her break into show business and is responsible for her first show on Broadway. During her big break, Haver meets actor Frank Carter (MacRae) and the two eventually marry.


Marilyn Miller in 1929

The real Marilyn Miller in 1929

-Marilyn Miller, played by Haver, was a famous Broadway musical star in the 1910s and 1920s. She was in a handful of Hollywood films, but she was more successful on the stage. The real Frank Carter, played by MacRae, married Miller in 1919 and he died in 1920 in a car accident, like the film says. Miller then married actress Mary Pickford’s brother, Jack Pickford, in 1922 and they divorced in 1927. She then married dancer Chester Lee O’Brien in 1934 until her death in 1936. Miller died from complications of a nasal surgery at the age of 37.

-In 1942, Louella Parsons announced Joan Leslie was playing the role of Marilyn Miller. Parsons hinted Rita Hayworth and Ann Miller may have been in the running for the film, according to a July 27, 1942 column in the St. Petersburg Times. Apparently plans for this film fell through or were delayed, because in 1947, Louella Parsons then announced June Haver would play the role of Miller in a St. Petersburg Times column. This time, Parsons says Vera-Ellen was “heartbroken” she didn’t receive the role of Miller, because she was a “leading candidate.”

-Last film of Lee Wilde. Her twin sister Lyn continued acting in films until 1953.

-Gordon MacRae’s second film.

-Will Roger Jr. plays his father Will Rogers.

Notable Songs:

-“Look for the Silver Lining” sung by June Haver

-“Who?” sung by Ray Bolger

-“Time on My Hands” sung by Gordon MacRae

My Review:
Visually “Look for the Silver Lining” is fun and colorful, but the actual plot is rather bland.

For a biographical film, you learn very little about Marilyn Miller other than the fact that she existed, was a very famous performer and one of her husbands died. However, I guess real life is a bit too long to stuff into an hour and 41 minute film.

Like most biographical films made during this time, the details are fairly sanitized. Only one out of three of Miller’s real husbands are discussed in the film- which is Frank Carter, the vaudeville actor who died in the car accident. At the end of the film, Miller’s character marries a character named Henry Doran, played by Dick Simmons. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be Jack Pickford, who was Miller’s next husband, or maybe a combination of her last two husbands: Pickford and Chester Lee O’Brien.

In real life, Miller also was an alcoholic and had issues with sinus infections. She died of complications after surgery that was dealing with her sinus problems.

In the film, it was implied that Miller’s health was declining but it was vague. She pirouettes as she practices for a show, then grabs her head in pain. She tells her friend Jack Donahue that her doctor says she has to “stop eating lobster, champagne, staying out late and dancing.”

Gordon MacRae as Frank Carter and June Haver as Marilyn Miller in "Look for the Silver Lining"

Gordon MacRae as Frank Carter and June Haver as Marilyn Miller in “Look for the Silver Lining”

Though Miller died in 1936, the film ends with her dancing in a colorful music number and singing the title song “Look for the Silver Lining.” But this ending is fairly typical for a musical biographical film where the lead’s life my end rather tragically. These brightly colored musicals don’t want to end on a low note, killing off the main star.

For example: “The Helen Morgan Story” (1957) about Helen Morgan (starring Ann Blyth) who died in 1941, ends with a banquet held in honor of the recovering alcoholic singer.

“The Incendiary Blonde” (1945) starring Betty Hutton as Texas Guinan, who died in 1933, ends with Hutton slowly walking out of a hospital, worried about her lover.

The stand out stars in this film for me are Ray Bolger and Gordon MacRae. June Haver’s dancing was lovely, but she wasn’t that memorable. I will say that this is one film where the leading lady actually looks fairly similar to the woman she is playing. But I was legitimately sad when MacRae’s character was killed off. I wanted to see more of him and hear more of his singing. Charles Ruggles was fun comic relief and Rosemary DeCamp is always the perfect mother.

I’m not trying to be harsh with “Look for the Silver Lining,” but there are other fabricated musical biographies that are more entertaining than this one. See: Yankee Doodle Dandy, Annie Get Your Gun, Love Me or Leave Me or Hans Christian Anderson.

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Day and MacRae: A forgotten screen team

Doris Day.

The sunny blond who can brighten a day with a smile.

On her birthday, I wanted to remember one of my favorite leading men who starred in five films with her.

But I don’t mean Rock Hudson.

Day and Hudson joined in the late 1950s to create one of Hollywood’s most memorable screen teams.

The two starred in three films together: “Pillow Talk” (1959), “Lover Come Back” (1961) and “Send Me No Flowers” (1964).

But before Rock entered into the picture, Day was teamed five times with another tall, dark and handsome actor-but this one could sing.

Doris Day and Gordon MacRae in "On Moonlight Bay"

Doris Day and Gordon MacRae in “On Moonlight Bay”

Gordon MacRae starred in five films with Day while she was under contract at Warner Brothers. Day was under contract at Warner from 1948 to 1955 and made 17 pictures, according to her autobiography, “Doris Day: Her Own Story.” (111)

“With pictures assigned to me one after the other, I found myself performing with the same Warner Brothers actors over and over again,” she wrote. “Three pictures with Jack Carson, five with Gordon MacRae, two with Ronald Reagen, four with Gene Nelson. A major studio was really a big repertory company that constantly shuffled its employees around so as to keep them busy as much of the time as possible.” (111)

"Tea for Two" (1950)

“Tea for Two” (1950)

Her first movie with MacRae was “Tea for Two” (1950).

“It was my first movie with Gordon MacRae and Gene Nelson, two cheerful, amusing young men,” she wrote.

Tea for Two” is based off the play “No, No Nanette.” Day, as Nanette, bets her uncle $25,000, played by S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, that she can say to no to everything for 48 hours. If she wins, she can back her boyfriend’s Broadway show.

Of course there are misunderstandings along the way and affect her romance with MacRae.

Doris Day plays a tom boy in "On Moonlight Bay" before she goes on her first date with McCrae

Doris Day plays a tom boy in “On Moonlight Bay” before she goes on her first date with McCrae

“In those Warner Brothers years, the pictures I enjoyed the most (not the scripts but the fun I had making them) were the nostalgic musicals-Tea for Two, Lullaby of Broadway, On Moonlight Bay, I’ll See You in My Dreams, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, Calamity Jane,” she wrote. “I liked the old songs, and the good old times that those films captured. I guess I’m really an old-fashioned girl at heart.” (117)

Of those films Day listed, Tea for Two, On Moonlight Bay and By the Light of the Silvery Moon also starred MacRae as her singing boyfriend. Other films they were in together included  “West Point Story” and “Starlift.”

Prior to his films with Day, MacRae starred in a few forgettable films and two June Haver vehicles. “Tea for Two” was his sixth film. Their last film “By the Light of the Silver Moon” (1953) was followed by “Oklahoma!” (1955)-the film he is remembered for today.
My favorite Day-MacRae films are “On Moonlight Bay” (1951) and “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” (1953).

Rosemary DeCamp, Doris Day, Leon Ames, Gordon MacRae in "On Moonlight Bay"

Rosemary DeCamp, Doris Day, Leon Ames, Gordon MacRae in “On Moonlight Bay”

The two films are a series based on the Booth Tarkington “Penrod” stories but revolve around the sister Marjorie, played by Day. Set at the early 1900s, Day is a tomboy and starts going on dates with Bill, played by MacRae. At first Bill has big, philosophical ideas, saying marriage is stupid.

The first film ends with Bill going to fight in World War I. The second movie picks up when he returns and follows the dilemma of when the two will get married.

The movies are heartwarming and include antics by Day’s little brother Wesley, played by Billy Grey, and her parents, played by Leon Ames and Rosemary DeCamp.

Though Day and MacRae are not remembered as a great screen team today, I feel they had great chemistry and their voices blended well in musicals.

MacRae’s personal life may have been stormy in his later years, but he had a sunny, boy next door characteristic that worked well with Day’s persona.

Happy birthday to my favorite actress since I was in eighth grade and who consistently puts a smile on my face.

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Happy Father’s Day with the MacRea’s

Last year I did a post on fathers and their actor children. This year I decided to focus on just one father and daughter: Gordon MacRea and his oldest daughter Meredith. I found a very sweet duet of the two singing “Count Your Blessings” from the movie “White Christmas” (1954).

You may know Meredith as a ditzy blonde from various beach films or the perfect Billie Jo on the TV show “Petticoat Junction”- I have to admit, when I was in 4th grade she was my least favorite sister because she sang too much.

I adore Gordon MacRea and he is one of my favorite singers. Unfortunately, his career was cut short due to alcohol problems.

Once in the 1980s, Gordan MacRea was doing a performance in my hometown of Greenville, S.C.  Due to his alcoholism, he was so drunk during the concert that he couldn’t remember the lyrics during the song. So sad 😦 My mother told me that Meredith wrote a letter to the paper thanking his fans for attending and apologizing that her father was unable to perform.

I think Meredith really loved her father and tried to help him out as much as she could. I’ve seen clips of the two of them in the 1970s on gameshows and she was very loving towards him and still called him daddy.

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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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