Musical Monday: College Humor (1933)

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:
College Humor (1933) – Musical #612

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Director: Wesley Ruggles

Starring:
Bing Crosby, Jack Oakie, Richard Arlen, Mary Carlisle, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Mary Kornman, Joe Sawyer, Lona Andre, Grady Sutton, Jimmy Conlin, James Burke, Bruce Bennett (uncredited), Dennis O’Keefe (uncredited), Marjorie Reynolds (uncredited), Frank Jenks (uncredited)

Plot:
The film follows Barney Shirrel (Oakie) who starts at his freshman year at MidWest University. His roommates are gruff Tex (Sawyer) and Mondrake (Arlen), who drinks too much. Professor Frederick Danvers (Crosby) is an alumnus of MidWest and now teaches there as a popular music professor. Barney is initiated into a fraternity and joins the football team, paying less attention to Amber (Kornman). Barney’s sister Barbara Shirrel (Carlisle) starts at the college the following term, and while she is dating Mondrake, she falls in love with Prof. Danvers. This causes Mondrake to drink more, getting him kicked off the football team so that the school is at risk of losing the big game.

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Musical Monday: College Holiday (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 more than 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

college holidayThis week’s musical:
“College Holiday” (1936)– Musical #527

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Frank Tuttle

Starring:
Jack Benny, Gracie Allen, George Burns, Marsha Hunt, Martha Raye, Mary Boland, Leif Erickson, Ben Blue, Johnny Downs, Eleanore Whitney, Olympe Bradna, Mischa Auer (uncredited), Ellen Drew (uncredited), Eddie Foy, Jr. (uncredited), Dorothy Lamour (uncredited), Marjorie Reynolds (uncredited)

Plot:
Dick Winters (Erickson) meets Sylvia Smith (Hunt) at an east coast college dance and falls in love. But before he can learn her name she has to quickly leave to head home and help her father who is having financial problems with their California hotel. Nutty heiress Carola P. Gaye (Boland) owns the mortgage to the hotel and has an interest in eugenics; believing that ancient Greeks were the “super race.” In order for the Smiths to keep the hotel, J. Davis Bowster (Benny) gathers entertainers to perform at the hotel, making Gaye believe that they are there for experiments. The downside is that the male and female students can’t fraternize, because it will anger Gaye and ruin her experiments. This hinders Dick’s goal to better get to know Sylvia.

George Burns, Jack Benny, Gracie Allen, Mary Boland

George Burns, Jack Benny, Gracie Allen, Mary Boland

Trivia:
-Costumes by Edith Head
-Film features Dorothy Lamour as an uncredited dancer.

Notable Songs:
-The Sweetheart Waltz
-(Enchanted) I Adore You performed by Marsha Hunt & Leif Erickson
-A Rhyme for Love performed by Johnny Downs and Eleanore Whitney
-So What? performed by Martha Raye

My review:
While many college themed films are a bit silly, I usually go out of my way to see them.

“College Holiday” fits of the bill of being goofy but it’s bizarre plot sets it apart from other collegiate films. In fact, this may be the only comedic pre-World War II film that I have ever seen that deals with eugenics and superior races. Mary Boland walks around dressed in ancient Greek garb and discussing the “super race” and tries experiments, such as setting the mood to get mismatched college students to fall in love. Many classic collegiate films deal with football games, dances, and fraternities serenading sororities.

As Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne noted, this type of storyline wouldn’t be used just a few years after this films release due to Adolf Hitler’s views on the superior race.

Gracie Allen and George Burns all provide humorous, though sometimes tiresome, scenes. But he real treat to me was the casting of the lovely Marsha Hunt, who I always love to see in films.

Audiences also have the pleasure of seeing tap dance performances by young actors Johnny Downs and Eleanore Whitney. The downside is that their second number has the two college students in blackface.

Jack Benny also has funny scenes and pulls out his violin a few times. At the end of the movie, Benny breaks the fourth wall, addressing the audience while playing the same role and character that he portrayed on the radio.

While “College Holiday” isn’t an amazing film and has a few irritating parts involving Gracie Allen, it’s still a fairly entertaining film.

Marsha Hunt and Leif Erickson

Marsha Hunt and Leif Erickson

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Musical Monday: We’re Not Dressing (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.

we're not posterThis week’s musical:
“We’re Not Dressing” –Musical #264

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Norman Taurog

Starring:
Carole Lombard, Bing Crosby, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Ethel Merman, Leon Erroll, Ray Milland, Jay Henry

Plot:
-Heiress Doris Worthington (Lombard) is on a yatch trip with her friends (Erroll, Merman) and two princes who want to marry her (Milland, Henry). However, Doris keeps going between making eyes at and arguing with singing sailor Stephen Jones (Crosby). An accident causes the yacht to sink, and Jones ends up with Doris and her helpless, wealthy friends on an uninhabited island. None of them are used to working and Jones is the only one with survival skills. He soon has everyone except Doris working. Also on the island are husband and wife explorers (Burns, Allen).

Carole Lombard and Bing Crosby in "We're Not Dressing"

Carole Lombard and Bing Crosby in “We’re Not Dressing”

Trivia:
-The song “The Animal in Me” was performed by Ethel Merman but was cut from the film. It was later used instead in “The Big Broadcast of 1936” (1935). Merman’s song “He Reminds Me Of You” was also cut from the film.
-Based on a 1902 play, “The Admirable Crichton.”
-Filmed on Santana Catalina Island.

Highlights:
-During the credits, the waves are used as a transition.

-Gracie Allen and George Burns

Droopy the Bear swoons for Bing Crosby's singing.

Droopy the Bear swoons for Bing Crosby’s singing.

Notable Songs:
-“Goodnight, Little Lady” performed by Bing Crosby
-“She Reminds Me of You” performed by Bing Crosby
-“I Positively Refuse to Sing” performed by Bing Crosby
-“Love They Neighbor” performed by Bing Crosby
-“It’s Just an Old Spanish Custom” performed by Ethel Merman and Leon Errol (Only notable because it’s only one of two songs the famous singer performs)

My Review:
If you’re looking for a film complete with a shipwreck and dancing bear who swoons for Bing Crosby’s crooning, this is your movie.
“We’re Not Dressing” is odd, off-beat and mildly irritating at times. But for me- none of that is really a commentary on any of the stars. Except maybe for Leon Errol. He always annoys me.
Lombard and her gaggle of socialites are sailing on the Pacific ocean. We are never told what their destination was supposed to be, but I don’t think that is actually important in the script. I think the fact that they were aimlessly sailing in a yacht with two princes was just to emphasize spoiled Lombard’s wealth.

Lombard and her two princes- Ray Milland and Jay Henry.

Lombard and her two princes- Ray Milland and Jay Henry.

Also to reiterate the wealth is her pet bear named Droopy. Droopy loves when Bing Crosby sings. At one point Droopy the Bear even roller-skates around the boat.
The boat crashes when drunken Leon Errol attempts to steer the boat, causing it to capsize.
Once on the island, Lombard is angry because Crosby won’t act as a servant to her, even though she fired him while they were on the boat. Predictably, Lombard ends up falling in love with Crosby.
Bing Crosby’s character is probably the only sane person in the bunch. He also gives the best performance. But you better love Crosby’s crooning if you watch this film, because he sings roughly seven songs in this 74 minute film.
Carole Lombard is beautiful and her comedy isn’t overwhelming (I love My Man Godfrey, but I feel like I have to catch my breath at the end). Her character is very huffy though, so that was a bit annoying.
Ethel Merman was wasted, singing only two songs, and so were Gracie Allen and George Burns. For me, Allen and Burns were the true bright spot of this movie.
With a cast boasting so many big names, I think the real issue here is the goofy story line.
I won’t say I didn’t like “We’re Not Dressing,” it just sort of left me feeling scattered and scratching my head at the end, wondering what I just watched.

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