Musical Monday: The Singing Nun (1966)

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.

singing nunThis week’s musical:
The Singing Nun (1966) – Musical #47


Henry Koster

Debbie Reynolds, Ricardo Montalbán, Greer Garson, Agnes Moorehead, Juanita Moore, Katharine Ross, Chad Everett, Tom Drake, Ricky Cordell, Michael Pate, Charles Robinson, Monique Montaigne, Joyce Vanderveen, Anne Wakefield, Pam Peterson, Marina Koshetz, Nancy Walters, Violet Rensing, Inez Pedroza, Jon Lormer (uncredited), Dorothy Patrick (uncredited)
Themselves: Ed Sullivan

A nun, Sister Ann (Reynolds), loves music and enjoys singing. Father Clementi (Montalban) thinks Sister Ann should make a record, and she writes a song which becomes a hit. The record sells well and she even appears on the Ed Sullivan Show. As she rises to fame, Sister Ann realizes that the popularity may conflict with the vows she took. The film is a fictionalized biographical musical on the life and career of Jeannine Deckers (who served in the church as Sister Luc Gabriel and known professional as Soeur Sourire), a nun who rose to fame with her hit “Dominque.”

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TCMFF Watching 1939: Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult.

1939 film: Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Release date: May 15, 1939 (New York City premiere)

Cast: Robert Donat, Greer Garson, Terry Kilburn, Paul Henreid, John Mills, Judith Furse

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: Sam Wood

Long-time and beloved teacher, Mr. Chipping (Donat) reflects on his teaching career and life, looking back on 1870 to 1933. Starting out as a stuffy young man, his wife (Garson) helps bring him out of his shell and shows him how to be a better teacher, which endears his students to him.

1939 Notes:
• Greer Garson’s first film.
• This was the only film Robert Donat acted in that was released in 1939
• Paul Henreid’s only film of 1939 and he is billed as Paul Von Hernried
• Terry Kilburn was in five films released in 1939.

Robert Donat and Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

Other trivia:
• Based on a novel by James Hilton
• Myrna Loy was originally considered for the role of Mrs. Chips but, when she went to 20th Century Fox. Elizabeth Allan was also considered for the role, according to the biography A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson.
• Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was interested in making a film version of “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” as early as 1934, but Irving Thalberg’s production schedule put the film on the backburner. Over the years before it was made, Lionel Barrymore and Charles Laughton were considered for the role. The film idea was shelved when Thalberg died in 1936, and James Hilton was interested in Wallace Beery, according to Tryon’s book.
• Remade as a musical in 1969 with the same title starring Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark
• Premiered in New York City in May and London in June
• Robert Donat won the Academy Award for Best Actor and was not present for the awards ceremony. Director Victor Saville accepted the accolade on his behalf.
• Donat ages from 25 to 88 in the film.
• Filmed at MGM’s London studio

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
When it comes to the top films of 1939, “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is one I would consider one of the top films.

Not only do I say this because it’s a lovely and sweet story, but also because of the career, it launched.

“Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is the story of an elderly teacher at an English boy’s school looking back on his life and career. It begins when he’s 25 and starting off as a teacher with no experience. For many years, the teacher, Mr. Chipping played by Robert Donat, isn’t popular with his students. His punishments are rough, sometimes affecting the whole school, and his manner is aloof. Mr. Chipping’s attitude even causes him to miss out on a promotion. It’s not until he meets his wife, Katherine played by Greer Garson, that she teaches him to soften and joke with his students and act human. Though Mrs. Chipping passes away in childbirth, Mr. Chipping (called Mr. Chips now by his students) continues to be popular among his students. Even after he retires, he returns to help the school during World War I.

“Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is a quiet film but is sweet and engaging. Robert Donat plays the role of the teacher well, from his haughty youth, shy middle age to sweet elderly years. And you also have to give kudos to Jack Dawn, the makeup artist who effectively aged Donat from 25 years old to 88 years old. Donat was already a star by the time this film was released, particularly after starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s “39 Steps” (1935), but this was his only film released in 1939.

Donat also won his only Academy Award for this film, beating out Clark Gable for “Gone with the Wind,” Mickey Rooney for “Babes in Arms,” Laurence Olivier for “Wuthering Heights,” and James Stewart for “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” This would be his last Academy Award nomination, his other came a year earlier for “The Citadel” (1938)

Though Donat was the Academy Award winner, his co-star is also notable. “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is the first film role for Greer Garson. Her biographer Michael Tryon wrote that Garson was reluctant to take the role, because it is brief. However, Greer Garson is a bright spot in the film and her character is pivotal in the transformation in the main character.

For her screen debut, Greer Garson was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Her warmth comes across on screen and Garson glows as she helps Donat realize that not everything in life has to be quite so formal.

The film also showcases other new talents. Paul Henreid co-stars as a fellow teacher in one of his early film roles. We also see child star Terry Kilburn in his fifth role-playing several characters. Kilburn appears at the beginning and returns playing the child, grandchild or great-grandchild of those who came before him.

I had the opportunity to see “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” on 35mm film at the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. It was wonderful to revisit this film after several years on a 35mm print that came from the British Film Institute.

James Hilton’s lovely “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is such a heartwarming film and you may need a tissue or two to get through it. But it’s a wonderful movie and brightened even more by Greer Garson. It’s incredible to think this was her first film, as she fits in like she belonged on screen.

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Watching 1939: Remember?

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult.

1939 film: Remember? (1939)

Release date: Dec. 14, 1939

Robert Taylor, Greer Garson, Lew Ayres, Billie Burke, Reginald Owen, George Barbier, Henry Travers, Richard Carle, Laura Hope Crews, Sig Ruman, Sara Haden

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: Norman Z. McLeod

Sky (Ayres) is engaged to Linda (Garson), but Linda falls in love with his best friend of 21 years, Jeff (Taylor). Jeff and Linda get married, and when things aren’t working out, Sky tests an amnesia drug on the couple.

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Actress Beauty Tip #33: Greer Garson almond oil skin

This is the thirty-third installment of the monthly classic actress beauty tips that I have read about and tested.

greer garsonBeautiful red-headed actress Greer Garson had flawless skin.

The Academy Award winning actress told beauty columnist Lydia Lane that she used almond oil to ease lines around her eyes.

“Greer Garson looks wonderful and can afford anything but she uses pure almond oil, which she buys at the drug store,” Lane wrote in response to a 1963 letter. “She says it keeps the fine lines from around here eye.”

Lane interviewed Garson several times for her syndicated beauty column that ran from 1938 to 1980.

Garson used almond oil when she washed off her make-up. It was a ritual she and her mother discovered in England, she said in a 1952 Lane column.

Almond oil was also a favorite moisturizer of First Lady Jackie Kennedy, according to Vickie Calvert’s book “Living Natural and Stress-Free in the 21st Century.”

2014-03-08_14.14.01My skin is too oily to use heavy sweet almond oil on my face during the day, like how Kennedy used the oil. I tried the oil more like Greer Garson.

I wasn’t able to find almond oil in stores, so I turned to eBay and bought a small bottle for $3.

This past week, I put almond oil on my face and around my eyes before I went to bed. I don’t necessarily have fine line around my eyes, but it did make my skin smoother in the morning. This was especially helpful with dry patches that are more prevalent with winter weather.

Some articles say almond oil helps with dark circles under the eyes. Even with plenty of sleep and the oil, it hasn’t helped me.

To review: I can not vouch for sweet almond oil decreasing fine lines. However, it made my skin smooth and helped with winter dry skin. It did not help with dark circles around the eyes though.

Check out another Greer Garson beauty tip here:

Check out more Comet Over Hollywood Actress Beauty Tips here:

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Actress Beauty Tips #2: Champagne Hair Rinse

This is the second installment of our monthly classic actress beauty tips that I have read about AND tested.

Greer Garson in the 1940s

Actress Greer Garson, star of “Mrs Miniver” is known for her vibrant red hair; Robert Mitchum even referred to her as “Big Red.” According to Divas: the Site, after Miss Garson shampooed, she would rinse her hair with a cup of California champagne, brush her hair100 times and tie it in a net for the rest of the evening.

After further research, I found that rinsing hair with champagne is a way to make your hair soft, shiny and brighten natural highlights for flaxen haired individuals. I read about Miss Garson’s hair treatment last summer and have been intrigued to try it. This blog has finally given me a reason to do so.

**Disclaimer: My hair is of age to be rinsed with alcohol. It started growing November 1988. **

Champagne Hair Rinsing:

1.) Go out and buy champagne. I didn’t want to be too cheap, but not too expensive either so I bought a $15 bottle of Korbel at BI-LO.

Korbel California Champagne

2.) Most directions say to measure out a half cup of champagne and half cup of  hot water. I did a straight cup of champagne since it sounded like Miss Garson did not dilute her alcohol.

3.) Shampoo and condition your hair.

4.) Now for the fun part: After shampooing and rinsing, pour the champagne into your hair. I made sure to pour it on top of my hair and underneath. During this part, I realized why several reviews suggested mixing the champagne with hot water. The champagne was COLD after being in the refrigerator. It was a rather odd sensation as it bubbled in my ears and nose and dripped from my hair.


6.) Brush and towel dry your hair to get rid of any excess champagne. No, I did not brush my hair 100 times like Miss Garson.

7.) Nor did I tie my hair in a scarf for the night.  Blow dry your hair.

To review: My hair looked shinier and felt softer, but I didn’t see a major difference. I was surprised that my hair didn’t feel stiff or sticky from the process. However, the smell of my hair gave me a craving for cheese and crackers.

Since I tested this at night, the champagne will be washed out in my morning shower.  I think I will retest the rinse one morning so I can see how it feels to have champagne in your hair all day. Hopefully people wouldn’t smell it and think I’m an alcoholic, haha.

I’m not sure if I will ever see those “champagne highlights” websites discussed, but it is a fun routine.  Other than silly, I did feel sort of glamorous during the process.

Check back August 1 for the next beauty tip and an update on champagne hair rinsing!

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