Musical Monday: April Showers (1948)

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:
April Showers (1948) – Musical #218

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
James V. Kern

Starring:
Ann Sothern, Jack Carson, Robert Alda, S.Z. Sakall, Robert Ellis, Billy Curtis, Joseph Crehan, Barbara Bates (uncredited), Mel Blanc (voice, uncredited)

Plot:
Married vaudeville couple Joe and June Tyme (Carson, Sothern) have a failing act. Their act takes off when their young son Buster (Ellis) joins. The only problem is that he really should be in school.

Trivia:
-Robert Ellis does impressions and Mel Blanc does the voice
-Film is loosely based on Buster Keaton who outshone his parents in their vaudeville act

Highlights:
-When the movie ended

Notable Songs:
-“April Showers” performed by Ann Sothern
-“Pretty Baby” performed by Robert Alda
-“Every Little Movement” performed by Robert Alda

Ann Sothern, Jack Carson and Robert Ellis in “April Showers” (1948)

My review:
I seek out films starring Ann Sothern. Ann could play it all: comedy, crime, fast talking dame, musical or tender-hearted mother.

And when I first saw this movie, I was excited to see Ann Sothern’s name in the credits. “April Showers” sounds like it will be a joyful, colorful romp. But it’s anything but.

Filmed in black and white, Jack Carson and Ann Sothern have a failing vaudeville act that is only saved by their son, played by Robert Ellis. While Ellis saves the act, he ruins the movie.

In his March 27, 1948, review New York Times critic Bosley Crowther calls it both “insufferable” and “death.”

“Even with expert presentation, this would be an insufferable tale. As played by Jack Carson, Ann Sothern and a kid named Robert Ellis, it is death,” Crowther wrote.

I don’t always agree with Crowther’s salty film reviews, but brother I do with this one.

As for Ann Sothern, she is a secondary character to Jack Carson and Robert Ellis, who the plot mainly revolves around. Carson is his usual goofy self, and Robert Ellis is a bigger ham than anything you have ever seen served on Thanksgiving or Easter. Robert Ellis, who was 15 when this was filmed, appears to be trying to out act, dance and joke Jack Carson. When he isn’t spouting lines, dancing or singing, he mainly sits around making dumb faces. For those not familiar with Ellis, you may remember him as the surfer Hot Shot in “Gidget” (1959).

The worst part is when Robert Ellis is supposed to be impersonating a midget (children weren’t allowed to perform in New York theaters by law), and Mel Blanc does his speaking voice so he sounds like Bugs Bunny. What?!

Robert Alda also is in the film and plays a heel. His role is large enough to be a protagonist but his talents are wasted.

While the performances are entertaining, the songs are nothing new and are all familiar vaudeville songs.

I’m not sure why this movie was made. It’s a tired plot about vaudeville performers and the longest 90 minute movie you’ll ever watch.

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Musical Monday: “The Time, the Place and the Girl” (1946)

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:

“The Time, The Place, The Girl” – Musical #490

picture

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
Dennis Morgan, Martha Vickers, Jack Carson, Janis Paige, S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Alan Hale, Donald Woods, Florence Bates, Angela Greene
Themselves: Carmen Cavallaro, dancer brothers Frank and Harry Condos

Plot:
Steven Ross (Morgan) and Jeff Howard (Carson) are trying to open a night club in New York.
However, problems arise when they realize their club is next door to classical conductor Ladislaus Cassel (Sakall) and his opera singing granddaughter Vicki (Vickers). Vicki’s stuffy manager Martin Drew (Woods) works to shut the club down with the help of Vicki’s equally proper grandmother (Bates), under the premise that the noise would bother the home’s high-brow performers.
Tired of being controlled by Martin-who also sets her bedtime and won’t let her go out, Vicki slips away form home and meets Ross and Howard. Becoming friends with them, she helps to keep their club open and finds a backer for their show.

Dennis Morgan shows S.Z. Sakall and Martha Vickers how to play swing on the flute.

Dennis Morgan shows S.Z. Sakall and Martha Vickers how to play swing on the flute.

Trivia:
-Martha Vickers was dubbed by Sally Sweetland.
-Nominated for Best Music, Original Score for the song “A Gal in Calico” written by Arthur Schwartz and Leo Robin.

Awards/Nominations:
-Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song for “A Gal in Calico” by Arthur Schwartz and Leo Robin

Highlights:
-Girls dressed as cows in the “A Gal in Calico” number. I just thought it was amusing. 
-Pianist Carmen Cavallaro appearing in the film. 

Notable Songs:
-“A Gal in Calico” sung by Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan
-“Through a Thousand Nights” sung by Dennis Morgan and performed by Carmen Cavallero
-“A Rainy Night in Rio” performed by Jack Carson, Dennis Morgan, Janis Paige, Martha Vickers (Sally Sweetland)
-“Oh, But I Do” sung by Dennis Morgan

My Review:
There is nothing remarkable about “The Time, The Place and the Girl,” but it’s fun.
I think the most notable thing about the film are it’s two leading men: Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson. The two actors starred in several films together. These days, I think they are often overlooked as a comedic duo.
Their film appearances together include: Wings for the Eagle (1942), The Hard Way (1943), Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), Shine on Harvest Moon (1944), Hollywood Canteen (1944), Two Guys from Milwaukee (1946), One More Tomorrow (1946),Always Together (1947), Two Guys from Texas (1948) and It’s a Great Feeling (1949)
It’s also fun to see Janis Paige as a young Warner starlet. I feel that in the 1940s, she took over the goofy sexpot roles that Jane Wyman previously played for Warner Brothers.
S.Z. Sakall is always funny and adorable with his accent and mispronunciations (this time he calls Philadelphia “PhillyDilly”), and Florence Bates is good in nearly every film she plays.
Maybe what was slightly lacking for me was the leading lady. Martha Vickers was certainly lovely to look at, but not overly memorable for me. It seemed like she was stepping in to a Joan-Leslie-Like role but didn’t have the sweetness and shine that Leslie had.
One low point is when Jack Carson sings in black face. The theatrical makeup is always off-putting and (obviously) dated but not a stranger to any pre-1960 musical.
Overall, the film is colorful and has some great music. Maybe it would have raised in the ranks slightly for me if there was another leading lady.

Jack Carson, Janis Paige, Martha Vickers and Dennis Morgan during the "Rainy Night in Rio" number.

Jack Carson, Janis Paige, Martha Vickers and Dennis Morgan during the “Rainy Night in Rio” number.

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