Musical Monday: My Sister Eileen (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:
My Sister Eileen (1955)– Musical #320

my-sister-eilleen

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Richard Quine

Starring:
Betty Garrett, Janet Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Bob Fosse, Kurt Kasznar, Dick York, Tommy Rall, Kathryn Grant (uncredited), Lucy Marlow

Plot:
Sisters Ruth (Garrett) and Eileen Sherwood (Leigh) move from Ohio to New York City. Ruth wants to become a journalist and Eileen hopes to break into Broadway. They have a hard time finding jobs and making ends meet while living in a shoddy Greenwich Village apartment right above Subway construction. Ruth also spends much of her time feeling sorry for herself since she isn’t as beautiful as her little sister Eileen, who is swarmed by men.

Trivia:
-Musical remake of the 1942 comedy “My Sister Eileen” starring Rosalind Russell and Janet Blair

-In 1953, a musical adaptation of the 1940s story called “Wonderful Town” premiered on Broadway. The music was written Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Adolph Green and Betty Comden. Columbia felt the film rights to this version were too expensive so the story was rewritten for the screen and featured music by Jule Styne and Leo Robin. “All of them had a team of lawyers looking over their shoulders. Everything had to be cleared and approved legally,” Janet Leigh wrote in her autobiography “There Really Was a Hollywood.”

-Judy Holliday was originally cast as Ruth, but Betty Garrett ended up with the role.

-The script was written by Blake Edwards and Richard Quine, who also directed the film.

-Aldo Ray turned own the role of the muscular neighbor Ted, which went to Dick York.

-“My Sister Eileen” was Janet Leigh’s first project under contract with Columbia.

my-sister3

Notable Songs:
None memorable enough to note

My review:
If it wasn’t for my Musical Monday feature, I would not have ever watched “My Sister Eileen” (1955) a second time.

As far as musical remakes of dramas and comedies go, this one is pretty bad. Based on a novel, the original “My Sister Eileen” premiered in 1942 starring Rosalind Russell as Ruth and Janet Blair as Eileen. It’s hilarious and charming.

In both stories, Eileen is gorgeous and Ruth doesn’t have a chance finding a man with her beautiful sister around. However, in the 1955 version, the plot focuses mostly on romance and both sisters finding romance. Unlike the 1942 version, the 1950s version casts just enough men for both leading ladies.

In the 1942 version, while Ruth would like romance, she is more concerned with her writing career and looking out for her little sister. Steve Daly of “Entertainment Weekly” noted some “1950s backlash” against feminists in the 1955 version in comparison to the 1942 version.

This movie was screened at the 2016 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival with Jack Lemmon’s son, Chris, helping present it. Of all films, I was surprised this one was selected to showcase Jack Lemmon’s career because it’s well…a lemon. Lemmon is also hardly in the movie. In an hour and 48 minutes, I would estimate he’s maybe in 20 minutes of the film.

Janet Leigh is a capable singer and dancer. According to Janet Leigh’s autobiography, choreographer Bob Fosse was pleased with her dancing skills. Dancers Tommy Rall and Bob Fosse perform some impressive dance numbers but they can’t save the film.  You also get to hear Dick York and Jack Lemmon sing. In my opinion, there aren’t any memorable songs and while the cast is relatively stellar, I enjoy the cast from the 1942 version more.

If producers had been willing to pay for “Wonderful Town,” I’m curious if the film would have been better. It’s hard to go wrong with a score by Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story) and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (Singing in the Rain). Maybe with a Bernstein/Comden/Green score, some of the songs would have been memorable. The story was also rearranged, and I’m curious how it’s different.

Maybe I would think this was a better movie if I hadn’t already watched the original. I want to like it. It’s colorful and has a good cast, but I find it irritating. Maybe you will enjoy it better.

my-sister5

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Advertisements

Musical Monday: Meet Me After the Show (1951)

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:
“Meet Me After the Show” –Musical #497

meet_me_after_the_show

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Richard Sale

Starring:
Betty Grable, MacDonald Carey, Eddie Albert, Rory Calhoun, Lois Andrews, Irene Ryan, Fred Clark

Plot:
Broadway star Delilah Lee (Grable) is about to start another successful run of a new show written by her husband Jeff Ames (Carey). Jeff discovered Delilah as a cheap singer in Florida and groomed her to be a top star. When Delilah finds out Gloria Carstairs (Andrews) is backing the show and also has the hots for her husband, Delilah leaves him and the show. When Jeff can’t pay the alimony, Delilah feigns amnesia-going back to her performance roots in Florida- to win him back.

Trivia:
-Produced by George Jessel

Highlights:
-Chorus sing “Me-Oh-Miami” as scenes of Miami are shown. Same song was used in the Betty Grable film, “Moon Over Miami.”
-Gwen Verdon as a specialty dancer

Notable Songs:
-Meet Me After the Show performed by Betty Grable
-Betting on a Man performed by Betty Grable

My Review:
For a film that is a musical, I preferred the plot lines over the singing and dancing.
“Meet Me After the Show” has a fairly funny plot line and the non-singing leading men – Eddie Albert and MacDonald Carey- make the film for me. While I love Betty Grable, her performance was overshadowed by the terrible songs that were in this film.
Grable, 20th Century Fox’s top star since the 1940s, has always been able to sell a song with her energy and dancing. But the material she’s given is lousy. One song consists of a lot of body builder-looking men dressed as Romans and Grable dancing around and repeatedly saying “Joe.” I wasn’t sure what Joe and Romans had to do with anything, but the song was annoying. In the number “I Feel Like Dancing” with Gwen Verdon, the two start out dressed like robbers, talk about how they feel like dancing and then suddenly they have Grable in an evening gown. I felt like I missed a major plot line in this song.
The overall film and plot line are fun and funny, but most of the songs had me wishing they would in. However, I wouldn’t overlook it just because of the silly songs. Any Betty Grable film is generally a fun one.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com