Musical Monday: “Mr. Dodd Takes the Air” (1937)

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.

mrdoddtakesairThis week’s musical:
“Mr. Dodd Takes the Air” — Musical #484

Studio:
Warner Brothers Burbank Studios

Director:
Alfred E. Green

Starring:
Kenny Baker, Jane Wyman, Frank McHugh, Alice Brady, Gertrude Michael, Henry O’Neill, Harry Davenport, William Hopper (uncredited)

Plot:
Electrician Claude Dodd (Baker) becomes a singer on the radio. Dodd is promoted as a baritone singer, but after having an operation on his throat, his voice changes to a tenor. Dodd becomes a sensation on the radio. Dodd also makes waves when he invents a device that makes radio reception more clear.

Trivia:
-Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score for “Remember Me” written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.

Notable Songs:
-Remember Me? sung by Kenny Baker
-Am I in Love? sung by Kenny Baker

Kenny Baker and Jane Wyman in "Mr. Dodd Takes the Air."

Kenny Baker and Jane Wyman in “Mr. Dodd Takes the Air.”

My Review:
Kenny Baker was under contract with Warner Brothers with the idea that he would replace Dick Powell as the studio’s crooner, who had aged out as the “boy singer.” Baker and Powell look vaguely similar, sing the same crooner like songs and play similar roles. However, though Baker isn’t bad, he is still no Dick Powell.
“Mr. Dodd Takes the Air” is a B-Musical–music by  Harry Warren and Al Dubin– with the typical plot where a small town guy hits it big as a singer. He gets mixed up with glamorous ladies who he thinks are falling for him but are really after his radio invention. Of course, Jane Wyman is his old standby until the end.
Wyman is probably the highlight of this film, however I’m not sure why she is billed fifth.
This is a cute film, but nothing remarkable when it comes to creativity. It is simply entertaining.

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“But first and foremost, I remember mama”

An actress won an Academy Award in 1948 for not saying a word.

But the actress I feel should have won, spoke with a Norwegian accent.

Jane Wyman won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the role as a deaf/mute in “Johnny Belinda.”

Jane Wyman winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for Johnny Belinda

Jane Wyman winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for Johnny Belinda

“I accept this very graciously for keeping my mouth shut once, I think I’ll do it again,” Wyman said when she accepted the award.

While I enjoy the movie “Johnny Belinda” and think Wyman did a good job, she isn’t the actress I would have picked.

The nominations that year were:

•Jane Wyman for “Johnny Belinda

•Ingrid Bergman for “Joan of Arc

•Olivia de Havilland for “The Snake Pit

•Irene Dunne for “I Remember Mama

•Barbara Stanwyck for Sorry, Wrong Number

Of the five women, I would have picked Olivia de Havilland or Irene Dunne.

I’m a huge Stanwyck fan, but her performance in “Sorry, Wrong Number” annoys me. I’ve never seen “Joan of Arc.” Olivia de Havilland gives a convincing, heartbreaking performance of a woman who can’t remember how she got into a state asylum in “The Snake Pit.”

But today I’m here to recognize Irene Dunne for her role as Martha “Mama”Hanson in “I Remember Mama.”

The movie, narrated by her daughter Katrin (Barbara Bel Geddes), follows a Norwegian immigrant family in 1910 San Francisco as they grow up and face joys and sadness.

“For long as I could remember, the house on the Larkin Street Hill had been home. Papa and Mama had both born in Norway but they came to San Francisco because Mama’s sisters were here, all of us were born here. Nels, the oldest and the only boy, my sister Christine and the littlest sister Dagmar but first and foremost I remember Mama,” she narrates.

The Hanson family gathered, counting their expenses.

The Hanson family gathered, counting their expenses.

And every night the family would gather together, counting their expenses and the money brought into the house. The family never wanted to go “to the bank,” a little box kept in a closet with money that was supposed to be saved to get Mama a warm winter coat.

When the family wouldn’t have to take money from the bank, Mama would sigh happily and say, “It’s good, we do not have to go to the bank.”

The movie is filled with memorable scenes:

•Dagmar (June Hedin) has surgery and Mama isn’t allowed to see her. “I’m not a visitor, I’m her mama,” she says. Mama knows Dagmar is afraid staying in the hospital overnight, so pretends to be a cleaning woman and cleans the hospital floors working her way to the children’s ward. She then sings Dagmar, and all the other children to sleep.

Mama (Irene Dunne) pretends to be a wash woman in the hospital to see her daughter, Dagmar. (LIFE photo by Allan Grant)

Mama (Irene Dunne) pretends to be a wash woman in the hospital to see her daughter, Dagmar. (LIFE photo by Allan Grant)

•Papa (Philip Dorn) is watching as his son Nels (Steve Brown) tries to smoke a pipe for the first time. He lights the pipe for Nels, knowing his son will get sick, and then comforts him when he does-teaching him a lesson in smoking.

•Aunt Trina (Ellen Corby) wants to marry Mr. Thorkelson (Edgar Bergen), the shy funeral director, and her sisters make fun of her. Mama makes them stop by subtly reminding them about how one cried all night on her wedding night and the other’s husband tried to run away before the wedding.

•Mama (Dunne) goes to see famous writer Florence Dana Moorhead (Florence Bates) to help Katrin with her writing. Mama gives Miss Moorhead, a lover of food, recipes in exchange for Miss Moorhead to read Katrin’s stories.

I found Dunne’s role to be heartwarming and believable. In the film she handled situations firmly, with tenderness or humor.  The warm nature of the film may not have made it memorable to the Academy, but I like movies about families. I suppose it makes me think of my own and how my mother likes this movie as well.

This was Dunne’s last of five Oscar nominations she would receive. The others were “Cimarron,” “Theodora Goes Wild,” “The Awful Truth” and “Love Affair.”

While the performances by Jane Wyman and Olivia De Havilland were good, for me “first and foremost, I remember mama.”

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This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Once Upon a ScreenOutspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club. It runs Feb. 1 – Mar. 3, in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar.