Musical Monday: Bitter Sweet (1940)

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:
Bitter Sweet” (1940)– Musical #272

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
W.S. Van Dyke

Starring:
Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, George Sanders, Ian Hunter, Felix Bressart, Lynne Carver, Curt Bois, Diana Lewis, Fay Holden, Sig Ruman, Herman Bing, Hans Conried, Edward Ashley

Plot:
Set in the 19th Century, Sarah Millick (MacDonald), falls in love with her music teacher Carl Linden (Eddy). The two elope and move to his home of Vienna, where they struggle to get by and Carl tries to sell his operetta.

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Musical Monday: New Moon (1940)

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:
New Moon” (1940)– Musical #374

Poster - New Moon (1940)_02

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Robert Z. Leonard, W.S. Van Dyke (uncredited)

Starring:
Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Mary Boland, George Zucco, Dick Purcell, Grant Mithcell, Joe Yule, Nat Pendleton (uncredited), Buster Keaton (scenes deleted)

Plot:
Marianne de Beaumanoir (MacDonald) is heading from France to New Orleans. On the same boat as a prisoner is nobleman Duc de Villiers (Eddy), using the name of Charles Henri. Marianne meets him on board, believing that he’s the ship’s captain. He is sold as a servant in New Orleans and becomes the servant of Marianne, and she is angry that he lied to her. Little to their knowledge, Charles’ enemies are sailing to New Orleans from France.

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Musical Monday: The Cat and the Fiddle (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.

cat and the fiddleThis week’s musical:
“The Cat and the Fiddle” (1934)– Musical #410

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
William K. Howard, Sam Wood (uncredited)

Starring:
Jeanette MacDonald, Ramon Novarro, Frank Morgan, Charles Butterworth, Jean Hersholt, Vivienne Segal, Sterling Holloway (uncredited), Herman Bing (uncredited), Leonid Kinskey (uncredited)

Plot:
In Brussels, struggling musician Victor (Novarro) meets American singer Shirley (MacDonald). He’s immediately infatuated with her which is very annoying to her. However, Shirley eventually falls for Victor. Both Shirley and Victor audition music they composed to Professor Daudet (Morgan), and Daudet is also immediately smitten with Shirley. Daudet uses his influence to get Shirley by trying to send Victor to Paris to perform his music.

Trivia:
-The final scene was filmed in three strip Technicolor. This was the first use of three-strip Technicolor in a live action film. It previuosly was only used in Walt Disney cartoons.
-Jeanette MacDonald’s first film with MGM, according to The Invisible Art of Film Music: A Comprehensive History by Laurence E. MacDonald
-Based on the 1931 Broadway musical “The Cat and the Fiddle” written in Jerome Kern and Otto A. Harbach
-The film version kept the entire score intact, which is unusual for film adaptations for plays. However, many songs were reassigned to different characters, according to The Jerome Kern Encyclopedia by Thomas S. Hischak

cat and fiddle4

Jeanette MacDonald, Ramon Novarro and Charles Butterworth in “The Cat and the Fiddle”

Highlights:
-Three strip Technicolor finale

Notable Songs:
-“The Night was Made for Love” performed by Jeanette MacDonald and Ramon Novarro
-“She Didn’t Say Yes” performed by Jeanette MacDonald
-“The Breeze Kissed Your Hair” performed by Ramon Novarro
-“One Moment Alone” performed by Ramon Novarro

My review:
Ever since I discovered that Ramon Novarro had a beautiful singing voice, I have really enjoyed revisiting and discovering these films.

Jeanette MacDonald, Ramon Novarro in "The Cat and the Fiddle"

Jeanette MacDonald, Ramon Novarro in “The Cat and the Fiddle”

The only problem with “The Cat and the Fiddle” (1934) is Novarro’s leading lady’s voice over powers his. While Novarro has a wonderful voice, it’s not quite strong enough to match the well-trained opera voice of Jeanette MacDonald for their duets.

Aside from our two leads, “The Cat and the Fiddle” has a great supporting cast of Frank Morgan and Charles Butterworth. Though Morgan is supposed to be the bad guy in the film, it’s hard to dislike him because he’s rather friendly and affable.

The plot is fairly light and unimportant. It mainly just revolves around the relationship of Novarro and MacDonald. Regardless, it is filled with wonderful music.

“The Cat and the Fiddle” is also a wonderful pre-code film. Novarro and MacDonald live together “in sin.” At one point she tells him that she had a dream that they were so rich that Novarro was walking around in a gold coat. He asked if that’s all he was wearing and she said yes.

While this isn’t Jeanette MacDoanld’s most memorable film, it’s still a lovely story with the added bonus of Roman Novarro in another musical.

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Musical Monday: “Cairo” (1942)

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.

cairoThis week’s musical:
Cairo” (1942)–Musical #477

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
W.S. Van Dyke
Starring:
Jeannette MacDonald, Robert Young, Ethel Waters, Reginald Owen, Grant Mitchell, Lionell Atwill, Rhys Williams, MonaBarrie

Plot:
Small town reporter Homer Smith (Young) is picked to travel abroad to cover the war after his newspaper is chosen as “America’s Typical Small Town Newspaper.” On his way to Cairo, his ship sinks and he floats along the ocean with another survivor (Owen) who gives him a message to deliver if they both survive. Hence, Homer gets mixed up in a spy ring. Once the message is delivered, Homer becomes convinced that singer and movie star Marcia Warren (MacDonald) is also a spy and begins working as her butler so he can investigate her. Marcia also believes Homer is a spy. While they investigate each other, the real spy ring is working to explode an Allied convoy.

Trivia:
-Director W.S. Van Dyke is credited as “Maj. W.S. Van Dyke.” Dyke was promoted to Major prior to World War II and set up a Marine Corps recruiting center in his MGM office. He convinced several actor to join up.

-Lena Horne was originally cast as the Ethel Water’s role as MacDonald’s maid. However, Horne refused to play roles that made her domestic servants, according to Leading Ladies: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses of the Studio Era

-The movie was originally to be shot in Technicolor but was switched to black and white, according to TThe Espionage Filmography by Paul Mavis.

-Jeannette MacDonald’s film that she was fully the star.

-One of Jeanette MacDonald’s least popular films, according to TThe Hollywood Musical Goes to War by Allen Woll. (Even more than I Married an Angel?)

-Jeannette MacDonald singing “Les Filles de Cadiz” in the credits and on the movie screen is edited footage from the 1937 film “Maytime.”

Jeanette MacDonald is worried Robert Young has fallen into hands of spies. Also pictured- Ethel Waters and Rhys Williams.

Jeanette MacDonald is worried Robert Young has fallen into hands of spies. Also pictured- Ethel Waters and Rhys Williams.

Highlights:
-Ethel Waters sings operatically in response to Jeanette’s singing.

-Robert Young’s hilarious fake English accent he uses to get a job as MacDonald’s butler.

Funny quotes such as:
-Robert: Have you ever been in San Francisco?
Jeanette MacDonald: Yes. Once with Gable and Tracey and the joint fell apart.

Notable Songs:
-Buds Won’t Bud sung by Ethel Waters and Dooley Wilson
-Waiting for Robert E. Lee sung by Jeanette MacDonald and Ethel Waters (notable for the fact that MacDonald lets loose and isn’t singing in an opera voice)
-Les Filles de Cadix sung by Jeanette MacDonald. (We only hear this song over the credits and see footage of MacDonald singing it in “Maytime,” but I love this song and had to add it).
-“Il Bacio” sung by Jeanette MacDonald in a bathtub and Ethel Waters echoing back in a faux opera voice. Hilarious.
-From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water sung by Jeanette MacDonald
-Beautiful Ohio sung by Jeanette MacDonald

Review:
This is not your typical Jeanette MacDonald musical where she is singing with Nelson Eddy as a princess, opera singer or duchess. In fact, this is a lot more fun. Really, this is more an MGM comedy with a few songs added in for MacDonald and Ethel Waters.

I really enjoyed seeing MacDonald in a comedic role. She was funny, down to Earth, had great comedic delivery and I wish she made movies like this. There are even jokes in the film picking fun of MacDonald’s films such as “San Francisco.” The ever underrated Robert Young is also a delight, as always. Waters is hilarious as well and we get the opportunity to hear her sing.

Plain and simple, I loved this film.  No, there is real no message or heartfelt moment and it is one of Jeanette MacDonald’s least popular films but….I found it enjoyable. There is just something about a W.S. Van Dyke directed film. It had several laugh out loud moments and I plan on buying it on DVD very soon.

Publicity photo of Robert Young and Jeanette MacDonald for "Cairo."

Publicity photo of Robert Young and Jeanette MacDonald for “Cairo.”

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