Musical Monday: Show Boat (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:
Show Boat (1951) – Musical #29

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
George Sidney

Starring:
Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner, Howard Keel, Joe E. Brown, Agnes Moorehead, Marge Champion, Gower Champion, Robert Sterling, William Warfield, Linda Christian (uncredited), Adele Jergens (uncredited), Regis Toomey (uncredited), Lyn Wilde (uncredited), Dee Turnell (uncredited)

Plot:
Set in the 1880s, the Cotton Blossom Show Boat is run by Capt. Andy Hawke (Brown) and his wife Parthy (Moorehead). When the boat arrives in a Mississippi town, there’s trouble for the show’s leading lady Julie Laverne (Gardner) and her husband, Steve Baker (Sterling). In revenge for Julie turning him down, riverboat worker Pete (Erickson) tells the sheriff (Toomey) that the boat has a case of miscegenation, an interracial relationship. Julie is part black, and Steve is white, and even though he cuts her hand and sucks some of it out, the two are forced out of town by the law. In a hurry to replace their leading lady and leading man, Capt. Andy recruits his daughter Magnolia (Grayson) and a gambler Gaylord Ravenal (Keel), who was seeking passage on the boat. Magnolia and Gaylord get married, though her parents object, and the two move to Chicago, where Gaylord hopes to keep them living on velvet through gambling. However, his luck soon sours.

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Musical Monday: The Kissing Bandit (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:
The Kissing Bandit (1948) – Musical #236

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Laslo Benedek

Starring:
Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, J. Carrol Naish, Mildred Natwick, Billy Gilbert, Mikhail Rasumny, Sono Osato, Clinton Sundberg, Carleton G. Young, Edna Skinner, Nana Bryant (uncredited)
Specialty dancers: Ricardo Montalban, Cyd Charisse, Ann Miller, Sally Forrest

Plot:
Set in the 1800s, shy Ricardo (Sinatra) returns to Spanish California after receiving his education in Boston. Ricardo believes he’s taking over his deceased father’s business, running an inn. However, his father’s friend Chico (Naish) informs him, but the family business is being the Kissing Bandit, a robber who kisses women. When he meets Teresa (Grayson), the daughter of the governor, he is smitten but doesn’t kiss her, much to Teresa’s dismay. Ricardo can’t get close to her because the governor is searching for the Kissing Bandit, so Ricardo pretends to be the tax collector.

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Musical Monday: It Happened in Brooklyn (1947)

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:
It Happened in Brooklyn (1947) – Musical #263

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Richard Whorf

Starring:
Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, Peter Lawford, Jimmy Durante, Gloria Grahame, Marcy McGuire, Aubrey Mather, Bobby Long, William Roy (billed as Billy Roy)
Themselves: The Starlighters – Pauline Byrns, Vince Degen, Tony Paris, Howard Hudson

Plot:
Danny Miller (Sinatra) has been homesick for his hometown of Brooklyn for four years while fighting in World War II. When he returns to Brooklyn, he meets music teacher and unsuccessful opera singer Anne (Grayson) who disagrees with Danny about Brooklyn being the best place in the world. Unable to find a place to live, Danny stays with old friend Nick (Durante). Nick also wants to be better liked by the students at the school, like Robert Donat in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.” Danny has his own issues to when he can’t find a job right away. Englishman Jamie (Lawford) comes to visit from England after Danny talks about Brooklyn. The problem is that Jamie and Danny both fall for Anne.

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Classics in the Carolinas: Kathryn Grayson

Actress, singer Kathryn Grayson

With her soprano voice and sweet, heart-shaped face, Kathryn Grayson was one of the many stars in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s constellation.

But before the singer and actress was one of the studio’s top stars, Grayson was born Zelma Kathryn Elisabeth Hedrick in Winston-Salem, N.C. Zelma was one of four children born to Charles and Lillian Hedrick. The other siblings – Bud, Hal and the youngest Millie, who were also born in North Carolina. Though Zelma was born in Winston-Salem, she spent most of her childhood in Kirkwood, Mo., near St. Louis, when her family moved due to her father’s work as a real estate contractor. Zelma aspired to be an opera singer and studied voice while she was growing up.

The family moved from Kirkwood to Texas to California. Grayson continued studying and improving her singing and was discovered in California, according to a July 1, 1944, issue of “The State,” a monthly North Carolina-focused magazine that has been published from 1933 to present, which is now titled “Our State.”

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Musical Monday: That Midnight Kiss (1949)

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:
That Midnight Kiss (1949)– Musical #258

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Norman Taurog

Starring:
Kathryn Grayson, Mario Lanza, Ethel Barrymore, Keenan Wynn, J. Carrol Naish, Jules Munshin, Thomas Gomez, Arthur Treacher, Marjorie Reynolds
Themselves: José Iturbi, Amparo Iturbi
Narrator: Leon Ames

Plot:
Wealthy Abigail Trent Budell (Barrymore) wants pianist José Iturbi (himself) to help launch the opera career of her granddaughter Prudence (Grayson). Iturbi finds her talented and Abigail sponsors an opera company so Prudence can get her start. With a new talent, famous tenor Guido Russino Betelli (Gomez) is hired as her lead. Betelli is demanding and difficult to work with. Abigail meets singing truck driver Johnny Donnetti (Lanza) and encourages Iturbi to also make him a singing star.

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Musical Monday: Anchors Aweigh (1945)

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:
Anchors Aweigh (1945) – Musical #18

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
George Sidney

Starring:
Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson, Frank Sinatra, Dean Stockwell, Pamela Britton, Rags Ragland, Billy Gilbert, Henry O’Neill, Leon Ames, Grady Sutton,
Themselves: Jose Iturbi, Carlos Ramírez

Plot:
Two sailors (Kelly, Sinatra) are on leave in Los Angeles when they meet a lost little boy, Donald (Stockwell). When they return Donald home, they meet his Aunt Susan (Grayson), who raises the boy and has dreams of becoming a singer. To impress her, the sailors mislead Aunt Susan and tell her they know famous pianist Jose Iturbi, so she can audition for him. Now they just have to find Jose Iturbi.

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Musical Monday: “Thousands Cheer” (1943)

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.

thousands cheer posterThis week’s musical:
Thousands Cheer” — Musical #188

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
George Sidney

Starring:
Kathryn Grayson, Gene Kelly, Mary Astor, John Boles, Ben Blue, Odette Myrtil (uncredited), Henry O’Neill (uncredited), Frances Rafferty (uncredited), Mary Elliot (uncredited)

As themselves: Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, June Allyson, Gloria DeHaven, Red Skelton, Eleanor Powell, Ann Sothern, Lucille Ball, Virginia O’Brien, Jose Iturbi, Frank Morgan, Lena Horne, Marsha Hunt, Marilyn Maxwell, Donna Reed, Margaret O’Brien, Kay Kyser, Georgia Carroll, Bob Crosby, Cyd Charisse, Sara Haden

Band leaders: Kay Kyser and his band, Bob Crosby and his orchestra.

Plot:
Opera singing Kathryn Jones (Grayson) leaves her mother (Astor) to live on base with her military father (Boles), who is a colonel. Kathryn is also hoping to convince her divorced parents to reconcile. While on base, Kathryn hopes to build morale on the military base before the men are shipped off to fight in World War II. She meets former acrobat Pvt. Eddie Marsh (Kelly), who is not cooperative and isn’t pleased with being in Army. He hopes to transfer to the Army Air Corp, until the two end up falling in love.
The plot is a backdrop to a lavish military show Kathryn helps organize filled with comedic skits and music put on by MGM’s top contract players.

Trivia:

-Eleanor Powell’s first color film. Powell’s contract was not renewed with MGM after this film, according to “A to Z of American Women in the Performing Arts” by Liz Sonnebon.

-Fifth role for Cyd Charisse and it is uncredited. After several small roles, Charisse was signed to MGM in 1946, according to Sonnebon’s book.

-Fourth film role for Gene Kelly.

Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson in a publicity photo for "Thousands Cheer"

Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson in a publicity photo for “Thousands Cheer”

-First film for concert pianist Jose Iturbi. Iturbi is one of many classically trained musicians that MGM studio head L.B. Mayer signed on to give the studio class.

-Ranks number 29 in MGM’s top grossing musicals. “Thousands Cheer” made $3,500,000 in the box office, according to “The Rough Guide to Film Musicals” by David Parkinson.

Highlights:

-Jose Iturbi. I enjoy seeing him in any film, whether he is acting or playing the piano.

-Gene Kelly tap dancing with the broom.

-Eleanor Powell in Technicolor. She again was filmed in color in her last film “Duchess of Idaho” (1950).

Notable Songs:
-“I Dug a Ditch” sung by Kay Kyser’s Band

-“Daybreak” sung by Kathryn Grayon with Jose Iturbi on the piano

-“Three Letters in the Mail Box” sung by Kathryn Grayson

-“In a Little Spanish Town” sung by June Allyson and Gloria DeHaven

-“Should I” sung by Georgia Carroll with Kay Kyser’s band

-“Honeysuckle Rose” sung by Lena Horne

-“The Joint Is Really Jumpin’ in Carnegie Hall” sung by Judy Garland with Jose Iturbi on the piano

My Review:
As I have mentioned in previous posts, there are several wartime films just like “Thousands Cheer” – a thin plot with a ton of musical performances by big-name stars.

However, “Thousands Cheer” stands out against “Star Spangled Rhythm,” “Thank Your Lucky Stars” or “This is the Army.” Maybe it’s because of the caliber of the MGM stars that makes it more enjoyable. Or maybe it’s the Technicolor.

But truthfully, I think it’s the way the film and the showcase of stars are structured. The first half of the film is a straight musical with a plot sprinkled with songs. The last hour to 45 minutes is roughly seven musical performances and skits designed as a show to entertain troops. The performances are shown as an actual show with Mickey Rooney as the emcee between each performance.

“Thousands Cheer” holds a rare quality against other talent showcasing films-the musical performances don’t grow tiresome. I was entertained the whole time, unlike films such as “This is the Army,” where my finger was itching for the fast-forward button.

Kay Kyser's singer and wife Georgia Carroll singing "Should I" in "Thousands Cheer"

Kay Kyser’s singer and wife Georgia Carroll singing “Should I” in “Thousands Cheer”

All of the performances and songs are quality entertainment. Frank Morgan and Red Skelton’s skits are humorous and all of the music is fantastic. The two songs that I think bring down the house are Judy Garland’s “The Joint is Really Jumpin’ in Carnegie Hall” (which should be no surprise) and Kay Kyser’s band with his wife Georgia Carroll as the singer. Carroll’s glowing closeup almost makes the movie for me.

This film is still early in Gene Kelly’s film career- this was his fourth film- but you can already see his star potential in his performance and the few dance numbers he was given. Kelly and Grayson also have good chemistry, and apparently, MGM agreed, pairing them two years later in “Anchors Aweigh” (1945).

If you enjoy star spangled World War II films made for morale boosting and bursting with songs, this is for you.

Fun promotional pamphlet of caricatures of the "Thousands Cheer" songs.

Fun promotional pamphlet of caricatures of the “Thousands Cheer” songs.

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