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)

t’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 of 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 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 several men

-“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 war time 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 is 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 like 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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Musical Monday: Grounds for Marriage (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.

Grounds_for_Marriage_posterThis week’s musical:
“Grounds for Marriage” –Musical #371

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Robert Z. Leonard

Starring:
Van Johnson, Kathryn Grayson, Paula Raymond, Barry Sullivan, Reginald Anderson, Lewis Stone, Richard Anderson, Theresa Harris

Plot:
When Ina Massine (Grayson) returns to New York from Europe, she tries to win back her husband Lincoln “Linc” Bartlett (Johnson) after being divorced for three years. Linc is now engaged to Agnes Young (Raymond). On the day of her New York stage comeback singing “La Boheme,” Ina has a sore throat and then suddenly looses her voice. Doctors determine that the loss of voice is psychological from the shock of Linc’s engagement. Linc then tries to throw Ina into a new romance and appoints his brother Chris (Sullivan) to do the task.

Trivia:
-The movie originally was supposed to star Robert Walker and June Allyson. After Allyson was no longer in the film, it was going to star Walker and Kathryn Grayson, according to a Hedda Hopper brief from July 28, 1949. Van Johnson replaced Walker.
-“That’s the only picture I really loved making,” Grayson said in a Jan. 7, 1951 interview with Hedda Hopper. “I’ve been in films since 1940, but I’ll confess that I have never been particularly interested in a film career until recently.”
-During the “Carmen” dream sequence, Van Johnson is dubbed by Gilbert Russell for the character Don Jose and Stephen Kemalyan for the character Escamillo.

Van Johnson and Kathryn Grayson dressed for the "Carmen" dream sequence in "Grounds for Marriage."

Van Johnson and Kathryn Grayson dressed for the “Carmen” dream sequence in “Grounds for Marriage.”

Notable Songs:
– “Carmen” performed by Kathryn Grayson and Van Johnson
-“La Boheme” performed by Kathryn Grayson
– “Tiger Rag” played by the Firehouse Five Plus Two

Highlights:
-Van Johnson playing the bird sound in the doctor’s symphony
-The “Carmen” dream sequence, which acts out the film’s predicament. Johnson is hilariously dubbed in an operatic voice. Johnson said in a Feb. 13, 1951 article in the Times Daily that he had never seen the opera.
-Van Johnson gives a speech on the common cold to the women’s club and says it’s mainly psychological or due to stress. Air is blowing on the back of Johnson’s neck and by the end of the speech, he has developed a bad cold.

My Review:
This is not your usual Kathryn Grayson musical, chock full with operatic performances in Technicolor. In fact, Grayson probably has four or five numbers because most of the movie she can’t speak or sing due to loss of voice.
Van Johnson, as always, is also a lot of fun; excelling in comedic moments and is likable as always.
I always love to see Paula Raymond in films, and I hated that she didn’t have more screen time in “Grounds for Marriage.” (Spoiler) I also would have almost preferred for Raymond to end up with Van Johnson.
It certainly isn’t the best film Grayson or Johnson made, but it is fairly fun. Some of the gags can be tiring, but “Grounds for Marriage” is a nice piece of escapism.

Kathryn Grayson, Van Johnson, Paula Raymond and Barry Sullivan in a publicity photo for "Grounds for Marriage."

Kathryn Grayson, Van Johnson, Paula Raymond and Barry Sullivan in a publicity photo for “Grounds for Marriage.”

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Musical Monday: “Two Sisters from Boston” (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.

two sistersThis week’s musical:
Two Sisters From Boston” –Musical #85

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Henry Koster

Starring:
June Allyson, Kathryn Grayson, Jimmy Durante, Peter Lawford, Lauritz Melchoir, Ben Blue, Barbara Billingsley (uncredited)

Plot:
Abigail (Grayson) writes to her sister Martha (Allyson) and her other stuffy relatives in Boston that she is a successful opera singer in New York. In reality, she is working in a burlesque show.

Trivia:

-After June Allyson and Peter Lawford starred in this film, MGM publicity was tried to play them up as a couple. This was a common practice and the same attempt was made with her co-star Van Johnson. Allyson wrote in her autobiography that though she and Lawford had a good time together, it was never anything serious. The two later starred in “Little Women” (1949) together.
-Lauritz Melchoir’s second film, his first being “The Thrill of Romance” (1945). Born in Denmark, Melchoir was a Wagnerian tenor and debuted in 1924 in London. He debuted with the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1926.  Melchoir made five Hollywood films from 1944 to 1953. In the 1940s, MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer signed singers and musicians like Melchoir and pianist Jose Iturbi to give the studio class and culture.
-Sammy Fain and Ralph Freed (brother of Arthur Freed) wrote the songs “Autumn Twilight,” “Indian Holiday,” “Lanterns in the Sky,” “More Than Ever” and “Seattle.”

Notable Songs:
-After the Show sung by June Allyson
-When Romance Passes by sung by Kathryn Grayson
-Performances by Lauritz Melchoir
-Down by the Ocean sung by Kathryn Grayson and Jimmy Durante

Highlights: 
-When proper June Allyson sings takes Kathryn Grayson’s place at the burlesque show, having to undress before an audience.
-Kathryn Grayson unconventionally gets in an opera in the chorus. Lauritz Melchoir is the lead. Much to his chagrin, Grayson keeps singing notes to get attention.

My Review:
This is a cute movie, but I don’t feel it exhibits the full appeal of June Allyson and Kathryn Grayson. June Allyson’s character is a simpering proper girl, ashamed of her sister’s profession in New York.
Kathryn Grayson’s character is a bit more likable but is still a bit uppity (the roles she usually seems to be typecast in).
When I originally saw this film 12 years ago, I was watching it for June Allyson, and I was a bit disappointed in her character then.
Jimmy Durante is the real treat in this film. It’s also interesting to see Metropolitan Opera star Lauritz Melchoir in films, giving a frame of reference of who was famous in the operatic world during this time.
However…despite any character flaws…this is still a fun and enjoyable movie. There are several funny parts and at the end of the day, the movie is down right cute.

Lauritz Melchoir, Kathryn Grayson, Jimmy Durante and June Allyson in "Two Sisters From Boston."

Lauritz Melchoir, Kathryn Grayson, Jimmy Durante and June Allyson in “Two Sisters From Boston.”

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Musical Monday: Seven Sweethearts (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.

This week’s musical:
Seven Sweethearts” (1942) –Musical #62

seven sweethearts

Studio:
MGM

Director:
Frank Borzage

Starring:
Kathryn Grayson, Van Heflin, Marsha Hunt, S.Z. Sakall, Cecilia Parker, Donald Meek, Louise Beavers

Plot:
News reporter Henry Taggart (Heflin) goes to Little Delft, Michigan to cover the Tulip Festival. While there, he stays at the quaint House of the Seven Tulips inn, run by Mr. Van Maaster (Sakall). Maaster’s seven daughters-all who have boy names-help run the inn. Spoiled Regina (Hunt) tries to woo Henry but he falls for Billie (Grayson). The only problem is old-fashioned Mr. Maaster won’t let his younger daughters marry before Regina marries.

Trivia:
-This film is a family affair: Kathryn Grayson’s brother Michael Butler and sister Frances Raeburn are in the film. Grayson had a larger career than her siblings.
-Ann Rutherford was originally supposed to be in the film but she had measles. She was replaced by Peggy Moran.
-A film adaptation of a Hungarian play called “Seven Sisters.” The film appeared on Broadway in 1911.
-Producer Joe Pasternak’s first film at MGM.
-Remake of the 1915 film “The Seven Sisters”

Highlights:
-Van Heflin attempting to dance a traditional dance during the Tulip Festival.

Van Heflin and Kathryn Grayson in "Seven Sweethearts"

Van Heflin and Kathryn Grayson in “Seven Sweethearts”

Notable Songs:
There aren’t any songs that really stand out or leave you humming after the movie. However, you have the opportunity to hear Grayson since several songs such as “Tulip Time” and Mozart’s “Cradle Song.”

My Review:
This song is fun and adorable. Though she’s a brat, Marsha Hunt looks adorable, and I swoon every time Van Heflin smiles. This is only Kathryn Grayson’s fourth film, so you get to see her as she is still blossoming into stardom MGM. “Seven Sweethearts” isn’t one of MGM’s huge, glittering musicals, and usually goes under the radar. However, it’s adorable and a lot of fun.

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Star Collector

anita
Anita Page in the 1920’s. At one point she had more fan mail than Greta Garbo.

Not only am I old-fashioned in my movie tastes, but I am also pretty passe as a movie fan.

I write fan mail.

You may be thinking, “Who does that anymore?” A surprising amount do continue to write to stars like Debbie Reynolds, Tony Curtis and Elizabeth Taylor. No one writes the stars of today, though, like Angelina Jolie, Orlando Bloom or Jennifer Aniston. Why is this? Because they won’t answer…that is if you can even find an address to write to.

I get my fan mail addresses from an autograph database called StarTiger.com. On the website you can search virtually any movie star, singer or sports player. Each star has their own profile page. On this page there is a list of addresses that you can contact them.

Users comments on the address and rate them with success ratings on if they received an autograph, how fast it was returned or they note if they got an answer at all. There are messages boards for each address where autograph hunters tell what they sent (such as a self-addressed, stamped envelope with two 4×6 photos) and what they got back (such as they signed one picture and left the other unsigned).

I discovered Star Tiger in 8th grade in 2003 for keyboarding class where we were practicing our letter writing skills by writing to famous people. At the time the website was known as Star Archives and was free (users now have to pay a monthly fee). While the rest of my class chose famous rappers like 50 cent and actresses like Sandra Bullock, 14-year-old Jessica Pickens of course chose Doris Day.

This was the first of many fan letters I ever wrote. I wrote to Doris about how much I loved her movies, how she brightened my day and that I used her as a role model to try to keep a sunny disposition. A few weeks after sending off the letter, I was the only student in the class to receive an autographed picture and a nice letter from Ms. Day inviting me to donate money towards her animal foundation.

After this I made lists of stars I wanted to write. Since then I have sent off fan letters twice; sophomore year of high school sophomore year of college.

Unfortunately, there are mournful times when I have to cross a name off a list when a star dies. Some instances have been with June Allyson in July 2006, Cyd Charisse in June 2008 and Kathryn Grayson in February 2010.

Writing fan letters to 70, 80 and 90-year-old movie stars might seem greedy. I will admit that part of it is selfish. I want autographs and to be part of that classic film culture and era, but that isn’t all of it. I want classic stars to know that they are still thought about. That their films are still watched, that they are still loved and a young lady in Greenville, S.C. really looks up to them.

I am showing that I appreciate the stars with my fan mail. The classic actors also show that they appreciate me by responding with autographs. Classic film actors REALIZE that they way they became movie stars is through their fans watching their movies and reading about them in the fan magazines.

Joan Crawford might have a bad reputation from that book of lies “Mommy Dearest” by Christine Crawford. However, Crawford knew she was famous because of her fans and answered each piece of fan mail personally, according to Divas the Site.

Joan Crawford
Joan Crawford signing autographs. Photo taken by Clarence Sinclair Bull in 1933

I’ve also read accounts of people who have seen stars like Van Johnson or Walter Pidgeon who happily stop and sign autographs.
Van
Van Johnson with fans.

Fans used to confuse Lana Turner and Betty Grable, and when either was approached and mistaken for the other, they would sign autographs with the other’s name rather than getting angry and yelling at the fans.

Grable lana
Betty Grable and Lana Turner sometimes were confused because of their platinum locks.

It’s hard for movie viewers of today to hear things like this while the movie stars of today are not as accomodating. In fact they are the opposite. They run from autograph seekers, scream if you call them the wrong name and do not answer fan mail.

Today’s celebrities need to realize that they would be nothing without their fans.

Autographs in order that they were recieved:

1. Doris Day (My first autograph in 8th grade)

doris2

2. Deanna Durbin

3. Esther Williams

4. June Allyson (signed notecard. I was going to send a letter with a picture but she died before I got the chance)

5. Vera Miles, along with a nice note

Vera Picture Vera Letter

6. Annette Funicello (One of my favorites. She signed it herself, which was a great surprise and treat because since she has MS I had heard her husband signed them)

Annette

7. Joan Fontaine

8. Lauren Bacall

9. Ann Blyth

10. Jane Powell

11. Joan Leslie (so sweet and added cardboard to back her picture)

12. Elizabeth Taylor

13. Paul Newman (shortly before his death)

Paul

14. Shirley Temple- sent 2 pictures; one young and one teenaged signed both.
Shirley young Shirley old

15. Van Johnson- again shortly before his death

16. Debbie Reynolds

17. Julie Andrews- pre-signed. I have read she is the worst person for autographs

18. Maureen O’Hara- A real treat and a hard person to contact. Autograph came from Ireland!

Maureen

19. Audrey Totter

20. Doris Day- I wrote her again.

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