Watching 1939: In Name Only (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film:  In Name Only (1939)

Release date:  Aug. 4, 1939

Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, Kay Francis, Charles Coburn, Helen Vinson, Katharine Alexander, Jonathan Hale, Nella Walker, Peggy Ann Garner, Maurice Moscovitch, Alan Bates, Spencer Charters, Grady Sutton (uncredited)

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures

Director:  John Cromwell

Widowed mother and artist Julie Eden (Lombard) meets wealthy Alec Walker (Grant). As the two become friends and fall in love, Julie learns that he’s married to Maida (Francis), who Alec’s parents (Coburn, Walker) adore. Alec has long been unhappy with Maida, who he knows married him for his money, but Maida is unwilling to let him go.

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Musical Monday: It’s a Date (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.

date2This week’s musical:
It’s a Date (1940)– Musical #116

Universal Pictures

William A. Seiter

Deanna Durbin, Kay Francis, Walter Pidgeon, Eugene Pallette, Henry Stephenson, S.Z. Sakall, Charles Lane, John Arledge (uncredited)

Georgia Drake (Francis) is a famous stage star and her teenage daughter Pamela (Durbin) wants to follow in her footsteps. Along with wanting the same part in an exciting new play, mother and daughter both fall in love with the same man- John Arlendge (Pidgeon).

-Remade as “Nancy Goes to Rio” (1950) starring Jane Powell, Ann Sothern and Barry Sullivan.
-S.Z. Sakall’s first American film

-Deanna Durbin’s songs
-Kay Francis appearing in the film
-Walter Pidgeon in white dinner coats

Kay Francis and Deanna Durbin play mother and daughter in "It's a Date"

Kay Francis and Deanna Durbin play mother and daughter in “It’s a Date”

Kay Francis, Walter Pidgeon and Deanna Durbin in "It's a Date"

Kay Francis, Walter Pidgeon and Deanna Durbin in “It’s a Date”

Notable Songs:
Loch Lomond performed by Deanna Durbin
Ave Maria (Op.52 No.1) performed by Deanna Durbin
Love Is All performed by Deanna Durbin

My review:
“It’s a Date” is a movie date you want to keep.

Deanna Durbin, Kay Francis and Walter Pidgeon as the leads with a Eugene Pallette, Henry Stephenson and S.Z. Sakall as the supporting cast. Could you ask for a better group of actors?

Francis, Durbin and Pidgeon in "It's a Date"

Francis, Durbin and Pidgeon in “It’s a Date”

I saw this movie for the first time in high school and don’t remember being in love with the film. However, I wasn’t as immersed in my Kay Francis film love and not yet in love with Walter Pidgeon, which makes a difference. Now, when I rewatched it, it was such a thrill to see Francis later in her career flanked by Walter Pidgeon as her leading man.

Kay Francis was one of Warner Brothers’ top stars in the early 1930s before Bette Davis came on the scene. According to TCM historian Robert Osborne, to make Francis break her contract, they put her put her in terrible films and filled scripts with words full of “R’s”— a letter she had difficulties with due to a speech impediment. However, Francis didn’t back down and continued acting. With that said, her later film roles weren’t anything to write home about her Francis’s film career ended in 1946. Though “It’s a Date” is towards end of Francis’s career, she is radiant in this film and it’s a wonderful part for her.

S.Z. Sakall and Kay Francis on the set of "It's a Date"

S.Z. Sakall and Kay Francis on the set of “It’s a Date”

The plot is a little goofy: a teenage daughter falls in love with a man more than twice her age. For a little while, the audience is made to believe that he loves her too. But don’t worry, this film has a non-creepy ending.

There are several laugh out loud moments — some coming from S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall in his first American film. The Hungarian actor left Europe due to Hitler and the growing power of the Third Reich and bestowed his comedic talents on United States audiences.

Deanna Durbin plays a teenager with a wish to be an actress like her mother and grandmother. Her character is a little overly dramatic, as teenagers can be, but it’s humorous at the same time. She delivers many beautiful songs throughout the film and you can see tears in her eyes as she sings “Ave Maria.”

For someone not familiar with Deanna Durbin, this is a good film to start with if you are interested in diving in. It’s a wonderful blend of music, comedy that’s filled with handsome Walter Pidgeon in white evening coats and Kay Francis in lavish evening gowns.

Give this one a watch.

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What’s in a name?

This morning I was at the gym and watching Turner Classic Movies.  “Comet Over Broadway” was on and Kay Francis and I suffered together, but in very different ways: I had the treadmill set to 7 incline and Kay Francis was watching her husband be convicted for killing a man.

Kay Francis and Ian Hunter in "Comet Over Broadway."

At this point, it donned on me that in the last year, I had never discussed how “Comet Over Hollywood” got it’s name.

In September 2009, Turner Classic Movies made the great Kay Francis the Star of the Month.  I’d seen Kay in movies before, but I had never had the opportunity to see her suffer like I did during that film festival. I had my mom tape all 40 movies they showed of hers and we watched them throughout the year until the following summer.

I originally made my blog in April 2009 on Blogger and it was titled “Living on Velvet” after another Kay Francis movie (another blogger had this same name so I changed mine). I was going to write about old movies and let the whole world know that they were superior.

But my posts were few, long and lame.

My first post ever was about the horrible Connie Stevens movie “Susan Slade.”  I did a play by play of the movie, tried to be witty and it took me three days to write it. Ridiculous. I wrote a few other forgettable posts on Blogger before I switched to WordPress (which I highly suggest.)

I wanted to change things up and be creative: No more 3,000 word movie reviews but now rantings about Katherine Hepburn and washing my hair with champagne.

And so “Comet Over Hollywood” was born.

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