Musical Monday: Du Barry Was a Lady (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.

This week’s musical:
“Du Barry Was a Lady” (1943)– Musical #173

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Roy Del Ruth

Starring:
Red Skelton, Gene Barry, Lucille Ball, Virginia O’Brien, Rags Ragland, Zero Mostel, Louise Beavers, Donald Meek, Ava Gardner (uncredited), Marilyn Maxwell (uncredited), George Carroll (uncredited),
As Themselves: Tommy Dorsey, Lana Turner, Dick Haymes, Jo Stafford

Plot:
All working at the same club, coat check boy Louis Blore (Skelton) and master of ceremonies Alec Howe (Kelly) are both in love with nightclub performer May Daly (Ball), where she sings a song as Madame DuBarry. May is in love with Alec, but she is holding out to marry a rich man. Louis wins $150,000 in a sweepstakes. Then he drinks a drugged drink and dreams that he’s King Louis XV and Lucille Ball is Madame DuBarry.

Lucille Ball and Red Skelton go back to the 1700s

Trivia:
-Lucille Ball’s first starring role under contract with MGM.
-Ann Sothern was originally set to star in this film, but turned it down because she was pregnant with her daughter, Tisha.
-Zero Mostel’s first film
-Lucille Ball was dubbed by Martha Mears
-Produced by Arthur Freed
-Based on the 1939 Broadway musical starring Bert Lahr, Ethel Merman and Betty Grable. The film used very little of the original Cole Porter score.

Highlights:
-Technicolor
-Virginia O’Brien’s performances
-The “Esquire Girl” number, with all the different costumes
-Lana Turner’s cameo

Notable Songs:
-“DuBarry was a Lady” performed by Lucille Balls, dubbed by Martha Mears
-“Do I Love You” performed by Gene Kelly
-“Salome” performed by Virginia O’Brien
-“I Love an Esquire Girl” performed by Red Skelton and Pied Piper
-“Friendship” performed by Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly

My review:
“DuBarry Was a Lady” isn’t the best MGM musical around, and a lot of it is nonsense, but it sure is fun.

The film revolves around a nightclub hat check, played by Red Skelton, who is in love with the club’s singer, played by Lucille Ball. Ball’s character portray’s Madame Du Barry in her act (hence the title). Lucille Ball is in love with fellow performer Gene Kelly, but she is unwilling to marry a poor man and end up happy, but broke like her parents. Skelton strikes it rich, but gets accidentally drugged, where he dreams everyone in the club is back in the days of France in the 1700s (include Tommy Dorsey and his band).

The time traveling dream sequence may seem a little random, and it does take you out of the story line, but it’s fairly entertaining.

For some reason, this 1943 Technicolor musical seems to explode color than any other 1940s MGM musical. Maybe it’s because of the costume color selections that were picked. We start with a musical number of chorus girls in Ziegfeld Girl-like blue and purple costumes. Then there is Lucille Ball with her vibrant red hair (a color MGM stylist Sydney Guilaroff called Tango Red). Of course, Red Skelton also has a shock of red hair. And then there’s Virginia O’Brien’s unforgettable chartreuse blouse. Visually, this film is off-the-charts gorgeous!

Virginia O’Brien with this chartreuse blouse

Colorful costumes for the opening number

Lucille Ball with her “Tango Red” hair

Red Skelton is the star of this film and has the most screen time. While Lucille Ball and Gene Kelly may be the reason some folks tune into this one, Kelly is really secondary to Ball and Skelton. Kelly only has one full-on dance number. According to her autobiography “Love, Lucy,” Lucille Ball enjoyed working with Red Skelton. Lana Turner even has a cameo in the film!

Zero Mostel also randomly shows up in this film and does some moderately annoying impressions. For example, he does one of Charles Boyer in “Algiers” (1938) and just repeats “Heddyyyy” about 15 times. And then there is Virginia O’Brien, who sings in her straight-faced singing style, that is somehow so appealing.

“Du Barry was a Lady” has it’s faults and is silly. But I won’t deny that I love it. Hopefully you will too.

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Musical Monday: That Girl From Paris (1936)

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.

ADIEU PARIS BONJOUR NEW YORKThis week’s musical:
“That Girl From Paris” –Musical #504

Studio:
RKO

Director:
Leigh Jason

Starring:
Lily Pons, Gene Raymond, Jack Oakie, Herman Bing, Mischa Auer, Frank Jenks, Lucille Ball, Jimmy Dorsey

Plot:
The day of her wedding, French opera star Nicole Martin (Pons) decides she want adventure, rather than marrying the man selected to be her husband. “Nikki” decides she wants adventure and meets up with American singer, bandleader Windy McLean (Raymond) while she is hitchhiking. Windy finds Nikki annoying and sails to America, but Nikki falls in love with him and castaways on the ship. Windy then has trouble on his hands while he avoids arrest for helping hide a stowaway in New York. Windy also has trouble when his girlfriend Claire (Ball) isn’t too fond of Nikki.

Trivia:
-Later remade as “Four Jacks and a Jill” (1942) starring Anne Shirley, June Havoc and Ray Bolger.
-Version of “Street Girl” (1929) starring Betty Compson.

Lucille Ball, Gene Raymond, Jack Oakie, Mischa Auer, Lily Pons and other band members in "That Girl From Paris"

Lucille Ball, Gene Raymond, Jack Oakie, Mischa Auer, Lily Pons and other band members in “That Girl From Paris”

Highlights:
-Lucille Ball’s role.

Notable Songs:
-Love and Learn performed by Jack Oakie
-When You and I Were Young, Maggie performed by Jack Oakie

Behind the scenes photo of Lucille Ball and Lily Pons

Behind the scenes photo of Lucille Ball and Lily Pons

My Review:
“That Girl From Paris” is one of several 1930s and 1940s films that took a page from “It Happened One Night” (1934) — see also “Eve Knew Her Apples” (1945).
Lily Pons runs away from her wedding to find adventure and follows around a man (Raymond) who wants nothing to do with her. I can’t say I blame Gene Raymond, because her character is quite annoying.
The two leads in the films– Lily Pons and Gene Raymond are plain annoying.
The audience is supposed to cheer for Lily Pons to end up with Raymond and live happily ever after, but I honestly feel sorry for Lucille Ball who ends up harassed by Pons and jilted by Raymond.
I found myself enjoying the supporting characters the most. Lucille Ball, Jack Oakie (who wasn’t annoying for once), Mischa Auer and Frank Jenks were much more enjoyable and much less annoying.
“That Girl From Paris” is a run of the mill, low-budget musical filled with high jinks and forgettable songs. Pons does have a beautiful operatic voice, but her annoying character overshadowed that for me.
If you are looking for a runaway bride film just watch “It Happened One Night” instead. If you want a film with good opera music- go the Jane Powell, Deanna Durbin or Jeannette MacDonald route instead.
However, if you are a true Lucille Ball fan looking to watch all of her work, this may be worth your time since she is the only bright spot in this dull film.
I don’t often direct you to not watch a musical, but this one was just too irritating.

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Musical Monday: Meet the People (1944)

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.

meet the peopleThis week’s musical:
“Meet the People” –Musical #104

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Charles Riesner

Starring:
Lucille Ball, Dick Powell, Bert Lahr, Virginia O’Brien, Rags Ragland, June Allyson, Howard Freeman
Themselves: Vaughn Monroe and his Orchestra

Plot:
William Swanson (Powell), a shipyard worker has written a musical about the war industry and want glamorous Broadway actress Julie Hampton (Ball) to star in the show. But when the show gets to the stage, William is curious to see that it glosses over the war and heighten the glamour. Pulling his play and heading back to Delaware, Julie follows William to get a glimpse at war work and convince him to reconsider.

Trivia:
-In her autobiography “Love Lucy,” Lucille Ball said she was “just another clothes horse” in this film.
-Ball wrote in her autobiography she loved working with Dick Powell and didn’t feel he ever received proper credit for his talents.
-At the time of this film, actress June Allyson was going to be dropped by MGM. Her next project was going to be “Two Girls and a Sailor” with Gloria DeHaven. Allyson was to play the secondary role as the beautiful sister and DeHaven the lead. Dick Powell advised her to ask Mayer to switch the roles, he did and it made her a star.
-It was on the set of “Meet the People” that June Allyson and Dick Powell became friends, and later married.
-Lucille Ball’s third project under contract at MGM.
-Lucille Ball’s singing was dubbed by Gloria Grafton.
-This movie was shown overseas to servicemen before it was released in the United States.
-According to MGM records the movie earned $670,000 in the US and Canada and $290,000 elsewhere resulting in a loss of $717,000.

Dick Powell, Virginia O'Brien, June Allyson and Lucille Ball in "Meet the People"

Dick Powell, Virginia O’Brien, June Allyson and Lucille Ball in “Meet the People”

Highlights:
-Singer Vaughn Monroe’s film appearance

Notable Songs:
-“Meet the People” performed by Dick Powell
-“I Like to Recognize the Tune” performed by Vaughn Monroe and June Allyson
-“Say We’re Sweethearts Again” performed by Virginia O’Brien

My Review:
Today, most of the world knows Lucille Ball as one of the greatest female comedians of all time due to her highly successful television career.
But at the beginning of her career, studios did not see that talent and were not too sure what to do with the actress. Studios like MGM groomed her to be the same as their other starlets- beautiful, coiffed and highly fashionable, and that simply didn’t fit Lucy.
In her autobiography, Lucille Ball ball dismisses this film and says she was “just another clothes horse.” However, she really enjoyed working with Dick Powell and felt he was an underrated talent and director.
While Dick Powell had a successful career in the 1930s, you can almost see that he was tired of the dry musicals. This was made the same year as “Murder, My Sweet” when Powell showed he could do more than croon.
The thing that makes “Meet the People” notable is June Allyson right before she hit it big and performer Vaughn Monroe.
Monroe is a terrific singing and very popular in the 1940s and 1950s, but isn’t spotted in films very often. Monroe was only in one other film than this, “Carnegie Hall.”
But Monroe and Allyson’s number about “I Like to Recognize the Tune” is one of the few songs you even remember after watching “Meet the People.” Allyson was on the drop list at MGM but only continued to be successful after this film from encouragement from Lucille Ball and advice from her (later husband) Dick Powell.
“Meet the People” is not one of MGM’s more memorable musical. However, it is entertaining and has some funny moments. Don’t write it off completely, but don’t expect anything amazing.

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Musical Monday: “Seven Days’ Leave” (1942)

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.

seven-days-leave-movie-poster-1942-1020701154This week’s musical:
Seven Days’ Leave (1942) — Musical #475

Studio:
RKO

Director:
Tim Whelan

Starring:
Victor Mature, Lucille Ball,

Plot:
Army Private Johnny Grey (Mature) discovers he is an heir of $100,000. However, he has to marry another heiress (Ball) in seven days in order to receive the money.

Trivia:
-Ball and Mature didn’t enjoy making this film. Ball had just completed “Big Street” and wanted to be taken more seriously in film. Ball was also unhappy because her husband Desi Arnaz was away fundraising for the war relief, according to The Films of Victor Mature by James McKay
-Mature was having an affair with Rita Hayworth and wanted her to be the leading lady rather than Ball. Mature’s attitude about it didn’t help his and Ball’s relationship, according to The Films of Victor Mature by James McKay.
-Several NBC radio shows are featured such as Truth or Consequence
-Remake of the 1930 Gary Cooper film, “Seven Days Leave,” according to 1000 Questions About Canada By John Robert Colombo.

lucyHighlights:
-Victor Mature dancing and singing (but dubbed).
-Impressions of Lionel Barrymore and Ronald Colman by one of the soldiers. Though they aren’t terrific, I always enjoy hearing impressions of celebrities.
-The comedic ballroom dancing routine with Lynn Royce and Vanya. It starts out with a male and female dance number. Then a second man comes in for comedic relief, mostly at the lady’s expense.

Notable Songs:
-“Please Won’t You Leave My Girl Alone” sung by Victor Mature and a group of soldiers at the very beginning and the very end of the film. It’s not a good tune, but it’s the most memorable and catchy.
-“Can’t Get Out of This Mood” sung by Ginny Simms with the Freddy Martin Orchestra. This is the best song sung in the whole film. Moody and musically lovely.

My Review:
Neither of the stars were pleased to be in this film and I can’t blame them. The plot of having to marry someone in order to get money isn’t a new one. Romantic mix-ups should be expected. Though I wouldn’t say this movie was horrible, I also wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it multiple times.

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Actress beauty tip #29: 1930s eyebrows

This is the twenty-ninth installment of the monthly classic actress beauty tips that I have read about and tested…except for this one.

Jean Harlow with her signature, exaggerated eyebrows.

Jean Harlow with her signature, exaggerated eyebrows.

Eyebrows are the frame work of the face.

Overtime that framework has been defined differently.

The 1940s were more natural and of medium thickness.

In the 1960s were heavy, emphasized with an eyebrow pencil.

But the most dramatic eyebrow look was in the 1930s. Brows were thin with exaggerated height.  Several actresses shaved their eyebrows and drew on their eyebrows. Petroleum jelly or oils were used to give a shiny look on the brow, according to Return to Style.

Jean Harlow’s high arched, drawn on eyebrows became part of her signature style. Greta Garbo plucked her eyebrows thin to follow the arch of her eye socket. Marlene Dietrich shaved off all of the hair and penciled on her brow higher than her natural hairline, according to the Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History.

Some actresses shaved their eyebrow for role and they never grew back:

Lucille Ball dressed as a blond slave in "Roman Scandals" (1933)

Lucille Ball dressed as a blond slave in “Roman Scandals” (1933)

-In her first film appearance “Roman Scandals” (1933), Lucille Ball was asked to shave off her eyebrows. She was playing a slave girl with a long blond wig. Her brows never grew back and she had to pencil them on the rest of her life, according to the Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History.

Lana Turner in "The Adventures of Marco Polo" (1938)

Lana Turner in “The Adventures of Marco Polo” (1938)

-Lana Turner was asked to shave her eyebrows for “The Adventures of Marco Polo” (1938) and had slanted brows were drawn on to give an “Asian look.” Her eyebrows never grew back. She later had false, stick on eyebrows made that she wore for the rest of her life. Her daughter Cheryl Crane said she only saw her mother without her false eyebrows twice, according to the book LANA: The Memories, the Myths, the Movies.

Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth I in "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" (1939)

Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth I in “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” (1939)

-For her role as Queen Elizabeth I in “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” (1939), Bette Davis shaved two inches off her hairline at the forehead and her eyebrows off. She said they never grew back properly and had to use an eyebrow pencil, according to IMDB.

To review: Though I have testedmany of all of my beauty tips but I have not shaved off my eyebrows and drawn them back on for this one. However, I think several of us have had that panicked moment of over plucking and fearing they won’t grow back properly. It’s amazing how many actresses had to deal with eyebrow issues for the remainder of their lives due to shaving them off for roles.

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