Musical Monday: South Pacific (1958)

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:
South Pacific” (1958) – Musical #2

Studio:
Twentieth Century Fox

Director:
Joshua Logan

Starring:
Mitzi Gaynor, Rossano Brazzi, John Kerr, Ray Walston, Juanita Hall, France Nuyen, Russ Brown, Ken Clark, Archie Savage, Richard Harrison, Candace Lee, Warren Hsieh, Tom Laughlin, Floyd Simmons

Plot:
Set during World War II, the Navy is stationed on an island in the South Pacific. Nellie Forbush (Gaynor) is a Navy nurse who falls in love with Emile De Becque (Brazzi), a French civilian who lives on the island. Marine Lt. Joe Cable (Kerr) is sent to the island on a secret mission and the military wants De Becque’s help because he is familiar with the islands. De Becque is hesitant to help because of his love for Nellie, but her prejudices complicate the relationship when she realizes Emile has two Polynesian children. Lt. Cable has to come to terms with his prejudice Philadelphia upbringing when he falls in love with a Polynesian girl, Liat (Nuyen).

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Musical Monday: Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952)

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:
“Bloodhounds of Broadway” (1952) – Musical #589

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Harmon Jones

Starring:
Mitzi Gaynor, Scott Brady, Mitzi Green, Marguerite Chapman, Michael O’Shea, Wally Vernon, Richard Allen, Mary Wickes (uncredited), Charles Bronson (uncredited)

Plot:
New York bookie Robert “Numbers” Foster (Brady) is in danger of being subpoenaed. He and one of his men, Harry “Poorly” Sammis (Vernon), high tail it out of New York to Florida while Numbers’s girlfriend and singer of his club, Yvonne (Chapman), testifies that Numbers is only a gambler. On their way back to New York, Numbers and Poorly take a wrong turn in Georgia in the country and run out of gas. They come across Emily Ann Stackerlee (Gaynor), who is burying her grandpappy. The two men take pity on the now orphaned girl and bring her back to New York. Emily Ann ends up being older than they expected, so they try to give her a part in their nightclub act. However, Yvonne is jealous and holds the testimony over Numbers’s head.

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Musical Monday: My Blue Heaven (1950)

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.

Poster - My Blue Heaven (1950)_01This week’s musical:
“My Blue Heaven” –Musical #274

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Henry Koster

Starring:
Betty Grable, Dan Dailey, David Wayne, Jane Wyatt, Mitzi Gaynor, Una Merkel, Louise Beavers, Elinor Donahue (uncredited)

Plot:
Married radio stars Kitty (Grable) and Jack (Dailey) Moran want to have a baby. After Kitty miscarries, the couple moves to television and tries to adopt a baby.

Trivia:
-Film debut of Mitzi Gaynor
-Third of four films of Dan Dailey and Betty Grable. The others were “Mother Wore Tights” (1947), “When My Baby Smiles at Me” (1948) and “Call Me Mister” (1951).
-Montage dancing shots of Dailey and Grable are numbers edited from “Mother Wore Tights” (1947).
-Ranked No. 10 in the top grossing films of 1950.
-Alternative title: “Stork Don’t Bring Babies”

Betty Grable and Dan Dailey in "My Blue Heaven."

Betty Grable and Dan Dailey in “My Blue Heaven.”

Highlights:
-Dan Dailey’s Enzio Pinza impersonation during the “Friendly Islands” number which is modeled after the “South Pacific.”
-“Don’t Rock the Boat, Dear” number.
-Mitzi Gaynor in her first feature role.

Notable Songs:
-“Don’t Rock the Boat, Dear” performed by Betty Grable and Dan Dailey
-“My Blue Heaven” performed by Betty Grable and Dan Dailey
-“I Love a New York” performed by Betty Grable and Dan Dailey

My Review:
“My Blue Heaven” is a sweet, adorable and emotional little musical.
Two performers learn they won’t be able to have children after having a miscarriage, and try to adopt. However, this is during a time that it was difficult for performers to adopt children, because they seemed unreliable due unconventional work schedules and were more apt to divorce.
While a 1950 New York Times review ripped this to shreds calling it old fashioned, mishmash, I enjoy “My Blue Heaven.”
In the old fashion of her other films, Betty Grable shows off her beautiful legs and sells a song better than anyone else can. However, it also gives both Grable and Dan Dailey the opportunity to give an emotionally charged performance.
Grable shows her elation of pregnancy, and her despair when she loses a baby and as she struggles to adopt a child.
Along with their performances in this film, Grable and Dailey also are an underrated screen team. Starring in four films together, their chemistry is always through the roof.
The topics in this film is also interesting for two reasons:

Mitzi Gaynor in "My Blue Heaven."

Mitzi Gaynor in “My Blue Heaven.”

-As shown in other films such as “Close to My Heart” (1951) and “Blossoms in the Dust” (1941), adopting or promoting adoption was taboo during this time, because parents wouldn’t know what sort of background these “foundlings” came from. However, “My Blue Heaven” doesn’t really focus on that aspect.
-The lead characters are television stars at a time that TV was a large threat to films (and still is).
It’s also fun to see Mitzi Gaynor in her first film role playing a not so savory woman.
My Blue Heaven is heartwarming; making me smile at one point and tear up at the next.

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Musical Monday: Golden Girl (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.

GoldenGirl_PosterThis week’s musical:
Golden Girl” –Musical #492

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Lloyd Bacon

Starring:
Mitzi Gaynor, Dale Robertson, Dennis Day, James Barton, Una Merkel, Raymond Washburn, Gene Sheldon, Carmen D’Antonio, Jimmie Dodd (uncredited)

Plot:
Set during the Civil War, the biographical film follows performer Lotta Crabtree (Gaynor) during her rise to fame. In this fictionalized biopic, Crabtree’s father (Barton) is a gambler who loses the family boarding house in a card game. Lotta, who desperately wants to become an actress, decides to earn the family money by performing. Before leaving to perform, Lotta meets Tom Richmond (Robertson) from Alabama and falls in love with him. Richmond follows her show to every venue, but may not be there just to see her.

Trivia:
-The real Lotta Crabtree, nicknamed the Nation’s Darling, was born in 1847 and died in 1924. In real life she started her career at age 6.
-Produced by George Jessell
-Mitzi Gaynor said “Golden Girl” was one of her favorite films.
-Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song for the song “Never” by Lionel Newman and Eliot Daniel.
-Jimmie Dodd who later was on the Mickey Mouse Club is in a bit role as a musician.

The real Lotta Crabtree and Mitzi Gaynor dressed as Lotta Crabtree for "Golden Girl"

The real Lotta Crabtree and Mitzi Gaynor dressed as Lotta Crabtree for “Golden Girl”

Highlights:
-Mitzi Gaynor and James Barton’s tap dance together

Notable Songs:
-“Dixie” performed by Mitzi Gaynor
-“Kiss Me Quick and Go” performed by Mitzi Gaynor
-“Oh, Them Golden Slippers” performed by Mitzi Gaynor (and a male quartet between scenes)
-“Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” performed by Mitzi Gaynor and Dennis Day
-“Sunday Morning” performed by Mitzi Gaynor and Dennis Day
-“Never” performed by Dennis Day

mitzi2

Gaynor and Robertson in “Golden Girl”

My Review:
As we have discussed in many Musical Monday posts, biographical films are generally not accurate accounts of the person’s life.
In “Golden Girl,” Lotta’s career starts as a teenager. In real life, Lotta was performing by the age of 6 and retired when she was 45. Also in the film, Lotta wants to be an actress like Lola Montez, and apparently in real life, Montez encouraged Lotta to start an acting career.
All of that being said, “Golden Girl” is a fun film and Mitzi Gaynor gives an energetic performance.
When the film started, I thought I would be annoyed with Dennis Day and his character, but I was pleasantly surprised. He gives a good performance, sings beautifully and was really likable.
Dale Robertson was also handsome and likable as Gaynor’s love interest. I think it also goes without saying that Una Merkel and James Barton who play Lotta’s parents stole the show.
I watched “Golden Girl” and another Gaynor biopic “The I Don’t Care Girl” back to back. If you remember, the latter was lackluster, but “Golden Girl” was a breath of fresh air and left me smiling and humming “Oh, Them Golden Slippers.”

Mitzi Gaynor dancing with James Barton.

Mitzi Gaynor dancing with James Barton.

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Musical Monday: The I Don’t Care Girl (1953)

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.

the-i-dont-care-girl-movie-poster-1953-1020701174This week’s musical:
“The I Don’t Care Girl” –Musical #491

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Lloyd Bacon

Starring:
Mitzi Gaynor, David Wayne, Oscar Levant, Bob Graham, Craig Hill, George Jessel (as himself), Hazel Brooks, Barrie Chase (uncredited), Julie Newmar (uncredited), Gwen Verdon (uncredited)

Plot:
Biographical film on vaudeville performer Eva Tanguay who sang the song “I Don’t Care.” Though the film is a biographical film about Tanguay, the film starts in present time with George Jessell trying to plan the film. They find Tanguay’s old partners and friends and the story is told through their inconsistent memories.

Trivia:
-The real life Eva Tanguay was born in 1878 and died in 1947 at the age of 68. Tanguay was good friends with performer Sophie Tucker. Tanguay dubbed herself “the girl who made vaudeville famous.”
-Produced by George Jessel and played himself in the film.
-Jack Cole was the choreographer and Gwen Verdon was Gaynor’s dance in.
-In a TCM interview with Mitzi Gaynor, during the fire scene Gaynor said everything was fireproof except with her.
-Max Showalter was originally supposed to play the Oscar Levant role. However, Jessel saw Levant in “An American in Paris” and cast him instead, according to Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Flashbacks by Tom Weaver.

The real Eva Tanguay and a publicity portrait of Mitzi Gaynor in costume as Tanguay for "I Don't Care Girl"

The real Eva Tanguay and a publicity portrait of Mitzi Gaynor in costume as Tanguay for “I Don’t Care Girl”

Highlights:
-Jack Cole’s choreography

Notable Songs:
-“I Don’t Care” performed by Mitzi Gaynor- since it’s the title song
-“As Long As You Care, I Care” performed by Bob Graham
-“Kiss Me My Honey, Kiss Me” performed by Mitzi Gaynor and Bob Graham

My Review:

Performer Eva Tanguay

Performer Eva Tanguay

I started “The I Don’t Care Girl” knowing nothing about vaudeville actress Eva Tanguay and ended the hour and 18 minute biographical film still knowing next to nothing about Tanguay, other than the fact that she existed and made the song “I Don’t Care” famous.

Obviously, most biographical films- particularly of the musical nature- are not very accurate. However, you leave with at least a sense of why the person was important. But I didn’t feel that with Eva Tanguay after watching “The I Don’t Care Girl” until I did some independent research.

Tanguay was known for being energetic and robust and often wore flamboyant costumes. When the Lincoln penny was released, she wore a dress completely made of pennies. She later wore a 45 pound dress made out of greenback dollars. Tanguay was close friends with Broadway star Sophie Tucker and later lost her millions in the 1929 stock market crash. All of these would have been interesting things to add to the plot.

I think part of this is because the movie is so brief. I think it’s also because the format of the film. Producer George Jessel plays himself saying,”What are we going to do about this Eva Tanguay movie?” and proceeds to hear three different sides of the story about Eva Tanguay.

Mitzi Gaynor is always lovely, energetic and fun to watch. Her musical numbers in this film are great, but her acting is slightly frantic. However, this could have been direction, and maybe she was trying to show Tanguay’s energy. Jack Cole’s dance numbers are always fantastic too. However, the numbers were modern 1950s dance and not things that would have been seen in the Ziegfeld Follies at the turn of the century. Again, this may be because they felt the audience would enjoy this more, but other biographical films (The Dolly Sisters, Look for the Silver Lining) seem to attempt to stay true to the era.

Overall, while the basis of the movie is “What are we going to do about his Eva Tanguay film?” It feels like 20th Century Fox actually felt this way and then threw it up on screen.

Bob Graham and Mitzi Gaynor in "The I Don't Care Girl"

Bob Graham and Mitzi Gaynor in “The I Don’t Care Girl”

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Turner Classic Film Festival: Mitzi Gaynor and South Pacific

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Last night (Thursday, April 25) I saw my first film at the Turner Classic Film Festival: South Pacific.
The film was shown poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel and introduced by Ben Mankiewicz with France Nuyen and Mitzi Gaynor as special guests.
Nuyen told about how she got her role in the film and was a French model. She went on set with high fashion makeup and was told to wash it off for the film. She cried because she thought she would be ugly.
Gaynor was hilarious. Her feistiness and off color stories could be compared to a Debbie Reynolds interview.
Gaynor got the role of Nellie Forbush in South Pacific over actresses such as Susan Hayward, Elizabeth Taylor, June Allyson, Doris Day and several others.
While Mankiewicz was interviewing Gaynor, she demanded he bring out his new baby for everyone to see. By the end, she had taken over the interview.
Hilariously Gaynor told of how she complimented her costar Rossano Brazzi on his good looks and Brazzi said, “I know.”
During the screening of South Pacific, people clapped after each song.
The ambiance of the film by the pool was beautiful.
This is just a brief post to keep y’all updated during TCMFF.

This morning I saw Jean Harlow in Libeled Lady (1936) and am now waiting to see Suddenly It’s Spring (1947) with Fred MacMurray and Paulette Goddard introduced by MacMurray’s daughter, Kate MacMurray.

More about Friday’s events in the next post.

Just like the prince and the pauper…

Do you ever watch a movie and think, “Man, those actresses could be sisters.” or  “It’s hard to tell those two men apart because they look so similar.”   These actors could maybe even switch places just like Billy and Bobby Mauch did in “The Prince and the Pauper” (1937).

Younger movie viewers of today may say that all old actors all look the same. This isn’t true of course, but there are some that certainly look very similar. This is a result of being groomed by movie studios to have glamour and charm.

Actors and actresses also are given names that sound similar and can cause confusion.

Here is a list of actors who look similar and have confusingly similar names.

Look-a-likes:

Joan Leslie, Joyce Reynolds, Teresa Wright

Joan Leslie, Joyce Reynolds, Teresa Wright
-Joyce Reynolds emerged in the 1940s in the movie “Janie” with a clean Joan Leslie appearance and a squeaky Teresa Wright voice.  Warner Brothers must have thought that Joan and Joyce looked similar as well, since Joan Leslie played Janie in the sequel to “Janie”: “Janie Gets Married.”

Vera Miles, Vera-Ellen, Mitzi Gaynor

Vera-Ellen, Vera Miles, Mitzi Gaynor
– I think the thing that is funniest is that two of the women have the same first name.  I can tell the difference between them, but you have to admit they all look very similar. All three women are very thin, blonde and rather tan. Vera Miles had one of her first acting roles on the TV show “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and looked very similar to Vera-Ellen because she was thinner than I had ever seen her.   However, all three women had different careers.
Vera Miles stared mostly in dramatic roles, and occasionally in bit parts on TV (like a romantic interest for Fred MacMurray on “My Three Sons“) .  After Grace Kelly, she was Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite actress, according to IMDB. Unfortunately, she had to turn down roles because she was pregnant. Miles is still living.
Vera-Ellen was a ballet dancer and was in several musicals. In earlier movies like “On the Town,” Vera was thin, but looked healthy. In later movies, like “White Christmas,” she was almost dangerously thin, because she was anorexic. She had the smallest waist in Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s and suffered from early aging because of anorexia ,according to IMDB, so you will notice that she wears turtle necks to cover it.  After she retired she had severe arthritis and was practically a recluse, dying in 1981.
Mitzi Gaynor is best known for her role in movie musicals like “South Pacific.” Though she didn’t have a tremendous career, she was very successful with her comedic, musical variety TV specials in the 1960s and 1970s. Currently, Mitzi is performing a one woman show. 0

Anne Shirley and Olivia de Havilland

Anne Shirley and Olivia de Havilland
-Anne Shirley  never had the same star power or acting skills as Olivia de Havilland, but you can’t deny their similar appearance. Particularly the way Anne Shirley looks in “The Devil & Daniel Webster.” The two starred together in the irritating comedy “Government Girl” (a movie that de Havilland hated and had to make because of contractual agreements. She purposefully acted ridiculous in the movie).

 
 
 

John Carroll and James Craig

John Carroll and James Craig
– Both men played small romantic roles in the 1940s when most of the lead actors like Clark Gable and Robert Taylor were fighting in World War II. Carroll starred with Esther Williams in “Fiesta ” (1947) and “Flying Tigers” (1942) with John Wayne. Craig was in several “feel good” movies in the 1940s like “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes” (1945) with Margaret O’Brien and “The Human Comedy” (1943) with Fay Bainter.

Joan Blondell and Ann Sothern

Joan Blondell and Ann Sothern
-In the 1930s, Joan Blondell had a curvy, sassy look of her own; pretty but also comedic. In the 1940s, Blondell was a bit more curvy and switched from the tight 1930s hair styles to long and wavy. Her 1940s look was similar to Ann Sothern, who also was a bit curvy. Both actresses can be found in light comedic roles.

Names that confuse:

-Reginald Gardner, Reginald Owen, Reginald Denny (I’m still not sure which is which sometimes)

-Eleanor Parker and Eleanor Powell

-Margaret Sullivan and Maureen O’Sullivan

-Connie Stevens and Stella Stevens

What actors do you confuse? What names can you not remember?  Let me know!

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