Musical Monday: The Great Caruso (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:
The Great Caruso (1951) – Musical #341

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Richard Thorpe

Starring:
Mario Lanza, Ann Blyth, Dorothy Kirsten, Jarmila Novotna, Richard Hageman, Carl Benton Reid, Yvette Duguay, Angela Clarke, Mario Siletti, Alan Napier, Ludwig Donath, Pál Jávor, Mae Clarke (uncredited), George Chakiris (uncredited)

Plot:
Biographical musical about Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (Lanza). The film begins when he is a boy in Naples and follows his rise to fame. He faces struggles along the way, such as disapproval from the fathers of girlfriends and American opera audiences not welcoming him with open arms.

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Musical Monday: Clambake (1967)

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:
Clambake (1967)– Musical #296

 

Studio:
United Artists

Director:
Arthur H. Nadel

Starring:
Elvis Presley, Shelley Fabares, Will Hutchins, Bill Bixby, Gary Merrill, James Gregory, Suzie Kaye, Teri Garr (uncredited)

Plot:
Wealthy oil heir Scott Hayward (Presley) wants to be sure women love him for him and not his money. He switches places with Tom Wilson (Hutchins) and the two head to a luxury hotel in Miami. Tom acts like Scott and Scott acts as the hotel ski instructor. Scott falls for Dianne Carter (Fabares), who only has eyes for rich boat racer James J. Jamison III (Bixby).

Trivia:
-Ray Walker dubbed the singing voice of Will Hutchins
-Working title was “Too Big for Texas”
-Filming was delayed for 11 days because Elvis fell and had a concussion, according to The Gospel According to Elvis by Kevin Crouch and Tanja Crouch
-“Big Boss Man” and “Guitar Man” were featured on the soundtrack but not in the film.
-Filmed in Techniscope

Highlights:
-Flipper cameo
-Bill Bixby

The cast of Clambake: Bill Bixby, Will Hutchins, Shelley Fabares, Elvis Presley

Notable Songs:
-“Clambake” performed by Elvis Presley
-“Who Needs Money?” performed by Elvis Presley and Will Hutchins, dubbed by Ray Walker
-“Hey, Hey, Hey” performed by Elvis Presley
-“The Girl I Never Loved” performed by Elvis Presley

My review:
Like most of Elvis films, “Clambake” isn’t a strong film, but it’s fabulously entertaining.

It starts no differently than any other Elvis film: with Elvis driving down the road in a convertible car. Whether he’s rich or poor, he is always driving in some sort of convertible at the beginning of perhaps 70 percent of his films. It turns out he’s a rich guy in this film and he’s fed up with living life the way his dad wants him to. He also isn’t sure if a girl would want him for his personality, or for his money. So we have a take on “The Prine and the Pauper” when Elvis switches places with Will Hutchins. They both head to the same resort where Elvis will work and Will plays.

What makes this film so entertaining is the cast that the two guys meet at the hotel resort: Bill Bixby, Shelley Fabares AND Gary Merrill. Bixby is a rich playboy who all the girls flock around, Fabares is a gold digger and Merrill is the sage boat builder who takes Elvis under his wing and helps him build a race boat.

Bill Bixby is charming and really the person who I was cheering for in this film. Shelley Fabares is lovely with fantastic, mod clothing but I’m disappointed that she doesn’t get to sing. But the real surprise was seeing Gary Merrill pop up in this. Gary Merrill in an Elvis movie?!

He even is semi in a song and dance number as Elvis and a bunch of girls paint “goop,” experimental boat sealant so the boat won’t break apart during the race.

This movie isn’t an Academy Award-nominated film, but “Clambake” is colorful and fun. If you want a lighthearted, clear your mind hour and 39 minutes, this isn’t a bad way to spend it.

Note: There are on actual clambakes held during this film.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Musical Monday: Children of Pleasure (1930)

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:
Children of Pleasure (1930) – Musical #588

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Harry Beaumont

Starring:
Lawrence Gray, Wynne Gibson, Helen Johnson, Kenneth Thomson (as Kenneth Thompson), May Boley, Benny Rubin, Cliff Edwards (uncredited), Jack Benny (uncredited), Mary Carlisle (uncredited), Ann Dvorak (uncredited), Polly Ann Young (uncredited)

Plot:
Danny Regan (Gray) is a songwriter and meets society heiress Pat Thayer (Johnson). The two plan to marry until Danny figures out that Pat is marrying him as a replaceable novelty.

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Musical Monday: The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)

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 Smiling Lieutenant (1931) – Musical #358

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Ernst Lubitsch

Starring:
Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert, Miriam Hopkins, Charles Ruggles, George Barbier, Hugh O’Connell, Elizabeth Patterson (uncredited)

Plot:
While Lt. Nikolaus ‘Niki’ von Preyn (Chevalier) is standing at attention for the visiting king of Flausenthurm, he winks at his girlfriend Franzi (Colbert). The king (Barbier) is furious, thinking Niki is laughing at his daughter, the Princess Anna (Hopkins). To escape a potential court marshall, Niki says he was winking at Princess Anna, which complicates his love life.

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Musical Monday: Chasing Rainbows (1930)

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:
Chasing Rainbows (1930) – Musical #355

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Charles Reisner

Starring:
Bessie Love, Charles King, Jack Benny, George K. Arthur, Polly Moran, Marie Dressler, Gwen Lee, Nita Martan, Eddie Phillips, Ann Dvorak (uncredited)

Plot:
A group of actors travels across the country, touring their show. Carlie (Love) is in love with her vaudeville partner Terry (King), who falls in love with every leading lady.

Trivia:
-Introduced the song “Happy Days Are Here Again”
-The original released included a two-strip Technicolor finale, which is now lost.
-First titled “Road Showed”
-First film Jack Benny made in Hollywood, though not the first film released with him in it

Highlights:
-Marie Dressler sing/talk

Notable Songs:
-“Happy Days Are Here Again” performed by Charles King and the chorus
-“Lucky Me, Lovable You” performed by Charles King
-“My Dynamic Personality” performed by Marie Dressler

My review:
As I have noted before, musicals made shortly after the dawn of sound can be haphazard. Songs may be thrown in or randomly performed that don’t seem to fit in with the plot and dance numbers can be clumsy.

However, “Chasing Rainbows” is an exception. The mix of song and plot are done a little better in “Chasing Rainbows.” Perhaps it works better because the lead characters are in a musical show. So some songs are their performances, and others are to the person that they love.

What’s interesting is that our two leads, Charles King and Bessie Love, were both mainly done with Hollywood in 1931. Bessie Love’s career picked back up in 1950, when she started playing small roles in film and TV, but nothing at the caliber she was once at.

The actors that went on to be the biggest stars were the supporting characters: Marie Dressler and Jack Benny.

But “Chasing Rainbows” is disappointing, but it is not the fault of the director, writers or actors. When the film was released in 1930, the end of the film shift from black and white to 2-strip Technicolor finale with three songs, including Bessie Love and Charles King singing “Everybody Tap,” Charles King singing “Love Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues” and Marie Dressler reprising “My Dynamic Personality.”

However, this footage is lost and the movie ends abruptly. Bessie Love runs out of her dressing room and the movie ends. It would have been amazing to see that number that is now lost. It is also curious that the film preservationists chose not to add a photo still with a song playing over it, like is done in so many films with lost portions. But perhaps that wasn’t an option.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Musical Monday: Carmen Jones (1954)

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:
Carmen Jones (1954) – Musical #585

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Otto Preminger

Starring:
Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, Pearl Bailey, Brock Peters, Diahann Carroll, Olga James, Joe Adams, Roy Glenn, Nick Stewart, Alvin Ailey (uncredited), Carmen De Lavallade (uncredited), Bernie Hamilton (uncredited)

Plot:
Set during World War II in North Carolina, the plot is a modern version of the opera “Carmen.” Joe (Belafonte) is in the Army and is about to be sent to flight school to become a pilot and officer. His girlfriend Cindy Lou (James) comes to see him off and wants to get married before he leaves. All of these plans are thwarted when Carmen Jones (Dandridge) sets her eyes on Joe. Carmen works in a parachute factory on base and gets in a fight with another worker and is sent to jail. Joe has to take her to jail, but she escapes, which cause Joe to be thrown in the brig and be demoted in rank. When he gets out of jail, Joe tells Dorothy he’s still going to flight school, but she is angry that Joe would think of leaving her. The two run away to Chicago, making Joe A.W.O.L. With Joe in hiding from the military police, Carmen starts to see boxer Huskey Miller (Adams).

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Musical Monday: Lady, Let’s Dance (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.

This week’s musical:
Lady, Let’s Dance (1944) – Musical #584

Studio:
Monogram Pictures

Director:
Frank Woodruff

Starring:
Belita, James Ellison, Walter Catlett, Lucien Littlefield, Maurice St. Clair, Barbara Woodell, Emmett Vogan, Harry Harvey, Jack Rice
Specialty performances: Skating team Frick and Frack (Werner Groebli and Hans Mauch), Henry Busse and His Orchestra, Mitchell Ayres Orchestra, Myrtle Godfrey, Lou Bring and His Orchestra

Plot:
Belita (Belita) is a refugee from Holland due to World War II working as a waitress at a Californian resort. When the hotel’s star dancer Dolores (Woodell) quits to get married, the hotel’s entertainment manager Jerry Gibson (Ellison) hires Belita to take her place. Belita becomes a great success while Jerry gets fired from his job and then is drafted into the Army.

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Musical Monday: Madam Satan (1930)

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:
Madam Satan (1930) – Musical #579

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Cecil B. DeMille

Starring:
Kay Johnson, Reginald Denny, Lillian Roth, Roland Young, Ann Sothern (uncredited), June Knight (uncredited),
Themselves: Abe Lyman and his Band

Plot:
Angela Brooks (Johnson) discovers her husband Bob (Denny) is cheating on her with Trixie (Roth). His friend Jimmy Wade (Young) tries to cover for him, but Angela isn’t fooled. To try to win her husband back, Angela goes to a wild masquerade ball on a zeppelin thrown by Jimmy. She disguises herself as the sexy Madam Satan to lure her husband back to her and make him believe that she is not cold, as he believes.

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Musical Monday: At War with the Army (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.

This week’s musical:
At War with the Army (1950) – Musical #581

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Hal Walker

Starring:
Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Polly Bergen, Mike Kellin, Jimmie Dundee, Tommy Farrell, Danny Dayton, William Mendrek, Angela Greene, Jean Ruth

Plot:
Set on an Army base during World War II, Pfc. Alvin Korwin (Lewis) and 1st Sgt. Vic Puccinelli (Martin) were friends before the war and had a nightclub act. Private Korwin wants to go home to see his newly born baby and Sgt. Puccinelli wants to be transferred overseas. Confusion ensues when a pregnant old girlfriend arrives to visit Sgt. Vic Puccinelli.

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Musical Monday: Looking for Love (1964)

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:
Looking For Love (1964) – Musical #152

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Don Weis

Starring:
Connie Francis, Jim Hutton, Susan Oliver, Joby Baker, Barbara Nichols, Charles Lane, Jesse White, Chris Noel (uncredited), Madge Blake (uncredited)
Themselves: George Hamilton, Johnny Carson, Yvette Mimieux, Paula Prentiss, Danny Thomas

Plot:
Libby Caruso (Francis) has unsuccessfully tried to make it as a singer. Since she hasn’t made it, she decides to get a job so she can find a husband, get married and have babies. To help get ready in the morning, Libby invents the “Lady Valet” to hang clothes on. She meets Jim Davis (Hutton), who she falls in love with and he sees profit in the Lady Valet. While Jim tries to market the item, Libby mistakes his attention for love.

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