Musical Monday: The Perils of Pauline (1947)

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 Perils Of Pauline (1947) – Musical #127

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
George Marshall

Starring:
Betty Hutton, John Lund, Billy De Wolfe, William Demarest, Constance Collier, Frank Faylen

Plot:
Biographical film about actress Pearl White, who rose to fame during the silent film era in serial where she is constantly in danger.

Trivia:
-The height of the real Pearl White’s career was from 1910 to 1924. She died at age 49 in 1938 in France.
-Actors who performed in real Peril’s of Pauline films were featured in this movie such as; Paul Panzer who was in The Perils of Pauline (1914); Creighton Hale who was in The Exploits of Elaine (1914); William Farnum who played in Riders of the Purple Sage (1918).
-Edith Head designed the costumes for the films. Head copied costumes for Pearl White’s films for historical accuracy, according to Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer by Jay Jorgensen
-Louis J. Gasnier, who directed The Perils of Pauline (1914), was a technical advisor on this film.

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Musical Monday: My Sister Eileen (1955)

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:
“My Sister Eileen (1955)– Musical #320

my-sister-eilleen

Studio:
Columbia Pictures

Director:
Richard Quine

Starring:
Betty Garrett, Janet Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Bob Fosse, Kurt Kasznar, Dick York, Tommy Rall, Kathryn Grant (uncredited), Lucy Marlow

Plot:
Sisters Ruth (Garrett) and Eileen Sherwood (Leigh) move from Ohio to New York City. Ruth wants to become a journalist and Eileen hopes to break into Broadway. They have a hard time finding jobs and making ends meet, while living in a shoddy Greenwich Village apartment right above Subway construction. Ruth also spends much of her time feeling sorry for herself since she isn’t as beautiful as her little sister Eileen, who is swarmed by men.

Trivia:
-Musical remake of the 1942 comedy “My Sister Eileen” starring Rosalind Russell and Janet Blair

-In 1953, a musical adaptation of the 1940s story called “Wonderful Town”premiered on Broadway. The music was written Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Adolph Green and Betty Comden. Columbia felt the the film rights to this version were too expensive so the story was rewritten for the screen and featured music by Jule Styne and Leo Robin. “All of them had a team of lawyers looking over their shoulders. Everything had to be cleared and approved legally,” Janet Leigh wrote in her autobiography “There Really was a Hollywood.”

-Judy Holliday was originally to be cast as Ruth, but Betty Garrett ended up with the role.

-The script was written by Blake Edwards and Richard Quine, who also directed the film.

-Aldo Ray turned own the role of the muscular neighbor Ted, which went to Dick York.

-“My Sister Eileen” was Janet Leigh’s first project under contract with Columbia.

my-sister3

Notable Songs:
None memorable enough to note

My review:
If it wasn’t for my Musical Monday feature, I would not have ever watched “My Sister Eileen” (1955) a second time.

As far as musical remakes of dramas and comedies go, this one is pretty bad. Based on a novel, the original “My Sister Eileen” premiered in 1942 starring Rosalind Russell as Ruth and Janet Blair as Eileen. It’s hilarious and charming.

In both stories, Eileen is gorgeous and Ruth doesn’t have a chance finding a man with her beautiful sister around. However, in the 1955 version, the plot focuses most on romance and both sisters finding romance. Unlike the 1942 version, the 1950s version casts just enough men for both leading ladies.

In the 1942 version, while Ruth would like romance, she is more concerned with her writing career and looking out for her little sister. Steve Daly of “Entertainment Weekly” noted some “1950s backlash” against feminists in the 1955 version in comparison to the 1942 version.

This movie was screened at the 2016 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival with Jack Lemmon’s son, Chris, helping present it. Of all films, I was surprised this one was selected to showcase Jack Lemmon’s career because it’s well…a lemon. Lemmon is also hardly in the movie. In an hour and 48 minutes, I would estimate he’s maybe in 20 minutes of the film.

Janet Leigh is a capable singer and dancer. According to Janet Leigh’s autobiography, choreographer Bob Fosse was pleased with her dancing skills. Dancers Tommy Rall and Bob Fosse perform some impressive dance numbers but they can’t save the film.  You also get to hear Dick York and Jack Lemmon sing. In my opinion, there aren’t any memorable songs and while the cast is relatively stellar, I enjoy the cast from the 1942 version more.

If producers had been willing to pay for “Wonderful Town,” I’m curious if the film would have been better. It’s hard to go wrong with a score by Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story) and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (Singing in the Rain). Maybe with a Bernstein/Comden/Green score, some of the songs would have been memorable. The story was also rearranged, and I’m curious how it’s different.

Maybe I would think this was a better movie if I hadn’t already watched the original. I want to like it. It’s colorful and has a good cast, but I find it irritating. Maybe you will enjoy it better.

my-sister5

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Musical Monday: Song of the Islands (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.

islandsdThis week’s musical:
Song of the Islands” (1942)– Musical #393

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Walter Lang

Starring:
Betty Grable, Victor Mature, Thomas Mitchell, Jack Oakie, Billy Gilbert, George Barbier, Hilo Hattie, Harry Owens and His Royal Hawaiians

Plot:
Eileen O’Brien (Grable) returns to her beach combing father’s (Mitchell) home in Hawaii after going to school in the states. At the same time, Jeff Harper (Mature) shows up on the island with his buddy Rusty (Oakie) on the island to help transport his father’s (Barbier) cattle. Jeff and his father want Dennis O’Brien’s (Mitchell) land to build a pier to help transport the cattle. The cattle business gets in the way of the budding romance of Jeff and Eileen.

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Musical Monday: “Rock Rock Rock!” (1956)

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.


rock rock rockThis week’s musical:

“Rock Rock Rock!” –Musical #384

Studio:
Vanguard Productions

Director:
Will Price

Starring:
Tuesday Weld, Fran Manfred, Teddy Randazzo, Jaqueline Kerr, Ivy Shulman, David Winters
Themselves: Alan Freed and his Rock n’ Roll Band, the Moonglows, Chuck Berry, the Flaningos, Jimmy Cavallo and His House Rockers, Johnny Burnette Trio, LaVern Baker, Cirino and the Bowties, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers,

Plot:
Dori (Weld) is in love with Tommy (Randazzo) and is worried new girl Gloria (Kerr) will try to steal her boyfriend. When she learns Gloria is wearing a blue (Tommy’s favorite color) strapless evening gown, Dori wants one too, but her dad won’t buy her one. Dori has to earn the money and decides to start a bank and make loans to her classmates to earn the money- which works about as well as you can image.
Sprinkled around the thin plot are 21 performances by early, popular rock n’ roll singers and groups.

Trivia:
-Connie Francis dubbed Tuesday Weld and even gets billing in the credits at the beginning with her picture.
-Actress Tuesday Weld’s first film, who was 13 when this was made.
-Actress Valerie Harper has an uncredited role as a girl at the prom.

Notable Songs:
-“Tra la la” by LaVern Baker
-“You Can’t Catch Me” by Chuck Berry
-“Lonesome Train” by The Johnny Burnette Trio
-“I Just Want to Rock” by Ivy Shulman and the Bowties (notable because she’s 7 years old and I thought it was dreadful)

My Review:
If you are looking for a movie with excellent acting and a strong plot, “Rock Rock Rock!” isn’t for you.
But if love mid-1950s music and early rock n’ roll, you will enjoy “Rock Rock Rock!”
The film wasn’t so much about the plot but showcasing big name performers of the day. This wasn’t a rarity either. Around this time, similar films included “Rock Around the Clock” (1956), “Shake, Rattle and Rock” (1956) or “Don’t Knock Rock” (1956). Later, this could be compared to Elvis, Beatles or Herman’s Hermits films. Those films usually had more of a plot but were made to capitalize off the popularity of the performers and their music.
I think the most interesting thing to me about this movie is Connie Francis dubbing Tuesday Weld. Dubbing was a common practice in movie musicals since the dawn of time. If an actress couldn’t sing (Rita Hayworth, Virginia Mayo, Cyd Charisse, Vera-Ellen, Lucille Ball, etc.) someone else would do the singing and the actress generally would get the credit.
What’s interesting about “Rock Rock Rock!” is the film lets us know in the credits that Connie Francis is doing Tuesday Weld’s singing. I’m sure it was to capitalize off of Francis’s popularity but Francis’s singing voice doesn’t blend well with Weld’s appearance. The dubbed performances are awkward and mildly painful.
Also, as a huge “West Side Story” (1961) fan, a big highlight for me was David Winters in a bit role- who played Arab in “West Side Story” and later choreographed films.
Though most of the songs are enjoyable, the worst was “I Just Want to Rock” by Ivy Shulman who is maybe 6 or 7 years old and singing about how she wants to rock. I’m sure it was supposed to be adorable, I just found it it annoying.
My favorite of all the performances was LaVern Baker.
Though I personally did not enjoy the movie and thought some of the acting was pretty bad (it was Weld’s first film and she was only 13, so I’m refraining from being harsh), “Rock Rock Rock!” is an interesting little time capsule into music history.

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Musical Monday: Look for the Silver Lining (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:
“Look for the Silver Lining” — Musical #133

look-for-the-silver-lining-movie-poster-1949-1020437158

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
June Haver, Gordon MacRae, Ray Bolger, Charles Ruggles, Rosemary DeCamp, Lee Wilde, Lyn Wilde, S.Z. Sakall, Will Rogers Jr. (uncredited), Dick Simmons

Plot:
Biographical film of musical star Marilyn Miller, played by June Haver. The film follows Miller’s rise to fame as a singer and dancer, starting with her family vaudeville act until she is the top star on Broadway. The film begins when Miller joins her family’s act, “The Five Columbians,” with her mother, father and two sisters. Miller meets famous vaudeville dancer Jack Donahue (Bolger) who helps her break into show business and is responsible for her first show on Broadway. During her big break, Haver meets actor Frank Carter (MacRae) and the two eventually marry.

Trivia:

Marilyn Miller in 1929

The real Marilyn Miller in 1929

-Marilyn Miller, played by Haver, was a famous Broadway musical star in the 1910s and 1920s. She was in a handful of Hollywood films, but she was more successful on the stage. The real Frank Carter, played by MacRae, married Miller in 1919 and he died in 1920 in a car accident, like the film says. Miller then married actress Mary Pickford’s brother, Jack Pickford, in 1922 and they divorced in 1927. She then married dancer Chester Lee O’Brien in 1934 until her death in 1936. Miller died from complications of a nasal surgery at the age of 37.

-In 1942, Louella Parsons announced Joan Leslie was playing the role of Marilyn Miller. Parsons hinted Rita Hayworth and Ann Miller may have been in the running for the film, according to a July 27, 1942 column in the St. Petersburg Times. Apparently plans for this film fell through or were delayed, because in 1947, Louella Parsons then announced June Haver would play the role of Miller in a St. Petersburg Times column. This time, Parsons says Vera-Ellen was “heartbroken” she didn’t receive the role of Miller, because she was a “leading candidate.”

-Last film of Lee Wilde. Her twin sister Lyn continued acting in films until 1953.

-Gordon MacRae’s second film.

-Will Roger Jr. plays his father Will Rogers.

Notable Songs:

-“Look for the Silver Lining” sung by June Haver

-“Who?” sung by Ray Bolger

-“Time on My Hands” sung by Gordon MacRae

My Review:
Visually “Look for the Silver Lining” is fun and colorful, but the actual plot is rather bland.

For a biographical film, you learn very little about Marilyn Miller other than the fact that she existed, was a very famous performer and one of her husbands died. However, I guess real life is a bit too long to stuff into an hour and 41 minute film.

Like most biographical films made during this time, the details are fairly sanitized. Only one out of three of Miller’s real husbands are discussed in the film- which is Frank Carter, the vaudeville actor who died in the car accident. At the end of the film, Miller’s character marries a character named Henry Doran, played by Dick Simmons. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be Jack Pickford, who was Miller’s next husband, or maybe a combination of her last two husbands: Pickford and Chester Lee O’Brien.

In real life, Miller also was an alcoholic and had issues with sinus infections. She died of complications after surgery that was dealing with her sinus problems.

In the film, it was implied that Miller’s health was declining but it was vague. She pirouettes as she practices for a show, then grabs her head in pain. She tells her friend Jack Donahue that her doctor says she has to “stop eating lobster, champagne, staying out late and dancing.”

Gordon MacRae as Frank Carter and June Haver as Marilyn Miller in "Look for the Silver Lining"

Gordon MacRae as Frank Carter and June Haver as Marilyn Miller in “Look for the Silver Lining”

Though Miller died in 1936, the film ends with her dancing in a colorful music number and singing the title song “Look for the Silver Lining.” But this ending is fairly typical for a musical biographical film where the lead’s life my end rather tragically. These brightly colored musicals don’t want to end on a low note, killing off the main star.

For example: “The Helen Morgan Story” (1957) about Helen Morgan (starring Ann Blyth) who died in 1941, ends with a banquet held in honor of the recovering alcoholic singer.

“The Incendiary Blonde” (1945) starring Betty Hutton as Texas Guinan, who died in 1933, ends with Hutton slowly walking out of a hospital, worried about her lover.

The stand out stars in this film for me are Ray Bolger and Gordon MacRae. June Haver’s dancing was lovely, but she wasn’t that memorable. I will say that this is one film where the leading lady actually looks fairly similar to the woman she is playing. But I was legitimately sad when MacRae’s character was killed off. I wanted to see more of him and hear more of his singing. Charles Ruggles was fun comic relief and Rosemary DeCamp is always the perfect mother.

I’m not trying to be harsh with “Look for the Silver Lining,” but there are other fabricated musical biographies that are more entertaining than this one. See: Yankee Doodle Dandy, Annie Get Your Gun, Love Me or Leave Me or Hans Christian Anderson.

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Musical Monday: One in a Million (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.

one-in-a-million-sonja-henie-1936-everettThis week’s musical:
One In A Million” (1936)–Musical #478

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Sidney Lanfield

Starring:
Sonja Henie, Don Ameche, Adolph Menjou, Jean Hersholt, Ned Sparks, June Wilkins, the Ritz Brothers

Plot:
Tad Spencer (Menjou) is broke and takes his female band (including his wife) to the Swiss Alps. They come to an inn run by Henriech Muller (Hersholt) and his daughter Greta (Henie). Greta is a figure skater training for the Winter Olympics. Henriech lost out on a figure skating medal in 1908 and has been training his daughter as a skater. Tad sees dollar signs when he see her skate and wants him in her act. The only problem is Greta is being paid for a nightclub act would hurt her amateur standing in the games. Bob Harris (Ameche) and his photographer Danny Simpson (Sparks), also arrives at the hotel to investigate a fire that may have been an assassination attempt.

Trivia:
-First film of Olympic figure skater medalist Sonja Henie.
-The film features footage from the 1936 Winter Olympics. Henie won her won her third consecutive gold medal in woman’s figure skating at the 1936 games in Bavaria, Germany.
-After winning three gold medals a the Olympics in 1928, 1932 and 1936, Henie was signed to 20th Century Fox for this film and “Thin Ice.” In his memos, studio head Darryl F. Zanuck wrote to give the Norwegian skater “as little and as simple dialogue” and “give her only questions and answers; questions which are questions, answers which are direct statement.” He picked this script for Henie, because it had very few acting scenes, according to Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck: The Golden Years at Twentieth Century Fox.
-MGM was originally the studio interested in Henie as soon as she turned pro. Zanuck wanted to sign Henie as a featured performer, but she stood her ground because she wanted to be a star. “I have an all-consuming desire to become a movie star, and nothing will stop me in that effort,” Henie said to American reporters, according to Skating on Air by Kelli Lawrence
-Don Ameche’s sixth film.
-This film was a box office success and made Henie a star at Fox. Film critic Frank Nugent called Henie’s films the “Sonie Henie riddle” of how to plan a plot around figure skating scenes, according to Twentieth Century-Fox: The Zanuck-Skouras Years, 1935-1965 by Peter Lev.

Arline Judge and Adolph Monjou check in to an inn run by Jean Hersholt and Sonja Henie in "One in a Million."

Arline Judge and Adolph Monjou check in to an inn run by Jean Hersholt and Sonja Henie in “One in a Million.”

Awards:
-Jack Haskell was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Dance Direction for “Skating Ensemble.”

Highlights:
-Sonja Henie skating 20 minutes into the film to show off her talent. She starts off simply practicing on the ice and then Menjou has a dream sequence of how he could make money off of her talent.
-Sonja’s skating performance for the Olympics in the film.

Notable Songs:
-Who’s Afraid of Love sung by Leah Ray and Don Ameche

Review:
This movie is notable because of it started the film career of figure skater Sonja Henie. It was also the start of another “film novelty.” Henie’s films were successful- similar to swimmer Esther Williams later on- because they offered something different that most movie goers had not seen before.
The plot is thin, but fun with a good supporting cast of Don Ameche, Adolph Menjou, Jean Hersholt and the always sour-faced (yet delightful) Ned Sparks.
My main complaint with this movie is the Ritz Brothers. I have seen them in several films, and still do not understand their appeal. They had three or four gigantic chunks in the film where they performed worn out vaudeville routines. I can’t deny that I fast-forwarded through the majority of their scenes.
Ritz Brothers aside, Henie’s skating routines are lovely and it’s interesting to see how figure skating has evolved since the 1930s.

The film ends with a lavish ice skating performance with Sonja Henie and several skating men.

The film ends with a lavish ice skating performance with Sonja Henie and several skating men.

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Musical Monday: “Music for Madame” (1937)

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:
“Music for Madame” (1948) – Musical #504

music for madame

Studio:
RKO Radio Pictures

Director:
John G. Blystone

Starring:
Joan Fontaine, Nino Martini, Lee Patrick, Alan Mowbray, Alan Hale, Grant Mitchell, Billy Gilbert, Jack Carson

Plot:
Nino Maretti, an aspiring opera singer (Martini) is conned into thinking he is singing for important composer at a Hollywood party. In reality, Nino is singing at a Hollywood party to distract the guests as the two con artists steal priceless pearls. Jean Clemens (Fontaine) is at the same party, trying to get a symphony she wrote noticed. When Nino realizes he was used, he goes into hiding and doesn’t sing so he won’t be recognized—all the while falling in love with Jean.

Nino Martini, Joan Fontaine, and Lee Patrick (left to right) work as Hollywood film extras in "Music for Madame."

Nino Martini, Joan Fontaine, and Lee Patrick (left to right) work as Hollywood film extras in “Music for Madame.”

Trivia:
-“Music for Madame” is Fontaine’s fifth credited role on screen. The movie following “Music” is her only other musical, “Damsel in Distress” (1937) with Fred Astaire.
-Mowbray’s character was spoofing famous conductor Leopold Stokowski.
-According to IMDB, the film lost $375,000 at the box office.
-Martini was an Italian opera singer who sang with the New York City Metropolitan Opera. He made four films from 1935 to 1948. “Music for Madame” was his second to last film.
-Actor Jack Carson has a small role as an assistant director.
-Actor Ward Bond has an uncredited role in the film.

Notable Songs:
-Vesti la giubba from the opera “Pagliacci” (1892)
-“King of the Road” is sung by a truck driver who picks up Fontaine and Martini and accompanied by several car horns played by the two passengers.
-“I Want the World to Know” is the love theme of the film, written by Fontaine’s character and sung several times by Martini.

Highlights:
-Alan Hale. Hale is an excellent character actor in all of his films, but he is the only actor who stands out with humor and charisma in this film. The other actors are all pale in comparison to him.
-The scene with the truck drive singing “King of the Road” is an interesting one. He says he doesn’t have a radio so he makes music himself with all of these horns inside his vehicle. It’s not a musical masterpiece but of all the musicals I have seen, I’ve never seen a number like that.
-Martini’s acting is not the best, but he does have a beautiful singing voice.
-Fontaine looks incredibly young with a page boy bob and a bow in her hair. It’s an interesting way to see her when you are used to the sophisticated roles she played starting in the 1940s.

Jean (Fontaine) is detained by police after the pearls go missing.

Jean (Fontaine) is detained by police after the pearls go missing.

My Review:
I feel like “Music for Madame” is one of those movies that Academy Award winning actress Joan Fontaine looks back at and shudders. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s also one I wouldn’t highly recommend. “Music for Madame” is a simple, entertaining plot but a lot of the acting is lacking. Nino Martini has a beautiful voice, but that can’t carry the film on it’s own. Fontaine is still exercising her acting chops. The most interesting character in my opinion is Alan Hale as a bumbling, music loving detective.

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