Musical Monday: Rosalie (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:
Rosalie” (1937)– Musical #140

rosalie

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
W.S. Van Dyke

Starring:
Eleanor Powell, Nelson Eddy, Frank Morgan, Edna May Oliver, Ray Bolger, Ilona Massey, Reginald Owen, Virginia Grey, Billy Gilbert, Jerry Colonna, William Demarest, Tommy Bond, Tom Rutherford

Plot:
Rosalie (Powell) is a student at Vassar and also a princess from the country Romanza. She falls for West Point student Dick Thorpe (Eddy), who will be joining the Army after he graduates. When Rosalie is commanded home, she tells Dick to meet her in Romanza at a spring festival. The only problem is that Rosalie is betrothed to Prince Paul (Rutherford).

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Musical Monday: New Moon (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.

This week’s musical:
New Moon” (1940)– Musical #374

Poster - New Moon (1940)_02

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Robert Z. Leonard, W.S. Van Dyke (uncredited)

Starring:
Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Mary Boland, George Zucco, Dick Purcell, Grant Mithcell, Joe Yule, Nat Pendleton (uncredited), Buster Keaton (scenes deleted)

Plot:
Marianne de Beaumanoir (MacDonald) is heading from France to New Orleans. On the same boat as a prisoner is nobleman Duc de Villiers (Eddy), using the name of Charles Henri. Marianne meets him on board, believing that he’s the ship’s captain. He is sold as a servant in New Orleans and becomes the servant of Marianne, and she is angry that he lied to her. Little to their knowledge, Charles’ enemies are sailing to New Orleans from France.

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Musical Monday: “Let Freedom Ring” (1939)

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:
Let Freedom Ring” (1939)– Musical #354

let freedom ring

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Jack Conway

Starring:
Nelson Eddy, Virginia Bruce, Victor McLaglen, Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold, Guy Kibbee, Charles Butterworth, Gabby Hayes

Plot:
Steve Logan (Eddy) returns to his home back west after graduating from Harvard. Now a lawyer, he finds his town full of corruption being lead by Jim Knox (Arnold). Logan sets out to save his friends and family by disguising himself as “The Wasp” and uses the power of the press to break down Knox.

Trivia:
-Script by Ben Hecht

Nelson Eddy and Virginia Bruce in "Let Freedom Ring."

Nelson Eddy and Virginia Bruce in “Let Freedom Ring.”

Notable songs:
-Dusty Road performed by Nelson Eddy
-Love Serenade performed by Nelson Eddy
-Ten Thousand Cattle Straying performed by Nelson Eddy
-When Irish Eyes Are Smiling performed by Nelson Eddy
-America, My Country ‘Tis of Thee performed by Nelson Eddy and Virginia Bruce

My review:
“Let Freedom Ring,” is more of a western than a musical. Though Nelson Eddy sings three or four songs during the film, his beautiful voice isn’t the focus of the film.
Coming from the great year of 1939, this movie isn’t as well known as it’s contemporaries. However, this little western sparkles just as bright and continues to show that there was something in the water that year that made the majority of the films coming out of Hollywood great.
Along with some lovely songs performed by Eddy, we also have the treat of an excellent supporting cast of character actors. Guy Kibbee, Edward Arnold, Victor McLaglen, Charles Butterworth, Gabby Hayes. What more could you ask for than that?!
McLaglen and Butterworth have several particularly funny scenes.
Virginia Bruce also does well in the film, but unfortunately has very little screen time. Lionel Barrymore is also a treat (as always), but similarly has little screen time. In the film, Eddy actually seemed to have more energy and be less wooden without his frequent co-star Jeannette MacDonald.
This film is interesting if you think about what is going on around the world at this time. Much of Europe was being invaded by Germany and preparing for war. While the United States had not yet joined World War II, it was still at the forefront of their minds.
Nelson Eddy’s character gives several speeches, particularly about not being oppressed by tyranny. I’m fairly certain his lines were written with the European situation in mind.
Whether you are a fan of westerns or musicals, this little film is one you should catch. With great songs, humorous moments and rousing speeches, it’s a fun way to spend 90 minutes.

Nelson Eddy in "Let Freedom Ring."

Nelson Eddy in “Let Freedom Ring.”

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Metropolitan Opera singer dies at age 99

Actress, opera singer Rise Stevens in 1941

Actress, opera singer Rise Stevens in 1941

A Kennedy Center Honoree, 351 performances at the Metropolitan Opera House and handful of Hollywood films.

Opera singer and actress Risë Stevens had an impressive resume, including a 62 year marriage.

The singer who performed “Carmen” 124 times passed away March 20 at the age of 99.

Stevens with Barry Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby in Going My Way, 1944

Stevens with Barry Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby in Going My Way, 1944

She is best known in the opera world for being a successful operatic singer on the stage. However, classic film fans will recognize her from her role in the Bing Crosby film “Going My Way” (1944).

In the film, Stevens plays an old girlfriend of Crosby, who is now a Catholic priest, Father O’Malley. After he turned to life as a priest Stevens becomes a successful singer and performs selections from “Carmen” in the movie. Stevens helps save the church from financial troubles by performing a piece of music written by Father O’Malley, “Going My Way.”

“I probably would never have reached that vast public had I not done films,” said Stevens. “At least, I won a lot of people over to opera.”

Stevens’s first film was in 1941 with fellow opera singer, Nelson Eddy in “The Chocolate Soldier.”

Rise Stevens and Nelson Eddy in The Chocolate Soldier, 1941

Rise Stevens and Nelson Eddy in The Chocolate Soldier, 1941

“He really could have had an operatic career, but he just made too much money, too soft and too easy,” she said.

But her career is much vaster than a few Hollywood films.

Stevens performed with the Metropolitan Opera from 1938 until 1961, leaving the opera while she still had her voice, according to her obituary in the Miami Herald.

“It always bothered me, these great singers when I heard them again and again, remembering how magnificent they sounded once and no more,” she said.

Born in New York, she sang on the “Children’s Hour” radio show when she was a little girl. She later studied at Julliard. When she was invited to perform with the Metropolitan Opera, she declined. She said she wasn’t ready and made her formal debut in Europe, according to her New York Times obituary.

“I had a good career,” she is quoted in her Miami Herald obituary. “Now the joy is in watching the young musicians grow, mature, and perhaps become successes.”

Rest in peace to one of America’s best singers: Rise Stevens.

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Or maybe like The Prison of Zenda

Back in September, I wrote a blog post called Just like the prince and in the pauper about actors who have an uncanny resemblance. I realized I left out a few actors who look like they could be relatives.
This post, like the other, is named after another famous mix up of identities. In the “The Prisoner of Zenda” (1937), commoner Ronald Colman looks exactly like prince Ronald Colman and is asked to impersonate him for the prince’s safety. There was a 1954 remake with Stewart Granger as well, but I like Colman better.

Nelson Eddy and Gene Raymond

Nelson Eddy and Gene Raymond: These two men have an uncanny resemblance and I can’t believe I forgot to add them in my last look-a-likes post. I only remembered when I was telling my grandmother about the post and she mentioned that she always thought they looked similar. The odd thing about these two men’s similar appearance is that they both had strong connections to actress and opera singer Jeanette MacDonald.
•Gene Raymond and Jeanette MacDonald were married from 1937 until her death in 1965. They were paired in “Smilin’ Through” (1941) together.  They seemed to have a long and happy marriage, both gushing about the other in quotes.  Gene seemed to love Jeanette very much. In 1972, seven years after her death he said, “”We had 28 glorious years. Jeanette and I respected and loved each other, very deeply. We put one another before anyone or anything. I am blessed to have known her, loved her and been loved by her – absolutely, an incredible lady!”
Jeanette seemed equally enthralled with her husband. In 1943, Jeanette said, “I can’t believe how blessed I am! I’m married to the most wonderful man, Gene Raymond, whom I’m deeply in love with, and, my career is right where I want it to be. I can live like this forever!”  And again in 1947 she gushed, “Gene, is the most wonderful man I’ve ever known. He’s warm, sensitive, loving, funny and very handsome. Being Mrs. Gene Raymond, I admit I’m biased!”
•However, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald had a curious and rumored connection. I’ve heard that they hated each other and would eat garlic when they had to sing to each other. I’ve also heard that they had a secret love affair. I’m really on the fence about both, because I’ve seen a lot of conflicting information. Supposedly during the 1950s, Jeanette MacDonald was asked by her friend Samuel Griffin why she married Gene instead of Nelson and she said, “I must have had rock in my head.”  I still really don’t think they had an affair though, especially when in 1957, Nelson said, “I don’t know why people still want to believe that Jeanette MacDonald and I were a couple off the set. There’s no truth to that rumor, at all. She’s happily married to Gene Raymond and I’m happily married to Anne. I guess people want to believe that what they see on the screen is reality while in actuality, it’s just a movie!”
Regardless of romantic involvement with Jeanette MacDonald, both men looked startlingly similar.

Harve Presnell and Howard Keel

Harve Presnell and Howard Keel: Not only do these men look very similar, they also have the same deep and bellowing baritone singing voice. Howard Keel broke into the MGM musical extravaganza in the early 1950s with his rich, vibrating voice. He stared in big budget musicals like “Annie Get Your Gun” (1951) and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954).
Similarly, Harve Presnell has the same semi-operatic, rumbling voice and physique, but was about five or 10 years too late for the musical game. His first big musical was “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” in 1964, which was toward the end of the golden age of musicals and a major turn in films. He was in other musicals like “Paint Your Wagon” (1968) and acted until his death in 2009, but one can only wonder what his career could have been like in the 1950s. You can really see the resemblance if you compare Presnell in “Paint Your Wagon” and Keel in “Kiss Me Kate.”

Dick Powell and Kenny Baker

Dick Powell and Kenny Baker: Dick Powell was the ultimate crooner and Kenny Baker was a singer on Jack Benny’s radio show. Both singers look very similar, sing the same crooning style, but Baker was never the same star caliber as Powell.
Powell was every woman’s heartthrob as he cuddled Ruby Keeler and sang about June and the moon. He was clean cut, attractive, always grinning and the sweet young all-American guy who won the girl. His career rocketed in “42nd Street” and never looked back as he went on to do film noir movies like “Murder, My Sweet” and even direct films.
The first time I saw Baker in “Goldwyn Follies” (1938), I thought “This must be Sam Goldwyn’s answer to Dick Powell.” Baker looks like Powell’s twin brother, who is slightly less attractive. Baker started his film career two years later than Powell, but ended it earlier as well. His film appearances in low budget movies like “Goldwyn Follies” and “52nd Street” (1937) are forgettable. He was in the larger budget “The Harvey Girls” (1948) as Cyd Charisse’s love interest, but does not have a substantial role. One could wonder if his lack of fame is because of Powell’s and Baker’s similar mugs.

Andrea Leeds and Olivia deHavilland

Andrea Leeds and Olivia deHavilland: Olivia deHavilland was compared to Anne Shirley in the last look-a-like post, but one cannot over look the similarities of Leeds and deHavilland’s film demeanor and appearance. Both have delicate features, soft eyes and soothing voices. Leeds and deHavilland were both Warner players, so I often wonder if Leeds was groomed to be a deHavilland replacement. Her first substantial role was in “Stage Door” in 1937, which is when deHavilland was in the midst of court battles with Warner Brothers.
However, there probably wasn’t a motive, they just happen to look nearly the same with the same mild mannerisms. Interestingly enough, Leeds was strongly considered for the role of Melanie Hamilton in “Gone with the Wind,” the role deHavilland made famous and was nominated for.

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