Watching 1939: Blondie Takes a Vacation (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult.

1939 film: Blondie Takes a Vacation (1939)

Release date: July 20, 1939

Cast: Penny Singleton, Arthur Lake, Larry Simms, Danny Mummert, Daisy the Dog, Donald Meek, Donald MacBride, Thomas W. Ross, Elizabeth Dunne, Robert Wilcox, Harlan Briggs, Irving Bacon, Milton Kibbee (uncredited)

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Director: Frank R. Strayer

After originally missing their vacation, Blondie (Singleton), Dagwood (Lake) and Baby Dumpling (Simms) head to the mountains on vacation and meet a series of issues. After their reservations are canceled at their first hotel, they end up as the only guests at a mountain resort whose business is failing. The family helps get the resort back up on its feet, making their trip more work than a vacation.

1939 Notes:
• The third Blondie film of the 28 film series from 1938 to 1950.
• Three Blondie films were released in 1939: Blondie Meets the Boss, Blondie Takes a Vacation, Blondie Brings Up Baby

Other trivia:
• Harry Davenport was originally going to co-star in this film but had to drop out due to his role in “Gone with the Wind” (1939), according to the Hollywood Reporter.
• Filmed at Cedar Lake and Big Bear in California

Larry Simms, Penny Singleton, Arthur Lake in “Blondie Takes a Vacation”

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
The Blondie comic strip was re-created as a radio show and then a film series.

The film series, starring Arthur Lake, Penny Singleton and Larry Simms, had 28 films, and three of those were released in 1939: Blondie Meets the Boss, Blondie Takes a Vacation, and Blondie Brings up Baby.

“Blondie Takes a Vacation” is the usual mad-cap story with Blondie (played by Penny Singleton) putting up with Dagwood (played by Arthur Lake) being a knucklehead. Larry Simms as Baby Dumpling probably has the most sense of anyone in the family.

While “Blondie Meets the Boss” had some painful moments, “Blondie Takes a Vacation” is better. There are some slapstick moments that are predictable, like Baby Dumpling thinking he finds a “kitty,” but it’s a skunk. Or a vacuum bag swelling up like a balloon and floating to the ceiling. But I like this one because it puts the family in a different setting – on vacation.

The family goes to the mountains on the vacation that they were denied in the last film (“Blondie Meets the Boss”). But things, of course, run afoul. On the train to vacation, they irritate a man sitting near them (Donald MacBride) who happens to own the resort they are going to. When he sees the family enter, he kicks them out and refuses to house them. The family finds a nearby hotel, which is nice but failing because of the other resort. Rather than resting during their vacation, Blondie and Dagwood spend their trip working to help the elderly couple make their hotel a success.

This series of films can be tiresome to me, but these serial films were generally cheap to make and did alright in theaters. There were 28 blondie films in all. This one is more interesting because they are out of their home and also helping others.

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Musical Monday: Go West, Young Lady (1941)

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:
Go West, Young Lady (1941) – Musical #593

Warner Brothers

Alfred E. Green

Penny Singleton, Glenn Ford, Ann Miller, Charles Ruggles, Allen Jenkins, Jed Prouty, Onslow Stevens, Bob Wills, Chief Many Treaties (or Bill Hazlet), Waffles the Dog, The Foursome, The Texas Playboys

The western town of Headstone is looking for a new sheriff to get rid of outlaw Killer Pete. Jim Pendergast (Ruggles) think it’s going to be his “nephew,” Bill Pendergast. Bill turns out to be Belinda (Singleton) (with the nickname Bill) and is headed on a stagecoach with the newly appointed sheriff Tex Miller (Ford).

– Edgar Buchanan was originally cast as Jim Pendergast, but couldn’t get out of a film commitment. Charles Ruggles, who was cast in another role, switched roles and Jed Prouty was brought on.
– The only non-Blondie film that Penny Singleton worked on while she was under contract at Columbia.
– The film included many people who worked on the Blondie films: director Frank Strayer, producer Robert Sparks, actor Penny Singleton and writers Richard Flournoy and Karen DeWolf

Allen Jenkins and Ann Miller performing in “Go West, Young Lady”

-Allen Jenkins singing
-Pie falling because of shooting

Notable Songs:
-“Go West, Young Lady” performed by Ann Miller
-“I Wish I could Be a Singing Cowboy” performed by Allen Jenkins
-“Dogie Take Your Time” performed by Penny Singleton

My review:
Go West, Young Lady (1941) is a delightful and charming film. It is classified as a musical, but it is more comedy western with a hint of musical natures in it.

The B-budget film stars Penny Singleton, Glenn Ford and Ann Miller. Today, Ford and Miller are the big names of this film, but in 1941, Singleton was more famous than her co-stars. At this point in time, Singleton was knee-deep performing in “Blondie” movies. Singleton had starred in nine Blondie films by the time “Go West, Young Lady” was released in 1941, and this was the only none-Blondie role she starred in from 1938 to 1946.

While the Blondie films were fun, it was refreshing to see Penny Singleton in a different role. This was still a comedic role, but it gave Singleton the opportunity to sing, dance and act with new co-stars that weren’t Dagwood or Baby Dumpling.

Singleton performs the lilting western tune, “Dogie Take Your Time.” She also performs a funny song and dance in the saloon “Most Gentlemen Don’t Prefer a Lady,” where she dances in her pantaloons.

Glenn Ford and Ann Miller were still finding their way in their careers and hadn’t yet reached the level of stardom we later know them for. However, Miller had been in more high-quality films than either of her co-stars, like “Stage Door” and “You Can’t Take it with You.”

Ann Miller plays the bad girl saloon dancer who has some entertaining musical numbers. She dances and sings the title song, “Go West, Young Lady.” A real treat is a comedic number Miller sings and dances with character actor – Allen Jenkins, yes he does sing! Jenkins doesn’t have the voice of a canary, which makes the song even more funny.

Glenn Ford doesn’t do any singing or dancing but brings the heroics. His chemistry with Singleton is surprisingly sweet and charming.

While “Go West Young Lady” is more a comedy, it has enough songs, dancing and novelty numbers for me to consider it a musical. It’s only 70 minutes but is quite fun and entertaining. I love this film, because it gives a rare glimpse at Penny Singleton not playing Blondi (in the midst of the Blondie series). This musical doesn’t show up often, but when you have the chance, give it a watch.

Penny Singleton and Glenn Ford in “Go West, Young Lady.”

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Watching 1939: Blondie Meets the Boss

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film:  Blondie Meets the Boss

Release date:  March 8, 1939

Cast:  Penny Singleton, Arthur Lake, Larry Simms, Danny Mummert, Jonathan Hale, Daisy the Dog, Dorothy Moore, Inez Courtney, Joel Dean, Dorothy Comingore, Stanley Brown, Don Beddoe

Studio:  Columbia Pictures

Director:  Frank R. Strayer

Blondie (Singleton) and Dagwood (Lake) are ready to go on vacation with their Baby Dumpling (Simms). The day they leave, Dagwood’s boss Mr. Dithers (Hale) said he has to go out of town on urgent business and needs Dagwood to stay and work and cancel his vacation. Outrage, Dagwood resigns. Blondie begs Mr. Dithers for Dagwood’s job. Dithers strikes a deal with Blondie: she works in Dagwood’s place while he is on the business trip.

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