Musical Monday: Let’s Do It Again (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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Let’s Do It Again (1953) – Musical #300

let's do it again

Columbia Pictures

Alexander Hall

Jane Wyman, Ray Milland, Aldo Ray, Leon Ames, Valerie Bettis, Karin Booth, Mary Treen, Tom Helmore, Dick Wessel, Kathryn Givney, Herbert Hayes

Constance Stuart (Wyman) is a musical star and her husband Gary Stuart (Milland) is a composer for stage musicals. Gary told Constance he was going out of town, when really he was in town the whole time, attending jazz sessions and carousing. When he returns home one morning, he finds Constance left the night before with another man and hasn’t returned. When she arrives in her evening clothes and saying they had car trouble, he doesn’t believe her and the two separate. During their separation, Gary tries to win back Constance, even while she’s being romanced by another man (Ray).

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Watching 1939: Beau Geste (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: 
Beau Geste (1939)

Release date: 
July 24, 1939

Gary Cooper, Ray Milland, Robert Preston, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, J. Carrol Naish, Albert Dekker, Broderick Crawford, George P. Huntley, James Stephenson, Albert Dekker, Charles Barton, James Burke, Heather Thatcher, Henry Brandon, Harold Huber, Harvey Stephens
Leads as children: Donald O’Connor, Billy Cook, Martin Spellman, Ann Gillis, David Holt

Paramount Pictures

William A. Wellman

Three brothers Beau Geste (O’Connor/Cooper), Digby Geste (Spellman/Preston) and Michael Geste (Cook/Milland) were orphans, adopted and raised by their aunt Lady Patricia Brandon (Thatcher). Lady Brandon also raises her nephew bratty (Holt/Huntley) and her ward Isobel (Gillis/Hayward). Augustus Part of the Brandon family fortune is a large sapphire, the Blue Water. Lady Brandon is going to have to sell the Blue Water to give money to her absent husband. But before it could be sold, one of the young adults steals the Blue Water. Beau and Digby both leave that same night to join the French Foreign Legion, and upon discovering, Michael follows his brothers to Algeria. There the brothers and the rest of the legionnaires suffer under the sadistic and abusive Sergeant Markoff (Donlevy). Markoff targets the brothers after Markoff’s stooge Rasinoff (Naish) overhears the brothers talking about the sapphire.

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Musical Monday: Irene (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.

ireneThis week’s musical:
“Irene” (1940)– Musical #555

RKO Radio Pictures

Herbert Wilcox

Anna Neagel, Ray Milland, Roland Young, Marsha Hunt, Alan Marshal, May Robson, Billie Burke, Arthur Treacher, Isabel Jewell, Doris Nolan, Nella Walker, Alexander D’Arcy (uncredited)
Themselves: Martha Tilton, The Dandridge Sisters: Dorothy and Vivian Dandridge

Irene O’Dare (Neagel) is an upholster’s assistant. She meets Don Marshall (Milland) while measuring chairs at a wealthy Long Island home. Don anonymously purchased the fashionable women’s clothing store Madame Lucy’s and he is Madame Lucy. He arranges for Irene to become a model there and the two are smitten. Don and Madame Lucy’s manager Mr. Smith (Young) arrange a publicity stunt by sending their well-dressed models to Mrs. Herman Vincent’s (Burke) society party. Irene is assigned to wear the store’s most exclusive dress, ruins it and wears an early 1900s dress of her mother’s instead-causing a wow. She explodes on the society scene and Mrs. Herman Vincent’s son (Marshal) – proposes to her.

-Based on a Broadway musical that originally premiered in 1919 and was revived in the 1920s and 1970s (which Debbie Reynolds and Jane Powell both starred in).

-A version of the 1926 film “Irene” starring Colleen Moore

Anna Neagle after the black and white film turns to color for a brief segment.

Anna Neagle after the black and white film turns to color for a brief segment.

Awards and Nominations
-Anthony Collins was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Music (Scoring). He lost to Alfred Newman for “Tin Pan Alley.”

-Credits featuring puppets of Anna Neagel and Ray Milland
-Changes to color for a scene midway through for a brief segment

Notable Songs:
-“Alice in a Blue Dress” performed multiple times by Anna Neagle, The Dandridge Sisters, Martha Tilton
-“You’ve Got Me Out On a Limb” performed by Anna Neagle
-“Castle of Dreams”

My review:
While “Irene” is listed as a musical, it’s more of a comedy with a few musical and dance numbers thrown in. Regardless, it’s incredibly delightful.

This is an up-to-date Cinderella story. A wealthy man notices a shop girl and makes her a model glamour girl. The movie is joyful, funny and has beautiful fashion for vintage clothing lovers.

Ray Milland and Anna Neagle in the "Alice Blue Gown." This portion of the film is in color.

Ray Milland and Anna Neagle in the “Alice Blue Gown.” This portion of the film is in color.

Many of our Musical Monday features are filled with four to even twelve musical numbers. Many non-musical films also feature song, such as a singer in a nightclub, such as Sam in “Casablanca” or Lou Gehrig and his wife dancing to “Always” in “Pride of the Yankees.”

“Irene” sits awkwardly in the middle of these two. While it isn’t a song-extravaganza, it also can’t comfortably be dismissed as not a musical. It features two prominent song and dance numbers, the lead sings, the lead also has her own solo dance number at the end of the film, and some nightclub singers are sprinkled throughout. So that’s why we are qualifying “Irene” as a musical — the original Broadway play was also a musical.

The black and white film even turns to color so Anna Neagle can enter in her “Alice Blue Gown” and the audience can marvel and Anna can sing about it.

“Irene” had me laughing and smiling. If you don’t like musicals but love 1940s comedies, this is a happy medium for you. Too many songs won’t deter you.

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Musical Monday: We’re Not Dressing (1934)

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.

we're not posterThis week’s musical:
“We’re Not Dressing” –Musical #264

Paramount Pictures

Norman Taurog

Carole Lombard, Bing Crosby, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Ethel Merman, Leon Erroll, Ray Milland, Jay Henry

-Heiress Doris Worthington (Lombard) is on a yatch trip with her friends (Erroll, Merman) and two princes who want to marry her (Milland, Henry). However, Doris keeps going between making eyes at and arguing with singing sailor Stephen Jones (Crosby). An accident causes the yacht to sink, and Jones ends up with Doris and her helpless, wealthy friends on an uninhabited island. None of them are used to working and Jones is the only one with survival skills. He soon has everyone except Doris working. Also on the island are husband and wife explorers (Burns, Allen).

Carole Lombard and Bing Crosby in "We're Not Dressing"

Carole Lombard and Bing Crosby in “We’re Not Dressing”

-The song “The Animal in Me” was performed by Ethel Merman but was cut from the film. It was later used instead in “The Big Broadcast of 1936” (1935). Merman’s song “He Reminds Me Of You” was also cut from the film.
-Based on a 1902 play, “The Admirable Crichton.”
-Filmed on Santana Catalina Island.

-During the credits, the waves are used as a transition.

-Gracie Allen and George Burns

Droopy the Bear swoons for Bing Crosby's singing.

Droopy the Bear swoons for Bing Crosby’s singing.

Notable Songs:
-“Goodnight, Little Lady” performed by Bing Crosby
-“She Reminds Me of You” performed by Bing Crosby
-“I Positively Refuse to Sing” performed by Bing Crosby
-“Love They Neighbor” performed by Bing Crosby
-“It’s Just an Old Spanish Custom” performed by Ethel Merman and Leon Errol (Only notable because it’s only one of two songs the famous singer performs)

My Review:
If you’re looking for a film complete with a shipwreck and dancing bear who swoons for Bing Crosby’s crooning, this is your movie.
“We’re Not Dressing” is odd, off-beat and mildly irritating at times. But for me- none of that is really a commentary on any of the stars. Except maybe for Leon Errol. He always annoys me.
Lombard and her gaggle of socialites are sailing on the Pacific ocean. We are never told what their destination was supposed to be, but I don’t think that is actually important in the script. I think the fact that they were aimlessly sailing in a yacht with two princes was just to emphasize spoiled Lombard’s wealth.

Lombard and her two princes- Ray Milland and Jay Henry.

Lombard and her two princes- Ray Milland and Jay Henry.

Also to reiterate the wealth is her pet bear named Droopy. Droopy loves when Bing Crosby sings. At one point Droopy the Bear even roller-skates around the boat.
The boat crashes when drunken Leon Errol attempts to steer the boat, causing it to capsize.
Once on the island, Lombard is angry because Crosby won’t act as a servant to her, even though she fired him while they were on the boat. Predictably, Lombard ends up falling in love with Crosby.
Bing Crosby’s character is probably the only sane person in the bunch. He also gives the best performance. But you better love Crosby’s crooning if you watch this film, because he sings roughly seven songs in this 74 minute film.
Carole Lombard is beautiful and her comedy isn’t overwhelming (I love My Man Godfrey, but I feel like I have to catch my breath at the end). Her character is very huffy though, so that was a bit annoying.
Ethel Merman was wasted, singing only two songs, and so were Gracie Allen and George Burns. For me, Allen and Burns were the true bright spot of this movie.
With a cast boasting so many big names, I think the real issue here is the goofy story line.
I won’t say I didn’t like “We’re Not Dressing,” it just sort of left me feeling scattered and scratching my head at the end, wondering what I just watched.

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Birthday Blogathon: Film #2 The Uninvited 1944

This is part of the 2nd Annual Birthday mini-blogathon, sharing my favorite movies leading up to my birthday week.

Starring: Ray Milland as Rick, Ruth Hussey as Pamela, Gail Russell as Stella, Donald Crisp as Stella’s grandfather the commander, Cornelia Otis Skinner as Miss Holloway, Alan Napier as Dr. Scott

Brief Plot: Brother and sister Rick and Pamela move into a beautiful, abandoned home along the English seaside. Rick falls in love with mysterious Stella who was born in the house and is strangely drawn to it. Rick and Pamela discover the house is haunted and Stella is connected to the ghosts.

Pamela (Ruth Hussey) and Rick (Ray Milland) listen to ghostly sobbing.
Screencap by J.P.

Why I love it: I’m not a fan of scary movies, but “The Uninvited” has the perfect mix of class, suspense and comedy to draw in a scaredy-cat like me. The film movies at a fairly quick pace and has an intriguing twist at the end.

The Actors:  Ruth Hussey and Ray Milland are an interesting pair to be the leads in a film as brother and sister, Pamela and Rick. Hussey is usually seen in a supporting role. In “The Uninvited,” she may also be considered a supporting star to Gail Russell, but the two may have equivalent screen time.

Milland and Hussey may not be names that casual movie fans would know, which make them even more entertaining to watch.

To round out the cast, Gail Russel’s exotic beauty is perfect for the haunting character of Stella, and Donald Crisp is always the perfect curmudgeon old man, as Stella’s grandfather.

One actor I enjoy spotting in classic films is Alan Napier who plays a doctor in the film. You may know Napier as Alfred, Batman’s butler, in the 1960s “Batman” television show.

It is also a real treat to see Cornelia Otis Skinner as batty Miss Holloway. Skinner was primarily on Broadway and also author of books such as “Our Hearts Were Young a Gay,” a book about Skinner’s youth. Oddly enough, Gail Russell went on to play Skinner in the film adaptation of the book.

Stella is in a trance during the sceance.

Scary:  I have a hard time with scary films, but I enjoy 1940s horror films such as “The Uninvited.” Unlike horror movies of the 1970s to today, “The Uninvited” has some scary moments but has enough heart and humor to balance it out.

A few scenes hair raising scenes (spoilers):

-Pamela and Rick standing on top of the stairs, looking down into the darkness and hearing ghostly sobbing.

-Fresh flowers dying in the room that seems the most haunted

-The fact that they hold a séance and then Stella goes into a trance and starts speaking other languages.

Mad mama ghost

-When they realize they have two ghosts

-When Stella’s dead mom appears in ghost form and is out to get her

You can also learn some lessons on how to tell if your house is haunted. For example, if your dog and cat refuse to go up the stairs, and rooms suddenly get cold, your home may be haunted. Also, if a woman like Cornelia Otis Skinner has a 20 foot painting of her dead best friend in her office, she may be off her rocker.

It’s really unnatural to have such a large photo of your dead best friend, as Cornelia Otis Skinner does.

Comedic: Though “The Uninvited” is categorized as mystery and horror, it has some very funny scenes:

-As Rick and Pamela are listening to the sobbing ghost, Pamela is calm and Rick is freaking out. He says to his calm sister, “Take hold of yourself, Pam, I’m going to search the place. There has to be a logical explanation for this” when Rick is the one out of his wits.

-Rick goes sailing with Stella and gets sea sick

-Some humorous lines, such as prior to the séance Rick discusses how they are foolish, “People just get messages from Uncle Oswald on how to find an old tooth brush.”

 To review: The English seashore setting, the actors and the touching plot all wrap up to be a perfect present of a film. The 1940s seem to have produced some of my favorite movies, with perfect casting and scripts. “The Uninvited” isn’t just suspenseful but also funny and heartfelt.

This concludes Day 2 of Birthday Blogathon Week. Please stop by again tomorrow for another favorite film of mine!

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Jessica Pickens: Girl Reporter

Comet Over Hollywood is moving!

Well…not the blog, but the blogger!

The backstory

Ever since I’ve been in the fourth grade I wanted to be a writer. I had a big imagination and pictured myself on the cover of Good Housekeeping magazine with my best seller.

In high school I got more interested in newspapers and majored in mass communications-journalism at Winthrop University getting involved in the school newspaper The Johnsonian, TV show, Winthrop Close-Up and radio station, WINR.

Starting in March, I started looking for a reporter position in the southeast. By the time I graduated in May, I figured out that getting a job at a newspaper was going to be harder than I thought (as some of you in media related fields might also have found).

For the past two months I’ve been working at a local Greenville newspaper as an advertising representative while still looking for a reporter position.

Two weeks ago, I got a job at The Elkin Tribune in Elkin, N.C. So I will be packing up and moving up to North Carolina-spreading my classic movie love to a whole new state!


In honor of this exciting, nerve-wracking event, I’m dedicating this post to journalists in movies. Everyone is invited to the party!

Glenda Farrell as Torchy Blaine most likely up to no good.

Torchy Blaine Series: Torchy Blaine was a series of films made during the 1930s much like Boston Blackie, The Falcon or Andy Hardy. Torchy Blaine snooped and got into trouble in eight films from 1937 to 1939 (yep, they knew how to churn them out in those days). Torchy Blaine is a wise-cracking and troublesome female reporter. She eavesdrops, bugs rooms and follows people in order to get information-all highly illegal in these days, according to my Media Law and Ethics classes at Winthrop. Not only does Torchy usually get caught by the bad guys she is spying on, but she is constantly at odds with her policeman boyfriend, Steve McBride. At the end of each film, Steve and Torchy usually agree to get married but Torchy has to agree to give up her reporter career-as we all know, this doesn’t happen. Review: These films are very silly but equally entertaining. Through the eight part series, Glenda Farrell, Lola Lane and Jane Wyman all play Torchy.  But Glenda is my favorite Torchy. However, Lola wears some adorable lounging pajamas in “Torchy Blaine in Panama.”

Citizen Kane (1940): I don’t feel that I can discuss journalism movies without mentioning Citizen Kane. The film follows Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane and his rise as the top newspaper publisher. We all know this film is based off the life of William Randolph Hearst-who was still living at the time. In Joseph Cotton’s autobiography “Vanity Gets You Somewhere,” Cotton says “Kane” was set to premiere in Radio City Music Hall. Hearst made sure it did not play there-or in several other movie houses across the United States. That goes to show just how powerful he was. Review: I do really like this film. It was a bit of an ‘Indie’ film in its day so its funny that is revered so much now. I really enjoy it for the historical background of it as well.

Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell getting the scoop in “His Girl Friday”

His Girl Friday (1940): When you say “female reporters in film” Rosalind Russell with her crazy hats in “His Girl Friday” automatically comes to mind.  Roz plays the ex-wife of Cary Grant, her reporter co-worker, and is engaged to Ralph Bellamy. On the day that Roz and Ralph are supposed to get married, a huge murder story breaks and news hound that she is, Roz can’t stay away. Not surprisingly, Ralph Bellamy doesn’t get the girl in the end (like always), and Roz and Cary fall back in love in the midst of copy and photography. Review: I really enjoy this movie, but you REALLY HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION.  For comedic value, Cary and Rosalind talk very, very fast. Several actresses turned down this role including Carole Lombard, Ginger Rogers, Claudette Colbert, Irene Dunne and Jean Arthur. I think Carole, Jean and Irene would have been perfect for the role, but I like seeing Rosalind in a role that is both sexy, funny and strong. Around this time she was flexing her comedic muscles with “The Women” and “No Time For Comedy,” and this is most definitely one of her best during this period.

Foreign Correspondent (1940): Though the United States had not yet joined the war, this Alfred Hitchcock directed film follows American reporter, John Jones-played by my heartthrob Joel McCrea-is sent on assignment to report on the war. Jones starts to uncover a spy ring in England that is aiding the Axis. Jones also meets and falls in love with Carol Fisher-played by one of my favorites, Laraine Day. I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to ruin this Hitchcock thriller, but watch for a disaster ending. Hitchcock does it ingeniously. Review: I actually think this is the film the secured in my mind that I wanted to be a journalist. The excitement and discovery that Joel McCrea experienced was irresistible. To this day my AIM name is even the title of this film.

Claudette Colbert and Ray Milland in “Arise My Love.” This photo has nothing to do with journalism. Just makes me happy!

Arise, My Love (1940): This film also follows a reporter in Europe during the start of World War II. This time our hero reporter is Claudette Colbert as Augusta Nash, based off real life reporter Martha Gellhorn. Nash saves pilot Ray Milland (as Tom Martin) before he is about to be executed by Fascists for his involvement in the Spanish Civil War. Nash saves him, exclusively for the purpose of a story. Martin is thankful for his life, but also a little peeved. The two begin to fall in love though they resist because of their conflicting life styles: Nash doesn’t want to give up her career and Martin wants to fight in the upcoming war. Review: Colbert said this was one of her favorite films that she made. It might be one of my favorites too. There is a good mix of romance, adventure and journalism. Ray Milland is probably at his handsomest here.

Meet John Doe (1941): This is another film about unethical journalism. Barbara Stanwyck as Ann Mitchell is fired from her reporter job. To get her job back Ann prints a fake suicide letter in the newspaper signed by “John Doe” who says he will kill himself on Christmas Eve because he can’t take the world’s ‘social ills’ any longer. To prove the letter isn’t a fake (which it obviously is) Ann searches for a man who agrees to pose as John Doe. Gary Cooper (Long John Willowby) and his friend The Colonel (played by Walter Brennan) are in need of money and John agrees to play the part. John Doe becomes a national figure, inspiring people all over to change their ways and come together. However, the role of John Doe requires John to commit suicide. If he doesn’t, it will let down his believers, and newspaper publisher D.B. Norton (played by loveable or hateable Edward Arnold) doesn’t want to disappoint his readers. Review: I love love love this movie. It’s a perfect example at just what journalism can do. Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper are so perfect together. We also get a treat of seeing Walter and Gary break out in mouth organ music. One of THE perfect examples of Frank Capra’s ‘social change’ films.

For other ‘Gary Cooper duped by the press’ films see Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.

The real Ernie Pyle who is portrayed by Burgess Meredith in “The Story of G.I. Joe”

Story of G.I. Joe (1945): This is a semi-autobiographical film about World War II war correspondent Ernie Pyle, played by Burgess Meredith.  Pyle joins Company C, 18th Infantry, lead by Lit. Walker played by Robert Mitchum, and fights with them in North Africa and Italy, documenting their experiences along the way. Pyle learns more about the men personally and we watch as battle wears on their nerves. The film follows real life and ends with Pyle being killed by a Japanese sniper. Review: This is one of my favorite war films, mostly because Ernie Pyle is one of my role models. When I interviewed at Fort Jackson-an Army base in Columbia, S.C.- there was a display about Ernie Pyle. I was so proud that they were honoring him and really wanted to be part of that newspaper. “G.I. Joe” was the only film Robert Mitchum was ever nominated for an Academy Award and unfortunately lost. I really feel that he deserved it.

There is an unintentional running theme throughout all of those films. All of them were made during war years and several from 1940. Here is a brief list of other films featuring journalists. I’ve listed the actors who portray reporters.

Other films:

My Dear Miss Aldrich (1937) -Maureen O’Sullivan and Walter Pidgeon

Nothing Sacred (1937)- Frederic March

Everything Happens at Night (1939)- Ray Milland and Robert Cummings

Philadelphia Story (1940)- James Stewart and Ruth Hussey

Lifeboat (1944)-Tallulah Bankhead

Objective Burma (1945)- Henry Hull

Close to My Heart (1951)- Ray Milland

The Sell Out (1952)- Walter Pidgeon

Roman Holiday (1953)-Gregory Peck

Never Let Me Go (1953)- Clark Gable

Teacher’s Pet (1958)- Doris Day and Clark Gable

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