Musical Monday: Three Little Girls in Blue (1946)

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:
Three Little Girls In Blue (1946) – Musical #535

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
H. Bruce Humberstone

Starring:
June Haver, George Montgomery, Vivian Blaine, Vera-Ellen, Celeste Holm, Frank Latimore, Charles Smith, Coleen Gray (uncredited), Gary Gray (uncredited), Ruby Dandridge (uncredited)

Plot:
Set in 1902, Pam (Haver), Liz (Blaine) and Myra (Ellen) are three sisters hoping to come into a large inheritance. When their windfall is less than expected, they decide to head to Atlantic City, NJ, to find rich husbands. Pam dresses as an elegant lady while Liz is her secretary and Myra the maid.

Trivia:
-A remake of Three Blind Mice (1938) and Moon Over Miami (1941)
-Celeste Holm’s first film
-Victor Mature was originally slated for George Montgomery’s role
-Several cast members’ singing voices were dubbed including: Carol Stewart for Vera-Ellen; Ben Gage for George Montgomery; Bob Scott for Frank Latimore and Del Porter for Charles Smith

Vivian Blaine, Vera-Ellen and June Haver playing sisters in “Three Little Girls in Blue”

Notable Songs:
-“You Make Me Feel So Young” performed by Vera-Ellen and Charles Smith, dubbed by Carol Stewart and Del Porter
-“Somewhere in the Night” performed by Vivian Blaine

My review:
“Three Little Girls in Blue” was a movie that I always wanted to see judging by the female cast, colorful sounding title and 20th Century Fox musicals are generally delightful. And while it’s colorful, I was rather disappointed.

Knowing it was a remake of “Moon Over Miami” (1941), I had high expectations because I love the version with Betty Grable and Carole Landis so much. “Three Little Girls in Blue” is cute, but it falls flat. I can’t put my finger on why, but I found it a little annoying. It may be the music. This movie may only be 10 minutes longer than “Moon Over Miami” but it feels like it lasts an eternity.

Some of the songs are okay, but they also like to reprise the same songs two or three songs. We hear “On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City” twice in a span less than 10 minutes. Then Vera-Ellen performs “I Like Mike” at least three times. This is the most annoying song in the film because it’s awfully simplistic and has lyrics that rhyme a little bit too much.

“I Like Mike” is even featured in a long dream sequence with Vera-Ellen and Charles Smith and it’s pretty terrible. And while Charles Smith is sweet, I couldn’t help but wonder why they couldn’t get her a more dynamic leading man.

Celeste Holm’s role may be the highlight of the film, but she sings a song and it’s like she’s trying to be Ado Annie again (Holm originated the role on Broadway in 1943). I also always love to see Vivian Blaine in this film. She is a lovely and underrated actress.

Somehow this film lacks the formula that adds up to make a fantastic musical. Like someone calculated the equation wrong. It’s a happy and colorful little movie, but I felt it could be better.

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Musical Monday: Happy Go Lovely (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.

b70-15397This week’s musical:
“Happy Go Lovely” –Musical #125

Studio:
Associated British-Pathé (UK) and RKO Radio Pictures (US)

Director:
H. Bruce Humberstone

Starring:
David Niven, Vera-Ellen, Cesar Romero, Bobby Howes, Diane Hart, Kay Kendall (uncredited)

Plot:
Director John Frost (Romero) is putting on a show in Edenborough, Scotland, but doesn’t have a funds to do it. When a rumor starts that chorus dancer Janet Jones (Vera-Ellen) is engaged to greeting card millionaire B.G. Bruno (Niven), John makes Janet the lead with hopes that Bruno will put money in the show.

Trivia:
-This film was made in Great Britain in attempt to compete with American films and incorporate American pop culture in British films. They did so by starring and directing American talent, according to Popular Music On Screen: From Hollywood Musical to Music Video by John Mundy
-British musical films were struggling. Casting American talent in their films was one strategy to solve this, according to The International Film Musical edited by Corey Creekmur, Linda Mokdad
-When screened in the United States, a gag involving a kilt had to be cut, according to Banned in the U.S.A.: British Films in the United States and their Censorship, 1933-1966 by Anthony Slide.
-Vera-Ellen’s singing was dubbed by Eve Boswell, a singer popular in Great  Britain in the 1950s.

Vera-Ellen and David Niven in "Happy Go Lovely"

Vera-Ellen and David Niven in “Happy Go Lovely”

Notable Songs:
-“One, Two, Three” performed by Vera-Ellen
-“Would You-Could You?” performed by Vera-Ellen

Vera-Ellen and Cesar Romero in "Happy Go Lovely"

Vera-Ellen and Cesar Romero in “Happy Go Lovely”

My Review:
I love this musical.
There are some first time film watching experiences that you remember and sometimes reflect on. “Happy Go Lovely” is one of those for me. Sometimes I randomly remember laying on the couch on a Friday, fall afternoon after coming home from high school. It was the weekend and I was ready to relax with classic films. That film binge started with “Happy Go Lovely.” I loved it then and I love it now.
It’s a silly, and simple plot and it’s largely forgotten. I think that it’s not as recognized today by American audiences since it was made in Great Britain with stars popular in America.
This is a fun little cinderella story that starts with a big misunderstanding and a rumor which eventually becomes reality.
I always enjoy seeing Vera-Ellen on screen. We only had her in films for such a brief time: her career spanned from 1945 to 1957 with only 16 film and TV appearances. She always had a glittering prescience and is one of the best dancers to ever grace the silver screen.
Then we have David Niven. Niven is always charming, humorous and seems sincere in his acting, regardless of the role.
And to top it all off, we have Cesar Romero!
For a little British musical, “Happy Go Lovely” has a fun cast with a few laugh out loud moments and catchy songs. And it’s in Technicolor.
If you enjoy musicals and are looking for a little slice of escapism, this is one of my favorite “go-to’s.”

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Musical Monday: “Call Me Madam” (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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

Call Me MadamThis week’s musical:
Call Me Madam” –Musical #430

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Walter Lang

Starring:
Ethel Merman, Donald O’Connor, Vera-Ellen, George Sanders, Billy De Wolfe, Helmut Dantine, Walter Slezak

Plot:
Set in 1951 during the Truman-era, socialite Sally Adams (Merman) heads to the fictional European country of Lichtenburg as a United States of America ambassador. Adams’ assistant Kenneth Gibson (O’Connor) falls in love with Princess Maria (Ellen) and Adams falls in love with General Cosmo Constantine (Sanders).
Based on the Broadway play with music by Irving Berlin.

Trivia:
-Film adaptation of the 1950 Broadway play that also starred Ethel Merman. The show opened Oct. 12, 1950, and ran for 644 performances through May 3, 1952. Merman won a Tony for her performance on stage.
-Sally Adams is based on based on Washington, D.C. hostess and Democratic Party fundraiser Perle Mesta. Mesta was selected by Harry Truman to be the American ambassador to Luxembourg. The musical is a satire of the behavior of gauche Americans abroad, according to Hollywood Musicals Year by Year by Stanley Green.
-Carol Richards dubbed Vera-Ellen’s singing voice.
-20th Century Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck was making “Call Me Madam” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” at the same time. Zannuck noted in his memoirs “Madam” was a better film but “Blondes” would make more. Blondes did double the gross of Madam, Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck: The Golden Years at Twentieth Century-Fox edited by Rudy Behlmer

Highlights:

Vera-Ellen and Donald O'Connor dancing to "It's a Lovely Day Today"

Vera-Ellen and Donald O’Connor dancing to “It’s a Lovely Day Today”

-George Saunders has a lovely singing voice in “Marrying for Love.”
-Three minutes into the film, Merman almost says “I don’t know what the hell your talking about” but stops herself and repeats the line. “I don’t know what the he- I don’t know what you are talking about.”
-Donald O’Connor and Vera-Ellen’s dance to “It’s a Lovely Day Today” in the garden. And all of their dances together.
-Vera-Ellen’s wardrobe.

Notable Songs:
-Hostess with the Mostest sung by Ethel Merman
-It’s a Lovely Day Today sung by Donald O’Connor and Vera-Ellen. Ellen is dubbed by Carol Richards.
-Marrying for Love sung by George Saunders
-You’re Just In Love sung by Donald O’Connor and Ethel Merman
-Mrs. Sally Adams sung by a trio of ladies answering the phone. Their voices blend beautifully

My Review:
A little bit of Ethel Merman can go a long way, but you can’t deny this is her best film role.
The film was taken from a successful Broadway show that also starred Merman, “Call Me Madam” is colorful and has an excellent cast.
Merman originated several musical roles on stage such as “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Panama Hattie,” “DuBarry was a Lady” and “Gypsy.” However, when the shows went from stage to film, Merman’s role was always recast with a younger, sexier star. However, film audiences get to see Merman in a role she originated on film with “Call Me Madam.” Though to me, her singing voice can be overwhelming, you can tell Merman’s appeal on stage with the energy and humor she shows in the film role.
Also in the film, I would say Donald O’Connor steals the show. He sings and dances beautifully and has the opportunity to sing a duet with Merman. Vera-Ellen also dances beautifully, but her performance is lessened by the terrible accent she has to speak.
George Sanders is a surprise in the musical with his beautiful singing voice.
Though “Call Me Madam” isn’t my favorite musical, its energetic, funny and fun. The Irving Berlin songs are entertaining, the costumes are beautiful and the talent is excellent.

Donald O'Connor, Ethel Merman, George Sander,  Vera-Ellen in "Call Me Madam"

Donald O’Connor, Ethel Merman, George Sander, Vera-Ellen in “Call Me Madam”

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Musical Monday: Three Little Words (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:
Three Little Words” (1950) — Musical #280

three little words

Studio:
MGM

Director:
Richard Thorpe

Starring:
Fred Astaire, Red Skelton, Vera-Ellen, Arlene Dahl, Keenan Wynn, Gloria DeHaven, Debbie Reynolds, Carleton Carpenter

Plot:
Set in the early 1920s, the movie is a biographical film about Tin Pan Alley songwriters Bert Kalmar (Astaire) and Harry Ruby (Skelton).
Kalmar and his partner Jessie Brown (Vera-Ellen) have a vaudeville act, but he has ambitions of being a magician. After failing at that, Brown and Kalmar have a successful routine until Bert hurts his knee and can’t dance for a year.
Bert hears a song written by Harry Ruby and the two team up to write more music together, eventually writing popular songs, music for films and Broadway plays.

Trivia:
-Actress Gloria DeHaven makes a cameo playing her mother, Flora Parker DeHaven. Flora acted on stage and screen with her husband Carter Davis during the 1920s.
-Songwriters Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar were friends with Fred Astaire, who played Bert Kalmer, during his vaudeville days. Kalmer died in 1947, before the film was made but had agreed to it before his death. Ruby died in 1974. 

The real Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar.

The real Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar.

-Arlene Dahl plays real life actress Eileen Percy. Percy was in films 1917 to 1933. In the film and in real life, Percy and Harry Ruby were married from 1936 until her death in 1973.
-In the film Jesse Brown and Bert Kalmar marry. They did in real life as well but eventually divorced.
-The real Harry Ruby makes a cameo in one of the baseball scenes with Red Skelton.
The dress worn by Gale Robbins in the “All Alone Monday” number is the same dress worn by Ann Miller in the “Girl on the Magazine Cover” in Easter Parade (1948).
-Debbie Reynolds has a cameo in the role of real life actress Helen Kane. Kane dubs Reynolds’s singing.

Debbie Reynolds dressed as Helen Kane with Carleton Carpenter singing "I Wanna Be Loved By You."

Debbie Reynolds dressed as Helen Kane with Carleton Carpenter singing “I Wanna Be Loved By You.”

-Vera-Ellen is dubbed by Anita Ellis

Highlights:
-Gloria DeHaven plays her mother in the film. B
-Debbie Reynolds acts in the role of Helen Kane-who was later the voice of Betty Boop. Reynolds’s singing voice is dubbed by Kane.

Notable Songs:
-“All Alone Monday” sung by Gale Robbins. My favorite song in the film. Though 1930s recordings of the song I came across later were more upbeat and happy sounding, Robbins sang it with a bluesy and mournful feel.
-“Three Little Words” sung by Fred Astaire. The title song isn’t sung or written until the very end of the film but it is the most memorable and leaves you humming after the movie is over.
-“I Wanna Be Loved By You” sung by Debbie Reynolds who is dubbed by Helen Kane, who originated the song. Personally, Kane’s voice grates on my nerves but it is a memorable and famous song.

My Review:

Though parts of this film are fictional-such as the conflict between Bert Kalmer and Harry Ruby- is a good movie as far as biographical pictures go. In many biographical films, the love interest is made up of several different people that the main character had relations with during their career. The love interest also sometimes different name to protect the real life person-examples of this could be Jayne Mansfield’s character in the “George Raft Story” who is supposed to be Betty Grable, or Evelyn Keyes’s character in “The Al Jolson Story,” who is supposed to be Ruby Keeler.
In comparison, both men in this movie were represented with wives that they were involved with in real life.
I also liked the added cameos of people like Gloria DeHaven who plays her mother in the film.
My only beef is that the clothing worn by the female leads isn’t period appropriate and looks more suitable for 1950 and not the 1920s.
In all, “Three Little Words” is an excellent mix of gorgeous Technicolor, excellent dance numbers with Vera-Ellen and Astaire, comedy from Red Skelton and catchy songs.

Red Skelton, Vera-Ellen and Fred Astaire in "Three Little Words"

Red Skelton, Vera-Ellen and Fred Astaire in “Three Little Words”

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Just like the prince and the pauper…

Do you ever watch a movie and think, “Man, those actresses could be sisters.” or  “It’s hard to tell those two men apart because they look so similar.”   These actors could maybe even switch places just like Billy and Bobby Mauch did in “The Prince and the Pauper” (1937).

Younger movie viewers of today may say that all old actors all look the same. This isn’t true of course, but there are some that certainly look very similar. This is a result of being groomed by movie studios to have glamour and charm.

Actors and actresses also are given names that sound similar and can cause confusion.

Here is a list of actors who look similar and have confusingly similar names.

Look-a-likes:

Joan Leslie, Joyce Reynolds, Teresa Wright

Joan Leslie, Joyce Reynolds, Teresa Wright
-Joyce Reynolds emerged in the 1940s in the movie “Janie” with a clean Joan Leslie appearance and a squeaky Teresa Wright voice.  Warner Brothers must have thought that Joan and Joyce looked similar as well, since Joan Leslie played Janie in the sequel to “Janie”: “Janie Gets Married.”

Vera Miles, Vera-Ellen, Mitzi Gaynor

Vera-Ellen, Vera Miles, Mitzi Gaynor
– I think the thing that is funniest is that two of the women have the same first name.  I can tell the difference between them, but you have to admit they all look very similar. All three women are very thin, blonde and rather tan. Vera Miles had one of her first acting roles on the TV show “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and looked very similar to Vera-Ellen because she was thinner than I had ever seen her.   However, all three women had different careers.
Vera Miles stared mostly in dramatic roles, and occasionally in bit parts on TV (like a romantic interest for Fred MacMurray on “My Three Sons“) .  After Grace Kelly, she was Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite actress, according to IMDB. Unfortunately, she had to turn down roles because she was pregnant. Miles is still living.
Vera-Ellen was a ballet dancer and was in several musicals. In earlier movies like “On the Town,” Vera was thin, but looked healthy. In later movies, like “White Christmas,” she was almost dangerously thin, because she was anorexic. She had the smallest waist in Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s and suffered from early aging because of anorexia ,according to IMDB, so you will notice that she wears turtle necks to cover it.  After she retired she had severe arthritis and was practically a recluse, dying in 1981.
Mitzi Gaynor is best known for her role in movie musicals like “South Pacific.” Though she didn’t have a tremendous career, she was very successful with her comedic, musical variety TV specials in the 1960s and 1970s. Currently, Mitzi is performing a one woman show. 0

Anne Shirley and Olivia de Havilland

Anne Shirley and Olivia de Havilland
-Anne Shirley  never had the same star power or acting skills as Olivia de Havilland, but you can’t deny their similar appearance. Particularly the way Anne Shirley looks in “The Devil & Daniel Webster.” The two starred together in the irritating comedy “Government Girl” (a movie that de Havilland hated and had to make because of contractual agreements. She purposefully acted ridiculous in the movie).

 
 
 

John Carroll and James Craig

John Carroll and James Craig
– Both men played small romantic roles in the 1940s when most of the lead actors like Clark Gable and Robert Taylor were fighting in World War II. Carroll starred with Esther Williams in “Fiesta ” (1947) and “Flying Tigers” (1942) with John Wayne. Craig was in several “feel good” movies in the 1940s like “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes” (1945) with Margaret O’Brien and “The Human Comedy” (1943) with Fay Bainter.

Joan Blondell and Ann Sothern

Joan Blondell and Ann Sothern
-In the 1930s, Joan Blondell had a curvy, sassy look of her own; pretty but also comedic. In the 1940s, Blondell was a bit more curvy and switched from the tight 1930s hair styles to long and wavy. Her 1940s look was similar to Ann Sothern, who also was a bit curvy. Both actresses can be found in light comedic roles.

Names that confuse:

-Reginald Gardner, Reginald Owen, Reginald Denny (I’m still not sure which is which sometimes)

-Eleanor Parker and Eleanor Powell

-Margaret Sullivan and Maureen O’Sullivan

-Connie Stevens and Stella Stevens

What actors do you confuse? What names can you not remember?  Let me know!

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Evolution of a classic film fanatic

It started with a girl named Maria and a boy named Tony who thought something was coming. That’s what I usually tell people when they ask how I became a classic movie fan: it happened on a fateful March evening in 2003 when I saw “West Side Story” (1961). I became obsessed, end of story.

But my “West Side Story” obsession (which is a whole other blog post) isn’t even close to where my classic film education began. Let’s travel back in time to 1988, the year I was born. Or maybe 1991, I would have been a bit more coherent to films at age three.

My parents introduced my two older sisters and me to classic film at an early age. Some of these movies were Disney movies like “Lady and the Tramp” or “Swiss Family Robinson” or family friendly movies like “White Christmas” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Tom Drake and Judy Garland in “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944)

I  distinctly remember watching “Meet Me in St Louis” when I was five or six and thinking that Judy Garland looked pretty or laughing at Julie Newmar’s name “Dorcas” in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”

Basically classics have always been in my life, but as a child I never realized that they were old and thought all of these wonderful movies were brand new.

My real interest in movies started when I was in third grade and I saw the cartoon version of “Anastasia” on a rainy November day in 1997. No this isn’t a classic movie, but it started a long line of movie obsessions to come.  I mean, I even thought I was somehow the lost princess Anastasia Romanov. I was hooked.

Fast-forward to middle school. I became interested in shows on TVLand, The Monkees and 1960s pop culture. I was interested in anything old, and naturally gravitated towards movies, which is probably where it all began.

But the real gateway drug to the classic film addiction was “West Side Story” (1961). On an evening in March 2003, my dad said, “You like musicals and old movies; you should see ‘West Side Story.’” He later said he created a monster and wasn’t joking at all.

Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood in “West Side Story” (1961), the film I was obssessed with for two years.

From “West Side Story,” I snowballed into a musical love and I went out of my way to tape them off the television. I started a new musical list that is  still growing at 390 titles.

I then found actors I liked, like Doris Day and Jane Powell, and wanted to see their movies and the interest just grew and grew and grew. Now, I’m not obsessed with one particular actor or movie, it’s more that I’m crazy about the whole classic film shebang.

As a rule I only watch movies from the beginning of film to the mid-1960s. Pre-code movies are great because their vulgarity is done in a tongue-and-check way that sometimes can go by unnoticed if you aren’t paying attention. Once you get into the 1960s and beyond, the plots run thin in an attempt to be artistic, nudity isn’t rare and morals go out the window. Also actors from the Golden Era were fading away and the studio system was crumbling.

I guess if I had to make an analogue with how it all started, “West Side Story” would have been that first beer that led me into old movie alcoholism. It didn’t matter what I watched as long as it fulfilled my movie viewing needs. I think my viewing is a bit more mature than that now. Sure I still watch a few clunkers, or watch a stinker movie for the sake of fulfilling a classic actor list (like “Night of the Demon” for Dana Andrews) but it is just all part of the experience.

What kind of movie fan am I now?

•I make monthly lists from Now Playing to tape; usually 30 to 40 movies a month. We use A LOT of VHS tapes.

•I only buy books, paper dolls, posters or anything of that nature that is movie related. I often search Ebay for classic film memorabilia, and as much as I would enjoy Lana Turner’s evening bag from “Imitation of Life”, as a 21-year-old college student, that really isn’t in my budget.

•I don’t have any real obsession now. I have my favorite movies, actors and actresses but no one that I hyperventilate over when I think about them. I guess the only movie that would come close to that is “Since You Went Away” or the actor Van Johnson.

•I want to meet Robert Osborne one day. He is my hero and I think we would

Robert Osborne: My hero

be best friends. Robert, if you just happen to be reading this, let’s meet in Atlanta and have lunch, okay? I’m just in South Carolina so it’s not that far.

•I’ve come to realize that the Hollywood I dreamed about in middle school and early high school is non-existent now. I used to dream about going to Hollywood and thinking it would be like it was during the Golden Era: clean, historically preserved and bowing down to Hollywood greats like Joan Crawford. My family took a family vacation there in 2006 and I’ve realized there is nothing for me there. Hollywood is not interested in preserving history, and even though the Hollywood Bowl was cool, it’s not like Kathryn Grayson will be singing a concert there ever again.

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