Musical Monday: The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968)

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 One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968)– Musical #571

Studio:
Walt Disney Productions

Director:
Michael O’Herlihy

Starring:
Walter Brennan, Buddy Ebsen, Janet Blair, Lesley Ann Warren, Kurt Russell, Jon Walmsley, Pamelyn Ferdin, John Davidson, Wally Cox, John Davidson, Richard Deacon, Bobby Rhia, Goldie Hawn, Butch Patrick (uncredited)

Plot:
Set in 1888, the musical Bower family auditions to play at the Democratic convention for Grover Cleveland in the election of Cleveland vs. Benjamin Harrison. The Bower family moves from Missouri to the Dakota Territory, which is largely Republican. The family gets involved in a local political battle as grandpa (Brennan) is a Democrat and the rest of the town is mostly Republican.

Trivia:
-The film is a true story based on a book written by Laura Bower Van Nuys, who was the youngest of the Bower family.

-Filmed in 1966, this was supposed to be a two-part, hour-long TV special called “The Family Band.” Walt Disney thought the project was flat and asked the Sherman brothers to help write songs.

Goldie Hawn in an uncredited role as a dancer with John Davidson

-Goldie Hawn’s film debut. She was credited as “giggly girl.”

-Music written by brother songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. The Sherman brothers wrote a total of 11 songs for the production while eight were used in the final product.

-750 children were interviewed for roles in the film, according to a June 15, 1968, article in the El Paso Herald.

Highlights:
-Walter Brennan singing

Notable Songs:
-“Let’s Put It Over with Grover” performed by the whole Bower family
-“The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band” performed by the Bower Family
-“The Happiest Girl Alive” performed by Lesley Ann Warren
-“Dakota” performed by John Davidson
-“‘Bout Time” performed by John Davidson and Lesley Ann Warren

My review:
The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968) isn’t a well-known Disney film. I actually had never heard of it until I picked up one of those inexpensive three movie sets, because it included “The Happiest Millionaire,” the only Greer Garson movie I have yet to see.

And while IMDB does not list this movie as a musical, there is no doubt that it is one. The film opens with the family singing and I don’t think anyone stops singing for the first 20 minutes of the movie. It really isn’t much of an exaggeration to say that the first half of this film has more lyrics than lines.

The film starts out with the family practicing and auditioning to perform at the 1888 Democratic convention for Grover Cleveland with a song that Grandpa (Walter Brennan) wrote about Grover Cleveland. So that’s what the movie is going to be about, right? The family’s adventures of traveling to the convention, performing and becoming a big sensation?

Wrong. The family doesn’t perform at the convention because they decide to move to the Dakota territory. And then we follow their adventures there where the mostly Republican territory takes issue with Democrat Grandpa’s political ideas. And the family band plays every so often.

Now, this movie was based on the real Bowers family and an autobiography the youngest daughter of the family wrote, so I guess this is close to what happened with the family. But real life doesn’t always make sense when it comes to a film script. By the last half of the film I was scratching my head thinking, “So is this ploy just about people disagreeing about politics? I thought this would be more about a family band!”

At one hour and 50 minutes, I think this storyline could have been 20 to 30 minutes shorter. Had it simply been about a family band performing, one hour and 40 minutes may have been permissible, but I’m not really sure why this is so long or what filled the time.

What’s really interesting about “Family Band” is it’s cast. Knowing nothing about the film, I had no idea about the unique blend of actors and was surprised by some of the cast members. I really only knew Lesley Ann Warren, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn (in an uncredited role) were in the film. First, I was shocked to see Janet Blair, who seemingly had not aged since My Sister Eileen (1942) and looked beautiful as ever. Also, if you’re a Waltons” fan, Jon Wamsley (who plays Jason Walton on the show) is in the film as one of the younger siblings.

Oh and did I mention that Walter Brennan sings? I did love that. I was also happy to see Buddy Ebsen dancing in the film. Ebsen danced in a few 1930s and 1940s MGM musicals but it seems to be a rare site in his later films. Lesley Ann Warren does some great dancing in the film and Goldie Hawn appears as a dancer, stealing Warren’s boyfriend.

While there are multiple songs, the Sherman brothers did a great job with some toe-tapping tunes that will get stuck in your head (especially since they are performed so many times throughout the film).

I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t like the film…it was delightful. It just wasn’t what I expected and I had several questions once it ended. If you’re a Disney fan and haven’t seen this one, you should round out your Disney viewing and give it a watch.

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Review: Bride of Boogedy (1987)

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A year after “Mr. Boogedy” (1986) aired, the Wonderful World of Disney aired its 1987 sequel, “Bride of Boogedy.”

In the sequel, the Davis family is now comfortably settled at their newly renovated in Lucifer Home and happily rid of the ghost Mr. Boogedy for a year.

The children in Mr. Lynch's store, and Mr. Lynch being grumpy.

The children in Mr. Lynch’s store, and Mr. Lynch being grumpy.

The family is involved and well liked in the town now, much to the chagrin of shop owner Tom Lynch (Eugene Levy). Eloise and Carl Davis (Mimi Kennedy and Richard Masur) are preparing to open their Gag City store downtown, and Carl Davis was named mayor of the town’s festival. This is a position usually held by Mr. Lynch, causing Mr. Lynch wanting the Davis family to leave town.

One night while walking home from babysitting, their daughter Jennifer (Tammy Lauren) is spooked in the woods by someone in a hat and cloak telling her to get out of his house. Believing that Mr. Boogedy is back, Jennifer runs home screaming.

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Halloweek Musical Monday: Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

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.

bedknobs_and_broomsticks_xlgThis week’s musical:
“Bedknobs and Broomsticks” (1971)– Musical #534

Studio:
Walt Disney Studios

Director:
Robert Stevenson

Starring:
Angela Lansbury, David Tomlinson, Roddy McDowall, Sam Jaffe, John Ericson, Reginald Owen,Cindy O’Callaghan, Roy Snart, Ian Weighill

Plot:
Set in England in during World War II in 1940, Miss Price (Lansbury) is learning how to become a witch when she has to take in three children who were sent to the country and away from the bombing in London. Because of the war, the Witch’s College-run by Emelius Brown (Tomlinson) closes so Miss Price and the children travel on a flying bed to London to learn a spell that will help England in the world.

Trivia:
-“Bedknobs and Broomsticks” was an attempt to recapture the popularity and success of “Mary Poppins” (1964), according to World of Musicals, The: An Encyclopedia of Stage, Screen, and Song by Mark A. Robinson
-Julie Andrews was originally asked to play the lead. Andrews turned down the road but then reconsidered, but the role was already offered to Lansbury, according to Julie Andrews: An Intimate Biography by Richard Stirling. According to the American Film Institute, Andrews later had second thoughts about turning down the film, since Disney helped her get her start with “Mary Poppins.”
-Lynn Redgrave, Judy Carne and Leslie Caron were also offered the lead role in the film, according to the American Film Institute.
-Based on the novels “The Magic Bed-Knob or How to Become a Witch in 10 Easy Lessons” and “Bonfires and Broomsticks” by Mary Norton.
-Debut for child actors Cindy O’Callaghan, Roy Snart and Ian Weighill.
-Songwriting brothers Richard and Robert Sherman wrote the songs for the film. The Sherman brothers said in an interview that the song “The Beautiful Briny” was originally written for “Mary Poppins” (1964) but wasn’t used.
-Walt Disney bought the film rights to the first Mary Norton story in 1945, according to the American Film Institute.
-Alan Maley, Eustace Lycett and Danny Lee won an Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Visual Effects
-The film was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Music, Original Song, “the Age of Not Believing,” Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score
-Angela Lansbury was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress for a Musical/Comedy

David Tomlinson referees  a cartoon soccer game.

David Tomlinson referees a cartoon soccer game.

Notable Songs:
-“Portobello Road” performed by an ensemble
-“The Age of Not Believing” performed by Angela Lansbury
-“The Beautiful Briny” performed by Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson

My review:
“Bedknobs and Broomsticks” starts out with great potential.

An excellent cast with Angela Lansbury, David Tomlinson, Roddy McDowall, Sam Jaffe and Reginald Owen. A seemingly adorable premise of child World War II refugees paired with an unlikely host who dislikes children and happens to be an apprentice witch.

But after the first 20 minutes, the movie starts to go downhill.

When the Witch’s College closes down due to the war, Lansbury and the three children search out the school’s professor, played by David Tomlinson, to learn the last spell to help England during the war.

This hunt for the last spell takes the cast into an exhausting 20 or 30 minute bit in cartoon land, playing soccer with lions and dancing with fish.

I was relatively interested in the film until they hopped into cartoon land. The mix of live action and cartoon was an innovative feature at the time, was popular with film critics and won an Academy Award. However, once the film goes into the cartoon portion, it seems to lose direction, not make much sense and drags everything to a halt.

Along with the overly long cartoon portion of the film, half the cast in this film is wasted. I was excited to see Roddy McDowall, Reginald Owen and Sam Jaffe in the credits, but collectively, they are only in the two hour film for 10 minutes.

While this movie was trying to recapture the magic of “Mary Poppins,” it simply falls flat. The children lack the charm of the kids in “Mary Poppins” and the songs aren’t as catchy, though they are also written by the wonderful Sherman brothers.

One notable feature is the dance number for “Portobello Road.” It’s lengthy but impressive. The only irksome feature is that the female hair and costumes are not accurate for war era England.

Angela Lansbury does end up being able to hold off Nazis, ready to attack the small English village, in a rather…creative way that is also a little creepy.

Overall, while the film has a lovely cast and starts off having a cute storyline, it really is overly long and could do without the cartoons. This is a good example as how Disney films were declining in quality after Walt Disney’s death.

bedknobsandbroomsticks1

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Musical Monday: Babes in Toyland (1961)

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.

babes in toylandThis week’s musical:
“Babes in Toyland” –Musical #41

Studio:
Walt Disney Studios

Director:
Jack Donohue

Starring:
Annette Funicello, Ray Bolger, Tommy Sands, Ed Wynn, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran, Ann Jillian, Brian Corcoran, Mary McCarty, Henry Calvin, Gene Sheldon

Plot:
The film is introduced by Mother Goose (McCarty) and her goose Sylvester. Mary,Mary Quite Contrary (Funicello) and Tom the Piper’s Son (Sands) are to be married. However, evil Barnaby (Bolger) has other ideas. Mary will inherit a large sum of money when she marries and Barnaby wants it. He hires two crooks (Calvin, Sheldon) to kill Tom by throwing him into the sea. Barnaby is also going to steal Bo Peep’s (Jillian) sheep so that Mary no longer has income and will have to marry him. However, the crooks decide to make their own profit by selling Tom to gypsies, rather than drowning him.
While Barnaby is trying to woo Mary, the other children search for the lost sheep in the Forest of No Return. They all stumble upon Toyland, where the Toymaker and his assistant (Wynn, Kirk) are preparing for Christmas.

Annette Funicello as Mary Contrary and Tommy Sands as Tom Piper in "Babes in Toyland."

Annette Funicello as Mary Contrary and Tommy Sands as Tom Piper in “Babes in Toyland.”

Trivia:
-The first live action musical made by Disney and it failed commercially. The next live action, full length musical was “Mary Poppins” (1964).
-Walt Disney had Annette’s dark hair tinted red for the film, according to Funicello’s autobiography “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”
-Annette Funicello wrote in her book that “Babes in Toyland” was her favorite filmmaking experience.
“It was one of those rare times when everything about making the film- from my director, my co-stars, the crew, the costumes, even the scenery- was perfect,” she wrote.
-Annette wrote it was a thrill to work with Ray Bolger who was “such a gentleman.”
-James Darren and Michael Callan were both considered for Tommy Sands role of Tom Piper, Funicello wrote.

Actress Ann Jillian in her film debut with actor Kevin Corcoran

Actress Ann Jillian in her film debut with actor Kevin Corcoran

-The “I Can’t Do the Sum” number was filmed using the Chromakey technique, as several different colored Annette’s jump out and also sing.
-At one point during the “I Can’t Do the Sum” number, Annette is walking on her hands, as her character thinks this could save money on shoes. Annette was really walking on her hands.
“Technicians had to wire all of my clothing, down to each layer of my petticoat, and I wore a wig, the strands of which were wired as well so that may hair wouldn’t fall in my face while I was upside down,” she wrote.
-Annette loved the wedding dress she wore in the film so much, that she contacted the film’s designer Bill Thomas when she was married in 1965 to design her dress.
-The stop-motion toy soldiers during Tom and Barnaby’s battle took six months to film.
-The film premiered in 1961 around Christmas.
-Version of the 1934 Laurel & Hardy “Babes in Toyland.”
-Walt Disney visited the set every day, Annette wrote.
-The voice of Sylvester the Goose was director Jack Donohue.
-Film debut of Ann Jillian.

Actor quotes on the film:
-“This was the first, and unfortunately, the last movie I made in which I actually danced something besides the watusi or the swim. Not to put those other films down, but I always considered myself a dancer before anything else, and through the sets of Toyland and Mother Goose Village, I danced across the screen in a way I’d always dreamed of.” -Annette Funicello

-I thought he was delightful and so did everyone else. You couldn’t not like him. He was completely crazy and he was just as crazy offscreen as he was on. But it was all, of course, an act. He was a very serious, religious man in his own way, but he loved playing Ed Wynn, the perfect fool, the complete nut. And he was good at it. Actually I think the movie is sort of a klunker, especially when I compare it to the Laurel and Hardy Babes in Toyland. It’s not a great film but it has a few cute moments. It’s an oddity. But I’m not embarrassed about it like I am about some other movies I’ve made.” – Tommy Kirk on Ed Wynn

The Villians: Henry Calvin, Ray Bolger, Gene Sheldon

The Villians: Henry Calvin, Ray Bolger, Gene Sheldon

Highlights:
-The dance by the gypsies
-Any time Annette Funicello is on screen

Notable Songs:
-“I Can’t Do the Sum” sung by Annette Funicello
-“March of the Toys”
-“Just a Whisper Away” sung by Annette Funicello and Tommy Sands
-“We Won’t Be Happy Till We Get It” sung by Ray Bolger, Henry Calvin, Gene Sheldon
-“Nevermind Bo Peep” sung by Ann Jillian
-“Go to Sleep” sung by Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello
-“Forest of No Return” suny by some trees
-“Workshop Song” sung by Annette Funicello, Tommy Sands, Ed Wynn, children

Annette Funicello in “I Can’t Do the Sum”:

My Review:

Tommy Kirk as the toy eventer with Ed Wynn who is the Toymaker

Tommy Kirk as the toy eventer with Ed Wynn who is the Toymaker

Have you ever watched a movie that you REALLY want to love but just can’t?
That’s how I unfortunately feel about “Babes in Toyland” (1961). My family even owns this movie because we love Annette and really want to love this film.
Walt Disney was hoping to make “Babes in Toyland” to be on the same scale as “Wizard of Oz” (1939), but it somehow just didn’t pan out.
I guess I’m not alone in my dismay, since this was a commercial failure when it was released in December 1961.
It has it all- Annette, who I adore; an excellent cast, there isn’t an actor in this I don’t love; beautiful costumes; colorful sets; and it’s Disney! But somehow it falls short.
Though I love musicals, this movie is song after song after song. Probably because it is based off of a 1903 Victor Hubert operetta.
My favorite song by far is “I Can’t Do the Sum,” where Annette Funicello worries about how her family will pay the bills. I guess I also really like this song, because I related to it when I started living on my own.
I think another flaw is that the story line lags in places and 105 minutes seems a bit long for this story.
The villains in the film also are irritating. Though Ray Bolger, Henry Calvin and Gene Sheldon are all wonderful actors, their characters are tiresome. When my mom and I revisited this film, we would groan every time they came on screen.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate “Babes in Toyland.” I just wish it could be better. For me, the best part of the film is any time Annette comes on screen. Annette was such a bright spot in anything she was in and is what makes “Babes in Toyland” worth watching at all.
I also love Disney regulars Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corchoran, who are both in the film, but sadly neither has very much screen time.
I’m not sure what could have made this film better. Fewer songs? Maybe shorter than 105 minutes? More Annette? I don’t know. I just wish Disney’s first full-length, live-action musical wasn’t such a klunker.

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Do you remember the forgotten man: Veterans Day edition

 

Joan Blondell in "Gold Diggers of 1933" singing "Remember My Forgotten Man"

 

Since Veteran’s Day celebrates men and women who served in the armed forces and helped fight for our country, I wanted to mention celebrity veterans who fought.  Veteran’s Day was originally known as Armistice Day when the armistice was signed between the allies and the central powers at the end of the Great War in 1918. What better way to celebrate recognizing WW1 soldiers, specifically those that were actors.
Movie fans always hear about stars who fought in World War II, like Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable.  I started wondering what stars fought in The Great War (or World War I.)  I looked around on Google and  found very little. Thanks to my prior knowledge and some huge silent film fans on the IMDB message boards,  I came up with a list of actors who fought in World War I.
So today let’s remember all veteran’s, but especially those that brought us this day in the eleventh month, the eleventh day and the eleventh hour. And don’t forget the forgotten man.

Fighting with the Allied Powers

Richard Arlen, Humphrey Bogart, Walter Brennan

Richard Arlen– Served as a fighter pilot with the Royal Flying Corps, but never saw combat.
Humphry Bogart– Served in the U.S. Navy on the Leviathan.  He had an injury on his face and mouth which left him with his lisp, according to the website “Star War.”
Walter Brennan– Injured by gas attack during WWI which permanently affected his vocal chords.

 

Clive Brooks, Maurice Chevalier, Merian C. Cooper

 

Clive Brook-Served in the British Army
Maurice Chevalier– Enlisted in the French army and was wounded, captured and taken prisoner by the Germans in 1914. He spent two years in Alten prison camp.
Merian C. Cooper– Fighter pilot for the United States

 

Ronald Colman, Walt Disney, Cedric Hardwicke

 

Ronald Colman– Fought in the British Army. Was wounded/gassed in Messines.
Walt Disney-Was only 16 during World War I, but lied so he could serve in the Red Cross.
Cedric Hardwick-Stage actor till career interrupted by the war. Served the British Army.

 

Buster Keaton, Charles Laughton, Herbert Marshall

 

Buster Keaton– Was a Corporal in the U.S. 40 Division in France
Charles Laughton– Joined the Army as a private in 1917. Served with the Huntingdonshire Cyclist Regiment, and later with 7th Bn. Northamptonshire Regiment in the Western Front. Casualty of mustard gas.
Herbert Marshall-Lost part of his right leg in the war and wore a wooden leg for the rest of his life. May notice a limp in some of his movies.

Ken Maynard, Victor McLaglen, Adolphe Menjou

Ken Maynard– Fought in the U.S. Army
Victor McLaglen– When the war broke out, McLaglen joined the Irish Fusiliers and fought in the Middle East and serving as Provost Marshal (head of Military Police) for the city of Baghdad.
Adolphe Menjou– Captain of the Ambulance Corp in France

 

George O'Brien, Pat O'Brien, Jack Pickford

 

George O’Brien– Served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Fleet where he was also the Heavy Weight Boxing Champ.
Pat O’Brien– Enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1918
Jack Pickford– (brother of Mary Pickford)  U.S. Navy Reserve in 1918. Almost court-martialed for a scandal when he accepted bribes from draftees who wanted light shore duty.  His mother had a secret meeting Wilson’s personal secretary, Joseph Tumulty. Tumulty requested Jack to be discharged  to make movies in support of the Army Air Corps.

 

Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, John Monk Saunders

 

Claude Rains-Served in the Scottish Regiment in England.
Basil Rathbone– Second Lieutenant for the Liverpool Scottish. Received the Military Cross in 1918 for bravery.
John Monk Saunders– (Hollywood Writer) Served in the Air Service.

 

William Desmond Taylor, Ernst Thesiger, Warren William

 

William Desmond Taylor– Fought in the Canadian Air Force
Ernst Thesiger– Fought in the British Army
Warren William– Fought in France with the U.S. Army

Fight with the Central Powers

Fritz Lang, Bela Lugosi, Sig Rumand

Fritz Lang-Soldier in the Austrian Army and fought in Romania and Russia.
Bela Lugosi– Was an infantry lieutenant in the Hungarian Army
Sig Ruman-Served in the Imperial German Forces

*Tune into tonight’s “Radio Waves Over Hollywood” live stream on WINR at 6 p.m. ET.  Tonight’s show is about war movies!

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