Watching 1939: On Your Toes (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. 

Release date: Oct. 14, 1939

Cast: Vera Zorina, Eddie Albert, Alan Hale, James Gleason, Queenie Smith, Frank McHugh, Leonid Kinskey, Gloria Dickson, Donald O’Connor, Erik Rhodes, Berton Churchill, William Hopper (uncredited), Carla Laemmle (uncredited),

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Ray Enright

Plot:
Beginning in the 1920s, the Dancing Dolans (Gleason, Smith, O’Connor) is one of the top vaudeville performances. However, Mrs. Dolan wants her son Phil Jr. (O’Connor to Albert) to be educated and be a composer. The Dancing Dolans continue performing, but their acts are no longer well-received and vaudeville is dying. Phil Jr. meets Russian composer Ivan Boultonoff (Kinskey), and Phil composes “The Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” for the Russian Ballet. Phil reconnects with Vera (Zorina), a ballerina he knew from vaudeville, and she lobbies for the head of the ballet company (Hale) to use the music.

1939 notes:
• This was only Eddie Albert’s second feature film; the first was Brother Rat in 1938. While not one of Warner Brother’s top leading men (like Ronald Reagan, Humphrey Bogart, Dennis Morgan or Jack Carson), Albert was a steady comedic star for Warner. Eddie Albert was a lead character in “Brother Rat,” but “On Your Toes” was his first true leading role where the plot and camera mainly followed him.

• Vera Zorina is recreating her role from the 1936 stage production of “On Your Toes”

• This was also the second American feature film for ballet dancer Vera Zorina, who appeared in a total of eight films.

• While Donald O’Connor is only a child in this film, this was his 13th film as a child star.

Other Trivia:
• James Wong Howe was the cinematographer for “On Your Toes.” Sol Polito photographed the “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” ballet.

• Donald O’Connor plays young Eddie Albert

• Originally planned as a Fred Astaire vehicle, but Astaire turned down the film.

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:

So far I have watched 179 films from the year 1939. None of them have been bad, but none of them

While “On Your Toes” has three ballet numbers and some vaudeville dances at the beginning, I wouldn’t consider it a musical. There is very little singing and the focus is much more composing music and dance.

Outside of the ballet dancing, the comedy featuring Eddie Albert, James Gleason, and Alan Hale, is not very different from what you would experience in another 1930s or early-1940s Warner Brothers film.

Vera Zorina in costume for the Princess Zenobia number in “On Your Toes” (1939)

The ballet numbers in it are gorgeously photographed by Howe and Polito. First, Vera Zorina dances beautifully in the Princess Zenobia ballet (photographed by Howe) as the audience is able to see a serious ballet performance. When Eddie Albert enters the Princess Zenobia number, the ballet scene turns away from serious dance to comedy. Albert’s character doesn’t know the dance and makes a ridicule of everyone else, but the papers think the comedy was intentional, giving the dance a good review.

“The Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” ballet is the climax of the film. This wonderful ballet scene is 13 minutes, mixing ballet and some vaudeville tap dancing.

“On Your Toes” is your standard 1930s Warner Brothers comedy. However, it’s unique in the fact that the audience is able to see a serious ballerina who danced for (and was married to) the great George Balanchine, co-founder of the New York City Ballet. Zorina was the prima ballerina in several performances for the Colonel de Basil’s Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo from 1934 to 1936.

With all the musicals I have watched, I can not recollect any other film before Michael Powell’s “The Red Shoes” (1948) that photographs a ballet performance to its full potential. For instance, in early sound films like “Broadway Melody of 1929,” you can see sloppy ballet dancing (I’m thinking specifically of the “Wedding of the Painted Doll” number).

I enjoyed “On Your Toes,” as it is a funny and entertaining film with some of Warner Brothers top comedians. It was a good mix of comedy and art with the ballet.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Advertisements

Christmas Musical Monday: By the Light of the Silvery Moon (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.

This week’s musical:
By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)– Musical #174

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
David Butler

Starring:
Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp, Billy Gray, Mary Wickes, Russell Arms, Maria Palmer, Walter ‘PeeWee’ Flannery, Merv Griffin (uncredited)

Plot:
A sequel to On Moonlight Bay (1951), the story picks up in 1918 when Bill (MacRae) returns from World War I. Marjorie (Day) is anxious to discuss their wedding plans, as he promised when he left, but Bill doesn’t want to rush into wedlock. This causes a rift in their relationship. Marjorie’s brother Wesley (Gray) is still causing trouble in this film.

Continue reading

Christmas Musical Monday: On Moonlight Bay (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.

This week’s musical:
On Moonlight Bay (1951) – Musical #118

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Roy Del Ruth

Starring:
Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary DeCamp, Billy Gray, Mary Wickes, Jack Smith, Ellen Corby

Plot:
Starting in 1916, the film looks at a year in the life of the Winfield family. The films starts when the family moves to a new neighborhood hoping to refine their tomboy daughter Marjorie (Day). Marjorie falls in love with college student William Sherman (MacRae), whose has college ideas have him saying he doesn’t believe in marriage and that banks are parasites. These ideas don’t please her parents (Ames and DeCamp), so Marjorie dates several other young men, but she is preoccupied with thoughts of William. The film is filled with antics of her younger brother (Gray).

Continue reading

Musical Monday: April Showers (1948)

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:
April Showers (1948) – Musical #218

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
James V. Kern

Starring:
Ann Sothern, Jack Carson, Robert Alda, S.Z. Sakall, Robert Ellis, Billy Curtis, Joseph Crehan, Barbara Bates (uncredited), Mel Blanc (voice, uncredited)

Plot:
Married vaudeville couple Joe and June Tyme (Carson, Sothern) have a failing act. Their act takes off when their young son Buster (Ellis) joins. The only problem is that he really should be in school.

Continue reading

Musical Monday: “She’s Back on Broadway” (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.

This week’s musical:
She’s Back on Broadway” (1953) — Musical #450

broadway

Studio:
Warner Brothers Pictures

Director:
Gordon Douglas

Starring:
Virginia Mayo, Gene Nelson, Frank Lovejoy, Steve Cochran, Patrice Wymore

Plot:
Hollywood actress Catherine Terris (Mayo) finds her film career is declining. She decides to return to Broadway where she started out to get a fresh start. The director of the musical play is Rick Sommers (Cochran), who Catherine had a relationship with during her stage days. However, he has been bitter ever since she left six years before to go to Hollywood. The two clash during rehearsal and nearly ruin the play.

Cochran and Mayo in a publicity photo for "She's Back on Broadway"

Cochran and Mayo in a publicity photo for “She’s Back on Broadway”

Trivia:
-Virginia Mayo is dubbed by Bonnie Lou Williams
-Though the two films have no plot connection, She’s Back on Broadway is supposedly a sequel to “She’s Working Her Way Through College” (1952), which is a remake of “The Male Animal” (1942). The only connection is the Mayo and Nelson re-teaming.

Notable Songs:
I’m not left humming any of the songs from this film but I would say “I’ll Take You” performed by Gene Nelson and Virginia Mayo is the most memorable.

Highlights:
-The audition montage at the beginning of the film for the play including dancer and goofy male singers.

My Review:
Musical films about musical theater are interesting. The play being performed in “She’s Back on Broadway” is called “Breakfast in Bed.” There is one song called “Breakfast in Bed” but other songs include a Latin dance vibe, a song about Mardi Gras and then a few romantic ballads. Numbers within the musical play don’t make sense to have an actual story line, so I guess we are supposed to assume it’s a musical revue.
She’s Back on Broadway” is a run of the mill, early 1950s Warner Brothers musical-several songs mixed with some melodrama and filmed in Warnercolor.
Whether it’s Doris Day in “Lullaby of Broadway” or Virginia Mayo on this, they are all relatively similar with Gene Nelson dancing somewhere in the background. Steve Cochran plays his usual moody role in this as well.
Not to say that these colorful musicals aren’t mildly entertaining, but they are rather forgettable.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Bedtime for Bonzo is not the only movie Ronald Reagan made

This is another post I wrote early in my blogging career on blogger. It is a little better than the Susan Slade one, but yet again just a plot summary. Hopefully you can see the improvements of the blog from then to now.

It has once again been another long absence from my blog. I didn’t mean for it to be this way; I actually have several movies in mind to blog about, but I end up watching more movies instead of blogging. Movie watching is what I do, as lazy it may be-but sometimes I do exercise while watching movies!

Today’s blog is the Ronald Reagan/Joan Leslie movie “This Is the Army” (1943).

Now I can already hear some of you groaning, “Ronaaald Reeeeaaaggan. Uggggggh.” Well I don’t know much about how he was politically, but I do know that he was a top notch actor for Warner Brothers back in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Those politicians and late night talk show hosts just look like uneducated film boobs when they talk about Ronald Reagan’s sub-par career, because they obviously know nothing about classic film or Warner Brothers in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Ronald Reagan was actually the star of the month for March on Turner Classic Movies-which is nothing to sneeze at. Usually it is someone like Spencer Tracey, Sean Connery or Bette Davis.

Continue reading