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.

Trivia:
-Robert Ellis does impressions and Mel Blanc does the voice
-Film is loosely based on Buster Keaton who outshone his parents in their vaudeville act

Highlights:
-When the movie ended

Notable Songs:
-“April Showers” performed by Ann Sothern
-“Pretty Baby” performed by Robert Alda
-“Every Little Movement” performed by Robert Alda

Ann Sothern, Jack Carson and Robert Ellis in “April Showers” (1948)

My review:
I seek out films starring Ann Sothern. Ann could play it all: comedy, crime, fast talking dame, musical or tender-hearted mother.

And when I first saw this movie, I was excited to see Ann Sothern’s name in the credits. “April Showers” sounds like it will be a joyful, colorful romp. But it’s anything but.

Filmed in black and white, Jack Carson and Ann Sothern have a failing vaudeville act that is only saved by their son, played by Robert Ellis. While Ellis saves the act, he ruins the movie.

In his March 27, 1948, review New York Times critic Bosley Crowther calls it both “insufferable” and “death.”

“Even with expert presentation, this would be an insufferable tale. As played by Jack Carson, Ann Sothern and a kid named Robert Ellis, it is death,” Crowther wrote.

I don’t always agree with Crowther’s salty film reviews, but brother I do with this one.

As for Ann Sothern, she is a secondary character to Jack Carson and Robert Ellis, who the plot mainly revolves around. Carson is his usual goofy self, and Robert Ellis is a bigger ham than anything you have ever seen served on Thanksgiving or Easter. Robert Ellis, who was 15 when this was filmed, appears to be trying to out act, dance and joke Jack Carson. When he isn’t spouting lines, dancing or singing, he mainly sits around making dumb faces. For those not familiar with Ellis, you may remember him as the surfer Hot Shot in “Gidget” (1959).

The worst part is when Robert Ellis is supposed to be impersonating a midget (children weren’t allowed to perform in New York theaters by law), and Mel Blanc does his speaking voice so he sounds like Bugs Bunny. What?!

Robert Alda also is in the film and plays a heel. His role is large enough to be a protagonist but his talents are wasted.

While the performances are entertaining, the songs are nothing new and are all familiar vaudeville songs.

I’m not sure why this movie was made. It’s a tired plot about vaudeville performers and the longest 90 minute movie you’ll ever watch.

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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.

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