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

Musical Mondays: “Thank Your Lucky Stars” (1943)

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, I’m starting a weekly feature about musicals.

Poster - Thank Your Lucky Stars_01

This week’s musical:
Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) –Musical Number 470

Starring:
All top Warner Brothers stars: Eddie Cantor, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Olivia De Havilland, Ida Lupino, Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan, John Garfield, George Tobias, Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, Dinah Shore, Alexis Smith, Joan Leslie, Alan Hale, S.Z. Sakall, Edward Everett Horton,

Director:
David Butler

Studio:
Warner Brothers Studios

Plot:
Thank Your Lucky Stars” is a movie with less of a plot and more musical numbers from the top stars of the 1940s.
The plot that runs between the musical numbers is about producers (played by S.Z Sakall and Edward Everett Horton) who want to put on a wartime charity event for soldiers. Egotistical Eddie Cantor, playing himself, takes over the production. Singer Tommy Randolph, played by Dennis Morgan, and his girlfriend Pat, played by Joan Leslie, try to get into the show and replace the real Cantor with a bus driver who looks just like Cantor (also played by Eddie Cantor). Zany comedic moments and confusion ensue as Eddie Cantor has to prove he is the real Eddie Cantor.
Stars who usually don’t appear in musicals perform in the film such as Bette Davis, Ida Lupino and Errol Flynn.

Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie are one of the few stars in "Thank Your Lucky Stars" who don't play themselves.

Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie are one of the few stars in “Thank Your Lucky Stars” who don’t play themselves.

Trivia:
-This is one of the few movies where Bette Davis sings- another film where she sings is “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.” She performs the musical number “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old.”

-During Bette Davis’s musical number, she jitterbugs with champion jitterbugger Conrad Wiedell. Davis never rehearsed the dance with Wiedell, because she was afraid she could only get through the dance once, according to the book “The Girl Who Walked Home Alone” by Charlotte Chandler.
 “Look, I’m not a movie star. I’m just some dame you picked up at the dance hall,” she told him.
She hurt her leg during the dance, and you can see she is limping at the end of the dance and rubs her leg but completes the number. Davis didn’t want to spoil the take, because she didn’t think she could do the dance again, according to Chandler’s book.
-This is the last of nine movies Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland star in together.
-Though not dubbed in every movie, Joan Leslie is dubbed by Sally Sweetland.
-Olivia De Havilland is dubbed by Lynn Martin.
-All of the stars were paid $50,000 for the film which was donated to the Hollywood Canteen, according to “Errol Flynn: The Life and Career” by Thomas McNulty.
-Errol Flynn proposed singing as the cockney bar patron, because he wanted to do something different, according to McNulty’s book.

Notable Songs and Highlights:
Almost every song in the movie is worth noting because so many unique performances from stars you usually don’t get to hear singing:
-Errol Flynn sings “That’s What You Jolly Well Get” as a braggart Cockney. Flynn does an EXCELLENT job. He dances and sings with ease and sells the song well, while being humorous at the same time.
-John Garfield sings “Blues in the Night.” Garfield is no crooner and the song is a bit rough. However, he gives it his all-while telling a story between the lyrics-and is very entertaining.
-Ida Lupino, George Tobias and Olivia de Havilland sing “The Dreamer.” Lupino and De Havilland sings as gum chomping, jitterbugging dames and make a hilarious trio with Tobias.
My only disappointment is that de Havilland is dubbed and it’s obvious. Tobias and Lupino sing well but their unpolished voices don’t mix well with the de Havilland’s dubbed voice.

-Hattie McDaniel belts out sings “Ice Cold Katie
-Bette Davis sings “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” and jitterbugs. The song was nominated for an Academy Award and became a hit because of Davis.
-Ann Sheridan sings “Love Isn’t Born” with a group of Warner Brothers starlets, including Joyce Reynolds. Her song is one of the best in the movie. Sheridan is a great singer was in a few musicals, though that isn’t what she’s known for.
My Review:
This movie is a delight!
If you are expecting a movie with a firm plot and a moral, this may not be for you. But if you want to laugh and smile, “Thank Your Lucky Stars” will do the trick. Every single musical performance brings a smile to my face, especially those performed by Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan and John Garfield.
Movies that were basically musical reviews were not rare in the 1940s. Several World War II films took on a canteen-style approach with thin plots and dominate musical numbers such as Hollywood Canteen (1944), Stage Door Canteen (1943), Two Girls and A Sailor (1944) and Thousands Cheer (1943). Warner Brothers made a similar, but less appealing, musical review in the 1950s for the Korean War called “Starlift.”
Thank Your Lucky Stars ” also gives you an education of who the top actors and actresses were at Warner Brothers Studios during the 1940s.
I own this movie via the Warner Brothers Homefront Collection which includes “This is the Army” and “Hollywood Canteen” released in 2008. If you don’t own it, I highly suggest it.

Eddie Cantor in the "Thank Your Lucky Stars" finale

Eddie Cantor in the “Thank Your Lucky Stars” finale

Check back next week for Musical Monday.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page for the latest updates or follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet.

The Mystery of the Murdered Movie

I love Nancy Drew.

I have played and solved 21 of the HerInteractive PC games and read most of the original yellow bound novels. I even own a Nancy Drew cookbook, a “Nancy Drew’s Guide to Life” book and a large Nancy Drew cut out.

Nancy Drew has played a pivotal role for the past 80 years in literature for young girls, as well as in pop culture.

Everyone knows who she is and is fairly respected as a literary character. However, why is there not a flattering movie adaptation depicting everyone’s this important literary character and symbol for American women?

Eight years after the first Nancy Drew novel, “The Secret of the Old Clock,” was published in 1930, the first Nancy Drew film adaptation was released.

Nancy Drew, Reporter,” the first film adaptation of the series, was released in 1938, three more movies were released all in 1939. These movies included “Nancy Drew  Troubleshooter,” “Nancy Drew Detective ” and “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase).”

Film series were not rare in the 1930’s and 1940’s. In fact many studios made a great deal of money off of series such as “Andy Hardy,” “Dr. Kildaire,” “Maisie” and “Boston Blackie just to name a few of many.

I imagine that is what Warner Brothers was trying to do with Nancy Drew. But none of the films followed or resembled any of the Nancy Drew books, except for snippets of “Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase” which I think is modeling itself after the book “The Hidden Staircase.”

In novels Miss Drew is level-headed, fearless and intelligent. She doesn’t goof off and there isn’t much time for romance in her life. Yes there is her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, but I can count on one hand the amount of times they kissed or flirted in the novels. She was also very talented and fashionable. She could tap dance the Morris code while wearing a freshly pressed tailored suit.

Also in the novels, Ned was concerned about Nancy but never hindered her sleuthing. Carson Drew, Nancy’s father, was a distinguished lawyer. He teased his daughter for her appetite for mysteries and trusted her good sense.

However, the characters in the 1930s Nancy Drew series didn’t resemble Carolyn Keene’s intelligent teens.

Nancy Drew, played by Bonita Granville, was bumbling, scatter-brained and frightened for most of the films. She set out to solve a mystery but would run home before finding any actual clues.

Bonita Granville as Nancy Drew and Frankie Thomas as Ted Nickerson

Ned Nickerson, played by Frankie Thomas, was named TED in the movies for some reason. He was maybe the most tolerable character in the movies, but I wouldn’t run to him to protect me.

John Litel was a very irritating Carson Drew. He forbid Nancy from sleuthing and worried about her constantly. Even Hannah Gruen, the housekeeper, ran away in terror when someone broke into their home. Hannah in the books would have knocked them on their ear.

John Litel as Carson Drew in “Nancy Drew…Reporter” (1938)

The films involve very little mystery solving and an over abundance of silly slap-stick. I’m not asking for a whole detailed novel to be played out in the 68 minute films, but Warner Brothers could have at least been accurate with their character depictions.

Bonita Granville, who was 16 when she played Nancy Drew, was in top-notch films such as “These Three”(1936), which she received her only Oscar nomination, and “Now, Voyager” (1941), giving excellent performances in both but clearly Nancy Drew was not the role for her.

I made a list of who, with some tweaks to the script, could have been the perfect Nancy Drew casting in the 1930s or 1940s.

Nancy Drew: Deanna Durbin (19 at this time) would be my first pick. She sometimes plays silly characters, but also plays serious roles beautifully. Nancy Drew was also supposed to be very attractive. Miss Granville wasn’t ugly, but Deanna Durbin is decidedly prettier. I’m sure they would have to fit in a song or two for Deanna. She would have been old enough by this time, because “First Love,” the film that she received her first on-screen kiss came out the same year as the series.

Carson Drew: John Litel is generally a character actor with small roles. I’m not sure why they chose him to play the distinguished lawyer, Carson Drew. I can’t think of anyone else who could play this role more perfectly than Walter Pidgeon. Mr. Pidgeon is the definition of distinguished and sophistication. With his fatherly and friendly acting style, along with his pipe, I can picture him now giving Nancy advice.

Ned Nickerson: I would either say a teen-aged Jackie Cooper (17 at the time) or Robert Stack (20 at this time). Both boys were attractive and would have seemed more protective of Nancy Drew than Frankie Thomas. Stack was also in the 1939 film “First Love” with Miss Durbin and would have been of a suitable age.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page for the latest updates.