Musical Monday: Stingaree (1934)

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.

StingareeThis week’s musical:

“Stingaree” –Musical #489

Studio:

RKO Radio Pictures

Director:

William A. Wellman

Starring:

Irene Dunne, Richard Dix, Mary Boland, Conway Tearle, Andy Devine, Henry Stephenson, Una O’Connor, Reginald Owen

Plot:

Set in Australia in 1874, housemaid Hilda (Dunne) dreams of having a singing career. The mistress of of the household Mrs. Clarkson (Boland) also fancies herself as a singer, though she is terrible. Composer Sir Julian Kent (Tearle) is coming from England to Australia and Hilda wants to perform for him. Mrs. Clarkson also thinks singing for Sir Julian will be her break into opera. Outlaw Stingaree (Dix) also comes into town at the same time as Sir Julian and poses as Julian. After meeting and falling for Hilda, Stingaree is determined to help her become an opera star.

Trivia:

-Turner Classic Movies premiered this film on their channel for the first time in 2007. “Stingaree” was part of a “Lost and Found” preservation series of RKO films produced by Marion C. Cooper. Other films in the series included with other films such as “Rafter Romance” (1933), “Double Harness” (1933), “One Man’s Journey” (1933), “A Man to Remember” (1938) and “Living on Love” (1937). In 1946, Cooper obtained ownership of the films and were shown on a limited re-release in 1955 and 1956 in New York City, according to Turner Classic Movies.

-RKO original considered Jeanette MacDonald in the film, on loan out from MGM.

-Based on a 1905 novel by Ernest William Hornug.

-For the opera scenes, the standing set from Lon Chaney’s “Phantom of the Opera” (1925) was used.

stingaree2

Notable Songs:
-“I Wish I Were a Fisherman” sung by Mary Boland (because it’s hilariously bad)

-“Once Your Mine” sung by Irene Dunne

-“Tonight is Mine” sung by Irene Dunne

Highlights:
Today’s highlights include a few scenes I enjoyed-

*Mary Boland is singing at a party and Stingaree enters with a gun to hold up the party and allow Irene Dunne to sing.

Sir Julian: My good man, being shot right now would be a favor.
Mary Boland: I will not sing for outlaws!
Richard Dix: Compassion for the outlaw!

*Mary Boland:…Why, the very foundation of empire is woman’s virginity.
Sir Julian: Chastity, madame, chastity. No empire would get very far with virginity.

 

My Review

I first saw “Stingaree” back in 2007 when TCM aired it along with the other Marion C. Cooper films. For whatever reason, I didn’t write it down as a musical in my musical list- which explains why this is my 488 musical.

When I revisited this film recently, I realized that it was categorized as a musical-and while it was not a flashy musical in the style of “Broadway Melody of 1936”-the film is much like “San Francisco” (1936). The bulk of the film is the romantic, melodramatic story sprinkled with quality operatic numbers.

The story of “Stingaree” may be far-fetched, but I love this movie and think it’s a lot of fun. I guess you could say Stingaree the outlaw is like Robin Hood of Australia. Rather than stealing from the rich to give to the poor, he steals the rich people’s maid to make her an operatic star. It also has a few hilarious lines in it (see: Highlights).

Irene Dunne is mostly known today for her comedic roles, but she had a beautiful singing voice in a few musicals during the 1930s. Though I love MacDonald, I’m happy Dunne was the star of this film. She brought the sweetness that was needed to Hilda. This was her second teaming with Richard Dix after “Cimarron” (1931). Frankly, Dix drove me crazy in “Cimarron,” but he’s charming and very appealing as Stingaree.

Mary Boland plays her usual character as the fretting, dizzy and selfish woman. Her terrible opera singing is pretty hilarious. And as always, Henry Stephenson makes you want to give him a hug.

I would honestly put “Stingaree” on your ‘must see’ list. For folks who don’t like musicals, the songs are not overwhelming. It’s a fun romp that is forgotten and under-appreciated.

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Review: Battleground (1949)

Originally posted in 2011, this review on “Battleground” and is now repurposed for the William Wellman Blogathon.

Battleground (1949)

Van Johnson and John Hodiak listening to a Christmas Eve sermon in “Battleground”

Brief plot: The film depiction of the 101st Airborne Division when they are trapped in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. The division is surrounded by Germans and unable to get any air support due to heavy fog that lasts for days. The World War 2 film has a star-studded cast with Van Johnson, John Hodiak, James Whitmore, Marshall Thompson, Riccardo Montalbon, George Murphy, Don Taylor and Leon Ames.

Why I love it:

I originally saw this film when I was in high school-the sole reason I wanted to see it was because of my insane crush on Van Johnson.  But as I watched it, I feel in love with the script, the way it is shot, all of the characters and the tone of the film.

James Whitmore discovering the sun finally breaks through the fog, shouts “It’s shinin’!”

Accuracy: World War 2 is my favorite period in history-the way the whole United States bonded together in a way that we will most likely never see again. I really like war films made during war time, but there is a certain amount of patriotic propaganda mixed in that makes war time battle films not as credible-I’m not saying I like them less for this, they just generally aren’t as historically accurate.

I also enjoy several war films made in the 1950s and 1960s, but they also have their own historical inaccuracies. The hairstyles and dresses are usually 1950s or 1960s styles, rather than 1940s styles. An example of this is Gina Lollabridgda in “Never So Few.” Her outfits are all wrong for wartime-let alone for a woman living in war torn Asia.

“Battleground” is made just soon enough after the war to be patriotic, but also very accurate. I’ve heard that it is one of the most accurate war films of the Golden Era- depicting conditions and sentiments of the soldiers. I would like to clarify that I say its the most accurate WW2 depiction of the Golden Era, because I realize that in recent years, films like “Sands of Iwo Jima” and “Band of Brothers” have given a better historic account of the events.

George Murphy as “Pop”

Filming: I love the way this film is shot. The darkness of their uniforms against the snow and fog that lead the soldiers to be trapped in Bastgone is perfect. There is almost a grittiness to it too. Though the snow is pure and white, it is ugly and dangerous because the reason why they are surrounded and with no help from air support. William “Wild Bill” Wellman directed the film, and this might have alot to do with the gritty feel of the film.

Cast: Look at the actors I listed above. Could you ask for a better cast? Sure, none of them were ever as big as Clark Gable or Spencer Tracy, but they were all amazing actors. I really think this film helped both John Hodiak and Van Johnson flex their acting muscles better than fluff films they were in before.  I also love Marshall Thompson’s performance. He starts off as a young kid, eager and excited to fight, but as the situation in Bastogne gets more serious, he becomes bitter.

Script: I enjoyed the story line, but I also liked the little Army jokes or lingo they used. For example, whenever they were talking about the Army, they had an ongoing joke of “I found a home in the Army.” Or how they called bombs “In-coming mail.”  Though the film is only 2 hours and doesn’t give us enough time to really get to know the characters, we learn their personalities enough by things they say or sing. The country character, Abner always says “That’s for sure, that’s for dang sure” and butchers the name of Bastogne calling Baaast-oog-nee.” Another example is John Hodiak’s character is well spoken, educated and was a newspaper man.  Douglas Fowley, who plays Private Kippton, always clicks his false teeth in the film-something he really knew how to do in real life and it added a bit of his personality to the script.

Another thing I like about the film is that the screenwriter actually fought in the Battle of the Bulge, so he had some knowledge of the events. Things like Ricardo Montalbon’s character never seeing snow before and getting excited, isn’t just hokey Hollywood glitter-it actually happened.

Marching back to Bastonge

To Review: This film was made at a time that MGM was switching from L. B. Mayer to Dore Schary as studio head, so it’s a little different from the frothy MGM movies we are used to.

Though I realize there are several World War 2 movies, more realistic than this one, “Battleground” is my favorite war movie. I think this film was made at the right time, giving the U.S. a few years to recover from the war but also before the downward spiral of the communist scare began.

Before I leave, I’d like to share with you my favorite scene:

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