Musical Monday: Two Girls and a Sailor (1944)

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:
Two Girls and A Sailor (1944) – Musical #120

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Richard Thorpe

Starring:
June Allyson, Gloria DeHaven, Van Johnson, Tom Drake, Jimmy Durante, Henry Stephenson, Henry O’Neill, Donald Meek, Frank Jenks, Frank Sully, Karin Booth (uncredited), Ava Gardiner (uncredited), Natalie Draper (uncredited), Gigi Perreau (uncredited), Arthur Walsh (uncredited)

Themselves: Carlos Ramírez, Ben Blue, José Iturbi, Amparo Iturbi, Harry James, Helen Forrest, Xavier Cugat, Lina Romay, Gracie Allen, Lena Horne, Virginia O’Brien, Lyn Wilde, Lee Wilde, Albert Coates

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Musical Monday: Reveille with Beverly (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, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

beverly4This week’s musical:
Reveille With Beverly (1943)– Musical #323

Studio:
Columbia

Director:
Charles Barton

Starring:
Ann Miller, William Wright, Dick Purcell, Andrew Tombes, Franklin Pangborn, Adele Mara, Douglas Leavitt, Barbara Brown, Larry Parks, Doodles Weaver (uncredited), Irene Ryan (uncredited), Lee and Lynn Wilde
As themselves:

  • Bob Crosby and his orchestra
  • Freddie Slack and his orchestra with Ella Mae Morse
  • Duke Ellington
  • Count Bassie
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Mills Brothers
  • The Radio Rogues

Plot:
A switchboard operator, Beverly Ross (Miller), at the local radio station KFEL has dreams of having her own jive radio show. She eventually gets her own time slot and features all of the top jive music. While on the radio, Beverly catches ear (and eye) of soldier Barry Lang (Wright), who is wealthy and switches places with his chauffeur buddy Andy Adams (Purcell) to see if he can win Beverly without his millions.

Andrew Tombes and Ann Miller in "Revellie with Beverly"

Andrew Tombes and Ann Miller in “Revellie with Beverly”

Trivia:
-The film is based off the radio show Reveille with Beverly which was hosted by Jean Ruth Hay. Jean Hay served as technical adviser to the film and narrates the trailer for the film.

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Highlights:
-All of the musical performances

Notable Songs:
-“Cow Cow Boogie” performed by Ella Mae Morse
-“Big Noise from Winnetka” performed by Bob Crosby and his Bobcat Orchestra, singers Lyn and Lee Wilde
-“Take the A Train” performed by Duke Ellington, sung by Betty Roche
-“One O’Clock Jump” performed by Count Bassie
-“Night and Day” performed by Frank Sintra

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My review:
“Reveille with Beverly” is one of those guilty pleasure musicals. It has very little plot but for fans of 1940s big band and jive, it’s a dream.

“Reveille with Beverly” is based on a real radio show called “Reveille with Beverly” which was DJed be a young lady named Jean Ruth Hay. The Los Angeles radio show was on the air from 1941 to 1944 for soldiers fighting in World War II. They could hear it on ships, fighting or in the air.

Advertisement for Jean Ruth Hay's radio show.

Advertisement for Jean Ruth Hay’s radio show.

The idea of the radio show came when soldiers Jean knew said they hated starting their day with the blast of a bugle. Hay also said that government officials would sometimes provide a script to read which included names of songs that didn’t exist. These scripts turned out to be code for the French Underground. Hay even married bandleader Freddie Slack, who is featured in this film.

The real show is merely a premise for the plot and all else is fictional. The movie has multiple laugh-out-loud funny scenes, particularly with Franklin Pangborn who is furious that Beverly’s show is in his time slot. While there is a bit of a plot, the majority of the film are musical performances of 1943 hits. When Beverly’s record starts spinning, we’re transported to a video of Bob Crosby and his band or Duke Ellington performing “Take the A Train” on a train.

All the songs had me dancing in my seat. I saw this movie for the first time in 2009 and it introduced me to Ella Mae Morse, who I wasn’t familiar with prior. Now she is one of my favorites.

Admittedly, there may be some who don’t enjoy this style of movie. If you aren’t interested in a string of jive musical numbers, you should probably stay away.

This isn’t your usual Ann Miller film, who was still early in her career. Ann only tap dances once and it’s a patriotic number at the end of the film.

Just writing this review makes me want to watch “Reveille with Beverly” again. It’s a brief hour and 18 minutes that will leave you dancing and humming by the end.

Ann Miller in her tap dancing finale.

Ann Miller in her tap dancing finale.

If anyone knows where to listen to some of Jean Ruth Hay’s original broadcasts, leave me a message! I would love to hear them.

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The Longest Day: Actors who fought in D-Day

On June 6 ,1944, Allied forces stormed Omaha Beach in the Normandy Invasion, known as D-Day.

A few of those soldiers were established actors or later pursued a career in Hollywood. Here are a few of those men that served in D-Day:

Lt Col David Niven, Royal Marine Commando, Normandy 1944

Lt Col David Niven, Royal Marine Commando, Normandy 1944

David Niven: The British actor was a Lt. Colonel of the British Commandos. He also worked in the intelligence branch and was later assigned to the U.S. First Infantry.
Niven was one of the first officers to land at Normandy. He later was one of 25 British soldiers to be awarded the U.S. Legion of Merit Medal, according to a 1983 book by Don McCombs and Fred Worth.

Alec Guinness in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve

Alec Guinness in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve

Alec Guinness: The British actor operated a British Royal Navy landing craft on D-Day.

Richard Todd during World War II

Richard Todd during World War II

Richard Todd:  Capt. Todd was one of the first British officers to land on D-Day. Todd was part of the British airborne invasion, that took place June 5 through June 7. During Operation Overlord, Todd’s battalion were the reinforcements parachuted in after the gliders landed and captured Pegasus Bridge to prevent German forces crossing the bridge and attacking.
Todd’s battalion was led by Major John Howard, who Todd played in “The Longest Day”(1962). The beret that Todd wears in the film is the one he wore on D-Day.

Robert Montgomery in his Naval uniform during World War II.

Robert Montgomery in his Naval uniform during World War II.

Robert Montgomery: American actor Montgomery enlisted in World War II before the United States entered the war.
Montgomery became a PT boat Lt. Commander and was part of the D-Day invasion on board the destroyer, USS Barton (DD-722).
After serving five years of active duty, Montgomery was awarded a Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Ribbon, the European Theater Ribbon with two Battle Stars, one Overseas Service Bar, and promoted to the rank of Lt. Commander. (1904-1981)

Actor Charles Durning during World War II. He served in the United States Army.

Actor Charles Durning during World War II. He served in the United States Army.

Charles Durning: American actor Durning served in the United States Army. He was in one of the first waves to land on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion. Durning was the only soldier in his company to survive, according to KPBS broadcasting.
Durning was wounded nine days after the landing and earned a Purple Heart. Durning was also awarded the Silver Star.

Actor James Doohan was shot several times during the Normandy Invasion.

Actor James Doohan was shot several times during the Normandy Invasion.

James Doohan: Canadian actor Doohan served in the Canadian Army.  Doohan was in the Juno Beach invasion on D-Day. During the invasion, Doohan was shot in the leg, chest and lost his right middle finger.

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The forgotten Hollywood war hero: Wayne Morris

Warner Brothers star, Wayne Morris in he 1930s

Warner Brothers star, Wayne Morris in he 1930s

He can be seen playing alongside Bette Davis as a boxer in “Kid Galahad” (1937) or a cadet running amok at the Virginia Military Institute in “Brother Rat.”

Wayne Morris may not be a name you’re familiar with but you have most likely seen the husky, affable blond in Warner Brothers 1930s and 1940s films.

But you may not be familiar with Morris’ war time record.
We frequently hear about Hollywood actors such as James Stewart, Clark Gable and Mickey Rooney who enlisted and were decorated for their bravery during World War II.

However, Morris is rarely recognized for his service and was one of World War II’s first flying aces.

His interest in flying started in Hollywood.

While filming “Flying Angles” (1940) with Jane Wyman and Dennis Morgan, Morris learned how to fly a plane.

Morris in 1944 in his plane "Meatball." The decals show how many Japanese planes he shot down.

Morris in 1944 in his plane “Meatball.” The decals show how many Japanese planes he shot down.

Once World War II began, Morris joined the Naval Reserve and became a Naval flier in 1942 on the U.S.S. Essex. He put his career on hold to fight. The same year he was married to Olympic swimmer Patricia O’Rourke.

“Every time they showed a picture aboard the Essex, I was scared to death it would be one of mine,” Morris said. “That’s something I could never have lived down.”

Morris flew 57 missions-while some actors only flew 20 or less- and made seven kills, which qualified him as an ace.  He also helped sink five enemy ships.

He originally was told he was too big to fly fighter planes until he went to his uncle-in-law, Cdr. David McCampbell who wrote him a letter, allowing him to fly the VF-15, according to “McCampbell’s Heroes: the Story of the U.S. Navy’s Most Celebrated Carrier Fighter of the Pacific”, Edwin P. Hoyt.

Three of his planes were so badly damaged by enemy fire that they were deemed unfit to fly and were dumped in the ocean, according to IMDB.

“As to what a fellow thinks when he’s scared, I guess it’s the same with anyone. You get fleeting glimpses in your mind of your home, your wife, the baby you want to see,” Morris said. “You see so clearly all the mistakes you made. You want another chance to correct those mistakes. You wonder how you could have attached so much importance to ridiculous, meaningless things in your life. But before you get to thinking too much, you’re off into action and everything else is forgotten.”

For his duty, Morris was honored with four Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Air Medals.

When he returned to Hollywood after four year at war, his once promising career floundered and Warner Brothers did not allow him to act for a year.

Jack Warner welcoming actors home from the war in 1945 including Wayne Morris, Ronald Reagan, Army Air Forces; Jack Warner; Gig Young, Coast Guard; and Harry Lewis, Army.

Jack Warner welcoming actors home from the war in 1945 including Wayne Morris, Ronald Reagan, Army Air Forces; Jack Warner; Gig Young, Coast Guard; and Harry Lewis, Army.

Morris’s most notable post-war films include “The Voice of the Turtle,” “John Loves Mary” and “Paths of Glory.” His career ended with several B-westerns.

At the age of 45, Morris passed away in 1959 from a massive heart attack.

But his service to his country was not forgotten. Morris is buried in Arlington Cemetery and was given full military honors at his funeral.

Morris with his wife Patricia and daughter Pamela in 1946.

Morris with his wife Patricia and daughter Pamela in 1946.

Though I am thankful for all men and women who serve our country, I wanted to recognize Wayne Morris.

For years I saw Wayne Morris in films and knew nothing about him except that I liked him. He is one of those character actors that can make a movie special.

Morris seemed like a regular guy. Before he started out in Hollywood, he played football at Los Angeles Junior College and worked as a forest ranger.

After I researched him and discovered his war record, I wanted to honor his service and his work in films.

Thank you to Wayne Morris and men and women in the military for serving our country.

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Favorite Films: So Proudly We Hail (1943)

 

Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard, Veronica Lake

Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard and Veronica Lake.

The three very different Paramount Pictures actresses are brought together to star in one of my favorite 1940s films, “So Proudly We Hail” (1943).

The film follows a group of U.S. Army nurses- Claudette Colbert (as Lt. Janet Davidson) and Paulette Goddard (as Lt. Joan O’Doul)- who leave for Hawaii for their tour of duty. Shortly after they leave, Pearl Harbor is attacked and the United States is brought into World War II. The military ship picks up nurses and wounded from Pearl Harbor, one a troubled nurse Lt. Olivia D’Arcy, played by Veronica Lake. The nurses are then sent to the Philippines, first assisting soldiers in Bataan and then evacuating to Corregidor.

From a dramatization of Doolittle’s Raid in “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” to “Mrs. Miniver” showing life on the British home front and the Battle of Dunkirk, Hollywood made several films that depicted what was going on overseas during World War II.

While I enjoy most 1940s era World War II films, I love “So Proudly We Hail” because of its focus on military nurses.

Lt. Summers (George Reeves) and Lt. Davidson (Claudette Colbert)

Lt. Summers (George Reeves) and Lt. Davidson (Claudette Colbert)

Colbert is the real star of the film; the rock of the group of nurses, leading them to aid injured soldiers. Goddard and Lake flank her as secondary female leads: Goddard the flirty, glamor girl and Lake the troubled, quiet nurse.

Their differences in real life as actresses as well as the differences in their characters illustrate the wide range of people who were brought in to serve together during war time.

“The events in this movie were still very much on the minds of Americans when this film came out,” said Turner Classic Movies prime time host Robert Osborne in the DVD introduction. “Events in the movie had happened for real recently and news reports were still coming out.”

Movies like this are made to make viewers feel proud and patriotic of their country, but what I like about “So Proudly We Haill” is that I feel it’s fairly realistic.

Nurses with 104 degree temperatures from malaria are still caring for men while others are craving tomatoes and milk, items that can’t be found on the military front.

“What is a heroine,” One nurse asks, tired of all the attention on their voyage home.

“I don’t know. Anyone who is still alive,” another says.

Joan (Paulette Goddard) and Kansas (Sonny Tufts)

Joan (Paulette Goddard) and Kansas (Sonny Tufts)

While Claudette Colbert is consistently good in all of her films, “So Proudly We Hail” gave Veronica Lake and Paulette Goddard the chance to show off their acting chops.

One scene that sticks out is when Goddard and Colbert find out why Lake acts cold towards the other nurses:

She opens up to Colbert about why she is angry and is there to “kill Japs”:

“Today is Christmas, isn’t it? The time for cheer and good fellowship and for peace. Well, today’s my wedding day. He and I were to be married today in St. Louis. And why weren’t we? Because he’s dead. He died that first morning. They killed him. I saw him. He was running across the field to his plane and they killed him. Sixty bullets – sixty! By the time I got to him he was dead. His face was gone – I couldn’t see him anymore. Just blood – blood all over.”

For Goddard, the scene that sticks out is when she tearfully says goodbye to soldiers in a military hospital before being shipped back to the United States.

When the film starts, Goddard is flirty, saying she has two fiancés, because she can’t say no to an engagement. But throughout the film, as she sees the horrors of war, she wants to help in every way she can, attending to soldiers and never sleeping. At the end she gives the wounded soldiers small gifts of hers and her old love letters for some laughs.

Other scenes that stick out to me:

• When Pearl Harbor is attacked, the nurses and military personnel are on a boat several miles out watch the bombing. There are screams of horror and disbelief, though they watch the attacks.

• Lt. O’Doul (Goddard) wearing a lacy black nightgown throughout the film. The night gown first enters as a dress for the Christmas party. Later she wears it every night to keep her moral up.

• The son of Nurse Capt. “Ma” McGregor has his legs amputated and soon after dies. Her son never knew his father, because he died in battle, and now Ma’s grandson won’t know his father either.

“My son like his father died for what he knew what is right. And if we don’t make it right, then they will all rise up and destroy us,” she says.

•The scene when the nurses are left behind during an evacuation. The nurses are the last to ship out during evacuation as the Japanese move closer. Lt. O’Doul forgets her nightgown, holding their truck up and the male drivers are shot. As Lt. Davidson (Colbert) searches for the truck keys to drive them out the nurses panic.

Veronica Lake "surrendering" to Japanese.

Veronica Lake “surrendering” to Japanese.

“I was in Nanking. I saw what they did. They fight over the women like dogs,” said Lt. Peterson (Ann Doran) panicking.

-During this scene is when Lt. D’Arcy dies. She takes a grenade, pulls out the pin, puts it in her uniform and walks towards the Japanese pretending to surrender. She dies to protect her peers and to “kill Japs” which is what she originally said she wanted to do. The scene is horrifying and shocking for a 1940s film.

• When the Japanese bomb the military hospital, sweet nurse Lt. Rosemary Larson, (Barbara Britton) is killed when the roof of the hospital collapses.

• When Lt. Davidson and Lt. Summers (George Reeves) get married and are given gifts of bread and peanut butter. Another sign of how much items we take for granted were valued.

The movie also has two romances: A playful and joking one between Paulette Goddard and a marine played by Sonny Tufts, and a more serious, passionate one with Claudette Colbert and a soldier played by George Reeves. However, I don’t feel the relationship takes away from the true purpose of the film.

As mentioned before, the three actresses were very different, and it has been rumored that they didn’t get along.

“All three were popular actresses and not accustomed to sharing close-ups,” Osborne said.

In Veronica Lake’s autobiography, she said she got along with her co-stars while it was Colbert and Goddard who locked horn. However, actor George Reeves disagreed.

“George Reeves said Veronica was the difficult one,” Osborne said. “Claudette was the moral builder for the whole cast, and if there was a problem it was because all three were so different. Reeves said it takes three to make a quarrel and Colbert wasn’t into that. She was too busy doing her work.”

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Birthday Blogathon: Film #4 Since You Went Away 1944

For my fourth evening of birthday favorite films I chose:

Since You Went Away (1944)

Jane and Bridget listening to Anne read a letter from their father. (This actually is my desktop background).

Brief plot: The story of Anne Hilton and her two daughters Jane and Bridget on the American World War II home-front while their father is overseas fighting. The film stars Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple, Joseph Cotton, Robert Walker, Hattie McDaniel, Monty Wooley and Agnes Moorehead (among several cameo appearances).

Why I love it: 

Jane and Bridget talking about a boarder with their mom

My favorite time period is the World War II era. One thing that particularly fascinates me about this time is the war effort on the home front-what this film call the “unconquerable fortress”. This movie chronicles life on the home front and daily adjustments Americans went through in order to help soldiers overseas-there aren’t many films that show this. But aside from the historical aspect of the film, the actors, camera shots and script make “Since You Went Away” absolutely perfect.

Cast: This film has a very strong, star-studded cast and every actor is perfect. Claudette Colbert does an excellent job as Anne Hilton and Shirley Temple (Bridget) and Jennifer Jones (Jane) embody how I think a 1940s teenager would act. Joseph Cotton plays family friend Tony Willett who used to carry a flame for Anne. Monty Wooley is Col. Smollett who boards at the Hilton home during tough financial times and Robert Walker is his grandson Bill who falls in love with Jane.  Hattie McDaniel is the Hilton’s maid, Fidelia, who has to quit and work at another reason residence, because the Hiltons can no longer afford her. However she comes back to live with them, because she doesn’t like the other servants at the new employers home. Lastly, Agnes Moorehead is Emily Hawkins, Anne’s catty friend who thinks war sacrifices mean hoarding food in a cold storage unit and hosting canteen dances.

But one very special thing this film is the plethora of uncredited cameos. Tim Hilton, Anne’s husband that has already left for basic training when the movie begins, can be seen in photos. The actor who is supposed to be Tim is Neil Hamilton-known for his role of the commissioner in the 1960s show “Batman” and who usually played cads in early 1930s films.

Throughout the film, you can see:
-Dorothy Dandridge and Ruth Roman at the train station
-Guy Madison as the sailor Bill and Jane meet at the bowling alley
-Lionel Barrymore as a clergyman in the Hilton’s church
-Kennan Wynn at the Hilton’s Christmas party as Tony’s friend
-Silent star Alla Nazimova as Anne’s immigrant friend who works in the shipyards with her.
-Rhonda Flemming as a girl at the dance
-Terry Moore as a refugee child on the train
-Character actor Grady Sutton (who pops up in so many movies!) looking for Suzy Flemming at the dance-I wonder if he ever finds her?
-Jimmie Dodd of Mickey Mouse Club fame as a train passenger
-And other recognizable faces like Jackie Moran, Craig Stevens, Lloyd Corrigan and Irving Bacon.

Emily and Anne in the background of the Paradise Cocktail Lounge-strangers talking in the front.

Script:  
One that makes me laugh every time is when Fidelia brings in a cake for Col. Smullett’s birthday and says she did something different to it.
Col: “What was the experiment with this cake?”
Fidelia: “I tried something new:I bought it!
I also like when Jane tells Emily Hawkins off after Hawkins said well-bred girls shouldn’t be war nurses: “Please don’t worry if our hands come in contact with their mangled bodies. We’ll survive even if they don’t!”
But my absolute favorite part of script is something I’ve always thought was very creative. During four separate scenes-Anne and Emily at the cocktail lounge, the canteen dance, the train on the way to see ‘pop’ and the train station as Bill is about to leave.

The camera takes the audience through crowds of people, and we hear snippets of several different conversations. It gives you a sense of what different people were talking about during the war, patriotic or unconcerned with the country’s conditions. Here is the dialogue from each of those scenes:
-The Paradise Cocktail Lounge scene:
1.”The moral breakdown of this country is caused by drinking….this is lousy scotch.” 2. “I don’t mind red finger nails but red toe nails is going too far”
3. “I went shopping before the hoarders got there.”
4. “I can’t write everything the baby says down on those little V-cards.”
-The Canteen Dance scene:
1.“I feel so good, don’t you feel good?”
2. “Now Suzy Flemming, she’s a one man woman.”
3. “I love to read books, don’t you think they are so….”
4.”Why do they call you Walt, is that your nickname?”
-The Train to see pop:
1. Business Man: “If we keep stopping like this, I’ll miss the biggest deal of my life.’ Armless Soldier: “Well I’m in no hurry, I’ve got plenty of time from now on”
2.“My husband’s never seen the baby”
3.“And after the Germans came we didn’t have milk or meat at all”
4.“Only serving two meals a day is simply outrageous”
-Train Station as Bill is leaving:
1.“Let me look at your darling so I can picture you always…now go and don’t look back” (Said to two different girls by the same soldier)
2. To a crying baby held by Dorothy Dandridge: “Look at the nice apple daddy got you”
3. “I’m sorry mom I’ve only got 5 minutes, my furlough was canceled.”
4.”I swear I can’t tell any difference between it and butter.”
5. Little girl to MP: “Hello, my mommy’s a sergeant.” MP squats down to child: “She is!”
6.”What’s a good excuse for being AWOL?”
7. Ruth Roman: “Agnes, look at that dame, nylons!”
8. Soldier: “Five months pay…give me some War Bonds! Plenty of them!”
9. Two soldiers: “I wonder where we can go for free where we don’t have to dance with hostesses.”

Jane at the train station

Camera technique: I feel some of the camera techniques in this film might compete with Hitchcock. The director took advantage of light and shadows. One example of this is Bill and Jane sitting on the Hilton’s back porch talking. The two are back-lit so we only see their silhouettes. The only light from the couple is when Bill lights his cigarette. Another is when Jane is saying goodbye to Bill at the train station. She stands there waving goodbye, the camera pulls back and her shadow stretches about 100 feet across the station. Another shot I really like is when Guy Madison leaves Jane and Bill after they walk around downtown. He gets on the bus and walks to the back, but the camera stays on him as he walks and the bus is driving away to the left and going off screen. But some of my shots are during the dance at the canteen.  One part is the shadows as couples waltz (seen at 2:05 in the video below). Also right after they find out Johnny Mahoney dies, there is a shot through a star emblem and you see everyone dancing in the background, very beautiful.

Home front: I feel like this movie is so natural and believable not just a bunch of Hollywood stars playing roles. No, not all families were as well off as the Hiltons were before Mr. Hilton went off to war and not everyone’s mother looked like Claudette Colbert-but we see a lot of what I think is pretty realistic.
-A cop pulls Tony and Anne over just to chat, because he doesn’t see cars much since gas rationing.
-Bridget keeps a plant in the sink to make sure it gets water, because her father gave it to her.
-Anne initially doesn’t really understand why Tim enlisted. She doesn’t do much for the war effort to start out with, because she feels like missing her husband and taking in a boarder is enough. By the end she is working in a shipyard.
-Jane starts off as a silly, boy crazy high school girl and matures throughout the film. Part of it has to do with falling in love with Bill, but another part of it has to do with her work as a nurse and what she sees at the hospital.
-Bridget is in her early teens throughout the film, so she still is pretty young and unchanging, but she seems to be the average, patriotic teenager saying her “Pop looks like a parade all by himself” when he is in his uniform.
-We also see a glimpse of war life as people talk about rationing. There isn’t any ice cream at the soda fountain and instead they have a “Victory Punch,” and we see Bridget sorting scrap metal.
-Along with the patriotism we also see those who didn’t care about the war, like Emily Hawkins. At one point she flippantly says to Anne after Tim is missing in action, “Oh, and I’m sorry about Tim. I’m sure he’ll show up sometime.”

Hotel, after Tim couldn’t meet them

Drinking Victory sodas at the soda fountain

Bridget and Monty Woolley looking for “We-Took-It,” Texas on the map

To review: This film is two and a half hours so I feel like I could write on and on and on about it forever, but in a nut shell-I adore this film. It’s perfect. The shots, the characters, the American life on the home front. Its one that makes you laugh at some scenes and crying in the next. It’s one emotional roller coaster of a film-and I can sincerely say it’s my all time favorite.

This concludes Night 4 of Birthday Blogathon Week.

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Elkin goes to war and Hollywood

Fred Norman, 19, in 1943 when he enlisted.

I met one of the last Americans to see Churchill, Stalin and Truman together and who also has met several Hollywood stars.

            On Wednesday, I was excited about the interview and wore a skirt and turtleneck rather than my usual outfit of jeans.  I wanted to show respect to this particular interviewee.

            It was already a crazy morning after driving 20 minutes to a wreck and I was running a little late for our 10 a.m. appointment.

            I pulled up to a beautiful ranch style home, I later found out he and his wife built it in 1954, and was greeted at the door by 88-year-old Fred Norman before I even rang the doorbell.

            I’d seen younger photos of him and he looked basically the same-still wearing his hair in the 1940s wave style and a few pounds heavier.

            “Hello!!” he happily said inviting me inside. We sat down and started to talk about his war years.

            Norman was in the 3rd Army, sixth division (or Super Six) that fought under General George S. Patton. Under Patton he fought in the Siege of Bastogne to relieve the U.S. 101st Airborne Division who was surrounded by the German in the Battle of the Bulge (this is shown in the 1948 film “Battleground”).

            Norman was with the American, French and British forces who went into Berlin, Germany after the Russians.  He was also there with hundreds of other soldiers and tanks that lined the Autobahn as Harry Truman, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin rode into Berlin for the Potsdam Conference that determined Nazi Germany’s punishment.

            “Churchill had his daughter Sarah with him and Stalin was in the biggest limousine I’ve ever seen,” Norman said.  “Truman road up in a convertible and I slipped out of rank and snuck into the forest to take a picture. I’m probably one of the last people living to see those three together. I was 21 at the time and it was 66 years ago so there can’t be many of us left.”

            Born and raised in Elkin, N.C., Norman was 19-years-old and a student at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when he was drafted into the Army. He was sent to California for basic training before going overseas to England.

            After the war, Norman married his sweetheart since the fourth grade, Nan ‘Hon’ Johnson. She passed away in 2007.

Fred Norman and his division in front of their tank in Bastogne. I said he was like Van Johnson in "Battleground." He got bashful and said "I don't know about that"

“When I got out of the Army I said, ‘Nan we aren’t having any long engagement, we’ve been engaged since the fourth grade,’” Norman laughed.  “Hon and I were married for 62 years and we had a great life. Someone may go but the memories never leave.”

            Towards the end of the interview I asked if he saw any movie stars or went to the Hollywood Canteen while he was in California for training.

            “I saw a bunch of stars when I went to Hollywood, but I don’t think you’d know anything about them,” he said.

            I quickly said I was actually a big movie fan. Mr. Norman smiled real big and we talked an extra 30 minutes about people he had seen at the Canteen and during the 1940s and 1950s.

            “I remember seeing Joan Blondell at the Hollywood Canteen-she was real famous at the time. That was a really great thing they did for us,” Norman said. “I also saw Frank Sinatra, he was mine and Hon’s number one.”

            Norman and a friend used to travel to New York City to see the Lucky Strike Radio Hour and listen to Frank Sinatra sing.

            “The girls just went crazy for him. I asked my friend ‘What has he got that we haven’t got?’ Every time he would move the girls would go crazy,” Norman said. “He was sitting on a stool and knelt down to adjust his loafer and the girls went ape. They did the show again two hours later for California audiences and I’ll be doggoned if those girls waited another two hours to listen to Frank again!”

            Norman also saw big band leader Kay Kyser several times since they both went to UNC Chapel Hill, but at different times.

Fred Norman and a friend at the Hollywood Canteen in 1944.

While overseas he saw Marlene Dietrich perform.

            “See what the boys in the backroom will have,” he sang thinking about the famous song Dietrich sang. “World War 2 was so different. Everyone was so dedicated. I don’t believe anyone would do that now.”

            In Berlin, Norman saw one of the most modern theaters he had ever seen. It had 12 doors that lead to every row of seats and an elevator stage.

            “The elevator stage rose up and there was Mickey Rooney,” he said. “I didn’t know how small that rascal was! He came out and said, ‘I know you are all going to tell me to get off my knees, but this is as tall as I get.’ He gave quite a show.”

            Norman met many incredible actors that we have lost today, but most importantly I’m thankful for what he did for our country. He fought under one of the greatest generals our country will ever see, and is the sweetest man I have ever met.

            For a long time, Norman didn’t talk about his war experiences.

            “I didn’t talk about the war for many years after I got home. Nobody did, I didn’t even talk to daddy about it,” he said. “It wasn’t until Tom Brokaw came out and said we needed to tell our stories that I did. I don’t mind telling some of the anecdotes, but there are a lot of things I saw that I just don’t want to talk about.”

            I’m proud that I was able to talk to him, and that I consider this man a friend.

            Thank you Fred Norman, and all the other veteran’s who have served our country.

To read more about Norman’s war experiences, you can read my article on the Elkin Tribune website.

Fred Norman today showing off his Nazi helmet and flag he captured during WW2.

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Hooray for the red, white and blue

I’ve always been under the firm belief that World War II era America is one of the most patriotic times this country has ever had. Women saved cooking grease, nylon hose and tubes of toothpaste to donate for war materials.  Film stars enlisted and performed for the soldiers. Female actresses danced with soldiers and talked to them about their mother’s and girlfriends. Here are some photos I found of actors entertaining service men. Enjoy 🙂

Betty Hutton dancing with a soldier

Olivia de Havilland with Navy officers

Ginger Rogers, Gloria DeHaven and other actresses shower a young soldier with attention. (LIFE)

Loretta Young visiting a Naval hospital

Carole Landis visiting soldiers in the South Pacific

Hedy Lamarr playing cards with soldiers

Ann Sheridan preparing to visit men overseas. Notice that she is also painted on the side of the plane.

USO king, Bob Hope, with soldiers

Marlene Dietrich playing the saw between her knees for a military audience. (My grandfather saw her do this)

Carole Lombard selling war bonds.

Robert Benchley and Charles Butterworth serving coffee at the Hollywood Canteen

Rita Hayworth showing some cheesecake as she dishes up food at the Hollywood Canteen

Veronica Lake mingling with a solider

This may be my favorite: Marlene Dietrich, Bob Hope, Joan Leslie, Jane Wyman (I think), and Bette Davis looking at Hollywood actors who enlisted. I think Bette is crying

Hope you enjoyed all of the photos. HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY! 🙂

 

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Happy 4th of July, Pilgrim

Today we celebrate the birth of America. I thought about what makes me think “Now that’s America” when I watch old movies. Here are a few things that I thought of:

John Wayne looking VERY attractive in “Stagecoach” (1939).

John Wayne: What other actor is so widely known and associated with America? His roles are usually a cowboy or a soldier. My favorite role of his is from “They Were Expendable” which is probably one of the best World War 2 movies along with “Battleground.”
Many of my friends and others have criticized John Wayne as always playing the same role, or playing himself. I personally don’t see the issue with this when so many of today’s actors like Katherine Hegel or Jennifer Aniston play the same role over and over again. The only difference is John Wayne played meaningful, strong and manly roles while those actresses are always dizzy, confused dames. To me, John All-America actor. He even played football in college, what could be more American than that?

Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple in my favorite movie, “Since You Went Away” (1944)

The 1940s: Another thing that embodies America is the 1940s war era. I suppose I am a bit romantic about patriotism because I crave a patriotism that no longer exists. During World War II, men were willing to fight for the country and those on the home front who couldn’t fight did all they could to help out. Victory Gardens were grown, cooking grease was saved and sent to the military, women sacrificed their silk stockings and painted their legs. People gave up daily luxuries that people today would refuse to give up.

LIFE magazine: LIFE magazine used to be the top publication. I can’t think of a magazine published today that can compare to LIFE. It showed the world the truth about war, the current fashions and let them in on celebrity lives. Even more so, it was a magazine that was started to revolve around photo journalism. It has some of the best photos and photographers like Robert Capa who showed us what war really was.

Harry James in “Best Foot Foward”

Other things:
-Pin-Up girls: Betty Grable, Esther Williams or Rita Hayworth. They all had sex appeal, but that same attainable, girl next door quality.
-Big Band music: No one can play a trumpet better than Harry James and Tommy Dorsey always seemed like one of the most likeable fellows. Glenn Miller even died while he was flying to a USO show during World War II.-Irving Berlin: Jerome Kern once said, “Irving Berlin has no place in American music, he is American music.” The man wrote “White Christmas”, “Cheek to Cheek” and “Putin’ on the Ritz”, who else can you say that about?

Also happy birthday to: Louis B. Mayer, George M. Cohan, George Murphy, Gloria Stewart, Eva Marie Saint and Stephen Boyd.

Happy 4th of July!

Ziegfeld girls in 1936

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