Musical Monday: Sweet Kitty Bellairs (1930)

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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:
Sweet Kitty Bellairs –Musical #358

Sweet_Kitty_Bellairs_1930_Poster

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Alfred E. Green

Starring:
Claudia Dell, Ernest Torrence, Walter Pidgeon, Perry Askam, June Collyer

Plot:
Flirtatious Kitty Bellairs (Dell) goes to Bath, England, on holiday and all the men are after her, including Lord Varney (Pidgeon). Though she’s a flirt, she sings “in spite of my thirty or forty affairs, I’ve lost not a bit of my virtue.” On her way to Bath, her carriage is stopped by a robber who says he won’t rob her if he gives her a kiss. While Kitty is visiting her friend Julia (Collyer), her husband Lord Standish (Torrence) leaves her. Kitty gives Julia the advice to gussy up and pretend that she has a lover, which works in making Lord Standish jealous.

Publicity shot of Claudia Dell dressed in costume as Sweet Kitty Bellair

Publicity shot of Claudia Dell dressed in costume as Sweet Kitty Bellair

Trivia:
-This film was announced to be in Technicolor in a April 11, 1930 news brief. “Although it was reported last week, that the production was to be done in black and white, a last minute dispatch from the coast states the final decision to be in Technicolor.” Though the film was shot entirely in Technicolor, only a black and white print survives.

Highlights:
–Walter Pidgeon singing

Notable Songs:
-Highwayman Song performed by Perry Askam
-My Love, I’ll Be Waiting for You performed by Claudia Dell and Walter Pidgeon
-You, I Love But You performed by Claudia Dell
-Dueling Song performed by Ernest Torrence, Perry Askam, Edgar Norton, Lionel Belmore, Douglas Gerrard and others

Walter Pidgeon in costume for "Sweet Kitty Bellair"

Walter Pidgeon in costume for “Sweet Kitty Bellair”

My Review:
Somehow these early talkie films-whether they are musical, drama or comedy- are tiresome to me. “Sweet Kitty Bellairs” is better than most of them, but still not outstanding. It’s a humorous little musical romp lasting only an hour long. I believe it’s brief length is the only reason it’s bearable.
It has the added bonus of seeing early Walter Pidgeon and we get to hear Pidgeon and Ernest Torrence sing.
The story itself got poor reception in 1930 but received high praise for it’s color film.
It’s just disappointing the the Technicolor print no longer exists.

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Musical Monday-Academy Award Winners: Mother Wore Tights (1947)

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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:
Mother Wore Tights- Musical #215

mother wore tights

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Walter Lang

Starring:
Betty Grable, Dan Dailey, Mona Freeman, Connie Marshall, Sara Algood, William Frawley, Sig Ruman, Lee Patrick, Robert Arthur, Vanessa Brown, Kathryn Grimes (uncredited), Mae Marsh (uncredited), Kathleen Lockhart (uncredited)
Narrator: Ann Baxter

Plot:
Narrated through the point of view of a grown daughter, the story follows Myrtle McKinley (Grable) who graduates from high school and accidentally finds herself in vaudeville; shirking her original plans of business college. In vaudeville she meets and falls in love with fellow performer, Frank Burt (Dailey). The two eventually get married, have children and adjust to life on the road with their children.

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Musical Monday: Devil-May-Care (1929)

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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.

devilThis week’s musical:
Devil-May-Care (1929) – Musical #536

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Sidney Franklin

Starring:
Ramon Novarro, Dorothy Jordan, Marion Harris, John Miljan, Ann Dvorak (uncredited), John Carroll (uncredited)

Plot:
Set during the Napoleonic era, Armand de Treville (Novarro) is a soldier for Napoleon and is jailed by the king. He is about to be killed by a firing squad and escapes. He hides in the bedroom of beautiful Leonie de Beaufort (Jordan), who immediately decides she hates Armand because she is a royalist. Armand continues to hide out from the royalists at the home of his friend Countess Louise (Harris), where he hides as a servant. Leonie ends up being the cousin of the Countess and she stays with her and resists the advances of Armand.

Trivia:
-Ramon Novarro’s talking debut.
-Labeled the “first dramatic operetta of talking pictures,” according to Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro
By Andre Soares
-Composer Dimitri Tiomkin wrote the ballet music in the musical score.

Notable Songs:
-Charming performed by Ramon Novarro
-March of the Guard performed by a chorus
-If He Cared performed by Dorothy Jordan

Highlights:
-Ramon Novarro singing.
-The brief Technicolor portion featuring the Albertina Rasch Dancers

My review:
I honestly wasn’t expecting much as I went into “Devil-May-Care.” In fact, I didn’t know it was going to be a musical until I saw the title card which detailed it as a “musical romance.” But as I continued watching, this ended up being a pleasant little film.
I think my biggest take away from “Devil-May-Care” was that I had no idea that Ramon Novarro could sing and with such a pleasant voice! “Devil-May-Care” wasn’t only the first time audiences heard Novarro sing, but also was the first time they ever heard him sing, as this was Novarro’s first talking film.
At one time, Novarro was a top draw in the box offices and was known the “New Valentino.” While this film is noteworthy as his first talkie, like many others, Novarro’s star began to slip with the dawn of talking pictures.
“Devil-May-Care” has a pretty slow moving story, but it flowed better with song and plot line than any other early (1929-1930) movie musical I have seen to date.
The movie was met with positive, but unenthusiastic reviews. The Dec. 23, 1929, review by Mordaut Hall called is “pleasant entertainment.”
“Mr. Novarro is not impressive as a Frenchman. He sings agreeably, but not as freely as one might anticipate after the constant references to his operatic career,” Hall wrote.
Hall also humorously wrote about troubles in the projection room during his “Devil-May-Care” experience: “The reproduction is fairly good, but once or twice last night the mechanics got beyond control of the operators in the projection booth.”
The plot line itself is uninspired and a bit slow, and it’s a bit distracting that Novarro is supposed to be French but speaks with a heavy Mexican accent. However, this little musical is notable for allowing fans to first hear the voice Ramon Novarro.

Ramon Novarro and Dorothy Jordan

Ramon Novarro and Dorothy Jordan

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Musical Monday: Dames (1934)

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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:
Dames (1934) – Musical #225

dames poster

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Ray Enright, Busby Berkeley

Starring:
Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Hugh Herbert, Zasu Pitts, Guy Kibbee

Plot:
Eccentric cousin Ezra Ounce (Herbert) decides to divide up his fortune of $10 million before he dies. Part of this will go to his cousin Mathilda and her husband. However, Ezra hates actors and their daughter is looking at going into show business.

Trivia:
-Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell’s fourth film together.
-Ruby Keeler’s last film with Busby Berkely.

Notable Songs:
-Dames performed by Dick Powell
-I Only Have Eyes for You performed by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler
-Try to See It My Way performed by Dick Powell
-The Girl at the Ironing Board performed by Joan Blondell

Ruby Keeler dancing in "Dames."

Ruby Keeler dancing in “Dames.”

Publicity photo of Dick Powell and several "Dames."

Publicity photo of Dick Powell and several “Dames.”

Highlights:
-The elaborate “Only Have Eyes for You” number that features several large shots and blown up pictures of Ruby Keeler. The best part is when Keeler rises up from below the stage through a trap door, that happens to be in the pupil of her eye.

 

blondell

Joan Blondell causing trouble for Guy Kibbee in “Dames.”

My review:
While “42nd Street” and “Footlight Parade” are my top two favorite Busby Berkeley directed films starring Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell (one of seven), “Dames” comes in at a close third.
Like the other two, “Dames” has it all: An excellent cast, breathtaking Berkeley directed musical numbers, toe tapping songs, humor and it’s very pre-code. In fact, I find “Dames” to be pretty hilarious.
An great example of humor and pre-code in “Dames” is when Guy Kibbee finds Joan Blondell stowing away in his bed on a train. Blondell isn’t wearing pajamas and Kibbee is fearful of a scandal that would make him lose the millions of dollars his very moral cousin has agreed to leave him. When Kibbee orders her to leave, she says “Why? I don’t snore.”
More humor comes when cousins Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell are in love, but we learn Powell is Keeler’s 13th cousin.
The film’s plot mainly revolves around Cousin Ezra’s (Herbert) moral code and hating theater people. This is why Ezra has disowned his relative Jimmy (Powell), because he is in the theater and trying to put on a show. As long as his family members Horace (Kibbee), Mathilda (Pitts) and Barbara (Keeler), don’t interact with Jimmy, they will get $6 million. However, Barbara is in love with Jimmy and also plans to audition to for his show.
Further complications arise when Mabel (Blondell) plans to blackmail Horace for money, know he would lose the $6 million if Ezra knew of their run in on the train.
Joan Blondell is wonderful in this film, as she is with everything else. We learn in these musicals that she really lacks the pipes to carry a tune, but her character and humor make up for it.
The “Only Have Eyes for You” number is really outstanding. it’s really a solid 5 minute homage to Ruby Keeler, complete with people dancing with large cut outs of her face and her face becoming the dance floor.
As far as Busby Berkeley, pre-code musicals go, “Dames” is the tops. Add it to your list of “must sees.”

 

Some Busby Berkeley shots: 

dames4 dames5 dames busby dames3 dames2 Dames1

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Musical Monday: Blues in the Night (1941)

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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.

Poster - Blues in the Night_01This week’s musical:
“Blues in the Night” (1941)– Musical #191

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Anatole Litvak

Starring:
Priscilla Lane, Jack Carson, Richard Whorf, Lloyd Nolan, Elia Kazan, Billy Halop, Betty Field, Wallace Ford, Joyce Compton, Howard Da Silva, Faith Domergue (uncredited), Faye Emerson (uncredited), William Hopper (uncredited)

Plot:
Jigger (Whorf), Leo (Carson), Peppi (Halop), Nickie (Kazan), and Pete (Whitney) have formed a jazz band and want to take it on the road. With Leo’s wife, “Character” (Lane) as the lead singer, the group rides the rails and hitchhikes to each gig. Character and Leo’s marriage is unstable, as he gambles a great deal, and she’s afraid to tell him when she gets pregnant, because she knows he doesn’t want to be tied down. The group runs into escaped convict Del Davis (Nolan) who steals their money and then offers them a job at a New Jersey road house since they didn’t turn him over to the police. The road house is a dump but they eventually build it into a swinging establishment. Even with more steady work, their problems haven’t ended. Kay Grant (Field) first has her sites set on Leo and then turns to Whorf, causing him to eventually have a nervous breakdown.

Trivia:
-Harold Arlen (music) and Johnny Mercer (lyrics) were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Best Original song, “Blues in the Night”
-Faith Domergue first role in a film as an uncredited jitterbug dancer.
-Richard Whorf’s role of Jigger was offered to both James Cagney and John Garfield, according to Anatole Litvak: The Life and Films
By Michelangelo Capua
-The original title of the film was first “Hot Nocturne” and then “New Orleans Blues,” according to Anatole Litvak: The Life and Films
By Michelangelo Capua

priscilla

Notable Songs:
-Blues in the Night performed several times throughout the film
-Hang on to Your Lids, Kids performed by Priscilla Lane
-Says Who? Says You, Says I
-This Time the Dream’s on Me performed by Priscilla Lane

Hightlights:
-Blues in the Night performed in the jail
-The crazy montage of when Richard Whorf has a break down

My review:

Betty Field in "Blues in the Night"

Betty Field in “Blues in the Night”

While categorized as a musical, “Blue in the Night” is an interesting blend of crime, noir and music. This isn’t your typical upbeat musical and Priscilla Lane isn’t plucky and carefree.
The film depicts the struggles of an up and coming jazz band and the dynamics of an unstable marriage. Priscilla Lane and Jack Carson are married in the film, but it’s clear that while he married her, he really doesn’t want to be tied down and is constantly gambling and carousing. When Priscilla Lane’s character gets pregnant, she is afraid to tell her husband because it would ruin his care free lifestlye and she fears he would leave her.
The movie has crime and gangster film elements as well when the band gets involved with Lloyd Nolan, a gangster who is hiding out, and his ex-moll, played by Betty Field who has her eyes on most of the men in the band.
Added bonus is that you get to hear Johnny Mercer’s “Blues in the Night” a few times throughout the film.
If you’re looking for a rollicking musical, “Blues in the Night” isn’t really for you.
But if you are looking for a characteristic brooding Warner Brothers film, this could be for you.

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Musical Monday: Small Town Girl (1953)

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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.

b70-14305This week’s musical:
“Small Town Girl” (1953)– Musical #76

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
László Kardos

Starring:
Jane Powell, Farley Granger, Ann Miller, Fay Wray, Billie Burke, S.Z. Sakall, Bobby Van, Robert Keith, Robert Hyatt, Chill Wills (uncredited)
Themselves: Nat King Cole

Plot:
Judge Kimbell (Keith) throws big city hot shot Rick Livingston (Granger) in jail for going 80 miles per mile in a small town with his Broadway girlfriend Lisa Bellmount (Miller). The judge’s daughter Cindy (Powell) ends up falling for Rick.

Trivia:
-Nicholas Brodszky and Leo Robin were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song for the song “My Flaming Heart.”
-Dances choreographed by Busby Berkeley.
-Ann Miller’s “I’ve Gotta Heart That Beat” performance has 86 instruments up through the floor and the musicians are hidden beneath the floor, according to The Rough Guide to Film Musicals by David Parkinson
-Musical director is André Previn.
-Costumes by Helen Rose.

Highlights:
-Nat King Cole’s appearance and performance
-Ann Miller’s “I’ve Gotta Hear that Beat” number
-Bobby Van’s exhausting 3 minute jump through town.

Notable Songs:
-I’ve Gotta Hear that Beat performed by Ann Miller tap dancing and hands coming out of the floor playing drums and holding saxophones, clarinets and violins.
-My Flaming Heart performed by Nat King Cole

My review:
“Small Town Girl” is a fun, colorful musical with an outstand cast. However, of Jane Powell’s MGM films, this is not her best. The storyline isn’t a bad one and it has some cute, humorous moments, but I prefer other Powell films such as “Luxury Liner” and “Holiday in Mexico.”

Farley Granger plays the arrogant, rich playboy well but is a poor romantic match for Powell.

While Jane Powell is known for her beautiful, operatic voice, she doesn’t have many notable songs or musical numbers. The real stand out musical numbers come from the supporting cast of Ann Miller, Bobby Van and an appearance from singer Nat King Cole as himself.

Ann Miller’s Busby Berkeley choreographed “Gotta Hear That Beat that Beat” is a visually amazing piece. The number is complete with Miller’s high speed tap dancing feet and instruments being played by bodiless hands.

A second impressive, though exhausting, number is Bobby Van jumping through his small town. While this is quite a feat, it also makes my knees hurt just watching him bound down the street, shaking hands and jumping across hedges.

Also, while Van’s jumping is interesting, his character is fairly annoying.

For Nat King Cole fans, you also have the opportunity to see the velvet voice singer during a nightclub scene, which is a real treat.

The film has a terrific supporting supporting cast with Robert Keith and Fay Wray as Powell’s parents, Billie Burke as Farley Granger’s mother, and S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall as Van’s father. You also get the comical Chill Wills as the jailer.

Once big stars of the 1930s Burke and Wray seem wasted in this film as they both have less than 10 or 15 minutes of screen time.

For me, Robert Keith and Cuddles Sakall provided the most comedic entertainment and were honestly my favorite part of this film.

While I enjoy “Small Town Girl,” but I wouldn’t suggest it as a “must see,” unless you are a huge fan of any of the stars in this movie.

Publicity photo of Farley Granger, Jane Powell and Bobby Van for "Small Town Girl."

Publicity photo of Farley Granger, Jane Powell and Bobby Van for “Small Town Girl.”

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Review: Bride of Boogedy (1987)

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A year after “Mr. Boogedy” (1986) aired, the Wonderful World of Disney aired its 1987 sequel, “Bride of Boogedy.”

In the sequel, the Davis family is now comfortably settled at their newly renovated in Lucifer Home and happily rid of the ghost Mr. Boogedy for a year.

The children in Mr. Lynch's store, and Mr. Lynch being grumpy.

The children in Mr. Lynch’s store, and Mr. Lynch being grumpy.

The family is involved and well liked in the town now, much to the chagrin of shop owner Tom Lynch (Eugene Levy). Eloise and Carl Davis (Mimi Kennedy and Richard Masur) are preparing to open their Gag City store downtown, and Carl Davis was named mayor of the town’s festival. This is a position usually held by Mr. Lynch, causing Mr. Lynch wanting the Davis family to leave town.

One night while walking home from babysitting, their daughter Jennifer (Tammy Lauren) is spooked in the woods by someone in a hat and cloak telling her to get out of his house. Believing that Mr. Boogedy is back, Jennifer runs home screaming.

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“My hope that women will not be afraid”: Classic Actresses who had Breast Cancer

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To go along with some monthly health observances, Comet Over Hollywood is recognizing actors who battled diseases and often, kept it a secret from their public and exhibited strength by continuing to practice their craft. Others helped create awareness or spearheaded organizations for research, such as Yul Brynner. For October 2015’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Comet is recognizing actresses who were diagnosed with breast cancer.

PicMonkey Collage

Today, breast cancer survivors are proud and openly share their stories. Some wear pink t-shirts saying they are a survivor, write memoirs or are interviewed by the news to help spread awareness to other women to pay attention to their bodies.

But for actresses of the Golden Era, this wasn’t the case. Many of their obituaries simply note they had endured a “long illness.” Newspapers said Judy Holliday was in the hospital for a bronchial illness and one obituary for Rosalind Russell said she died from stomach cancer. This was largely because of the stigma that surrounded this particular form of cancer.

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Musical Monday: The Glass Skipper (1955)

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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.

the glass slipperThis week’s musical:
“The Glass Skipper” (1955)– Musical #90

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Charles Walters

Starring:
Leslie Caron, Michael Wilding, Keenan Wynn, Elsa Lanchester, Estelle Winwood, Amanda Blake, Lurene Tuttle, Lisa Daniels, Barry Jones
Narrator: Walter Pidgeon

Plot:
Adaptation of the story of Cinderella. Ella (Caron), nicknamed Cinderella for her filthy appearance, is lonely and rebellious. She is the servant to her stepmother (Lanchester) and two stepsisters (Blake, Daniels), who are in a tizzy over the return of Prince Charles (Wilding) and are preparing for his ball. While sitting by her favorite secret spot by the river, Ella meets dizzy Mrs. Toquet, who everyone says is crazy. Ella also meets the prince by the river but doesn’t know he’s royalty. Mrs. Toquet helps Ella get ready for the ball without magic but through creative means.

Trivia:
-Choreography by Roland Petit.
-According to TCM host Robert Osborne, Michael Wilding was cast to keep his wife-MGM contract player Elizabeth Taylor-happy because Michael kept complaining that he wasn’t being given any roles.
-Leslie Caron wrote in her memoir “Thank Heaven,” Michael Wilding was so unhappy in his role as the prince that he begged Caron to throw a tantrum and say that she wanted a new co-star. She didn’t feel like she could make such demands. However, Caron said she and Wilding got along and she was always in awe of Elizabeth Taylor’s beauty, who was married to Wilding at the time.
-Michael Wilding was dubbed by Gilbert Russell.
-Dancers Tommy Rall, Jacques d’Amboise and James Mitchell were considered for the role of Prince Charming.

Leslie Caron and Michael Wilding in

Leslie Caron and Michael Wilding in “The Glass Slipper”

Leslie Caron and Lurene Tuttle in

Leslie Caron and Lurene Tuttle in “The Glass Slipper”

Highlights:
-Walter Pidgeon as the narrator
-Ballet numbers performed by Leslie Caron

Notable Songs:
This film was more about ballet numbers rather than songs.

My review:
“The Glass Slipper” is a glittering, charming and enchanting take on the classic story of Cinderella.
Set against a colorful, storybook land, the film has a remarkable supporting cast that includes Keenan Wynn, Elsa Lanchester and Amanda Blake.

“The Glass Slipper” isn’t your typical song and dance musical. There is only one song that is performed by a dubbed Michael Wilding, but the other numbers are beautiful ballet numbers daydreamed by Cinderella. There are three major ballet numbers in the film, exhibiting Caron’s lovely talent. I enjoyed watching her precise and perfect ballet steps, because I love dance and dancing. However, I can see how this could be dull for someone that isn’t interested in ballet.

Leslie Caron’s version of “Ella,” or Cinderella, is different than the sweet, sad character we are used to from the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals or the 1950 Walt Disney cartoon. Caron’s Ella is a bit of a tomboy and exhibits her loneliness and sadness through rebellion, talking back and scoffing at anyone who is rude to her.

Her fairy godmother is different from the traditional godmother who makes the evening happen with a magic wand. Played by Lurene Tuttle, rather than using magic, she steals…or borrows. She gathers the gown and glass slippers which she will return and makes a bargain with a driver of a carriage who has to take Cinderella home by 12 a.m. because his group is heading home at 1 a.m.

As for Ella’s stepfamily, rather than being evil, they are just lazy social climbers. Elsa Lanchester in her role as the evil stepmother is particularly hilarious.

But the person that makes the whole movie and that steals the show isn’t even shown on screen! I LOVE Walter Pidgeon as the narrator. He has the perfect delivery and warm tone to tell a fairy tale, but he is also hilarious! I laughed out loud many times at his dialogue.

The only downside of the film is Michael Wilding as the prince. He’s not bad but I feel sorry for him because he looks so uncomfortable. He’s in two of the dance numbers, and it’s obvious the choreographer worked to add Wilding into the dances without really doing anything. For example, Wilding stirs a pot in one number or stands while Caron dances around him. He looks so uncomfortable. Had a dancer such as James Mitchell or Tommy Rall been cast, it would have been appropriate, but studio politics cast Wilding instead. Acting wise, Wilding is fine.

“The Glass Slipper” is a lovely, magical film. When I originally saw this movie more than 10 years ago, I wasn’t enthralled. I’m glad I visited it again, because it found me enchanted.

Leslie Caron as Cinderella arriving at the ball in

Leslie Caron as Cinderella arriving at the ball in “The Glass Slipper.”

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“A Colorful Life”: Remembering Joan Leslie

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Actress Joan Leslie in the 1940s

Actress Joan Leslie in the 1940s

With her shining smile, bright eyes and fresh face, actress Joan Leslie had an innocent girl-next-door appeal. But during her career at Warner Brothers during the 1940s, Joan Leslie held her own in top films with major actors such as Ida Lupino, Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney.

She was a full-fledged star by age 17. And it all began on the stage when she was nine years old.

Joan Leslie—then Joan Brodel—was part of a sister act, with her sisters Mary and Betty, known as the Three Brodels. The sisters traveled the United States and Canada; singing, dancing, doing impressions and playing instruments, according to a 1999 interview in the book “Movies Were Always Magical” by Leo Verswijver.

Joan played the accordion and did an impression of actress Greta Garbo.

While performing in New York, an MGM scout saw Joan and signed her to play a small role in the Greta Garbo film “Camille” (1936). In film, Joan, 11, played Robert Taylor’s little sister. She had one line, welcoming him home as he arrived at her first communion.

As she continued to get small, uncredited roles in films such as “Nancy Drew—Reporter” (1938), “Susan And God” (1940) and “Foreign Correspondent” (1940), Joan changed her last name from Brodel to Leslie so she wouldn’t be confused with actress Joan Blondell.

Pictured with her sisters and mother in for a LIFE magazine photo spread.

Pictured with her sisters and mother in for a LIFE magazine photo spread.

But her big break came at age 15. Joan got the role of Velma, a young girl with a club foot, in the Howard Hawks directed film “High Sierra” (1940) starring Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino. In the film, Bogart is a criminal on the run, and when he meets Velma, he wants to help her get an operation for her foot.

At age 15, Joan Leslie with Humphrey Bogart in

At age 15, Joan Leslie with Humphrey Bogart in “High Sierra”

“That was such a good role,” Leslie said in the Verswijver interview. “And I was only 15! I wish I had more such roles when I was older.”

By age 17, Joan Leslie was on the cover of the Oct. 26, 1942, issue of LIFE magazine. “Joan Leslie: girlish and unassuming, at age 17 she shines brightly as a full-fledged movie star able to sing, dance and act,” the magazine headline said.

Joan Leslie on the cover of Life, Oct. 1942.

Joan Leslie on the cover of Life, Oct. 1942.

By this time, Leslie had starred with Bogart a second time in “Thieves Fall Out” (1941). Still in her teens, she played the love interest to top stars such as Gary Cooper in “Sergeant York” (1941) and James Cagney in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942).

“When you talk about working with the best, I’ll always remember Jimmy Cagney. What a creative, dynamic person he was,” she said in the 1999 interview.

Both Cooper and Cagney received Academy Awards for Best Actor for their respective roles.

“I never was nominated but I don’t feel I did anything up to that caliber,” she said.

In most of her roles that followed at Warner Brothers, Joan Leslie exuded a persona that was the young, innocent, sweet girl-next-door.

“I was merely being myself in the 1940s, that’s what it really was,” she said.

However, Joan Leslie always proved to be versatile. She could go from comedies with Eddie Albert, such as “The Great Mr. Nobody” (1940) to the hard hitting drama “The Hard Way” (1942), playing the younger sister Ida Lupino is pushing to make a star. At age 18, Joan was also the youngest of any of Fred Astaire’s dance partners in the 1943 film, “The Sky’s The Limit.”

Publicity photo of Fred Astaire and Joan Leslie in

Publicity photo of Fred Astaire and Joan Leslie in “Sky’s the Limit.”

However, because she was so much younger than her peers such as Cagney, Olivia de Havilland, Henry Fonda and Bogart, she said she never felt like she was a “chum” to any of these stars, but was also never scared or in awe while working with them.

“People were very nice to me…” she said. “They were getting the quality from me that they wanted: young, innocent and sweet girl next door. It was during the war (World War II) and that’s what they wanted to project on the screen.”

Like many other actresses, Joan Leslie danced at the Hollywood Canteen during World War II with the soldiers. Art imitated life as she starred in the film “Hollywood Canteen” (1944) as herself. In the film a soldier, played by Robert Hutton, wins a date with Joan Leslie and the two end up falling in love.

Joan Leslie and Robert Hutton in the film

Joan Leslie and Robert Hutton in the film “The Hollywood Canteen” (1944)

In 1946, Joan Leslie was voted No. 1 in a Future Star poll, but becoming quality roles were scarce for her. This largely was because she sued Warner Brothers for control of her contract, believing after the age 21 she should be able to pick better parts. Warner lowered her billing in some of her films and blackballed her name with other studios.

“I always liked to play a certain kind of part as a certain kind of person and I don’t find that very much anymore. The business has changed so much,” she said in 1999.

Joan Leslie with her husband William Caldwell, MD.

Joan Leslie with her husband William Caldwell, MD.

However, once Joan Leslie married obstetrician William Caldwell, MD, in 1950, her interest in Hollywood started to fade. When the two had twin girls, Patricia and Ellen, Joan stopped making films and concentrated on her role as a mother.

“When I married, that would be the most important thing in my life,” she said. “When you had a colorful life as an actress, it’s not easy to say that and to mean it as well. My husband respects me for what I have accomplished in my career.”

After her career, she was involved with parish work, the Los Angeles Public Library’s after-school reading program, and the advisory board of the Damon Runyan Cancer Fund, according to her obituary.

Dr. Caldwell passed away in 2000 and Miss Leslie passed away at age 90 on Oct. 12, 2015.

“I had a very colorful life, she said. “There’s nothing quite like it.”

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