Thursday, July 29, 2010

Broadway Melody Films (1929-1940)

The highly entertaining Broadway Melody films which starred the super talented Eleanor Powell in three of the four films are some of the best musicals that premiered during the 30's. I love all of them and decided to do a post about them.

First up is The Broadway Melody (also known as The Broadway Melody of 1929) is a 1929 American musical film and the first sound film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. It was one of the first musicals to feature a Technicolor sequence, which sparked the trend of color being used in a flurry of musicals that would hit the screens in 1929-1930. Today the Technicolor sequence is presumed lost and only a black and white copy survives in the complete film. The film was the first musical released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and was Hollywood's first all-talking musical.

The film was written by Norman Houston and James Gleason from a story by Edmund Goulding, and directed by Harry Beaumont. Original music was written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, including the popular hit "You Were Meant For Me". The George M. Cohan classic "Give My Regards To Broadway" was also given its talkie debut in the film. Bessie Love was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.

The plot involves the romances of musical comedy stars, set against the backstage hubbub of a Broadway revue. Anita Page and Bessie Love play a vaudeville sister act who have come to New York for their big break on Broadway. Charles King plays the song-and-dance man whose affection for one sister (Harriet alias Hank) is supplanted by his growing love for the younger, more beautiful sister (Queenie). Queenie tries to protect her sister and derail the love triangle by dating a wealthy but unscrupulous "stage door Johnny."

The second film is Broadway Melody of 1936 released by MGM in 1935. It was a follow up of sorts to the successful The Broadway Melody, which had been released in 1929, although, beyond the title and some music, there is no story connection with the earlier film.

The film was written by Harry W. Conn, Moss Hart, Jack McGowan and Sid Silvers. It was directed by Roy Del Ruth and starred Jack Benny, Eleanor Powell, and Robert Taylor. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture

Irene Foster (Eleanor Powell) tries to convince her high school sweetheart Broadway producer Robert Gordon (Robert Taylor) to give her chance to star in his new musical, but he is too busy with the rich widow (June Knight) backing his show. Irene tries to show Gordon that she has the talent to succeed, but he will not hire her. Things become complicated when she begins impersonating a French dancer, not realizing that the dancer is the invention of a gossip columnist (Jack Benny).

Next is Broadway Melody of 1938 is a 1937 musical film, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and directed by Roy Del Ruth. The film is essentially a backstage musical revue, featuring high-budget sets and cinematography in the MGM musical tradition. The film stars Eleanor Powell and Robert Taylor and features Buddy Ebsen, George Murphy, Judy Garland, Sophie Tucker, Raymond Walburn, Robert Benchley and Binnie Barnes.

Young horse trainer Sally (Eleanor Powell) befriends Sonny (George Murphy) and Peter (Buddy Ebsen), who have been hired to look after a horse her family once owned. Concerned for the horse's well-being, she sneaks aboard a train taking the horse and its caretakers to New York City. En route she meets talent agent Steve Raleigh (Robert Taylor) who, impressed with her dancing and singing, sets her on the road to stardom and romance blossoms between the two. A subplot involves a boarding house for performers run by Sophie Tucker, who is trying to find a big break for young Judy Garland.

The film is most notable for young Garland's performance of "You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It)", a tribute to Clark Gable which turned the teenage singer, who had been toiling in obscurity for a couple of years, into an overnight sensation, leading eventually to her being cast in The Wizard of Oz as Dorothy.

And finally Broadway Melody of 1940 is a 1940 MGM movie musical starring Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell and George Murphy. It was directed by Norman Taurog and features music by Cole Porter, including "Begin the Beguine".

The film was the fourth and final entry in MGM's "Broadway Melody" series of films, and is notable for being the only on-screen pairing of Astaire and Powell, who were considered the finest movie musical dancers of their time.

Johnny Brett (Fred Astaire) and King Shaw (George Murphy) are a dance team so down on their luck they're working in a dance hall, while Clare Bennett (Eleanor Powell) is a big Broadway star. Due to a case of mistaken identity, Shaw gets offered the chance to be Clare's dancing partner in a new Broadway show, when it was really Johnny's dancing that befuddled producer Bob Casey (Frank Morgan) saw and wanted. The partnership breaks up, but Johnny sticks around to help out Shaw, who lets his newfound success go to his head. Clare eventually realizes that Johnny is the real deal, not Shaw, and she falls in love with him. When Shaw gets drunk on opening night, Johnny steps in and saves the show with a brilliant performance.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ina May Hutton and her all girl band of the 1930s.

Ina Ray Hutton, was an American female leader during the Big band era. She began dancing and singing in stage revues at the age of eight. In the 1930s she performed on Broadway in George White's Scandals and The Ziegfeld Follies.

In 1934 she was asked to lead an all-girl orchestra, the Melodears, which featured musicians including trumpet player Frances Klein. The group disbanded in 1939. In 1940 she led an all-male orchestra, it was later disbanded in 1946.

Desi Arnaz.

Desi Arnaz moved to the US and entered into show business to support himself. While in New York he took the opportunity to work under his mentor, legendary bandleader, Xavier Cugat. Arnaz learned as much as he could. In 1939, he starred on Broadway in the musical, Too Many Girls. He went to Hollywood the next year to perform in the show's movie version at RKO, which starred Lucille Ball. Arnaz and Ball married on November 30, 1940.

Arnaz performed in several movies in the 1940s, best known for his performance in, Bataan (1943). He received his draft notice, but before reporting he injured his knee. He completed his recruit training, but was classified for limited service during World War II. Following his discharge from the Army, he formed another orchestra. He hired his childhood friend Marco Rizo to play piano and arrange for the orchestra. When he became successful in television, he kept the orchestra on his payroll, and Rizo arranged and orchestrated the music for I Love Lucy.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs(1937)

From Wikipedia: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs(1937). An animated film based on Snow White, a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. It was the first full-length cel-animated feature in motion picture history, as well as the first animated feature film produced in America, the first produced in full color, the first to be produced by Walt Disney.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre on December 21, 1937, and the film was released to theaters by RKO Radio Pictures on February 4, 1938. The story was adapted by storyboard artists Dorothy Ann Blank, Richard Creedon, Merrill De Maris, Otto Englander, Earl Hurd, Dick Rickard, Ted Sears and Webb Smith from the German fairy tale Snow White by the Brothers Grimm. David Hand was the supervising director, while William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, and Ben Sharpsteen directed the film.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was one of only two animated films to rank in the American Film Institutes list of the 100 greatest American films of all time in 1997 (the other being Disney's Fantasia), ranking number 49. It achieved a higher ranking (#34) in the list's 2007 update, this time being the only traditionally animated film on the list. The following year AFI would name the film as the greatest American animated film of all time and the best ever Walt Disney Animated Classics movie.
One of Disney's most charming family movies that is still talked about over 60 years later. I still enjoy watching this film to this day. Snow White, a beautiful princess who is traveling through the forest. She comes to a messy house and decides to clean it as a favor to those who are living there. Who turns out to be the seven dwarfs. The evil queen wants to be the fairest in the land. So she disguises herself as a witch and offers Snow White an apple, she eats it, and dies. The dwarfs come up with a plan to get the prince to kill the queen and save Snow White and live happily ever after.:)

Well-known songs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs include "Heigh-Ho", "Some Day My Prince Will Come", and "Whistle While You Work".

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Kyle Eastwood version of "Big Noise".

Big Noise from Winnetka," became a hit in 1938-39 for the Bob Crosby Orchestra.

Kyle Eastwood, is an actor and jazz musician. He studied film at the University of Southern California for two years before going onto a music career. After becoming a session player in the early '90s and leading his own quartet, he released his first solo album, From There to Here, in 1998. His most recent album, Metropolitain, was released 2 June 2009 by Rendezvous. Eastwood plays acoustic and electric as well as double bass. He is the son of filmmaker and actor Clint Eastwood.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cab Calloway: One Cool Cat!

The Cotton Club hired Calloway and his orchestra as a replacement for the Duke Ellington Orchestra while they went on tour. Calloway soon became popular that he also began touring when not playing at the Cotton Club. Calloway also performed on Walter Winchell's radio program with Bing Crosby in his show at New York's Paramount Theatre.

In 1931 he recorded his most famous song, "Minnie the Moocher". That song, along with "St. James Infirmary Blues" and "The Old Man Of The Mountain," were performed for the Betty Boop animated shorts Minnie the Moocher, Snow White and The Old Man of the Mountain. Calloway not only gave his voice to these cartoons, but his dance moves as well. He also performed in short films for Paramount in the 1930s. (Calloway and Ellington were featured on film more than any other jazz orchestras of the era.) In these films, one can see him "moonwalking" fifty years before Michael Jackson.

In 1943 Calloway performed in the high-profile 20th Century Fox musical film, Stormy Weather.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Newsreels of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

Newsreels of Ginger making imprints at Grauman's Chinese Theater 1939,
receiving her Academy Award 1941,
Fred dancing and introducing his sister Adele at the Stage Door Canteen in London 1944,
Fred dancing on the streets of Paris 1944,
Fred and Ginger at the Oscar's 1967 (mute) and more.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Astaire & Rogers in the 30's

Definitely one of the best dance teams ever to grace the silver screen. Fred Astaire started dancing in the early 1900s as kid on stage and Vaudeville and made his first movie in 1933 where he had a small role. The movie was Dancing Lady starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford. Ginger Rogers made her first appearance in a 1929 short movie then made feature Pre-Code movies with Warner Brothers Pictures such as 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made their first pairing in a movie in 1933, Flying Down to Rio. In Flying Down to Rio Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had a supporting role, but was in the movie good enough, the main star was Dolores Del Rio. In 1934 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made the musical movie The Gay Divorcee which co-starred Edward Everett Horton, it was their first starring role in a movie, the movie also featured the Cole Porter classic song Night and Day. The song The Continetal was too a big hit song from the movie and was also the first song to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song in the 1935 Academy Awards Ceremony for 1934.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made two movies in 1935 Roberta which featured the song I Won't Dance and Top Hat which also co-starred comedian Edward Everett Horton. In Roberta, Fred and Ginger had a supporting role with Irene Dunne starring. In Top Hat, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had a starring role. The whole movie had a Irving Berlin musical score with all new songs for the time. The most famous number in Top Hat is the Cheek to Cheek song and dance. It was also the first profitable movie RKO Radio Pictures made in the 1930s.

By 1936 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were big box office names. That year they made another 2 movies together: Swing Time and Follow the Fleet which were both hits. Swing Time is the movie that introduced the song The Way You Look Tonight where Fred Astaire sang the song to Ginger Rogers. The stair dance scene was very hard for Fred and Ginger to get right the first time and took them a number of times to film which was the case in some of their movies. The big thing about Follow the Fleet was that it had a Irving Berlin music score (Irving Berlin was uncredited for writing music for this film for some reason). Follow the Fleet was also a appealing movie to most audiences like Swing Time.

1937 for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers featured only one movie that year Shall We Dance which co-starred Edward Everett Horton. That was also a good movie to most audiences. Shall We Dance featured the song They Can't Take That Away From Me which, like many of the songs Fred and Ginger sang in their movies, became a big hit. The end of Shall We Dance featured a big musical stage show like lots of musicals at the time.

In 1938 like 1937 Fred and Ginger only made one movie together that year, Carefree. Carefree was originally going to be shot in color by Technicolor, but screen tests in color weren't successful, so that was out and they would just film Carefree in regular black and white, but eleven years later Fred and Ginger would make The Barkleys of Broadway a M-G-M color (Technicolor) musical. This movie also had a Irving Berlin musical score with only 4 songs, the least songs any Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie had. Fred Astaire had refused to sing the song Yam because he thought it was silly so Ginger Rogers would sing the song and Fred danced with her.

In 1939 what is to be considered Hollywood's greatest Year Fred and Ginger only made one movie that year, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. This movie was a musical biography of ballroom dancers Vernon and Irene Castle. The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle was Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers last movie movie with RKO Radio Pictures and their last movie they would make with each other in ten years for the reason that Ginger Rogers wanted more Dramatic roles in movies. So Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers went their own way for ten years.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Good News(1947)

Good News is the title of two American MGM musical films based on the 1927 stage production of the same name.The first, released in 1930, was directed by Nick Grinde. The cast included Bessie Love, Cliff Edwards and Penny Singleton. The film was shot in black-and-white, although the finale was in Technicolor. (The surviving print lacks the finale; no footage is known to survive.)By the 1940s, the original had become illegal to view or exhibit in the United States due to its Pre-Code content, which included sexual innuendo and lewd suggestive humor. A sanitized 1947 remake starred June Allyson, Peter Lawford, Mel Tormé, and Joan McCracken. The screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green was directed by Charles Walters in Technicolor. The original score had tunes by Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin, and Roger Edens, who were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Pass That Peace Pipe.

After Pat McClellan, completes finishing school, she arrives at Tait College, her arrival causes quite a stir on campus. She immediately catches the eyes of the football team, but Connie Lane, sees through her. Connie, works part-time at the university library, disapproves of her slinky red dress which is too "extreme and obvious." Pat, ignores Connie advice and attracts all the men in her flashy red dress, including Tommy Marlowe, the captain of the football team. Pat ignores Tommy, because has eyes for Peter Van Dyne, III. Pat's rejection makes Tommy want her all the more, and he wants to take French lessons. Connie is secretly in love with Tommy and agrees to tutor him. Tommy learns how to speak French well enough to ask Pat to the prom in French, but he is heartbroken when Pat turns down his invitation.

When Babe Doolittle, learns of the rejection, she decides to intervene and tries to interest Pat in Tommy by telling her that Tommy is the heir to his family's pickle fortunes.
Pat is suddenly interested in Tommy. Connie is happy that Tommy has asked her to be his date. When Tommy changes his mind he comes to her and breaks their date. As Tommy's grades begin to slip, Coach Johnson becomes concerned that Tommy will not have the grades he needs to play in the big game against Colton University. With Tommy's football-playing future at stake, the team asks Connie to tutor Tommy for his French class. Connie agrees and is surprised when Tommy admits that his interest in Pat was a mistake. Will Tommy bring up his grades so he can play in the big game?

I just saw the musical Good News for the first time. I thought it was a wonderful musical from 1947 with terrific performances from June Allyson and Peter Lawford.
"Pass That Peacepipe" Joan mcCracken, made a strong impression in her dance number. Allyson and Lawford look like they are having so much fun in the "Varsity Drag" number. Good songs throughout from the 20s stage show like the title song as well as "Lucky in Love," "The Best Things in Life Are Free," "Lady's Man," "Good News," "The French Lesson," and the sad song "Just Imagine".

Fun Fact:
Peter Lawford spoke French fluently and June Allyson did not, Lawford had to teach Allyson how to teach him to speak French in the French Lesson scene.

Joan McCracken, was an American dancer, actress, and comedian who became famous for her role as Silvie ("The Girl Who Falls Down") in the original 1943 production of Oklahoma!. By age 11, she was studying dance with Catherine Littlefield. She dropped out of high school to join Littlefield's ballet company. She was a student of George Balanchine in the first year of the School of American Ballet. Joan McCracken toured Europe and danced at Radio City Music Hall before creating the role of Sylvie. She made a strong impression in the movie Good News(1947), but her movie career never took off. I just read where Joan McCracken, was married to Bob Fosse.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Happy Birthday: Ginger Rogers!

Ginger Rogers, made a total of 73 films, and is best known for her role as Fred Astaire's romantic interest and dancing partner in a series of ten Hollywood musical films. She also achieved success in a variety of film roles, and won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Kitty Foyle (1940). Kitty Foyle, a hard-working girl from a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, meets and falls in love with young socialite Wyn Strafford but his family is against her.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Dames(1934) Director: Ray Enright with dance numbers created by Busby Berkeley. Cast: Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, ZaSu Pitts, and Hugh Herbert. Production numbers and songs include "When You Were a Smile on Your Mother's Lips (and a Twinkle in Your Daddy's Eye)", "The Girl at the Ironing Board", "I Only Have Eyes for You", "Dames" and "Try to See It My Way".

Multimillionaire Ezra Ounce, wants to make sure that his fortune will be inherited by deserving relatives, so he visits his cousin, Matilda Hemingway in New York City.
Ounce, is offended by the musical comedy shows and finds that Matilda's daughter, Barbara, is a dancer and singer in love with another singer and songwriter, her 13th cousin, Jimmy Higgens the family's black sheep.

Matilda's husband, Horace meets a showgirl Mabel, who's been stranded in Schenectady when her show folds, and talks her into sleeping in Horace's train compartment to get back home. Not wanting to be involved in scandal, he leaves her some money and a note asking her to keep quite. Will Mabel keep his secret?

I thought the film Dames, was wonderful entertainment and loved all the dance numbers. Although... I did not think this was Ruby Keeler's best performance. DAMES, is the fourth and final Powell-Keeler-Berkeley collaboration. Pitts, Kibbee and Herbert fit their characters perfectly.


Music by Harry Warren (1934)
Lyrics by Al Dubin (1934)
Played during the opening credits
Danced to by Ruby Keeler at rehearsal
Sung by Dick Powell and chorus in the show
Played as background music often

"I Only Have Eyes for You"
Music by Harry Warren (1934)
Lyrics by Al Dubin (1934)
Sung by Dick Powell on the ferry
Reprised by Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler and chorus in the show
Played as background music often

"Shuffle Off to Buffalo"
Music by Harry Warren (1932)
Lyrics by Al Dubin (1932)
Played as background music when the scene is in Buffalo, New York
Reprised by the chorus in the show

"When You Were a Smile on Your Mother's Lips (and a Twinkle in Your Daddy's Eye)"
Music by Sammy Fain (1934)
Lyrics by Irving Kahal (1934)
Sung by Dick Powell

"Try to See It My Way"
Music by Allie Wrubel (1934)
Lyrics by Mort Dixon (1934)
Sung by Dick Powell
Reprised by Joan Blondell and chorus in the show

"The Girl at the Ironing Board"
Music by Harry Warren (1934)
Lyrics by Al Dubin (1934)
Sung by Joan Blondell in the show

"My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean"
Sung by chorus with modified lyrics during "The Girl at the Ironing Board" number

"Frühlingslied (Spring Song)"
Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Played briefly during "The Girl at the Ironing Board" sequence

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jeanette MacDonald: Movies of the 30s.

Jeanette MacDonald, was an singer and actress best remembered for her musical films of the 1930s: Let's Go Native (1930), is a musical comedy film, directed by Leo McCarey. Best known for its, witty quote: "It was one of the Virgin Islands, but it drifted." Another musical, Monte Carlo(1930), a comedy film directed by Ernst Lubitsch. It stars Jeanette MacDonald as Countess Helene Mara. The film is also known for the song "Beyond the Blue Horizon,". The film was called a masterpiece by critics.

In hopes of producing her own films, MacDonald went to United Artists to make The Lottery Bride (1930). MacDonald next signed a three-picture deal with 20th Century Fox. Oh, for a Man! (1930). MacDonald performed as a opera singer who sings Wagner's "Liebestod" and falls for an Irish burglar played by Reginald Denny. Don't Bet on Women (1931) was a non-musical comedy in which playboy Edmund Lowe bets his happily married friend Roland Young that he can seduce Young's wife (MacDonald). Annabelle's Affairs (1931) with MacDonald performed as a New York playgirl who doesn’t recognize her own miner husband, played by Victor MacLaglen, when he turns up 5 years later.

MacDonald left Hollywood in 1931 to perform in a European concert tour. She returned to Paramount the following year for two films with Maurice Chevalier. One Hour with You (1932). Cast: Maurice Chevalier as a Parisian doctor and Jeanette MacDonald as his wife. Chevalier is faithful, much to the surprise of his female patients. But when MacDonald's best friend Genevieve insists on being treated by Dr. Chevalier, it looks that Tobin may succeed where the other ladies failed.. The singing of Maurice Chevalier are the highlight of the film.

Love Me Tonight (1932), considered by many film critics to be the ultimate film musical. Please check out Monty's review located on the side bar.

In 1933 MacDonald left again for Europe and while there, signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Her first MGM film was The Cat and the Fiddle (1934). Her co-star was Ramon Novarro. The plot about unmarried lovers living together just barely slipped through the new Production Code guidelines that took effect July 1, 1934.

In The Merry Widow (1934), Maurice Chevalier and MacDonald reunited in the classic 1905 Franz Lehár operetta. The film was highly regarded by operetta fans.

Naughty Marietta(1935), based on the operetta of the same name by Victor Herbert: Jeanette MacDonald stars as a Princess who trades places with her maid Marietta in order to avoid an arranged marriage.
Click to view Naughty Marietta (1935) movie review.

The following year, MacDonald performed in two films:In Rose-Marie (1936).MacDonald played a opera diva who learns her brother (James Stewart) has killed a Mountie and is hiding in the northern woods; Eddy is the Mountie sent to capture him. She and Nelson Eddy sang Rudolf Friml's "Indian Love Call" to each other in the Canadian wilderness (actually filmed at Lake Tahoe). San Francisco (1936) was also directed by W.S. Van Dyke. In this movie of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, MacDonald played a hopeful opera singer opposite Clark Gable as the proprietor of a Barbary Coast gambling joint, and Spencer Tracy plays his best friend.

Maytime (1937), is thought of as one of the best film musicals of the 1930s. "Will You Remember" by Sigmund Romberg brought MacDonald another Gold record.

The Firefly (1937) was MacDonald's first solo-starring film at MGM with her name alone above the title. Rudolf Friml's 1912 stage score was borrowed and a new song, "The Donkey Serenade", added. With real-life Americans rushing to fight in the on going revolution in Spain. Followed by, The Girl of the Golden West (1938). The film had an original score by Sigmund Romberg.

Mayer had promised MacDonald the studio's first Technicolor movie Sweethearts (1938). Sweethearts won the Photoplay Gold Medal Award as Best Picture of the Year. Please check out "Sweethearts" movie review located on sidebar.

MacDonald and Lew Ayres (Young Dr. Kildare) co-starred in Broadway Serenade (1939). They played a musical couple who clash when her career flourishes while his does not. Choreographer Busby Berkeley, added an beautiful dance number for the finale .

Joan Blondell

During the 1930s Joan Blondell with her huge blue eyes, blond hair and wise cracking personality, soon became a crowd favorite. She performed in more Warners films than any other actress, and called herself the "Warner's workhorse." The popularity of her films made a great contribution to the studio.

Blondell was paired with James Cagney in such films as Sinners' Holiday (1930) – the film version of Penny Arcade – and The Public Enemy (1931), and was one half of a gold-digging duo with Glenda Farrell in nine films. During the Great Depression, Blondell was one of the highest paid actress in the United States. Her performance of "Remember My Forgotten Man" in the Busby Berkeley production of Gold Diggers of 1933, in which she co-starred with Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers, became an anthem for the frustrations of the unemployed.

(Even though she was cast in many of the classic Warners musicals, she was not a singer, and in the Forgotten Man number, she mostly talked and acted her way through the song.) In 1937, she performed opposite Errol Flynn in The Perfect Specimen.

By the end of the decade, she had made nearly fifty films, leaving Warners in 1939.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Judy Garland

The mid '30s also saw the introduction of Judy Garland, one the finest singer and actress ever to perform in musicals. Premiering at age 13 in the MGM short Every Sunday (1935), she went on to perform in musicals for the studio, including Broadway Melody Of 1938 (1937) and Thoroughbreds Don't Cry (1937), the first of her nine performances with Mickey Rooney. By the end of the decade, she became a star playing Dorothy Gale, the girl from Kansas to the magical land of, The Wizard Of Oz (1939). A Musical fantasy film directed by Victor Fleming. It was based on the 1900 children's novel of the same name by L. Frank Baum, who died twenty years before The Wizard of OZ was filmed. Cast: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr and Frank Morgan, with Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Charles Grapewin, Clara Blandick and the Munchkins. Best known for its use of special effects, use of Technicolor and unusual characters, The Wizard of Oz has become, over the years, one of the best known of all films.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bob Crosby: Brother to Bing Crosby.

Bob Crosby, began his singing career with Anson Weeks and later with the Dorsey Brothers. He led his first band in 1935, when the former members of Ben Pollack's band elected him as leader. He recorded with the Clark Randall Orchestra in 1935, led by Gil Rodin and featuring singer Frank Tennille, whose pseudonym was Clark Randall. Glenn Miller was a member of that orchestra which recorded the Glenn Miller "When Icky Morgan Plays the Organ" in 1935. His most famous band, the Bob-Cats, was a Dixieland jazz group with members from the Bob Crosby Orchestra. Both the Bob Crosby Orchestra and the smaller Bob-Cats group best known for performing Dixieland jazz. Crosby's singing voice was similar to his brother Bing, but without its range.

The Bob Crosby Orchestra and the Bob Cats include: Yank Lawson, Billy Butterfield, Muggsy Spanier, Matty Matlock, Irving Fazola, Ward Silloway, Warren Smith, Eddie Miller, Joe Sullivan, Bob Zurke, Jess Stacy, Nappy Lamare, Bob Haggart, Walt Yoder, Jack Sperling, and Ray Bauduc. Arrangements for the orchestra were often done by a young trumpeter by the name of Gilbert Portmore who, during the time he was a decorated WWII fighter pilot in the South Pacific, started an Air Force swing band known as Cap'n Portmore's Hepcats.

The orchestra was actually led by sax player Gil Rodin, with Crosby himself simply the front man, chosen for his personality, looks, and famous last name.

Hits included "Summertime" (theme song), "In a Little Gypsy Tea Room", "Whispers in The Dark", "South Rampart Street Parade", "March of the Bob Cats", "Day In, Day Out", "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby", "Dolores" and "New San Antonio Rose" (last three with Bing Crosby). A bass and drums duet between Haggart and Bauduc, "Big Noise from Winnetka," became a hit in 1938-39.

Bob Crosby has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for Television and Recording.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dick Powell

Dick Powell, attended the former Little Rock College, before he started his entertainment career as a singer with the Charlie Davis Orchestra. He recorded several records with Davis and on his own in the late 1920s.

Powell moved to Pittsburgh, where he found success as the Master of Ceremonies at the Enright Theater and the Stanley Theater. In April 1930, Warner Bros, was impressed by Powell's singing and stage presence to offer him a film contract in 1932. He made his first film as a singing bandleader in Blessed Event. He went on to star in movie musicals such as 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933, Dames, Flirtation Walk, and On the Avenue, performing opposite Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell.

Powell wanted to expand his range but Warner Bros. wouldn't allow him to do so, although they did (mis)cast him in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935). This was to be Powell's only Shakespearean role and one he did not want to play, feeling that he was completely wrong for the part. Finally, reaching his forties and knowing that his young romantic leading man days were behind him he wanted the lead in Double Indemnity. He lost out to Fred MacMurray. Watching MacMurray’s success, fueled Powell’s to pursue films with greater range.

Powell's ranch-style house in Mandeville Canyon, Los Angeles, was used as the setting for the television show Hart to Hart. Robert Wagner, was a close friend of Powell's. Dick Powell also was a major television player with his own production company, Four Star, owning several network shows.

Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers sing "I'll String Along With You" in the movie "Twenty Million Sweethearts" (1934). Director: Ray Enright. Cast: Pat O'Brien, Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers. The film was remade in 1949, with Doris Day and Jack Carson as My Dream Is Yours. Agent Russell Edward 'Rush' Blake is able to promote the singing tenor waiter Buddy Clayton as a major radio star.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ruby Keeler

Ruby Keeler, was an actress, singer, and dancer most famous for her performances with Dick Powell in a string of musicals, particularly 42nd Street (1933).

The film was a huge success because of Busby Berkeley's beautiful choreography. Following 42nd Street, Jack Warner gave Keeler a long-term contract and cast her in Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade, Dames, and Colleen. Keeler and Jolson performed together in, Go Into Your Dance. Frank Tashlin's 1937 cartoon, The Woods are Full of Cuckoos, featuring a porcine caricature called "Ruby Squealer". She retired from show business in the 1940s but made a widely publicized comeback on Broadway in 1971.

Gold Diggers of 1933

Dawn, I know you posted about this film earlier, but I decided to add some more things for this contribution to the 30's.

The "gold diggers" are four aspiring actresses: Polly the ingenue, Carol the torch singer, Trixie the comedienne, and Fay the glamour puss.
The film was made in 1933 during the Great Depression contains numerous direct references to it. It begins with a rehearsal for a stage show, which is interrupted by the producer's creditors who close down the show because of unpaid bills.

At the unglamorous apartment shared by three of the four actresses (Polly, Carol, and Trixie), the producer, Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks), is in despair because he has everything he needs to put on a show, except money. Then he accidentally hears Brad Roberts (Dick Powell), the girls' neighbor and Polly's boyfriend, playing the piano. Brad is a brilliant songwriter and singer who not only has written the music for a show, but also offers Hopkins $15,000 in cash to back the production. Of course, they all think he's pulling their legs, but he insists that he's serious – he'll back the show, but he refuses to perform in it, despite his talent and voice.

Brad comes through with the money and the show goes into production, but the girls are suspicious that he must be a criminal since he is cagey about his past, and will not appear in the show, even though he is clearly more talented than the aging juvenile lead they have hired. It turns out, however, that Brad is in fact a millionaire's son whose family does not want him associating with the theatre. On opening night, in order to save the show when the juvenile can't perform (due to his lumbago acting up), Brad is forced to play the lead role.

With the resulting publicity, Brad's brother, J. Lawrence Bradford and the family lawyer, Fanuel H. Peabody discover what he is doing, and arrive in New York to prevent him from being seduced by "gold diggers". Their goal is to break up the romance between Brad and Polly.

Lawrence mistakes Carol for Polly, and his heavy-handed effort to dissuade the "cheap and vulgar" showgirl from marrying Brad by buying her off annoys her so much that she goes along with the gag in order to eventually pull the rug out from under him. Trixie meanwhile targets "Fanny" the lawyer as the perfect rich sap ripe for exploitation. But what starts as gold-digging turns into something else, and when the dust settles, Carol and Lawrence are in love and Trixie marries Fanuel, while Brad is free to marry Polly after all. All the "gold diggers" (except Fay) end up married to wealthy men.

A terrific cast of Ruby Keeler as Polly, Joan Blondell as Carol, Ginger Rogers as Fay, Aline MacMahon as Trixie and Dick Powell as Brad. Four more Gold Diggers films would follow: Gold Diggers of Broadway, Gold Diggers of 1935, Gold Diggers of 1937, and Gold Diggers of Paris.

Joan Crawford: In The Beginning :

Joan Crawford, went by the the nickname "Billie" as a child and she loved watching vaudeville acts perform on the stage of her stepfather's theater. Joan life long dream was to become a dancer. Unfortunately, while playing she jumped from the front porch of her home and cut her foot on a broken milk bottle. Crawford had three operations and was unable to attend elementary school for a year and a half. She eventually fully recovered and returned to dancing.

Around 1916, Crawford went to Rockingham Academy as a work student. While there she began dating trumpet player Ray Sterling. It was Sterling who inspired her to begin challenging herself academically, and in 1922, Crawford registered at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. Crawford attended Stephens for less than a year, as she recognized that she was not academically ready for college.

Joan Crawford, began dancing in the choruses of traveling revues in 1928 and was spotted dancing in Detroit by producer Jacob J. Shubert. Shubert put her in the chorus line for his 1924 show Innocent Eyes at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway in New York City. Where Crawford met a saxophone player named James Welton. The two were married in 1924 and the couple lived together for several months. She wanted additional work and approached Loews Theaters publicist Nils Granlund. Granlund secured a position for her with producer Harry Richmond's act and arranged for her to do a screen test which he sent to producer Harry Rapf in Hollywood. Rapf notified Granlund on December 24, 1924 that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had offered Crawford a contract at $75 a week. Granlund immediately wired LeSueur who had returned to her mother's home in Kansas City with the news. The night after Christmas she left Kansas City and arrived in Culver City, California.

As Lucille LeSueur, her first film was Pretty Ladies (1925).
A silent comedy-drama film starring ZaSu Pitts. The film is a fictional recreation of the famed Ziegfeld Follies. Directed by Monta Bell, the film was written by Alice D.G. Miller and featured intertitles written by Joseph Farnham. The film is about Maggie a Broadway dancing comedienne who's husband leaves her for one of the show's beauties, and who longs for the life of other chorus girls but eventually finds love by being herself.

Also in 1925 she performed in a small role in Silent movie: The Only Thing, a costume drama written by Elinor Glyn. The movie is about: Harry Vane, the Duke of Chevenix, travels from England to the mythical kingdom of Chekia, where he falls in love with Princess Thyra. Thrya, is duty-bound to marry the king, even though he is old and ugly. When she refuses Vane, he is determined to win her anyway, even after her wedding. A revolution rises in Chekia and the king is assassinated. Revolutionary leader Gigberto then carries Thyra away. When the people jail Gigberto, Vane disguises himself as the rebel so that he and Thyra will be tied together. The two of them are thrown into the bay, Vane frees himself and rescues Thyra. They escape to his yacht and she confesses her love for him.

Also Joan performed in the Silent Film: Old Clothes (1925). Starring Jackie Coogan and Joan Crawford. This was the first film in which Crawford was credited with her new name, Joan Crawford.

The movie is about, Tim Kelly and Max Ginsberg, who have struck it rich by investing in copper stock. But when the stock takes a dive, they are ready to call it quits and go back into being junk dealers. They take in the destitute Mary Riley as a boarder and she hits it off so well with them that she winds up becoming a partner in their rag & junk company. Mary falls in love with a man named Nathan Burke, the son of wealthy parents. Nathan's mother, disapproves of Mary. Eventually they find out that Mrs. Burke, also came from a poor background. and decides to give the couple her blessings. The copper stock recovers and Kelly and Ginsberg are back in the money.

MGM publicity head Pete Smith recognized her ability but felt that her name sounded fake; it also, he told studio head Louis B. Mayer, sounded like "Le Sewer". Smith organized a contest with the fan magazine Movie Weekly to allow readers to select her new name. Initially the name "Joan Arden" was selected but, when another actress had claim to that name, "Crawford" became the choice. Crawford wanted her new first name to be pronounced "Jo-anne". She hated the name Crawford, saying it sounded like "crawfish". Her friend, actor William Haines, said: "They might have called you 'Cranberry' and served you every Thanksgiving with the turkey!" Crawford continued to dislike the name throughout her life but, she said, "liked the security that went with it".

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dancing Lady(1933)

Dancing Lady 1933. Cast: Joan Crawford, Clark Gable and Franchot Tone. In the film, Crawford plays a New York burlesque dancer bailed out of jail by a rich man. Janie wants to better her life by moving uptown and landing her first Broadway play. Dancing Lady, is the fourth of eight movies that Crawford and Gable performed in together.

Dancing Lady, is Fred Astaire first on screen performance (who appears as himself). And the first credited film performance of Nelson Eddy and an early film performance of the Three Stooges. Dancing Lady was directed by Robert Z. Leonard, produced by John W. Considine Jr. and David O. Selznick and based on the novel of the same name by James Warner Bellah. Although, this is another love triangle movie, this film offers many wonderful scenes. Dancing lady, is also Eve Arden's first film, playing a would-be actress faking a southern accent in a very short scene. This may not a great film, but.. it is certainly one to see.


"Hold Your Man"
(1933) (uncredited)
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Sung and Danced by Winnie Lightner and chorus

"Alabama Swing"
Written by James P. Johnson
Danced by Joan Crawford with Larry Fine on piano

"Everything I Have Is Yours"
Music by Burton Lane
Lyrics by Harold Adamson
Played during the opening credits and often in the score
Sung by Arthur Jarrett (uncredited)

"My Dancing Lady"
Music by Jimmy McHugh
Lyrics by Dorothy Fields
Performed by Arthur Jarrett (uncredited)
Danced by Joan Crawford (uncredited) and chorus

"Heigh-Ho, the Gang's All Here"
(In the credits as "Heigh Ho")
Music by Burton Lane
Lyrics by Harold Adamson
Sung and Danced by Fred Astaire (uncredited), Joan Crawford (uncredited) and chorus

"Let's Go Bavarian"
Music by Burton Lane
Lyrics by Harold Adamson
Sung and Danced by Fred Astaire (uncredited), Joan Crawford (uncredited) and chorus

"(That's The) Rhythm of the Day"
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Lorenz Hart
Sung by Nelson Eddy (uncredited), Joan Crawford (dubbed by Mildred Carroll)
Sung a bit by Arthur Jarrett (uncredited)
Danced by chorus

"Hey! Young Fella"
(1933) (uncredited)
Music by Jimmy McHugh
Lyrics by Dorothy Fields
Sung and Danced by chorus

(1929) (uncredited)
Written by Ernesto Lecuona
Played in a Cuban Club as dance music

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Alice Faye: Made her first major film break in 1934.

Alice Faye, she made her first major film break in 1934, when Lilian Harvey left the lead role in a film, Scandals(1935). Hired first to perform a musical number, Faye ended up as the female lead. And she became popular with film audiences of the 1930s. He changed Faye from a wisecracking show girl to a motherly figure as she performed in a few Shirley Temple films.

Cast in mostly musicals, Faye introduced many popular songs to the hit parade. Considered less as an actress and more as a singer. Best known for her performance in 1937's In Old Chicago. She more than held her own with co-stars: Vallee, Al Jolson, Charlotte Greenwood, and Edward Everett Horton, Don Ameche, Tyrone Power, and John Payne.

Song: Oh, You Nasty Man ~ 1934, performed by Alice Faye and Rudy Vallee. From Alice Faye's first film appearance.

Old Chicago(1937). Story of the great fire of 1871. Fictional story of two sons of Mrs. O'Leary, the owner of the cow which started the fire, one a rogue (Power) the other a lawyer (Ameche).

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Betty Boop (1930-1939)

Betty Boop, made her first cartoon August 9, 1930, called Dizzy Dishes.

Betty Boop, was modeled after Helen Kane, the famous singer of the 1920s and Clara Bow, who was a popular actress in the 1920s. The character was originally a French poodle. Max Fleischer, finalized Betty Boop as completely human by 1932 in the cartoon Any Rags.

Betty was in ten cartoons as a supporting character, a flapper girl with more heart than brains. In individual cartoons she was called "Nancy Lee" and "Nan McGrew".

Betty's voice was first performed by Margie Hines, and was later provided by: Kate Wright, Ann Rothschild, Bonnie Poe and Mae Questel, who began in 1931 and continued until her death in 1998.

It has been assumed that Betty's first name was established in the 1931 Screen Songs cartoon Betty Co-ed.

There were at least 12 Screen Songs cartoons that featured either Betty Boop or a similar character. Betty appeared in her first and only "Color Classic" cartoon, Poor Cinderella(1934).

Betty Boop, became the star of the Talkartoons by 1932, and was given her own series in that same year beginning with Stopping the Show.

From this point on, she was crowned "The Queen of the Animated Screen." The series was popular throughout the 1930s, lasting until 1939.

Click to view more Betty Boop toons.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Sweethearts(1938).Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Cast: Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. The screenplay, by Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell, uses the “play within a play” device: a contemporary Broadway production of the 1913 Victor Herbert operetta is the setting for another pair of sweethearts, the stars of the show.

The movie was MGM's first feature-length color film, and the Technicolor Company received a special Academy Award for ...its contributions in successfully bringing three-color feature production to the screen and Nelson Eddy. The screenplay, by Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell, a contemporary Broadway production of the 1913 Victor Herbert operetta is the setting for another pair of sweethearts, the stars of the show. The movie was MGM's first feature-length color film, and the Technicolor Company received a special Academy Award for ...its contributions in successfully bringing three-color feature production to the screen

Gwen Marlowe and Ernest Lane, are celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary and are tired of constantly working and want a vacation away from Broadway. Felix Lehman, the producer of the show, is worried that Gwen and Ernest are planning to leave the show to go to Hollywood and work for Norman Trumpett, who has been telling them how wonderful it is working in Hollywood. Ernest sends Gwen a love note, something he has done during every performance, and suggests that they meet after the show in their "special place." Felix tells them he has planned a huge anniversary party for them, they go to the party, then discover that the party is really a radio broadcast. Gwen and Ernest, are fed up and decide to take Trumpett up on his offer. Not wanting to loose them, Leon Kronk, comes up with an idea to split the couple and make Hollywood not want them. Will he be successful in splitting up the young couple?

I saw the movie, Sweethearts, for the first time on TCM the other day. I thought the film was quite beautiful and interesting. I had the feeling I was taking a glimpse back in time..
Click to view movie trailer Sweethearts(1938).

Florence Rice, became an actress during the early 1930s and after several Broadway roles, moved on to to Hollywood. Rice was cast as the reliable girlfriend in several MGM films. Florance Rice, became popular in several screen pairings with Robert Young. Her best known performance was in the film, Double Wedding (1937), in which she was billed third in the cast credits behind William Powell and Myrna Loy, Sweethearts (1938) with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and The Marx Brothers film At The Circus (1939). During the 1940s her roles decreased and in 1947, until she retired.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Birthday: Leslie Caron , Receving her Star on the Walk of Fame and The Glass Slipper (1955) movie review.

Leslie Caron, Received the 2,394th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (December 2009).

The Glass Slipper (1955). Is a musical film of Cinderella. Director: Charles Walters and produced by Edwin H. Knopf from a screenplay by Helen Deutsch. The music score is by Bronislau Kaper, the cinematography by Arthur E. Arling, the art direction by Daniel B. Cathcart and Cedric Gibbons and costume design by Walter Plunkett and Helen Rose.cast: Leslie Caron,Michael Wilding, Keenan Wynn, Estelle Winwood, Elsa Lanchester, Barry Jones, Lurene Tuttle, Liliane Montevecchi and Walter Pidgeon as Narrator.

In a small European village the towns people wait for the return of Prince Charles, who as a child was sent away to school. As the villagers prepare the town square, a shy girl named Ella offers to help, but the towns people reject her offer. Calling her "Cinderella" because of her dirty face and clothes. Ella goes home and finds her stepsisters, Birdena and Serafina, getting ready for the prince's arrival. Feeling sorry for herself, Ella goes to her favorite spot, a quiet little pond. She is soon joined by a kind old woman, Mrs. Toquet. Ella shares with her, on the day of her birth, a fortune teller told her mother that Ella would someday live in a palace. Ella also tells her that her mother died when she was five, and Mrs. Toquet says she would like to be her friend. When Ella returns home she asks her stepmother, about Mrs. Toquet. Widow Sonder shares with her that Mrs. Toquet was a eccentric woman known for stealing things and putting them back later.

Back at the palace, Charles father, reminds him that a ball is being held in his honor the following evening. Charles goes walking in the countryside with his friend Kovin, and shares a memory that years earlier while he was home for the holidays. He saw a five-year-old girl crying. Charles never forgot the girl's sad face, adding that he has a weakness for women with an air of sadness about them. Ella is angry to find them in her secret place. Realizing that Ella does not know who Charles is, they tell her that they work in the palace. When Charles tries to talk with her, she pushes him into the water.

When Ella later returns to the dell, she again runs into Charles. This time they experience an immediate friendship. Charles gives Ella an invitation to the ball and teaches her how to dance. That night, Ella happily imagines herself dancing on an enormous wedding cake.

The following evening, Ella attends the ball, wearing gorgeous ball gown and shoes made of glass. Ella finds a splendid coach waiting, and Mrs. Toquet tells her she must leave the palace at midnight. When Charles sees Ella, she is surprised to find out that he is the prince. Ella leaves just as the clock begins to strike twelve and she leaves behind one of her glass slippers. Will the Prince find his Princess?

I just saw the movie, The Glass Slipper, on TCM for the first time. I thought Leslie Caron, made a very charming "Ella" and Estelle Winwood, is a wonderful fairy-godmother. It was fun to see Amanda Blake (Miss Kitty on "Gunsmoke"), as one of the stepsisters.