Thursday, December 30, 2010

State Fair(1945).

State Fair(1945). Directed by Walter Lang. The film is the first remake of the 1933 film of the same name. This version has original music by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Cast: Jeanne Crain, Dana Andrews, Dick Haymes, Vivian Blaine, Fay Bainter and Charles Winninger. This was the only musical Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote for film. The movie introduced such popular songs as "It Might As Well Be Spring" and "It's A Grand Night For Singing".

This version won an Academy Award for Best Song for "It Might As Well Be Spring" by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Jeanne Crain's singing voice was dubbed by Louanne Hogan. State Fair was remade a second time in 1962.

The story begins with the whole Frake family excited about their trip to the Iowa State Fair: Mother Melissa hopes her mincemeat recipe will win first prize. Father Abel is bringing his prize boar, Blue Boy. Wayne goes to the fairgrounds, where he plans to get even with the ring toss barker, who cost Wayne eight dollars the year before. When the barker threatens to call the police, a young woman, claiming to be the police chief's daughter, talks him into returning Wayne's money. Margie spends her time with newspaper writer Pat Gilbert, who is covering the fair for the Des Moines Register . That night, Margy and Pat again meet at the fairgrounds, and Wayne discovers that his mystery woman is singer, Emily Edwards. Each of the Frake family members come home every evening with their secrets. What will happen to their new romances when the fair closes?

State Fair, is a wonderful fluffy romantic film. Beautifully photographed in beautiful color that will take you back into the mid 40s and, best of all, it does contain the Oscar winning song, "It Might As Well Be Spring."

Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Rodgers and Hammerstein, were a well-known American songwriting duo. Created many Broadway musicals in the 1940s and 1950s during the golden age. With Rodgers composing the music and Hammerstein writing the lyrics, five of their shows, Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music, were outstanding successes. They won thirty-four Tony Awards, fifteen Academy Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, and two Grammys.

Prior to their partnership, Rodgers had collaborated for more than two decades with Lorenz Hart. Among their many Broadway hits: A Connecticut Yankee (1927), Babes in Arms (1937), The Boys from Syracuse (1938), Pal Joey (1940), and By Jupiter (1942), as well as many successful film projects.

Hammerstein, a co-writer of the popular Rudolf Friml 1924 operetta Rose-Marie, and Sigmund Romberg operettas: The Desert Song (1926) and The New Moon (1928), began a successful collaboration with composer Jerome Kern on Sunny (1925). Their 1927 musical Show Boat is considered to be one of the masterpieces of the American musical theatre. Other Hammerstein/Kern collaborations: Sweet Adeline (1929) and Very Warm for May (1939). It features one of Kern and Hammerstein's best-loved songs, "All the Things You Are". By the early 1940s, Hart became unreliable, prompting Rodgers to team up with Hammerstein.

Rodgers and Hammerstein used the technique of what some call the formula musical. The term formula musical may refer to a musical with a predictable plot, but it also refers to the casting requirements of Rodgers and  Hammerstein characters. Typically, any musical from this team will have the casting of a strong baritone lead, a dainty and light soprano lead, a supporting lead tenor, and a supporting alto lead. Although there are exceptions to this generalization, it gives audiences an idea of what to expect from a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

List of Rodgers and Hammerstein films:

State Fair
South Pacific
The King and I
Flower Drum Song
The Sound of Music

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra!

Marshmallow World" is a popular Christmas song that was written in 1949 by Carl Sigman (lyrics) and Peter DeRose (music). One of the most popular versions of "Marshmallow World" recorded by Dean Martin for his 1966 holiday album The Dean Martin Christmas Album.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rosemary Lane

Rosemary Lane was one of The Lane Sisters who achieved success in the 1920s and 1930s as a singing act, which lead to a series of successful films.

After Rosemary arrived in New York, she was trying out at a music publishing office when Fred Waring, an orchestra leader, heard her singing, he thought she was very talented and offered her a contract. After which Rosemary adopted the name Lane. Fred Waring not only toured with his band, known as "The Pennsylvanians", but also had a weekly radio show where Rosemary sang the ballads. Rosemary remained with Fred Waring for almost five years. In 1937, Waring was to appear with his band in, Varsity Show, a musical starring Dick Powell. Rosemary was tested and awarded a role in the film as the romantic interest of Powell.

Warner's purchased Rosemary's contract from Fred Waring and signed her on to a seven-year contract. Rosemary's first film after Varsity Show was the musical Hollywood Hotel, in which she co-starred with her sister Lola and former co-star Dick Powell, before starring in Gold Diggers in Paris, opposite Rudy Vallee.

List of Rosemary Lane films:

Sing Me a Song of Texas (1945)
Trocadero (1944)
Harvest Melody (1943)
All by Myself (1943)
Chatterbox (1943)
Time Out for Rhythm (1941)
Four Mothers (1941)
Always a Bride (1940)
The Boys from Syracuse (1940)
Ladies Must Live (1940)
An Angel from Texas (1940)
Four Wives (1939)
The Return of Doctor X (1939)
Daughters Courageous (1939)
The Oklahoma Kid (1939)
Blackwell's Island (1939)
Four Daughters (1938)
Gold Diggers in Paris (1938)
Hollywood Hotel (1937)
Varsity Show (1937)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rudy Vallée

Rudy Vallée (July 28, 1901 – July 3, 1986). From 1924 through 1925, he played with the Savoy Havana Band at the Savoy Hotel in London. He then returned to the States to obtain a degree in Philosophy from Yale and to form his own band, "Rudy Vallée and the Connecticut Yankees."his band featured two violins, two saxophones, a piano, a banjo and drums. He was given a recording contract and in 1928, he started performing on the radio.

Vallée became the first of a new style of singer, called the crooner. Singers at the time, needed strong projecting voices to fill theaters before they had microphones. Crooners had soft voices that were perfect for radio. Vallée's trombone-like vocal phrasing on "Deep Night" would later inspire Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como.

In 1929, Vallée made his first feature film, The Vagabond Lover. A comedy/drama/musical about a small-town boy who finds fame and romance when he joins a dance band. The film is directed by Marshall Neiland and is based on the novel of the same name, written by James Ashmore Creelman who also wrote the screenplay for the film.

Overtime Vallée's, acting improved in the late 1930s and 1940s. Also in 1929, Vallée began hosting The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour, a very popular radio show at the time.

He signed to Victor in February 1929 and remained with them through to late 1931, leaving after a dispute over title selections. He then recorded the extremely popular "Hit of the Week" label. In August 1932, he signed with Columbia and stayed with them through 1933, he returned to Victor in June 1933. His records were issued on Victor's new label, Bluebird, until November 1933 when he was moved up to Victor label. He stayed with Victor until signing with ARC in 1936, who released his records on their Perfect, Melotone, Conqueror and Romeo labels until 1937 when he returned to Victor.

Vallée continued hosting popular radio variety shows through the 1930s and 1940s. The Royal Gelatin Hour featured many film performers of the era, such as Fay Wray and Richard Cromwell.

Along with his group, The Connecticut Yankees, Vallée's best known popular recordings included: "The Stein Song" (aka University of Maine fighting song) in 1929 and "Vieni, Vieni" in the latter 1930s. Vallée sang fluently in three Mediterranean languages, and always varied the keys, paving the way for, Dean Martin, Andy Williams and Vic Damone. Another memorable rendition of his is "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries", in which he imitates Willie Howard's voice in the final chorus. One of his record hits was "The Drunkard Song," popularly known as "There Is a Tavern in the Town." Vallée couldn't stop laughing during the first take, and managed a second take reasonably well. The "laughing" version was so infectious, however, that Victor released both takes.

Vallée's last hit song was the 1943 reissue of the melancholy ballad "As Time Goes By", made popular in the film, Casablanca(1943). The best example I could find is the video below with Frank Sinatra singing "As Time Goes By".

During World War II, Vallée enlisted in the Coast Guard to help direct the 11th district Coast Guard band as a Chief Petty Officer. Eventually he was promoted to Lieutenant and led the 40 piece band to great success. In 1944 he was placed on the inactive list and he returned to radio.

When Vallée took his contractual vacations from his national radio show in 1937, he insisted his sponsor hire Louis Armstrong as his substitute(this was the first instance of an African-American fronting a national radio program). Vallée also wrote the introduction for Armstrong's 1936 book Swing That Music.

He appeared opposite Claudette Colbert in the comedy, The Palm Beach Story(1942). The story is about an inventor needs money to develop his idea. His wife, decides to raise it for him by divorcing him and marrying a millionaire.

Other films in which he appeared include, I Remember Mama, Unfaithfully Yours and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.

In 1955, Vallée was featured in, Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, co-starring Jane Russell, Alan Young, and Jeanne Crain. The production was filmed on location in Paris. The film was based on the Anita Loos novel that was a sequel to her acclaimed Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

In 1971 he made a television appearance as a vindictive surgeon in the Night Gallery episode "Marmalade Wine."

In middle age, Vallée's voice matured into a robust baritone. He performed on Broadway in the show, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and appeared in the film of the same name. He appeared in the 1960s Batman television show as the character "Lord Marmaduke FFogg".

Rudy Vallee's song compositions included "Oh! Ma-Ma! (The Butcher Boy)" in 1938, recorded by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, "Deep Night", which was recorded by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, "If You Haven't Got a Girl", "Violets", "Where To", "Will You Remember Me?", "We'll Never Get Drunk Any More", "Sweet Summer Breeze", "Actions Speak Louder Than Words", "Ask Not", "Forgive Me", "Charlie Cadet", "Somewhere In Your Heart", "You Took Me Out Of This World", "Old Man Harlem" with Hoagy Carmichael, which was recorded by the Dorsey Brothers band, "I'm Just a Vagabond Lover", and "Betty Co-Ed".

In 1967 Rudy Vallee recorded a new record album. Called "Hi-Ho Everybody" it was produced by Snuff Garrett and Ed Silvers for Dot Records on its Viva label; arranged by Al Capps. The engineers were Dave Hassinger and Henry Leroy. Included on the album were songs: "Winchester Cathedral", "Michelle", "My Blue Heaven", "Sweet Heart of Sigma Chi", "Who Likes Good Pop Music?", "Bluebird", "Who", "Lady Godiva", "Mame", The Wiffenpoof Song", "Strangers in The Night", and "One of Those Songs".

Vallée was married briefly to actress Jane Greer, but that ended in divorce in 1944. His previous marriage to Leonie Cauchois was annulled and the one to Fay Webb ended in divorce. After divorcing Jane Greer, he married Eleanor Norris in 1946, who wrote a memoir, My Vagabond Lover.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Busby Berkeley 9- Film Collection. Gold Diggers in Paris(1938).

Gold Diggers in Paris(1938). Directed by Ray Enright with musical numbers created and directed by Busby Berkeley. Cast: Rudy Vallee, Rosemary Lane, Hugh Herbert and Allen Jenkins.

Maurice Giraud, is sent to New York to make arrangements for the Academy Ballet of America to come to Paris to compete at the international dance festival, but a cabbie takes him to the Club Balle by mistake.

The owners of the club, Terry Moore and Duke Dennis, sees the mistake as an opportunity as a way out of their financial problems. They hire ballet teacher Luis Leoni and Kay Morrow, to teach their girls ballet. Terry is attracted to Kay, but things become complicated when his ex-wife, Mona shows up.

Meanwhile, the head of the real ballet company, Padrinsky, finds out what's happened and cables Giraud, then heads to Paris with a ballet-loving gangster named Mike Coogan, who intends to rub out Terry and Duke. Giraud is upset about being hoaxe.

After they arrive in Paris, a representative of the exposition, Pierre Le Brec, wants to watch the group's rehearsals, and Duke tells his new friend Coogan, the gangster, that Le Brec is causing him trouble. Coogan goes to "take care" of the problem, but by mistake knocks out Leoni instead of Le Brec. Padrinsky shows up and arranges for the imposters to be deported on the day of the contest, but Kay manages to change the order so that Coogan and Padrinsky are shipped out instead, which allows the company to perform and win the grand prize.

GOLD DIGGERS IN Paris, seems to focuses more on singing and band playing than dancing. It also shows the changing of the times as well as the decline of the Warners musicals. Look for Eddie Anderson in a small role as a doorman and try to find Carole Landis, before she became a blonde, as one of the members of gold digging troupe.

Gold Diggers in Paris, was the fifth and last in the series of "Gold Digger" films, following Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), which is now lost. Gold Diggers of 1933, which was a remake of the earlier film, and the first to feature Busby Berkeley's extravagant production numbers; Gold Diggers of 1935 and Gold Diggers of 1937.

The Schnickelfritz Band, a comedy musical group performs the songs in the film. Led by Freddie Fisher, who played woodwinds, sang and also composed the song "Colonel Corn" for the band, the band consisted of Stanley Fritts (trombone, drums, jug, washboard), Nels Laakso (cornet, trumpet), Paul Cooper (piano, arrangements), Kenneth Trisko (drums), and Charles Koenig (bass). The group, which was billed as "America's Most Unsophisticated Band!", were brought to Hollywood by Rudy Vallee, after his agent saw them in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The band broke up shortly after doing the film, with Fritts taking some of the members east to become the "Korn Kobblers", and Fisher staying in Hollywood to open a nightclub. The Schnickelfritz Band never appeared in another film, Fisher appeared in several others as a band leader.


"Daydreaming (All Night Long)"
Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Rudy Vallee

"The Latin Quarter"
Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Al Dubin
Performed by Rudy Vallee, Rosemary Lane, Allen Jenkins and Mabel Todd

"My Adventure"
(credit only)
Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
(credited on-screen but not used)

"Colonel Corn"
Written by Freddie Fisher
Performed by the Schnickelfritz Band

"I Wanna Go Back to Bali"
Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Al Dubin
Sung by Rudy Vallee and the showgirls
Played by The Schnickelfritz band

"Put That Down in Writing"
Music by Harry Warren
Played when Terry walks down the corridor and encounters Mona in his room

"A Stranger in Paree"
Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Al Dubin
Sung by Rudy Vallee and Rosemary Lane

"Listen to the Mockingbird"
Music by Richard Milburn
Lyrics by Septimus Winner
Performed by the Schnickelfritz Band

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vera Ellen.

In 1939, Vera-Ellen made her Broadway theatre debut in the musical, Very Warm for May at the age of 18. This led to roles on Broadway in, Panama Hattie, By Jupiter and A Connecticut Yankee, where she was spotted by Samuel Goldwyn, who cast her opposite Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo in the film, Wonder Man. In this film, Danny Kaye plays a double role as a pair of identical twins, who look alike, but with very different personalities. Buster Dingle, who goes by the stage name "Buzzy Bellew" is a performer at a classy nightclub, while Edwin Dingle, is a bookworm writing a history book. The two brothers have not seen each other for years. Buster becomes the witness to a murder committed by mob boss "Ten Grand" Jackson and is also murdered. He comes back as a ghost, asking his twin brother for help to bring the killer to justice. Edwin takes his brother's place until after his testimony is given. He hides from Jackson's hitmen and performs Buster's nightclub show. To help him out, Buster possesses Edwin and he pretends to be a famous Russian singer with an allergy to flowers. Otchi Chornya, is continusly interrupted by his loud sneezes. The story is further complicated by the love interests of the two brothers.

She danced with Gene Kelly in, Words and Music, a movie loosely based on the partnership of the composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Lorenz Hart. The film starred Mickey Rooney, Tom Drake, Janet Leigh, Betty Garrett, and Ann Sothern.

Her next performance with Gene Kelly was in the film, On the Town, A story about three sailors, Gabey (Gene Kelly),Chip (Frank Sinatra), and Ozzie (Jules Munshin), who begin their shore leave, Gabey falls in love with the picture of "Miss Turnstiles", who is actually Ivy Smith (Vera-Ellen). The sailors turn New York upside down looking for her. They are joined by, Claire (Ann Miller), an anthropologist and Hildy Esterhazy (Betty Garrett), a taxi driver and Ivy, an aspiring actress. They have a number of adventures before their 24-hour leave ends and they must return to their ship to head off to sea.

She also appeared in the last Marx Brothers film, Love Happy.

She received top billing alongside Fred Astaire in, Three Little Words and The Belle of New York (1952). A film set in turn-of-the-century New York, wealthy playboy Charles Hill (Fred Astaire) is causing problems for his Aunt Lettie (Marjorie Main) and lawyer, Max (Keenan Wynn). He is known to fall in love then ditching his brides-to-be at the altar. He hears Angela (Vera-Ellen) singing in a Salvation Army band. He falls in love at first sight.

Then she went on to co-star with Bing Crosby in, White Christmas and with Donald O'Connor in, Call Me Madam. Directed by Walter Lang, with songs by Irving Berlin, based on the stage musical of the same name.

She retired from the screen in 1957. Guest appearances on the television variety shows of Dinah Shore and Perry Como in 1958 and 1959 were last of her entertainment career.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Three Little Words(1950).

Three Little Words(1950). Musical film biography of the Tin Pan Alley songwriting partnership of Kalmar and Ruby. Cast: Fred Astaire, Bert Kalmar, Red Skelton, Vera Ellen and Debbie Reynolds in a small role as singer. Harry Ruby served as a consultant on the project, and appears in a cameo role as a baseball-catcher.

One of Astaire's favourites, because of the vaudeville connection. As Hollywood film biographies it takes fewer liberties with the facts than usual, and Astaire and Skelton's onscreen portrayal of the partnership is complemented by a wonderful chemistry, some quality acting by both, and some fine comedy touches by Skelton. Two of the songs, "Thinking of You"

And "Nevertheless", became major hits.

In recognition of his acting performance here, Fred Astaire was awarded the first Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy in 1951.

Fun Facts:

Vocals for Debbie Reynolds were dubbed by Helen Kane.

Vocals for Vera-Ellen were dubbed by Anita Ellis.

The dress worn by Gale Robbins in the "All Alone Monday" number is the same dress worn by Ann Miller in the "Girl on the Magazine Cover" in Easter Parade (1948).


"Where Did You Get That Girl?"

Written Harry Puck, Bert Kalmar
Sung and Danced by Fred Astaire, Vera-Ellen (dubbed by Anita Ellis)

"She's Mine, All Mine"
Written by Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar
Sung by quartet

"Mr. and Mrs. Hoofer at Home"
Music by André Previn
Danced by Fred Astaire, Vera-Ellen

"My Sunny Tennessee"
Written by Harry Ruby, Herman Ruby, Bert Kalmar
Sung by Fred Astaire, Red Skelton

"So Long! Oo-Long (How Long You Gonna Be Gone?)"
Written by Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar
Sung by Fred Astaire, Red Skelton

"Who's Sorry Now?"
Written by Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar, Ted Snyder
Sung by Gloria DeHaven

"Test Dance"
Music by André Previn
Danced by Fred Astaire

"Come on, Papa"
Written by Harry Ruby, Edgar Leslie, Bert Kalmar
Sung by Vera-Ellen (dubbed by Anita Ellis)
Danced by Vera-Ellen, chorus

Written by Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar
Sung by Fred Astaire, Vera-Ellen (dubbed by Anita Ellis), and Red Skelton
Danced by Fred Astaire, Vera-Ellen

"All Alone Monday"
Written by Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar
Sung by Gale Robbins (later by Arlene Dahl)

"You Smiled at Me"
Written by Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar
Sung by Arlene Dahl

"I Wanna Be Loved by You"
Written by Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar, Herbert Stothart
Sung by Debbie Reynolds (dubbed by Helen Kane)

"Thinking of You"
Written by Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar
Sung by Fred Astaire (later by Red Skelton)
Danced by Fred Astaire, Vera-Ellen

"I Love You So Much"
Written by Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar
Sung by Arlene Dahl

"Three Little Words"
Written by Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar
Sung by Fred Astaire (later by Red Skelton)

"You are My Lucky Star"
by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
Sung by Phil Regan

Monday, December 13, 2010

Johnnie "Scat" Davis

Johnnie Davis, also billed as Johnny Davis and Johnnie "Scat" Davis, (May 11, 1910 – November 28, 1983). Born into a family of musicians, Davis developed an interest in music during his childhood. He learned to play the trumpet and by the age of 13 was performing with his grandfather's band. After graduating from high school he worked as a musician for several orchestras such as: Paul Johnson's orchestra and the Leo Baxter Orchestra. By 1933 was living in New York City. He formed his own trio and recorded several songs with them. From the mid 1930s he worked with Fred Waring as a musician and vocalist.

He appeared in his first film in 1937, and the same year appeared in the film "Hollywood Hotel", where he introduced the Johnny Mercer song "Hooray for Hollywood". His lively rendition became popular and became closely associated with the film industry. He appeared in fifteen films including Cowboy from Brooklyn (1938), Brother Rat (1938), A Child is Born (1939) and Sarong Girl (1943).

Davis continued to work in the music industryin the 1940s and 1950s and was a popular television performer.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Happy Birthday: Frank Sinatra !

Frank Sinatra (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998). Began his musical career with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became a successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s.

He signed with Capitol Records and released several albums. Sinatra left Capitol to found his own record label, Reprise Records, toured internationally, was a founding member of the Rat Pack. Sinatra turned 50 in 1965, recorded the song, September of My Years, starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, and scored hits with "Strangers in the Night" and "My Way".

Sinatra retired for the first time in 1971. Two years later, he came out of retirement and in 1973 recorded several albums, scored a Top 40 hit with "(Theme From) New York, New York" in 1980, and toured both within the United States and internationally, using his Las Vegas shows as a home base, until a short time before his death in 1998.

Sinatra also had a successful career as a film actor, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in, From Here to Eternity, a nomination for Best Actor for, The Man with the Golden Arm, and critical acclaim for his performance in, The Manchurian Candidate. He also starred in such musicals: High Society, Pal Joey, Guys and Dolls and On the Town. Sinatra was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1983 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1985 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1997. Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards: Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Please click here to read more about frank Sinatra.

List of Frank Sinatra movies I have seen:

Anchors Aweigh
1946 Till the Clouds Roll By
1948 The Kissing
1949 Take Me Out to the Ball Game
1953 From Here to Eternity
1954 Young at Heart
The Tender Trap
1956 High Society
1957 Pal Joey
A Hole in the Head
Ocean's Eleven
1965 Marriage on the Rocks
1984 Cannonball Run

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Happy Birthday: Rita Moreno!

Rita Moreno (born December 11, 1931) is a Puerto Rican singer, dancer and actress. She began her first dancing lessons soon after arriving in the United States from a friend of her mother, a Spanish dancer called Paco Cansino who was the uncle of Rita Hayworth.

She had her first Broadway role—as "Angelina" in Skydrift --by the time she was 13, which caught the attention of Hollywood talent scouts. She appeared in small roles in The Toast of New Orleans and Singin' in the Rain, in which she played Zelda Zanners, a fictional silent screen vamp. In 1956, she had a supporting role in the film version of The King and I as Tuptim.

In 1961, Moreno landed the role of Anita in the Broadway musical, West Side Story, which was played by Chita Rivera on Broadway. Moreno won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for that role.

Moreno went on to be the first actress (and the first Hispanic) to win an Emmy (1977), a Grammy (1972), an Oscar (1962) and a Tony (1975). In 1985, she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago.

Besides appearing in Singin' in the Rain, The King and I, Summer and Smoke (1961), West Side Story, The Night of the Following Day (1968) and Carnal Knowledge in (1971), Moreno appeared on the PBS children's series The Electric Company in the 1970s, most notably as Millie the Helper. In fact, it was Moreno who screamed the show's opening line, "HEY, YOU GUYS!" She also had roles as the naughty little girl Pandora, and as "Otto", the very short-tempered director. Moreno appeared in the family variety series The Muppet Show, and she made other guest appearances on television series such as The Rockford Files, The Love Boat, The Cosby Show, George Lopez, The Golden Girls, and Miami Vice.

Personal Quote: Bigger than life is not difficult for me. I am bigger than life.

Friday, December 10, 2010

From the Busby Berkeley 9-film Movie Collection: Hollywood Hotel (1937).

Hollywood Hotel(1937). Directed by Busby Berkeley.Cast: Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane, Lola Lane, and Ted Healy. Ronald Reagan, Benny Goodman and Harry James (a member of Goodman's band).

It is best remembered for the song "Hooray for Hollywood" by Johnny Mercer and Richard A. Whiting, sung in the film by Johnnie Davis and Frances Langford, accompanied by Benny Goodman and his orchestra. The song has become a standard part of the soundtrack to movie award ceremonies, including the Academy Awards.

Ronnie Bowers, a singer and saxophone player with Benny Goodman's orchestra wins a contract with All Star Pictures. They book him into the Hollywood Hotel, which is also the home of Mona Marshall. The afternoon before the premiere of her latest movie, Mona is interviewed by Louella Parsons, who breaks the news that Mona will not get the lead in a new film. Heartbroken, Mona decides not to go to the premiere and goes into hiding. Publicist Bernie Walton holds a casting call to find a woman who "looks like" Mona, to  show up at the premiere and finds Virginia Stanton, who worked as Mona's stunt double. Worried that Mona's escort, Alexander Dupre, will know the difference, they ask Ronnie to be her date. The next day, Mona returns and demands that Ronnie and Virginia be fired. Ronnie confused by Mona's behavior until Bernie tells him what is going on. Virginia gets Ronnie a job as a car hop, where director Walter Kelton overhears his singing. Kelton offers Ronnie a job dubbing Dupre's voice in the new Mona Marshall movie. After the first screening the actor is invited by Louella Parsons to sing in her program "Hollywood Hotel". He accepts, but he doesn't know that Ronny Bowers does not want to lend him his voice again.

Some of the he best moments of the film are the Goodman's numbers which include a good look at vibraphonist Lional Hampton and drummer Gene Krupa, along with jazz trumpeter Harry James.

Fun Facts:

The actual "Hollywood Hotel" on which this movie is based, was a Hollywood institution. It was a sprawling building built at the turn of the century and had formal gardens, grand lobby, 2 towers and a ballroom. It was the hangout for many stars over the years. It was finally torn down in 1956. The site today is occupied by the new Hollywood-Highland shopping complex and Kodak Theater, where the Oscars are now presented every year.

The drive-in restaurant where Dick Powell's character works is called "Callahans" in the film. The actual coffee shop in Hollywood was called "Carpenter's" and was located at the southeast corner of Sunset and Vine Streets. It was one of the earliest "drive-in" restaurants in the U.S. The uniform worn is based on the actual uniforms the mostly male waiters wore. They were based on the uniforms that service station attendants wore. The reason for this new type of restaurant was to cater to the new younger movie star who wanted to be seen in their expensive automobiles. The restaurant was open all night.

Ginger Rogers was offered a leading role in this movie, but turned it down.

Louella Parsons (August 6, 1881 – December 9, 1972) was an American gossip columnist who, for many years, was an influential arbiter of Hollywood, often feared and hated by actors, whose careers she could negatively impact via her radio show and newspaper columns.

Parsons also appeared in numerous cameo spots in movies, including Hollywood Hotel (1937), Without Reservations (1946) and Starlift (1951).


"Dark Eyes"

Hooray for Hollywood"
Music by Richard A. Whiting (as Dick Whiting)
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Johnnie Davis and Frances Langford
Performed by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra

"California Here I Come "
(1924) (uncredited)
Music by Joseph Meyer
Performed by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra

"I'm Like a Fish out of Water"
Music by Richard A. Whiting (as Dick Whiting)
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane

"Silhouetted in the Moonlight"
Music by Richard A. Whiting (as Dick Whiting)
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Rosemary Lane
Reprised by Jerry Cooper and Frances Langford
Performed by Raymond Paige and His Orchestra

"I've Got a Heartful of Music"
Music by Richard A. Whiting (as Dick Whiting)
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Performed by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra
Reprised by Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa

"Let That Be a Lesson to You"
Music by Richard A. Whiting (as Dick Whiting)
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Johnnie Davis, Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane, Mabel Todd,
Ted Healy, Harrison Greene, Constantine Romanoff and chorus
Performed by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra

"Sing, Sing, Sing"
(1936) (uncredited)
Music by Louis Prima
Performed by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra

"I've Hitched My Wagon to a Star"
Music by Richard A. Whiting (as Dick Whiting)
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Dick Powell
Performed by Raymond Paige and His Orchestra

"Ochi Tchornya (Dark Eyes) (uncredited)
Traditional Russian folk tune
Arranged by Raymond Paige
Sung by a chorus and played by Raymond Paige and His Orchestra

"Sing, You Son of a Gun"
Music by Richard A. Whiting (as Dick Whiting)
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Dick Powell, Johnnie Davis, Rosemary Lane, Frances Langford,
Lola Lane, Jerry Cooper, Glenda Farrell, Ted Healy, Mabel Todd and chorus
Performed by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra and Raymond Paige and His Orchestra

"I'm a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas"
(1928) (uncredited)
Written by Phil Baxter

"Bob White (Whatcha Gonna Swing Tonight?)"
Music by Bernard Hanighen
Played after the premiere upon entering the Orchid Room

"Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?"
Music by Richard A. Whiting (as Dick Whiting)
Played at the Orchid Room when Virginia asks Ronnie to dance

"Sonny Boy"
(1928) (uncredited)
Music by Ray Henderson
Lyrics by Al Jolson, Buddy G. DeSylva and Lew Brown
Sung by Ted Healy at the casting window

"Old Black Joe"
(1860) (uncredited)
Written by Stephen Foster
Performed by unidentified singers during the "Love & Glory" number

"Blue Moon"
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Richard Rodgers
Performed by Raymond Paige and His Orchestra at the beginning of the radio broadcast

"You Oughta Be in Pictures"
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Dana Suesse
Played during the radio broadcast when Louella Parsons is introduced

"Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)"
(1851) (uncredited)
Written by Stephen Foster
Played during the radio broadcast of "Love & Glory"

"Satan's Holiday"
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Joe Venuti
Arranged by Benny Goodman

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

If I'm Lucky (1946).

If I'm Lucky (1946). Cast: Vivian Blaine, Perry Como, Harry James, Carmen Miranda, Phil Silvers, Edgar Buchanan, Reed Hadley, Harry James and His Music Makers.

Band agent Wally Jones, sends telegrams to members of a band he manages, all who have other jobs, band leader Earl Gordon is blowing bugle at a race track, singer Linda Farrell is selling tickets at a movie theater, harpist Michelle O'Toole is working as a hat-check girl and other band members are playing golf. The telegram tell them to meet at Centerville, where Wally has arranged for them to audition for the Titan Tire Company, who is looking for a band to perform in his company's radio show. When the band arrives in Centerville, they find that Gillingwater has hired Benny Goodman instead. Broke, they decide to perform for a free meal of hot dogs at a "Magonnagle for Governor" political rally. Magonnagle hires the band to accompany him on the rest of his campaign tour. Magonnagle is running with the slogan, "A Vote for Magonnagle Is a Vote for the Common Man," but has little hope of beating the corrupt, Governor Quilby. The candidate is really a stooge for the corrupt political party, which discovers the band's handsome and singer would make a better candidate. Meanwhile, romance begins between the band's singers. When election day approaches, the band's singer wants out of the campaign, but the men that are backing Governor Quilby, threaten to ruin him and his band if he quits.

Vivian Blaine, age 25, has the lead role in this musical, which also stars Perry Como, and both of them perform their musical numbers perfectly. I would have loved to have seen Carmen Miranda's production number in color. If coarse I have to give a "shout out", to one of my favorite performers, Harry James, who has a speaking part, portraying the band leader. He also performs vocally in some of the songs. If you like fluffy 20th Century Fox musicals of the 1940s' you will also like this musical.:)

Liza Minnelli.

Liza Minnelli (born March 12, 1946), is a singer and actress. She is the daughter of singer and actress Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli.

Video: Liza Minnelli (at age 17) sings "Let Me Entertain You." She's joined by her mother Judy Garland for a duet of "Two Lost Souls." This performance is from Episode #3 of the Judy Garland Show, filmed on July 16, 1963 and aired on November 17, 1963.

Her first film performance was as the baby in the very last shot of her mother Judy Garland's film, In the Good Old Summertime (1949). Her first credited film role was in, Charlie Bubbles (1967). In 1969 she appeared in the film, The Sterile Cuckoo (1969). Her performance won her her first Academy Award nomination. She played another eccentric character in, Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon.  Minnelli appeared in perhaps her best-known film role, as “Sally Bowles” in the movie version of Cabaret (1972).  Minnelli won the Best Actress Academy Award for her performance, along with a Golden Globe Award. Following the success of Cabaret, Bob Fosse and Minnelli teamed up for Liza with a ‘Z’. A Concert for Television, a made-for-television special. Minnelli worked with her father, director Vincente Minnelli in,  A Matter of Time (1976), co-starring Ingrid Bergman.  Her appearance opposite Robert De Niro in the musical drama film, New York, New York (1977), gave Minnelli her best known signature song. After her performance as leading lady to Dudley Moore in,  Arthur(1981). Minnelli  returned to the big screen in 1991 for, Stepping Out. Most recently she made an appearance in the movie "Sex and the City 2 (2010)" as herself.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gene Krupa

Gene Krupa, studied with Sanford A. Moeller and began playing professionally in the mid 1920s. He was picked by MCA to become a member of "Thelma Terry and Her Playboys", the first American Jazz band (outside of all-girl bands) to be led by a female musician.

Krupa made his first recordings in 1927, with a band under the leadership of banjoist Eddie Condon and Red McKenzie along with other musicians known in the "Chicago" scene such as Bix Beiderbecke, these sides are examples of "Chicago Style" jazz. The numbers recorded at that session were: "China Boy", "Sugar", "Nobody's Sweetheart" and "Liza". The McKenzie - Condon sides are also notable for being some of the early examples of the use of a full drum kit on recordings. Krupa also appeared on six recordings made by the Thelma Terry band in 1928.

In 1929, he was part of the Mound City Blue Blowers sessions, that also included Red McKenzie, Glenn Miller, and Coleman Hawkins, which produced "Hello Lola" and "One Hour", which Krupa was credited with co-writing.

In 1929 he moved to New York City and worked with the band of Red Nichols. In 1934 he joined Benny Goodman's band, where his featured drum work made him a national celebrity. His tom-tom interludes on their hit "Sing, Sing, Sing" were the first extended drum solos to be recorded commercially. In 1938, Krupa performed with the Goodman Orchestra in the famous Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert.

After a public fight with Goodman at the Earl Theater in Philadelphia, Krupa left Goodman to launch his own band and had several hits with singer Anita O'Day and trumpeter Roy Eldridge.

In 1939, Gene Krupa and his Orchestra appeared in the Paramount movie, Some Like It Hot, which starred Bob Hope, performing the title song, "Blue Rhythm Fantasy", and "The Lady's in Love with You". Krupa made a memorable cameo appearance in the 1941 film Ball of Fire, in which he and his band performed an extended version of the hit "Drum Boogie", which he composed with trumpeter Roy Eldridge.

In 1943, Krupa was arrested for possession of two marijuana cigarettes and was given a three-month jail sentence. Krupa spent most of his savings defending himself of this charge and believed his career to be over. Then, Goodman invited him to perform with his orchestra.

Krupa soon formed his second orchestra. This one was notable for its large string section, and also featured Charlie Ventura on sax. It was one of the largest dance bands of the era, sometimes containing up to forty musicians. He also invited another drummer into the band so that he could take breaks and lead the orchestra from the front.

Krupa, also had a cameo appearance in the film, The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946). His athletic drumming style, timing methods and cymbal technique evolved during this decade to fit in with changed fashions and tastes. In 1954, Krupa returned to Hollywood, performing, along with Louis Armstrong, "Basin Street Blues" in Jimmy Stewart's bio-pic The Glenn Miller Story. He also joined  Benny Goodman, Harry James, Teddy Wilson, and Lionel Hampton in The Benny Goodman Story, starring Steve Allen. In 1959, the movie biography The Gene Krupa Story was released, with Sal Mineo portraying Krupa and a cameo appearance by Red Nichols.

Krupa continued to perform even in famous clubs in the 1960s like the Metropole, near Times Square in New York City, often playing duets with African American drummer Cozy Cole. Troubled by back pain, he retired in the late 1960s and opened a music school.

The Gene Krupa Story(1959). Biopic of drummer and bandleader Gene Krupa. The conflict in the film centers around Krupa's rise to success and his use of marijuana. Cast: Sal Mineo, Susan Kohner and James Darren.

A young Gene Krupa brings set of drums into his parents' apartment. Unfortunately, Gene's father, who wants his son to become a priest, does not support his dream and smashes the drum set. That does not stop Gene joining his friend, Eddie Sirota, in forming a band. After his father's death, Gene gives up his dreams of drumming and becomes a priest. At the end of his first year of training, Gene returns home and Eddie convinces him to play with the band for the summer. One night, Gene's family pays a visit to the club in which he is performing. Gene tells his mother that he is not retuning to the seminary. Eddie and Gene to go to New York looking for work to perform in a jazz band. Three months pass in which Eddie and Gene are unable to find employment. To support them, Ethel takes a job as a switchboard operator. Soon, they are invited to a gathering of jazz musicians, including Tommy Dorsey and Red Nichols. When Gene sits in with the band, they are impressed by his drumming. Later, Red hires Gene to perform in the pit band of a Broadway show. Gene starts to live in the fast lane, with drugs, alcohol, women and parties. Gene soon "hits rock bottom" where he has to face reality and choose where to take his life.

This film shows the good and bad times of Gene Krupa. A wonderful film with some great musicians.
Sal Mineo(January 10, 1939 – February 12, 1976). Film and theatre actor, best known for his performance opposite James Dean in the film Rebel Without a Cause, in which he played John "Plato" Crawford. His performance resulted in an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor.

Mineo played a Mexican boy in Giant (1956), but many of his roles were variations of his role in Rebel Without a Cause, and he was typecast as a troubled teen. In the Disney adventure Tonka, Mineo starred as a young Sioux named White Bull who domesticates a spirited wild horse named "Tonka" who becomes the famous Comanche. In 1959 He starred as drummer Gene Krupa in the movie, The Gene Krupa Story.

Mineo made an effort to break his typecasting and played a Jewish emigrant in, Exodus, for which he won a Golden Globe Award and received another Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor.

The Daughter of Rosie O' Grady(1950).

The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady(1950).Cast: June Haver, Gordon MacRae, James Barton, S.Z. Sakall, Gene Nelson, Sean McClory and Debbie Reynolds.

After watching the parade honoring soldiers returning from the Spanish-American War, sisters Patricia and Maureen O'Grady, walk by Tony Pastor's vaudeville theater, on their way to bring lunch to their father Dennis, a streetcar conductor. Tony, who at the time is dressed as a bum, the girls decide that he needs the lunch more than their father.

Dennis' friend, Miklos, tells father to talk his daughters about men before it is too late. Unknown to Dennis, his oldest daughter Katie is already married to James Moore and is pregnant. They have not told anyone about their marriage because the wartime housing shortage they have not found an apartment of their own.

Pat soon learns that the man who ate their father's lunch was not a bum but an actor, heads straight to the theater to find him. Tony apologizes, and after learning that Pat's mother was a well-known vaudeville performer, writes a song about the "Daughter of Rosie O'Grady." He then asks the sisters to play the song and is still there when Dennis comes home. Dennis blames the death of his wife Rosie on the hard life of vaudeville and is opposed to anything to do with the theater. Pat thinks it best to tell her father that Tony is a college student. During a dinner party with Tony and some of is friends, Pat tells Tony that she wants to go on the stage. Tony insists that they tell her father the truth about his profession, which backfires and Dennis bans Tony from his house until he gives up the theater. Pat moves out staying with Miklos and his wife. When Dennis learns that one of his daughters is expecting twins, he decides it must be Pat and immediately gets drunk. The bartender calls a policeman, and Jim, who is now working as a policeman, comes to take him home. Will the family reconcile and go back to performing on stage?

What makes this movie fun, is that it is debut of Debbie Reynolds. She had been in June Bride (1948) previously, but without dialogue.

Gene Nelson (March 24, 1920 - September 16, 1996), was inspired to become a dancer by watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies when he was a child. After serving in the Army during World War II, Nelson landed his first Broadway role in, Lend an Ear, for which he received the Theatre World Award. He also appeared on stage in Follies, which won him a Tony Award nomination, and Good News.

Nelson's film acting credits include: This is the Army (1943), I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now (1947), Gentlemen's Agreement (1947), Apartment for Peggy (1948), The Walls of Jericho (1948), The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady (1950), Tea for Two (1950), The West Point Story (1950), Lullaby of Broadway (1951), Painting the Clouds with Sunshine (1951), Starlift (1951), She's Working Her Way Through College (1952), She's Back on Broadway (1953), Three Sailors and a Girl (1953), Crime Wave(1954), So This is Paris (1954), Oklahoma! (1955), The Atomic Man (1956), The Way Out (1956), The Purple Hills (1961), 20,000 Eyes (1961), Thunder Island (1963), Starred as "Buddy" in the 1971 Broadway musical "Follies", A Brand New Life (1972), Family Flight (1972), and S.O.B. (1981). Nelson directed episodes of the original Star Trek, the first season of I Dream of Jeannie, and Gunsmoke. In 1959, he appeared with Keith Larsen and Buddy Ebsen in the NBC adventure series Northwest Passage as a young man trying to prove his innocence in a murder case. Nelson also directed the 1965 Elvis Presley movie Harum Scarum.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) is classic Marilyn

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the 1953 musical that paired Marilyn Monroe with Jane Russell, recently aired on TV and I watched a little of it. This is one of my favorite musicals and one of Marilyn's best films in my opinion. I own it on DVD but I will always pause to watch it when it plays on TV. The story has two singers and best friends Lorelei Lee (Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Russell) who travel to Paris pursued by a private detective hired by Lorelei's fiance's disapproving father to keep an eye on her. Dorothy ends up falling for the detective while Lorelei deals with unwanted suitors such as Sir Francis "Piggy" Beekman, a wealthy old codger, and a very young and infatuated kid. This movie is delightful with several great songs such as Is There Anyone Here For Love? which is knocked out of the park by Russell. She gives a energetic performance amid a team of gymnasts and winds up in the swimming pool. Monroe of course sings the signature song, Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend and she is equally as good. As a matter of fact, these two women really have great chemistry together. It's a shame they didn't make more films together. Monroe nails the ditsy blonde to perfection but throws in some wisdom every now that makes a lot of sense. Russell gets to deliver all the wisecracks and she will remind you of Eve Arden a little bit. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a terrific movie that is great to watch in glorious color with great songs and wonderful comedy.