Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lets Be Happy(1957).

Lets Be Happy(1957). Cast: Vera Ellen's final film. Tony Martin, Cyd Charisse's husband. Robert Flemyng, Zena Marshall and Helen Horton. Directed by Henry Levin, written by Dorothy Cooper and Diana Morgan.

After her grandfather's death, Jeannie has been taking in neighbors' washing in order to support herself. Soon after, she receives the money her grandfather left her in his will. Jeannie, immediately decides to spend the money on a trip to Scotland to see the Edinburgh Festival, but.. the only reservation available on short notice is on an, Air France flight to Paris. On board the plane, she is seated next to Stanley Smith, a washing machine inventor, who is hoping to sell his invention to a businessman in Paris.

When they arrive in Paris, they go their separate ways, but after Stanley learns that Mr. Fielding, the man he needs to see, is not there, he meets Jeannie back on the train to Edinburgh.

Later when Jeannie arrives at her boardinghouse, she learns that they have lost her reservation, which leaves her without a room. She goes to see Stanley, to see if he can help her find a room. While Stanley is arranging a room for her, Jeannie meets down on his luck Lord James MacNairn, who is looking for wealthy wife and mistakes her for a millionaires. After Stanley, registers Jeannie in the bridal suite they to go out that evening.

The next day Stanley, meets Helene, a French fashion model and breaks his date with Jeannie saying he has to go to a business meeting.. Unfortunately, Jeannie sees him leaving out her window with his date.

The next day, Jimmy shows Jeannie around Edinburgh and invites her to a ballet. Not knowing that Stanley has bought tickets for a different event, she tells him that she has another date and accuses him of lying to her. Stanley and Helene follow Jeannie and Jimmy to the ballet and later dine at separate tables in the same restaurant. Jeannie spends the next few days with Jimmy, taking in Scotland's scenic beauty. At dinner that evening, when Jeannie tells Jimmy that she is leaving the next day, he asks her to marry him. Stanley interrupts them to announce that he has made his business deal a success and that is when Jeannie informs him that she and Jimmy are engaged. After Stanley leaves, Jeannie tells Jimmy that all of her money is gone. Jimmy says that he thought that she was a millionairess and he originally wanted to marry Jeannie for her money, but now... he wants to marry her for herself. Jeannie tells Jimmy that she likes him, but not enough to marry him and sails back to the United States. There she sells the house in Heatherdale and makes plans to move to New York. As she is packing, Stanley shows up and shows her a newspaper story about Jimmy's engagement to a toothpaste heiress. When Stanley tells her that he loves her, will she set her pride aside and agree to marry him?

This is a wonderful scenic musical set in the 50s. And a wonderful opportunity to see Vera Ellen's dance number.

Vera Ellen

Zena Moyra Marshall (1 January 1926 – 10 July 2009) was a British actress of film and television. Her film career began with a small role in the film, Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), with Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh. Her exotic looks resulted in her being cast in "ethnic" roles, such as Asian women, including her role as Miss Taro, in the first James Bond film, Dr. No (1962). Marshall also performed in the film,Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965) as the Countess Ponticelli.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Favorite Spy (1942).

My Favorite Spy (1942). Produced by silent-film comedian Harold Lloyd. Cast: Ellen Drew, Moroni Olsen and Jane Wyman. My Favorite Spy, is a vehicle for bandleader Kay Kyser, who looks a little like Lloyd.

Just before taking off on his honeymoon with his new bride Terry, Kyser is drafted into the Army. Where he runs into trouble with all his assignments. Terry, is soon promoted into service by US intelligence officer Major Allen, who believes that Nazi agents have been passing secrets in the nightclub where Kyser's band performs.

To maintain his cover, Kay is discharged from the army in disgrace and is ordered to make himself a "security risk", so that Nazi Robinson, will want Kay to join his spy ring. Trouble is, Kyser must keep his espionage activities secret from everyone including his wife Terry. Making matters worse, Kyser is working with glamorous secret agent Connie, whom Terry suspects them having an affair. Many funny situations with Kay Kyser rescuing his wife from the Nazis. My Favorite Spy, is a very cute film with a few laughs.

Video: Got the Moon in My Pocket"
Music by Jimmy Van Heusen (as James Van Heusen)
Lyrics by Johnny Burke
Played by the Kay Kyser Band and sung by Harry Babbitt, Sully Mason,
Trudy Erwin, Dorothy Dunn and others.
Even though some of the video is not in English you get the general idea of what is going on.

Ellen Drew (November 23, 1915 – December 3, 2003),  was discovered while working at an ice cream parlor where one of the customers William Demarest, noticed her and helped her get into films.

She became popular from 1938 to 1943, where she appeared in six films per year, including: Sing You Sinners (1938) with Bing Crosby and The Lady's from Kentucky (1939) with George Raft. Christmas in July (1940), Isle of the Dead (1945), Johnny O'clock (1947), The Man from Colorado (1948) and The Crooked Way (1949).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Oscar Levant

Oscar Levant (December 27, 1906 – August 14, 1972) was an pianist, composer, author, comedian, and actor. He studied under Zygmunt Stojowski, a piano pedagogue. In 1924, aged 18, he appeared with Ben Bernie in a short film, Ben Bernie and All the Lads.

In 1928, Levant moved to Hollywood where he met and befriended George Gershwin. From 1929 to 1948 he composed the music for more than twenty movies. During this period, he also wrote the well known song,"Blame It on My Youth" (1934).

Levant married his second wife, singer and actress June Gale, part of the The Gale Sisters. They were married for almost 33 years, until his death.

The role of Cosmo Brown in Singin' in the Rain (1952) was written with him in mind, but the part went instead to, Donald O'Connor.


Ben Bernie and All the Lads (1924)
The Dance of Life (1929)
Night Parade (1929) (uncredited)
In Person (1935)
Rhythm on the River (1940). Musical comedy film starring Bing Crosby and Mary Martin as a ghostwriters whose songs are credited to a composer played by Basil Rathbone. James V. Monaco (music) and Johnny Burke (lyrics) were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song for, "Only Forever". The song in the video:
"That's for Me"
Music by James V. Monaco
Lyrics by Johnny Burke
Sung by Mary Martin
Also sung by Lillian Cornell

Kiss the Boys Goodbye (1941)
Rhapsody in Blue (1945)
Humoresque (1946)
Romance on the High Seas (1948)
You Were Meant for Me
The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
An American in Paris (1951)
O. Henry's Full House (1952)
The I Don't Care Girl (1953)
The Band Wagon (1953)
The Cobweb (1955)
The Oscar Levant Show (1958)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Humoresque(1947). Cast: Joan Crawford, John Garfield, Oscar Levant, J. Carroll Nash, Joan Chandler, Tom D'Andrea, Peggy Knudsen, Ruth Nelson, Craig Stevens, Paul Cavanaugh, Richard Gaines, John Abbott, Bobby Blake, Tommy Cook, Don McGuire, Fritz Leiber, Peg La Centra, Nestor Paiva, Richard Walsh.

Based on a story by Fannie Hurst (first published in the book Humoresque and Other Stories, 1919). Screenplay: Clifford Odets and Zachary Gold. Producer: Jerry Wald. Director: Jean Negulesco. Musical Director: Leo F. Forbstein. Music Advisor: Isaac Stern. Joan's costumes: Adrian. Editor: Rudi Fehr. Awards: 1947 Oscar nomination for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture: Franz Waxman.

Violinist Paul Boray, first becomes interested in the violin as a child when he receives it as a birthday present. Phil, Paul's older brother, resents the fact that Paul spends his time practicing, instead of working in the family grocery store.

Paul, finds a job with a radio orchestra, but.. things don't work out because he thinks he is ready to make his concert debut. His friend Sid, suggests that he attend a party at the home of socialites Helen and Victor Wright, where he might meet the right people like Helen, who introduces him to Bauer.

Soon, Paul becomes a successful performer and he and Helen fall in love. When Helen talks things over with his mother Esther, she reminds Helen about her three previous failed marriages and begs her to leave Paul alone.

One night, while Paul is performing on the radio, a drunken Helen realizes that she maybe holding him back. You see on Crawford's face, her loneliness of being in an unhappy marriage and pain of being in a forbidden relationship. The final scene when Helen walks along the ocean was dark and beautiful at the same time.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Happy Birthday: Gene Krupa!

Gene Krupa (January 15, 1909 – October 16, 1973) was an amazing jazz and big band drummer and composer.Please click here to learn more about Gene Krupa.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy Birthday: Gwen Verdon!

Gwen Verdon (January 13, 1925 – October 18, 2000) was one of Broadway's biggest stars during its "golden" era. She was an actress and dancer who won four Tony awards for her musical comedy performances. Please click here to read past Gwen Verdon reviews and bios.

Video: From the movie, The Merry Widow with, Lana Turner,  Fernando Lamas, and A 26-27 year old, Gwen Verdon. Ms. Verdon, never received screen credit for this performance.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Let's Make Music(1941).

Bob Crosby with Betty Grable.

Let's Make Music(1941). Cast: Bob Crosby, Jean Rogers and Elisabeth Risdon. Written by Nathanael West. The songs in Let's Make Music include the Bing Crosby (Bob's brother) classic "Big Noise From Winnetka".

Malvina Adams, teaches music appreciation to the students of, Newton High, who prefer "swing" to Chopiln. Malvina decides to write a song for the school band, "Fight on for Newton High," . Malvina's niece Abby, mails the song to band, leader Bob Crosby, who is surprised to discover that the writer is an elderly woman. Malvina's debut is a big success only for a short time. After, Malvina's contract is canceled, she writes another tune, inspired by Central Park, but.. it is not very good until,  Bob secretly rewrites the composition.

Lets Make Music, is a charming musical, that will make you will smile and it is a great treat to see a movie with Bob Crosby performing.

Jean Rogers (March 25, 1916 - February 24, 1991). She is best remembered as, Dale Arden, in two of the three Flash Gordon serials.

Jean Rogers, as a teenager in 1933, won a local beauty contest sponsored by Paramount Pictures, which helped launch a career in Hollywood. Rogers starred in a number of serials for Universal from 1935 to 1938, including: Ace Drummond and Flash Gordon.


"Fight on for Newton High"
Written by Roy Webb, Dave Dreyer and Herman Ruby
Played on piano and sung by Elisabeth Risdon
Reprised on piano by Donna Jean Dolfer with Elisabeth Risdon singing
Reprised by Bob Crosby Orchestra and sung by Elisabeth Risdon, Bob Crosby and the Bobcats

"You Forgot About Me"
Music by James F. Hanley
Lyrics by Richard Robertson and Sammy Mysels
Played by Bob Crosby Orchestra and sung by Bob Crosby and the Bobcats

"Three Little Words"
Lyrics by Bert Kalmar
Music by Harry Ruby
Played by Bob Crosby Orchestra

"The Big Noise from Winnetka"
Written by Gil Rodin, Bob Haggart, Ray Bauduc and Bob Crosby
Played by Bob Crosby Orchestra
Sung by Bob Crosby and the Bobcats; whistled by Bob Haggart

"Central Park"
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Music by Matty Malneck
Played on piano by Jean Rogers and sung by Bob Crosby
Reprised at school with Donna Jean Dolfer on piano and sung by Gale Sherwood and the students

Monday, January 10, 2011

South Pacific - The first Rodgers and Hammerstein Musical I ever saw

Me and Dawn decided the theme for this month on Singin and Dancing would be the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein and I thought of this story to share. My first Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that I saw was South Pacific (1958) starring Rossano Brazzi, John Kerr, Juanita Hall, and the unforgettable Mitzi Gaynor as Ensign Nellie Forbush. I was around 17 or 18 I believe and my mom bought it from the Columbia Video Club on VHS. It came in as a two tape set since it was early 3 hours long. I remember watching as soon as I got it in the mail and I was amazed. It seems strange that while my buddies was out playing football and video games, I was watching classic movies. But that was me, and I loved it. I still love watching classic movies. Anyway South Pacific was a terrific movie with a star making performance by Mitzi Gaynor. Her rendition of I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair is a show-stopper. I still have the movie after all these years. I will need to re-watch again now, but from my memories I know it's a good movie. How does it compare to the other R&S musicals like Oklahoma, State Fair, The King and I, and Carousel? That's why I need to see it again, because it's been so long. Anyway, I just wanted to share this little story with everyone. And I will be posting more stuff on R&S films the whole month.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy Birthday: Elvis Presley!

Elvis(January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll".

Clambake(1967). Cast: Elvis Presley and Shelley Fabares.

Scott Heyward, son of a rich oil tycoon decides to leave his home, so he can discover life for himself. He runs into Tom Wilson, a water-skiing instructor. Tom offers to switch places with Scott so they can experience what life is like in each other's shoes. While Tom, posing as Scott, checks into the hotel, Scott starts giving skiing lessons to Dianne Carter, who is out to snag James Jamison III, a competitor in the annual Orange Bowl Power Boat Regatta. Scott also wants competing in the event, he refuses to use one of the three boats he owns in Texas. Instead, he drives a boat designed by Sam Burton. Since Burton's craft went to pieces in the last race because of defective protective coating, Scott sends for an experimental hardener called "Goop," which he himself developed in his father's laboratory. Who will win the race and the girl?

A fun Elvis movie.  Loved the plot of him changing places with the ski instructor.  Elvis, Shelley, Will, and all the cast are just fabulous!

Fun Facts:

Production was halted for nearly two weeks in the middle of filming when Elvis fell and hit his head in the mansion he was living in during the shooting, resulting in his suffering a mild concussion.

Among the kids during the "Confidence" scene is a young Corbin Bernsen and renowned Southern California real estate agent Tony Yollin. The girl afraid to go down the slide, to whom Elvis sings, is Lisa Slagle, who later joined the Joffrey Ballet.

Harold Peary, who was famous for playing "The Great Gildersleeve" on radio in the 1940s, plays a bit part as the hotel doorman.

The red car driven by Elvis was a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Racer.

Set in Florida. Virtually the entire film was shot in Southern California (resulting in the scene with the sun seemingly setting over the ocean in the East). Several exterior "Florida" scenes also have very conspicuous California mountains in the background.

Shelley Fabares (born January 19, 1944) is an actress and singer. Fabares is known for her roles as Donna Reed's oldest child, "Mary Stone," on The Donna Reed Show (from 1958 to 1963), and as Craig T. Nelson's love interest and eventual wife, Christine Armstrong Fox, on the sitcom Coach. She was also Elvis Presley's costar in three films.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Let's Do it Again (1953)

Let's Do it Again (1953). Directed by Alexander Hall. Cast: Jane Wyman, Ray Milland, Aldo Ray, and Tom Helmore.

This film is from the stage play by Arthur Richman, The Awful Truth (1924), which was previously filmed in 1925, 1929, and 1937, the last starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.

Broadway composer Gary Stuart learns that while on vacation his wife, Constance Stuart, spent an evening in a Country Inn with another composer, Courtney Craig. Connie reminds Gary of his own behavior with dancer, Lilly Adair. They file divorce and in the divorce papers they are issued a sixty-day waiting period.

Wanting to visit Connie, Gary asks if he can stop by to use his piano, but.. rushes out when she receives flowers from Courtney, who wants her audition the next day. Connie's performance wins the attention of young Alaskan mining millionaire, Frank McGraw.

One evening when Connie and Frank, return to Connie's apartment they find Gary and some movers trying to move his piano. Gary, bribes the movers to drag out the process as long as possible.

A few weeks later, Courtney visits Connie where she insists her divorce will go through as planned. Meanwhile, his brother Chet reveals to Gary that she has really been seeing Frank.

When Gary runs into Connie and Frank at a supper-club where Lilly is performing, he arranges an introduction between Lilly and Frank.

The next morning, Connie finds Gary composing his songs on the piano. Connie says she is committed to marrying Frank as soon as the divorce becomes final. While Connie fixes breakfast, Frank knocks on the door and discovers Gary wearing Connie's robe. Frank demands an explanation. Gary implies that Connie's interest in Courtney was the cause for their divorce.

Later, Gary's new show opens, but he does not care because Connie is not there to support him. Chet tells him that the story of the Country Inn was meant only to make Gary jealous.

As Connie is packing for her trip to Seattle to meet Frank's parents, Courtney arrives. He proposes to Connie, who admits she still loves Gary. Just then Gary, arrives to take Connie to the airport and Gary looks into the bedroom where Courtney is hiding. The two are in a huge fight when Frank drops by and leaves, soon Connie hears that he is now dating, Lilly.

Angry, Gary refuses to speak to Connie and begins dating Deborah Randolph. Connie is worried as the sixty-day waiting period nears its end and finally gets Gary to agree to meet her at the apartment, where he makes phone call to Deborah. Connie, retaliates by singing a romantic song. Gary tells Deborah that Connie is his sister. When he returns to his apartment, Deborah has arranged a large party at Gary's "sister's" request. Connie, arrives and performs one of Lilly's dance routines, but Deborah recognizes her and tells Gary he should return to Connie. Gary realizes he has been foolish and Connie admits she has always been faithful.

Let's Do it Again, is one of my favorite Jane Wyman movies. She is obviously enjoying herself and looks wonderful in her beautiful Jean Louis wardrobe.

Valerie Bettis (December 1919 – 26 September 1982). She found success in musical theatre, ballet and as a solo dancer.

She attended the University of Texas for only one year before moving to New York City to study modern dance under Hanya Holm. She performed and toured with Holm's company from 1937 through 1940.

Valerie Bettis, first musical comedy was when she choreographed and performed in, Glad to See You(1944). In 1948, she won a Theatre World Award for her performance in, Inside U.S.A., a revue that would run for nearly 400 performances at the New Century Theatre and the Majestic Theatre.

Rita Hayworth's dances to the songs "Trinidad Lady" and "I've Been Kissed Before" (in the 1952 movie Affair in Trinidad), as well as the "Dance Of The Seven Veils" (in the 1953 movie Salome) were choreographed by Valerie Bettis.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Blue Skies (1946).

Blue Skies(1946). Cast: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Joan Caulfield, Olga San Juan and Billy De Wolfe, with music, lyrics and story by Irving Berlin. Most of the songs came from earlier works. The film was directed by Stuart Heisler and produced by Sol C. Siegel.

As in Holiday Inn (1942), the film is designed to showcase the songs of Irving Berlin. The plot, which is presented in a series of flashbacks with Astaire as narrator, telling the story how Crosby won the heart of the leading lady through songs and dance numbers. I thought it was a very colorful and entertaining musical.

"All by Myself": Crosby performs this 1921 song to Caulfield, who harmonizes with him in the closing phrases.

"I'll See You In Cuba": A 1920 song performed as a duet by Crosby and San Juan.

"A Couple Of Song And Dance Men": A comic song and dance duet for Astaire and Crosby.

Fred Astaire and a chorus of Fred Astaires in "Puttin' on the Ritz" Although Berlin's 1930 song was originally written for vaudevillian Harry Richman, it has become associated with Astaire. In this tap solo with cane, which was widely billed as "Astaire's last dance". The routine was produced after the rest of the film had been completed, and according to Astaire, it took "five weeks of back-breaking physical work" to prepare.

"You Keep Coming Back Like a Song": Crosby performs this number.

"Blue Skies": Crosby sings this ballad, to Caulfield.

"How Deep Is The Ocean?": Crosby performs this 1932 song, backed by a female quartet.

"(Running Around In Circles) Getting Nowhere": Crosby sings this specially composed song to his daughter, played by Karolyn Grimes.

Fun Facts:

Draper was fired over either his impatience with Joan Caulfield, who was not a professional dancer, or his stutter. He was replaced by Fred Astaire.

This marked the second time that Irving Berlin's song "White Christmas" was used in a film.

Mark Sandrich, who directed several of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films, was the original director, but he died suddenly of a heart attack.

This was Paramount's biggest hit of 1946.

Fred Astaire, then 47 years old, planned to retire as a leading man with this film. He was planning to only work with his dance studios and breed racehorses. The film Easter Parade (1948), having recently lost Gene Kelly to a broken ankle, brought Astaire out of retirement. He danced on film and on television until he was nearly 70.

One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since.

After Fred Astaire announced his retirement after completing Blue Skies (1946), New York's Paramount Theater generated a petition of 10,000 names to persuade him to come out of retirement.

Song: Perfidia.

Perfidia, A song written by Alberto Domínguez(1911–1975), a Mexican composer and arranger. The song is about love and betrayal. Aside from the original Spanish, other renditions exist, including English and instrumental versions. The English lyrics are by Milton Leeds. The song was published in 1939 and became a hit for Xavier Cugat in 1940. This version was used by director Wong Kar-wai in his films Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love, and 2046.

"Perfidia"' has been recorded by many artists, including Julie London, The Four Aces, Charlie Parker, Laurel Aitken, Mel Torme, Olavi Virta, Café Tacuba, Glenn Miller, Nana Mouskouri, King Tubby, Phyllis Dillon, The Shadows, The Ventures, Trini Lopez, Linda Ronstadt (in Spanish), Nat King Cole (in Spanish), Cliff Richard, Lawrence Welk, Luis Miguel, mandolinist Dave Apollon, Olivia Molina, Perez Prado, Ibrahim Ferrer, Los Rabanes, and Ben E. King.

The song is played in the film Casablanca when Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart dance in the Paris nightclub, in the flashback sequence of their romance.

The song is heard in the film The Mask of Dimitrios (1944) but the story is set in 1938 (a year before the song was published).

It also sets a romantic mood in the film Now, Voyager, with stars Bette Davis and Paul Henreid seen sitting together in a Rio de Janeiro nightclub.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy Birthday: Xavier Cugat!

Xavier Cugat(1 January 1900 – 27 October 1990),  was trained as a classical violinist and played with the Orchestra of the Teatro Nacional in Havana. On 6 July 1915, Cugat and his family arrived in New York as immigrant passengers on board the S.S. Havana.

Cugat was married five times. His first marriage was to Rita Montaner (1918–1920). Was a Cuban singer, pianist, actress and star of stage, film, radio and television. In Cuban parlance, she was well-known in Mexico City, Paris, Miami and New York, where she performed, filmed and recorded on various occasions. She was probably the best-loved female star in Cuba of the period 1920–1960; they called her Rita de Cuba. Though classically trained, her mark was made as a singer of Afrocubanist salon songs.

 His second was to Carmen Castillo (1929–1944). His third to Lorraine Allen (1947–52). His fourth to singer Abbe Lane (1952–64). Lane, began her career as a child actress on radio and from there she moved on to singing and dancing on Broadway.

His fifth to Spanish guitarist and comic actress Charo (1966–78). His last marriage was the first in Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip.

Entering the world of show business, he played with a band called The Gigolos during the tango craze Later, he went to work for the Los Angeles Times as a cartoonist. Cugat's caricatures were later nationally syndicated.

Cugat put together another tango band and by the early 1930s, he began appearing with his group in films. He took his band to New York for the 1931 opening of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and he eventually replaced Jack Denny as the leader of the hotel's resident band. One of his trademarks was to hold a Chihuahua while he waved his baton with the other arm.

For 16 years Cugat lead the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel's orchestra. He shuttled between New York and Los Angeles for most of the next 30 years, alternating hotel and radio dates with movie performances in some of my favorite films: You Were Never Lovelier (1942), Bathing Beauty (1944), Week-End at the Waldorf (1945), On an Island with You (1948), and Neptune's Daughter (1949).