Monday, February 28, 2011

Singer: Frances Langford.

Frances Langford (April 4, 1913 – July 11, 2005), was popular during the Golden Age of Radio and also made film appearances over two decades. Langford originally trained as an opera singer. While a young girl she required a tonsillectomy that changed her soprano range to a contralto. At age 17, she was singing for local dances. Cigar manufacturer Eli Witt heard her sing at an American Legion party and hired her to sing on his local radio show. While singing for radio during the early 1930s, she was heard by Rudy Vallee, who invited her to become a regular on his radio show. From 1935 until 1938 she was a regular performer on Dick Powell's radio show. From 1946 to 1951, she performed with Don Ameche on The Bickersons.

With her film debut in, Every Night at Eight (1935) she introduced what became her signature song: "I'm in the Mood for Love." her other films include: Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), Born to Dance (1936),Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) and The Glenn Miller Story(1953) where she sang "Chattanooga Choo Choo" with the Modernaires and the movie orchestra.

From 1941, Langford was a regular singer on Bob Hope's radio show. During World War II, she joined Hope, Jerry Colonna, and other performers on U.S.O. tours through Europe, North Africa, and the South Pacific, entertaining thousands of G.I.'s throughout the world.

Also, during the war, Langford wrote a weekly column for Hearst Newspapers, entitled "Purple Heart Diary,".

Her association with Hope continued into the 1980s. In 1989 she joined him for a USO tour to entertain troops in the Persian Gulf.


The Subway Symphony (1932) (short subject)
Every Night at Eight (1935)
Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935)
Collegiate (1936)
Palm Springs (1936)
Born to Dance (1936)
Hit Parade of 1937 (1937)
Hollywood Hotel (1937)
Dreaming Out Loud (1940)
Too Many Girls (1940)
Hit Parade of 1941 (1940)
Swing It Soldier (1941)
All American Co-Ed (1941)
Mississippi Gambler (1942)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
Follow the Band (1943)
Cowboy in Manhattan (1943)
This Is the Army (1943)
Never a Dull Moment (1943)
Career Girl (1944)
Dixie Jamboree (1944)
Girl Rush (1944)
Radio Stars on Parade (1945)
People Are Funny (1946)
The Bamboo Blonde (1946)
Beat the Band (1947)
Melody Time (1948) (voice)
Deputy Marshal (1949)
Purple Heart Diary (1951)
The Glenn Miller Story (1953)
Fun at St. Fanny's (1956)

Broadway Melody (1936)

Broadway Melody (1936). It was a follow up to the film, The Broadway Melody(1929). Beyond the title and some of the 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. Directed by Roy Del Ruth. Cast: Jack Benny, Eleanor Powell, Una Merkel and Robert Taylor. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The story begins when, columnist Bert Keeler, is told by his editor that he has to stop writing about "Blessed Events" and start digging up dirt. Lillian Brent, who is backing Gordons new show also wants to be star of the show and Keeler, thinks their story is what his editor is looking for.

Bob's childhood sweetheart, Irene Foster, comes to his office, but he doesn't recognize her at first. Shortly after she leaves, he finds the fraternity pin that he once had given her, he tells his secretary, Kitty Corbett, to find her. When she auditions for his show, he tells her that Broadway isn't for her. She dreams in a beautiful dance number of being a hit in his show. Bob, buys her ticket to go back home.

Lillian, talks Bob into agreeing that if he doesn't find a star for the show within two weeks, she can play the lead.

Keeler, has been spreading rumors about a French musical star named Mlle. La Belle Arlette and when Kitty finds out the truth, she helps Irene assume that identity.

Just as Irene's dreams are about to come true, Keeler tell her that he knows that she is an impostor and threatens to sue the paper if she continues with the lie. Will she be able to talk him out of suing and will Bob ever find out the truth about Irene's identity ?

In this wonderful musical-comedy, Una Merkel and Sid Silvers (who has one hilarious scene disguised as Mademoiselle Arlette) make a wonderful pair who have many, very cute scenes. In 1936, Powell, Merkel, Buddy Ebsen, Langford and Silvers would be joined together for the film, BORN TO DANCE.

Fun Facts:

This was Powell's first leading role, and her first movie for MGM. She would appear in the next two films in the Broadway Melody series: Broadway Melody (1938) and Broadway Melody (1940). This was also Ebsen's film debut.

Reportedly, Eleanor Powell did not want to be in this film but was too polite to directly tell MGM executives. She asked for the leading role and an exorbitant salary, and MGM accepted her demands.

The singing voice of Eleanor Powell was dubbed by Marjorie Lane.

Preceded by The Broadway Melody (1929) and followed by Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937) and Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940). Another film in the series was planned, "Broadway Melody of 1943" starring Eleanor Powell and Gene Kelly. However, that project was abandoned, and a dance number filmed by Eleanor Powell was edited into, Thousands Cheer (1943).

Una Merkel (December 10, 1903 – January 2, 1986) , looked a lot like actress Lillian Gish and began her career as a stand-in for Gish, in the classic silent film, The Wind(1928). Merkel, also performed in the silent the film, Love's Old Sweet Song (1923).

She played Ann Rutledge in the film, Abraham Lincoln (1930. During the 1930s, Merkel became a popular second lead, playing the wisecracking best friend of the heroine. Merkel was an MGM contract player from 1932 to 1938, performing in as many as twelve films in a year, often on loan-out to other studios.

In 42nd Street (1933), Merkel played a streetwise showgirl. Merkel performed in both the 1934 and the 1952 film versions of, The Merry Widow. One of her most famous roles was in the Western, Destry Rides Again (1939) in which her character, Lillibelle, gets into a famous "cat-fight" with Frenchie (Marlene Dietrich). She played the elder daughter to the W. C. Fields character, in the film, The Bank Dick(1940).

She had a major part in the film, The Mating Game(1959) as Paul Douglas's wife and Debbie Reynolds's mother, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the film, Summer and Smoke (1961). Merkel, whose final film role was in the Elvis Presley film Spinout (1966).

June Knight (January 22, 1913 – June 16, 1987) . At the aged of 19, she performed in the last Ziegfeld Follies show, Hot-Cha! (1932). She also performed in the film, Broadway Melody (1936), in which she sang a duet with actor Robert Taylor. She performed in movies from 1930 to 1940.

Vilma Ebsen (February 1, 1911 – March 12, 2007) , best known for dancing in MGM musicals in the 1930s with her famous brother, Buddy Ebsen. She learned to dance at her father's dance studio in Orlando, Florida, in the 1920s. Vilma and Buddy Ebsen moved to New York in 1928, where they formed a vaudeville act. One of their first appearances together was in Eddie Cantor's Ziegfeld production, Whoopee. When Whoopee closed after a year and a half, Vilma and Buddy Ebsen took their act to Atlantic City, where they caught the eye of celebrity columnist Walter Winchell, who help them with their career.

Vilma and Buddy Ebsen performed their dance act on Broadway, as well as around the United States in vaudeville theatres and supper clubs throughout the early 1930s. Some of the Broadway productions they starred in were Flying Colors (1932) and Ziegfeld Follies of 1934. They came to Hollywood in 1935, where Vilma Ebsen starred in one film, Broadway Melody of (1936).

After the film, Broadway Melody (1936), the studio decided to separate the Ebsens. Vilma Ebsen was not interested in accepting Louis B. Mayer's offer to make her "the next Myrna Loy" and moved back to New York with her husband, composer and bandleader Robert Emmett "Bobby" Dolan. Later, she opened a dance school in Pacific Palisades with her sister, Helga, partially funded by their brother.

Harry Stockwell (April 27, 1902 – July 19, 1984), made his film debut in the film, Strike Up the Band (1935). Although, he is best known as the voice of "The Prince", in Walt Disney's animated classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

Harry Stockwell was married to actress Nina Olivette, and was the father of actors Dean Stockwell and Guy Stockwell.


"Broadway Rhythm"
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Played during the opening credits
Danced to by a chorus at rehearsal
Sung by Frances Langford at the nightclub
Danced to by Buddy Ebsen, Vilma Ebsen, June Knight, Nick Long Jr. and Eleanor Powell at the nightclub

"You Are My Lucky Star"
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Played during the opening credits
Sung by Frances Langford and chorus
Sung and danced to by Eleanor Powell (dubbed by Marjorie Lane) and chorus in a ballet
Played on piano by Roger Edens and danced to by Eleanor Powell
Reprised by Robert Taylor and chorus at the end
Played as background music often

"Broadway Melody"
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Sung by Harry Stockwell in the first scene

"I've Got a Feelin' You're Foolin'"
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Sung by June Knight, Robert Taylor and chorus
Danced to by June Knight, Nick Long Jr. and chorus
Reprised by Frances Langford
Played as dance music and during end credits

"Sing Before Breakfast"
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Sung and danced to by Buddy Ebsen, Vilma Ebsen and Eleanor Powell
(dubbed by Marjorie Lane)

"All I Do Is Dream Of You"
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Sung on a record in French by an unidentified singer

"On a Sunday Afternoon"
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Sung and danced to by Buddy Ebsen and Vilma Ebsen

"The Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)"
Written by Stephen Foster
Performed by Roger Edens

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Stork Club (1945).

The Stork Club (1945). Directed by Hal Walker. Cast: Betty Hutton , Barry Fitzgerald and Don DeFore.

A hat check girl at New York's famous Stork Club nightclub, Judy Peabody, saves an elderly man from drowning. He turns out to be Jerry Bates, who Judy, believes to be poor man.

Pop tells his lawyer to give Judy any thing her heart desires, anonymously. Judy's, dream is for her bandleader boyfriend Danny, to return home from the Marines, so she can sing with his band.

Before long she finds herself in a beautiful apartment, free of charge and a line of credit at a up scale department store. She buys dresses and furs, without knowing who is supporting her.

Judy finds "Pop" a job as a busboy, but that turns out to be a disaster, so she invites Pop to stay at her apartment. Danny comes home, looking forward to seeing her until he sees the apartment, the clothes and the older man. Believing her to be a "kept" woman, he decides to move on .

Billingsley is invited by Judy to hear the band. Impressed, he gives them a job at the club.

Will Judy ever find out that "Pop" is responsible for giving her all these wonderful things and will she win back Danny?

If you are fan of Betty Hutton and movies during the WWII era,  with a fun story and a couple of good musical numbers. This movie is for you.

Fun Fact:

The movie, included as a character Sherman Billingsley the owner of the real stork club. During the movie, he talks to Danny, Judy's fiancee telling him that his wife and two daughters were the only women in his life. This is contradictory to the real life Sherman, who had a longtime affair with Ethel Merman.

Barry Fitzgerald (10 March 1888 – 14 January 1961), is the older brother of Irish actor Arthur Shields. By 1929, he turned to acting full-time. He was a roommate of playwright, Sean O'Casey, for a short time.

Fitzgerald went to Hollywood to star in the film, The Plough and the Stars (1936), directed by John Ford. His other performances: The Long Voyage Home (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), And Then There Were None (1945), The Naked City (1948), and The Quiet Man (1952). Fitzgerald achieved a feat unmatched in the history of the Academy Awards: he was nominated for both the Best Actor Oscar and the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the same performance, as "Father Fitzgibbon" in the film, Going My Way (1944). (Academy Award rules have since been changed to prevent this.) He won the Best Supporting Actor Award;  he  broke the head off his Oscar statue while practising his golf swing. (During World War II, Oscar statues were made of plaster instead of gold, owing to wartime metal shortages.)

Barry Fitzgerald movies I have seen:

Bringing Up Baby (1938)
The Sea Wolf (1941)
Going My Way (1944)
The Stork Club (1945)
Easy Come, Easy Go (1947)
The Naked City (1948)
The Story of Seabiscuit (1949)
The Quiet Man (1952)
The Catered Affair (1956)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Happy Birthday: Betty Hutton!

Betty Hutton (February 26, 1921 – March 12, 2007) was an stage, film, and television actress, comedienne and singer. Please click here to read more about Betty Hutton.

Personal Quote:

I am not a great singer and I am not a great dancer, but I am a great actress, and nobody ever let me act except director, Preston Sturges. He believed in me.

Preston Sturges, directed Betty Hutton in the film, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek(1944). Comedy. The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, was nominated for a 1945 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

The story begins when, Trudy Kockenlocker, a small-town girl, wakes up one morning after a wild farewell party with a group of soldiers to find herself married to a soldier named "Ratzkiwatzki" and it is not long afterward she learns that she is pregnant. Not really knowing who "Ratzkiwatzki" is or where he can be found. Trudy does not know what to do. Norval Jones, her friend, who has been in love with Trudy for years, wants to marry her in spite of the fact, she is married to someone else. Trudy's father, not to happy about the idea which complicates matters. Before long, Norval is arrested and finds himself on the run. Will he get back in time for the birth of the babies?

Betty Hutton was perfect playing the part of Trudy, the girl next door type, who finds out how one reckless moment can change her life. Trudy, only.. wanted to do the best for the boys going to a war where some of them wouldn't come back alive.

Fun Fact:
When the film was released, it was such a huge hit, it was literally standing room only for many performances.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Royal Wedding (1951).

Royal Wedding (1951). Best known for Fred Astaire's dance performance on a ceiling and with a coat rack.

Cast: Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Peter Lawford, Sarah Churchill and Keenan Wynn, with music by Burton Lane. Directed by Stanley Donen. It was his second film and the first film he directed by himself.

Tom and Ellen Bowen, are a famous brother and sister dance act who's agent books them a show in London during the same time as the, Royal Wedding. They travel by cruise ship where Ellen meets and falls in love with, Lord John Brindale. After they arrive, Tom runs into Anne on the street and she is surprised when she learns that he is the star of the show. Tom hires her for a part in the show and then asks her out that night for a date.

Anne tells Tom that she has always loved to dance and sometimes imagines herself dancing on the ceiling. Later she takes Tom to meet her American-hating father, who takes an instant liking to Tom. Anne tells Tom that she is engaged to American Hal Rayton, but agrees to go out with him again.

The day before the opening, Ellen is heartbroken when she learns Johnny, cannot be at the opening because he has to attend a party for the royal couple. Tom, is also upset because Anne, wants to stay home to wait for a call from Hal. Tom and Ellen decide to go to the party together. The next night, the show goes off without a hitch and Johnny is able to leave the royal party to be with Ellen.

Walking home, Tom takes a photograph of Anne from the hotel lobby up to his hotel room, Tom then imagines himself dancing on the ceiling.

The next morning, Ellen and Tom, read about their wonderful reviews. Before Edgar leaves, Tom asks him to call Irving in New York and see if he can find any information on Hal. Before the performance, Edgar tells Tom that Hal, has been married for several months.

At the hotel, Ellen and Tom talk each other out of getting married and agree to keep the show together. On the morning of the royal wedding, all of London is celebrating, except Tom and Ellen, who realize that they cannot be happy unless they get married. Tom goes off to find Anne and Ellen goes to find Johnny..

Pure marshmallow fluff here, but... if you love Fred Astaire and Jane Powell, you will love this movie.. One of the more under-rated musicals of the early-1950s.

Fun Facts:

Initially Ginger Rogers was asked, but she declined. Then June Allyson was signed for the role, but had to drop out when she became pregnant. Judy Garland was then signed as Ellen, but due to personal issues was fired from the film. Jane Powell replaced Garland.

The story was loosely based on the real-life partnership of Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele Astaire. In real life, Adele Astaire married Lord Charles Cavendish, son of the Duke of Devonshire, just as Jane Powell, playing Fred's sister, marries an English Lord at the end of this film.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nancy Goes to Rio (1950).

Nancy Goes to Rio (1950). Directed by Robert Z. Leonard and produced by Joe Pasternak from a screenplay by Sidney Sheldon, based on a story by Ralph Block, Frederick Kohner and Jane Hall. The music was directed and supervised by George Stoll and includes compositions by George and Ira Gershwin, Giacomo Puccini, Jack Norworth and Stoll. Cast: Ann Sothern, Jane Powell, Barry Sullivan, Carmen Miranda, Louis Calhern and Scotty Beckett.

Nancy Goes to Rio is a remake of the 1940 film, It's a Date, also based on the story by Block, Kohner and Hall, starring Deanna Durbin. Kay Francis and Walter Pidgeon.

The story begins when Frances wants the part in Ricardo's play and though she is promised the role, Ricardo asks her not to tell anyone until a final decision is made. Later, Ricardo tells Frances' producer that Frances may not be right for the part and he had another actress in mind. Then, when Ricardo meets Nancy, he instantly knows that he has found the perfect actress for the part.

The next day, Frances sets sail for Rio de Janeiro, to studying her lines and have a little fun. Gregory decides to go with Frances to Rio.

After watching Nancy's performance, Ricardo offers her the part that he promised Frances. Nancy accepts the role, though she does not know that Ricardo has already promised the part to her mother.

Nancy wants to study for the part and decides to meet up with her mother and grandfather to Rio. On board the ship, Paul Berten overhears Nancy rehearsing her lines and mistakenly believes that she is a deserted wife expecting a baby. Paul is worried about Nancy and asks his business partner, Marina Rodrigues, to talk to her. Nancy mistakes his concern for a marriage proposal and says good-by when the ship reaches Rio.

Nancy overhears her mother rehearsing her lines and now knows that they are both studying for the same part. She does not tell her mother that she supposed to star in Ricardo's play, she  decides to tell her mother that she came to Rio to get married.

Nancy visits Paul at his office and tries to accept the marriage proposal she thought he had made. Paul confused, still thinks that Nancy is pregnant. He sends her home to talk to her mother about her problems, but.. Nancy misunderstands him and thinks that he wants her to discuss their marriage plans with her mother.

Things start to make sense when Paul tells Gregory that he had just met Nancy and heard about her problems on the boat. Gregory immediately recognizes the story of the play that Frances was reading and explains it to Frances. Will Frances withdraw from Ricardo's play and suggest Nancy as her replacement?

This is a wonderful musical, comedy and romance. It has many excellent dance numbers. Jane Powell, Ann Sothern, Carmen Miranda and Louis Calhern, all are amazing in their roles and musical performances.

Ann Sothern (January 22, 1909 – March 15, 2001), began her film career as an extra in the film, Broadway Nights(1927) at the age of 18. During 1929 and 1930, she appeared as a chorus girl in such films as: The Show of Shows and Whoopee! She had a trained voice, occasionally singing in films.

MGM cast Sothern in the film, Maisie (1939), as a Brooklyn burlesque dancer Mary Anastasia O'Connor who also goes by the stage name Maisie Ravier. After years of struggling, Sothern had her first major success, and a string of "Maisie" comedy sequels, beginning with, Congo Maisie (1940), and ending with Undercover Maisie (1947) . A review of Swing Shift Maisie (1943) by Time magazine  described her as "one of the smartest comediennes in the business".

On November 24, 1941, Sothern performed in the Lux Radio Theater adaptation of Maisie Was a Lady, and the popularity of the film series led to her own radio program, The Adventures of Maisie.

In 1949, Sothern appeared in the Oscar winning film, A Letter to Three Wives. During the 1950s, she made a few movies, including The Blue Gardenia (1953).

In 1965, she was heard as the voice of Gladys Crabtree (the car) in the series My Mother the Car, which co-starred Jerry Van Dyke.

Her final film role was in, The Whales of August in 1987. Her role as the neighbor of elderly sisters, played by Lillian Gish and Bette Davis, brought Sothern her only, Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Holiday in Mexico(1946).

Holiday in Mexico(1946). Directed by George Sidney. Cast: Walter Pidgeon, Jane Powell, Roddey Mc Dowell and Ilona Massey.

The story begins when, Christine Evans, a fifteen year old girl who can not wait to live the the sophisticated life of foreign diplomat living in Mexico. Christine believes it is her job to organize her widower father's social life and takes over the planning of a big garden party he will be hosting.

Her friend Stanley Owen, the son of the British ambassador to Mexico, is wondering why there is sudden change in Christine's behavior. Wanting the the party to be a great success, Christine visits the nightclub where orchestra leader Xavier Cugat, is performing and asks him if he would perform at her father's party? Cugat accepts Christine's invitation, but tells her that his singer Toni, does not sing at private functions. Not knowing that Toni and her father were once in love, Christine goes over to the singer's home and begs her to sing at the party. Toni, only agrees when she realizes that the party will be hosted by Jeffrey.

Later, Christine and Stanley visit pianist Jose Iturbi, who is rehearsing his new show, to invite him to perform at the party. Jose, mistakes Christine for one of the many singers who come to audition for him and has her sing a song. Jose loves her singing and immediately offers her a place in his next concert. Christine then explains her real reason for visiting Jose, who is disappointed agrees to perform at the party.

Before the party, Jeffrey goes to visit Toni and the two reminisce about their past romance. Jeffrey and Toni rekindle their romance and Christine becomes jealous.

Soon after, Christine accepts the starring role in Jose's show, but things become complicated when she mistakes his interest in her singing as a romantic interest. Stanley, becomes jealous and tells Jeffrey that Christine has fallen in love with Jose.

Jeffrey at first, believes that Stanley is acting out of jealousy, but.. it is not long before he too, is also concerned about his daughter's relationship with Jose. Jeffrey asks Christine's friend Yvette Baranga, some hypothetical questions about what she thought about girlhood crushes on older men. Yvette, who has a crush on him, now thinks he is romantically interested in her. Could things become more complicated?

How will these two older men let these two young girls down without embarrassing them?

What a wonderful performance by Jane Powell. MGM knew how to create a star and they really pulled out all the stops in this fluffy "coming of age" film. The musical selections were wonderful throughout he film. Holiday in Mexico, has made me a lifelong fan of Jane Powell.

Fun Fact:

One of two films in which a young Fidel Castro appears as an extra, mostly in crowd scenes. The other film was a Esther Williams film, Bathing Beauty(1944).

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jane Powell.

Jane Powell (April 1, 1929). During the summer of 1943, while on vacation in Hollywood, with her parents. Jane appeared on Janet Gaynor's radio show called, Hollywood Showcase: Stars over Hollywood. The show was a talent competition and one of the other contestants was Kathie Lee Gifford's mother, Joan Epstein. Powell won the competition and auditioned for MGM. Without even taking a screen test, Powell was then signed to a seven-year contract. Within two months, Powell had been loaned out to United Artists for her first film, Song of the Open Road.

Powell's second film was, Delightfully Dangerous, which Powell felt was the "worst movie she's ever made." Her performances began to improve in the films, Holiday in Mexico, Three Daring Daughters, in which she co-starred with Jeanette MacDonald. Soon she was given top billing in a string of musicals: A Date with Judy (1948) with Elizabeth Taylor and Nancy Goes to Rio (1950) with Ann Sothern. Powell danced with Fred Astaire in the film, Royal Wedding (1951), when she was brought in to replace June Allyson, who had become pregnant, and then Judy Garland, who dropped out due to illness. Her best known film is, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), opposite Howard Keel, which gave her the opportunity to play a more mature character than her previous films. Her other films include: Rich, Young and Pretty (1951), Small Town Girl (1953), Three Sailors and a Girl (1953), Athena (1954), Deep in My Heart (1954), Hit the Deck (1955), and The Girl Most Likely (1957).

Please click here to read Jane Powell movie reviews.

Jane Powell Fun Facts:

Within her first few years at MGM, Powell made six films and sang at the inauguration ball for President Harry S. Truman on January 20, 1949.

Powell's character in Song of the Open Road was named Jane Powell, and this was how she came up with her stage name.

In 1945, Jane sang Because at the wedding of Esther Williams and Ben Gage.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954).

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). Directed by Stanley Donen, with music by Saul Chaplin and Gene de Paul, and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The script by Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, and Dorothy Kingsley, is based on the short story The Sobbin' Women, by Stephen Vincent Benét, which was based in turn on the Ancient Roman legend of The Rape of the Sabine Women. The film was a 1954 Oscar nominee for Best Picture. The film is known for the beautiful choreography by Michael Kidd, which makes dance numbers out of  chopping wood and raising a barn.

The story begins when woodsman Adam Pontipee comes to town looking for a bride. He soon meets Milly, who agrees to marry Adam on a whim, even though she just met him. When she arrives at the cabin she is surprised to learn that Adam is one of seven brothers living in the same cabin.

Milly teaches Adam's younger brothers manners and how to dance. At first, the brothers have a hard time changing from their "mountain man" ways. Soon they are able to test their new manners at a barn-raising, where they meet six girls they like. One major problem, the girls already have suitors from the town, who get into fight with the brothers during the barn-raising. After which, they are banished from the town by the townspeople.

Winter arrives and the six younger brothers become moody longing for their girls. Adam reads his brothers the story of "Sobbin' Women" and tells them that they should go get their girls. Adam and his brothers come up with a plan to kidnap the girls and then cause an avalanche so that they can't be followed by the townspeople. Unfortunately, they have forgotten to kidnap a preacher. Milly is furious at Adam and the girls are upset at having been kidnapped. Milly sends the brothers out to the barn "with the rest of the animals" while the girls live in the house. Adam, offended by Milly's reaction, leaves for the trapping cabin to live out the winter by himself. Will his temper cool by the spring?

I do not remember very many western musicals that are this much fun to watch.

Fun Fact:

The dresses were made from old quilts that costume designer Walter Plunkett found at the Salvation Army.


"Barn Dance"
Music by Gene de Paul
danced by Brothers, Brides and Town Suitors

"Bless Yore Beautiful Hide"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Howard Keel

"Wonderful, Wonderful Day"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Jane Powell

"When You're in Love"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Jane Powell and Howard Keel

"Goin' Co'tin'"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Jane Powell

"House-Raising Dance"
Music by Gene de Paul
Danced by brothers, girls and city boys

"Lonesome Polecat"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Matt Mattox (dubbed by Bill Lee (uncredited)) and chorus

"Sobbin' Women"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Howard Keel, brothers

"June Bride"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by Virginia Gibson and chorus

"Spring, Spring, Spring"
Music by Gene de Paul
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Sung by chorus

Adam: Howard Keel appeared as "Adam," the romantic lead and eldest of the seven brothers.

Benjamin: Jeff Richards, who played "Benjamin," was a former professional baseball player who topped out at the AAA level of the minor leagues. Per the filming notes in the DVD anniversary edition, although obviously athletic, he is noticeably in the background, seated, or standing during the dance numbers so as to not expose his less than stellar dancing skills. Unfortunately this often relegated his partner, the classically-trained ballet dancer Julie Newmar, as well to the background.

Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim and Frank: All four actors (Matt Mattox, Marc Platt, Jacques d'Amboise, and Tommy Rall) were professional dancers - with d'Amboise (Ephraim) appearing on loan from the New York City Ballet. All four balanced on a beam together during their famous barn-raising dance.

Gideon: Russ Tamblyn beat Morton Downey Jr. for the role of youngest brother Gideon. Tamblyn showcased his gymnastics training throughout the action sequences.

Milly: Jane Powell channeled her experiences growing up in Oregon to create Milly. She and Howard Keel would later reprise their roles in a Seven Brides for Seven Brothers stage revival.

Dorcas: Julie Newmar (Newmeyer), a classically trained ballerina, would later rise to fame as Catwoman in the 1960s TV version of Batman. She also won a Supporting Actress Tony Award for The Marriage-Go-Round (starring Claudette Colbert). She appeared on her neighbor James Belushi's sitcom According to Jim after the two settled a highly publicized lawsuit.

Ruth: Ruta Lee enjoyed a long stage and television career, working with Lucille Ball, Sammy Davis, Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, and Frank Sinatra. Lee appeared in the sitcom Roseanne as the first girlfriend of Roseanne's mother. Her singing parts were dubbed in post-production by Betty Noyes.

Martha: Norma Doggett performed in the 1940s-50s Broadway shows Bells Are Ringing, Fanny, Wish You Were Here, Miss Liberty, and Magdalena

Liza: Virginia Gibson was nominated for a Tony Award in 1957 and performed regularly on the Johnny Carson show.

Sarah: Betty Carr was also a Broadway veteran, dancing in Damn Yankees, Happy Hunting, Mask and Gown, and Fanny (alongside Norma Doggett). She died in October 2008 (the first of the seven brides to pass away).

Alice: Nancy Kilgas made her film debut in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. She danced in the film versions of Oklahoma!, Shake, Rattle & Rock!, and Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Rich, Young and Pretty(1951).

Rich, Young and Pretty(1951). Directed by Norman Taurog. It was written by Dorothy Cooper and Sidney Sheldon. Cast: Jane Powell, Danielle Darrieux, Wendell Corey, and Fernando Lamas, and introduced Vic Damone.

The story begins when, wealthy Texas rancher Jim Stauton Rogers is called to Paris on a United Nations matter, he invites his daughter Elizabeth, to come along with him. Although, he is fearful that she will run into his estranged wife, singer Marie Devarone. Even though, Jim tries to keep Liz's picture out of the papers, Marie sees her picture in the newspaper and with the help of he friend, Paul Sarnac, they comes up with a plan to meet her daughter. That night, Jim and Liz enjoy an evening out on the town.

Back at the hotel, Jim is not too happy about receiving flowers with a note from Marie. Reading the card, Jim thinks back to when they first met:

During a American Legion convention, Jim meets and falls in love with Marie, who sings in a small club. After they marry they go back to his small ranch in Texas. Jim, spends much of his time working while Marie is lonely, even after the birth of their daughter Liz. When Liz is about two years old, Marie returns to France.

Back in the present, before Jim leaves on a business trip to London, he asks Glynnie to keep Liz away from Marie. That afternoon, Liz has fun day shopping with Henri's son, Andre. Well known French painter Claude Duval, asks Liz to sit for a painting and she agrees. At Duval's studio, Marie, secretly watches her daughter and has Duval invite Liz to the nightclub later that night. Marie arranges a wonderful dinner for Liz and Andre, who are very impressed by the service they receive from the maitre d'. Marie cannot reveal who she really is, because Liz believes that her mother died when she was a baby. Paul, suggests that she introduce herself as a friend of Andre's father. After Paul and Marie's performance, she goes to Liz and Andre's table and invites them to meet her for tea the next day, Liz accepts the invite. At the end of the evening, Jim calls Liz from London. He is pleased that she has been out with Andre, but when Liz mentions meeting Marie, Jim decides they need to return to Paris as soon as possible. Jim wants to keep Liz from marrying Andre and repeating the same mistake he did when he married her mother.

Rich, Young and Pretty, is a wonderful example of the romantic/musical/comedy light movies that came out in the 1950's and the 1960's. An excellent cast and some wonderful music. It was the introductory film for Vic Damone, with excellent singing by him, Jane Powell, Fernando Lamas, Danielle Darrieux and The Four Freshmen.

Fun Facts:

The film was Darrieux's first Hollywood film since, The Rage of Paris(1938).

Film debuts of Vic Damone and Fernando Lamas.

Jane Powell was pregnant during filming.

"Wonder Why"
Music by Nicholas Brodszky
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Sung by Jane Powell and Vic Damon

"There's Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie"
Written by Pete Wendling, Harry Richman and Jack Meskill
Sung by Danielle Darrieux

"Dark is the Night"
Music by Nicholas Brodszky
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Sung by Jane Powell

Music by Nicholas Brodszky
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn

"L'amour toujours (Tonight for Sure)"
Music by Nicholas Brodszky
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn

I Can See You"
Music by Nicholas Brodszky
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn

"We Never Talk Much"
Music by Nicholas Brodszky
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn

"How D'Ya Like Your Eggs in the Morning"
Music by Nicholas Brodszky
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Sung by Four Freshmen (as The Four Freshmen)

"Old Piano Roll Blues"
Written by Cy Coben

"Deep in the Heart of Texas"
Music by Don Swander
Lyrics by June Hershey
French Lyrics by Maurice Vandair

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Happy Birthday: Carmen Miranda!

Carmen Miranda, (9 February 1909 – 5 August 1955), was a Portuguese-born Brazilian samba singer, Broadway actress and Hollywood film star popular in the 1940s and 1950s. She was, best known for her signature fruit hat outfit she wore in the movie, The Gang's All Here(1943). A Musical, starring Alice Faye, James Ellison, and Carmen Miranda, in a story about a soldier and a nightclub singer. The film, directed and choreographed by Busby Berkeley.

Musical highlights include: Carmen Miranda performing a fun version of "You Discover You're in New York". The film is also best known for "The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat", because of its sexual innuendo, it was prevented from being shown in Portugal. Even in the US the censors made the chorus girls hold the bananas at their waist and not at the hip.

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Color (James Basevi, Joseph C. Wright, Thomas Little).

Please click here to view Carmen Miranda movie reviews.

Happy Birthday: Kathryn Grayson!

Kathryn Grayson (February 9, 1922 – February 17, 2010). From the age of twelve, Grayson trained as an opera singer. She signed a contract with MGM in the early 1940s, making a wonderful career in musicals. She was a lead performer in films: Anchors Aweigh (1945) with Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, and Show Boat (1951) and Kiss Me Kate (1953) both with Howard Keel.

Please click here to read more about Kathryn Grason.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It's Always Fair Weather (1955).

It's Always Fair Weather(1955). Scripted by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who also wrote the shows lyrics, scored by André Previn. Cast: Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey, Cyd Charisse, Michael Kidd, and Dolores Gray. The film was co-directed by Kelly and Stanley Donen .

This is a lighter film about three soldiers readjusting to civilian life after war. The three soldiers head straight for favorite neighborhood bar and make a promise to each other to return in 10 years to catch up on each others lives. A fun use of split screen shows the men on their individual paths as the years go by. Ted Riley, becomes involved with gamblers/ bookies as a fighter promoter. Doug Hallerton, enters the corporate world of advertising. Angie Valentine, opens up a hamburger joint, called The Cordon Bleu.

When it is time for them to meet for their 10 year reunion, it seems that they take an immediate dislike to each other, realizing they have outgrown one another and have nothing in common. The three agree to have lunch at a classy New York restaurant where they are seen by one of Doug's advertising colleagues, Jackie. Who, thinks it is a wonderful idea to feature the three reunited friends on the TV show, Midnight with Madeline hosted by a over the top, Madeline. Their reunion is further complicated by a group of gangsters who are after Ted.

It's Always Fair Weather (1955), did remind me a lot of the film, On the Town, starring Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin. I thought it was a wonderful film about three Army buddies making an effort to accept how each of their personalities had changed over the years. Gene Kelly's, rollerskating number is absolutely breathtaking. And the 3 friends dance with garbage cans on their feet is great fun to watch. Dan Dailey's solo, is a wonderful performance.. as he dances with grace while he may have had a few too many mixed drinks..One thing in the film that left me a little sad is, we don't hear them make plans to meet again.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Great Waltz (1938).

The Great Waltz (1938). Biographical film based loosely on the life of, Johann Strauss II. Cast: Luise Rainer, Fernand Gravet and Miliza Korjus. It was the only starring role for Korjus, who was a famous opera soprano and played one in the film.

Joseph Ruttenberg won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Korjus was nominated for Supporting Actress and Tom Held for Film Editing.

While Johann Strauss, the son of the well-known waltz composer, is working at his job in a bank,  he is caught working on his music and is fired.  He is in love with Poldi Vogelhuber, the daughter of baker Kienzl, who has an employee, who is also a amateur musician, suggests that they start an orchestra of their own. A short time later, they get a job at the Donmayer's Cafe, but their music does not seem to interest Otto's customers, but.. his music brings in everyone from miles around to listen to him perform. Just as Johann leaving, Fritz Schiller and Carla Donner, two stars from the Imperial Opera, arrive at the cafe and ask to have the orchestra play for them. Johann plays a new waltz, "Artist's Life". Schiller, is impressed with Johann and arranges for him to attend a party at the palace of Count Hohenfried. Carla sings one of Johann's waltzes, which attracts the attention of the music publisher Julius Hofbauer, but Johann is insulted because he does not think they take him seriously. He storms out of the party and marries, Poldi. A short time later, a revolution breaks out and Johann writes a march that becomes the anthem of the revolutionaries. One day, as marchers start to sing the song in the streets, they surround the coach of an aristocrat. Just as violence is about to break out, Johann sees Carla is in the coach and comes to her rescue. They then drive through the Vienna Woods and Johann is inspired by the sounds of the forest to compose a song, which he and Carla  sing. They are then caught in a rainstorm and take cover at a small inn where the innkeeper, who thinks that Carla is Johann's wife tells her "it must be wonderful to be the wife of Johann Strauss." After she agrees, Johann leads the inn's small orchestra in one of his compositions and he and Carla realize that they are in love.

As Johann and Carla were about to board the ship traveling to Budapest, he finds that he can not leave behind, his wife Poldi. Will he say goodbye to Carla?

THE GREAT WALTZ is a wonderful musical with, beautiful, cinematography. Luise Rainer at her best and Miliza Korjus was wonderful in their performance . The plot wonderfully mixes music and sentiment together.

Fernand Gravey (December 25, 1905 November 2, 1970), was the son of actors Georges Mertens and Fernande Depernay, who performed in silent films.

He started performing at the age of five, under his father's direction.  He received his education in Britain, so could speak both French and English. Which would become useful in his later movie roles.

He had made four silent films in 1913 and 1914, but his first film of any importance was, L'Amour Chante in 1930. In 1933, he made his first English language film, Bitter Sweet.

The first two films he made in America were, The King and the Chorus Girl (1937), his fifth film in English (opposite Joan Blondell and Jane Wyman) and Fools for Scandal (1938), opposite Carole Lombard and Ralph Bellamy. He then signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and was cast as Johann Strauss in the biopic The Great Waltz, opposite Luise Rainer and Miliza Korjus.

Among his last English language performances were, How to Steal a Million (1966), Guns for San Sebastian (1968) and The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969).