Wednesday, January 25, 2012

George White's Scandals (1945).

George White's Scandals (1945). Cast: Joan Davis, Jack Haley, Phillip Terry, Martha Holliday, Ethel Smith, Margaret Hamilton, Glenn Tryon, Jane Greer and Gene Krupa.

At a Scandals Club reunion party, comedienne Joan Mason announces her engagement to fellow performer, Jack Evans. While, everyone is congratulating them, Jill Asbury, the daughter of former Scandals dancer Molly Hogan, introduces herself. Joan invites her to the shows rehearsal.

Things, do not go so well when Jack introduces Joan to his spinster sister Clarabelle, who does not like her and reminds her brother of the promise he made to his dying mother, that he would not marry until after his sister was married.

At rehearsals the next day, manager Tom McGrath, mistakes Jill for one of the chorus girls. Jill pretends to be dancer Jill Martin and asks Joan to keep her secret. Joan, then warns Jill that Tom treats all the chorus girls like sisters. Meanwhile, Joan arranges a date for Clarabelle through an escort service.

Jack has planned a surprise birthday party for his sister and all of the shows performers head over to the Evans house to entertain. Clarabelle, throws an ax at Joan when she discovers that Joan hired at a date for her through the escort service. Joan, thinks it's best to call off their engagement.

At rehearsals the next day, George White is so impressed with Jill's dancing that Tom offers her the closing act. When Billie learns Jill's true identity, she turns her into the British Embassy. Lord Quimby, a representative of the Embassy, comes to the theater to talk her into leaving the show.

When Tom learns that Jill has lied to him about her identity, he becomes very angry and she leaves the show. On opening night, she can not be found and Jack tells Clarabelle that he plans to marry Joan in spite of her wishes. Wanting to put a stop to his plans Clarabelle, then goes to the theater where she is knocked unconscious by a falling sandbag. Before the show Molly and her husband, Lord Asbury, go backstage to tell Mr. White how happy they are about their daughter's appearance in the show, and he let's him know about Jill's disappearance. Jack sees Jill sitting in the audience, and when she sees her parents sitting in their box seats, she decides to go ahead with her performance.

I really enjoyed the lively musical numbers, particularly the first one with Gene Krupa.

Joan Davis (June 29, 1907 – May 22, 1961), was a performer since childhood. She appeared with her husband Si Wills in vaudeville. Davis' first film was a short subject for Educational Pictures called, Way Up Thar (1935), featuring a then-unknown Roy Rogers. Educational distribution company, Twentieth Century-Fox, signed Davis for feature films. Tall and lanky, with a comically flat speaking voice, she became known as one of the few female physical clowns of her time. Perhaps best known for her co-starring turn with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in, Hold That Ghost (1941), she had a reputation for flawless physical comedy. Her pantomime sequence in, Beautiful But Broke (1944) was a slapstick construction-site episode.

She co-starred with Eddie Cantor in two features, Show Business (1944) and If You Knew Susie (1948). Cantor and Davis were very close off screen as well.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Look for the Silver Lining(1949).

Look for the Silver Lining(1949). Directed by David Butler. Cast: June Haver and Ray Bolger. It was nominated for an Academy Award in 1950.

After, Marilyn Miller becomes dizzy during a rehearsal, she decides to rest in her dressing room. Looking at an old vaudeville poster, she thinks back to when she was a Teenager and left school, to join her parents and her sisters, Claire and Ruth, act. Unfortunately, they all come down with the mumps.

She meets, dancer Jack Donahue and he invites Marilyn to fill in for them. Everyone, is surprised how good she is and she quickly becomes part of her families act.

While the family of dancers are playing theaters in London, Jack brings a Broadway producer to see Marilyn perform and it is not long before, she is performing in her first Broadway show.

The show is going well until, investigator from the Gerry Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, suspects that she is underage and wants to see her birth certificate. Frank, comes up with story and Marilyn is able to go on. On opening night, Frank gives Marilyn a small ceramic elephant for luck.

War has broken out and as Frank, is preparing to join the Army, Marilyn asks him to marry her. He thinks it best that they wait until after the war and when he returns, they will elope.

Frank continues the tradition of sending her an elephant on opening night, but when she opens in Sally, the lucky charm arrives late and broken. After her performance, Marilyn learns that Frank has been killed in a car accident on the way to her show.

Soon after Marilyn retires, but quickly becomes bord and she sets her sights on playing the lead in a new play called Sunny. Producer, Henry Doran, first became interested in Marilyn, while she was still a child and is more than happy for her to play the lead.

Back in the present:

Jack visits Marilyn's dressing room and admits that when he dies, he hopes it is onstage on closing night of a big hit. Learning of Marilyn's dizziness, Henry, who is now her husband, wants to call a doctor, but Marilyn, pretends that her dizzy spell is nothing serious.

Later, Marilyn admits to Jack that the doctor advised her to cut out dancing, but she knows that she can not live without the theater. She decides to continue and the play opens on schedule.

A very entertaining musical and a the perfect showcase for Ray Bolger. June Haver, was able to keep up with him and was wonderful in her dance numbers.

Ray Bolger(January 10, 1904 – January 15, 1987). Bolger's film career began when he signed a contract with MGM in 1936. His best-known film performance before, The Wizard of Oz was, The Great Ziegfeld (1936), in which he portrayed himself. He also performed in, Sweethearts, (1938), Rosalie(1937). Following Oz, Bolger moved to RKO. In 1946 he returned to MGM for a featured role in, The Harvey Girls. He continued to star in several films, including Walt Disney's 1961 remake of Babes in Toyland.

Bolger's M-G-M contract stated that he would play any part the studio chose. He was unhappy when he was cast as the Tin Man. The Scarecrow part had already been given to another dancing studio contract player, Buddy Ebsen. In time, the roles were switched. The aluminum make-up used in the Tin Woodman costume coated Ebsen's lungs, leaving him near death. Ebsen's illness paved the way for the Tin Woodman role to be filled by Jack Haley. He was good friends with actress Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West, until her death, and gave a eulogy at her memorial service in 1985. Judy Garland often referred to Bolger as "My Scarecrow". Upon the death of Haley in 1979, Bolger said, "It's going to be very lonely on that Yellow Brick Road now."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Strike Up the Band(1940).

Strike Up the Band(1940). Directed by Busby Berkeley. Cast: Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland.

High school band drummer Jimmy Connors, decides to take some of his friends from Riverwood High School Band and start up a swing orchestra. Jimmy asks Mary, to sing with the band and then asks Mr. Judd, the school principal, if the band could perform at the school dance. Mary, becomes frustrated with Jimmy, because he is more interested in her voice than their romance.

The band sounds great and everyone has a good time at the dance. Jimmy decides to enter Paul Whiteman's school band contest in Chicago. To raise money for their traveling expenses, the band holds a Gay Nineties melodrama for the Elks Club, but they are still short fifty dollars.

If Jimmy does not have enough trouble, here comes Barbara, a flirtatious blonde, who enrolls in Riverwood High School and sets her cap for him. Jimmy takes notice in her when her father hires Paul and his band to play at his daughter's birthday party. At the party, Jimmy and his band give a spur of the moment performance. Whiteman, is impressed and offers Jimmy a job playing drums, but Jimmy refuses, not wanting to brake up his band.

On the day they were suppose to leave, Willie, one of the band members, becomes seriously ill from an injury while performing at the Elks show and needs an operation to save his life. Jimmy, uses the band's travel money to fly Willie to Chicago. Mr. Morgan sends the band to Chicago by train. At the big broadcast, Jimmy and his band are the winners.

If Strike Up The Band, is a wonderful film and has some great musical numbers. Also, the Gay Nineties spoof is very entertaining, I think that you will also enjoy the 'fruit orchestra' doing Our Love Affair.

Fun Fact:

The puppet orchestra made of fruit that comes to life playing instruments for Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland on a kitchen table, was the work of animator George Pal. He had just arrived in Hollywood from Europe via New York and this was among his first projects. Pal's work was relatively unknown by American audiences, thus he was uncredited. The idea for the sequence was that of another New York-to-Hollywood transfer: Vincente Minnelli.

June Preisser (June 26, 1920 – September 19, 1984). Was an actress popular in musical films during the late 1930s and early 1940s, many of which showcased her skills as an acrobat. When Preisser was nine years old an actor noticed the two sisters performing acrobatics on a sidewalk near their home, which landed them a job working in vaudeville, and later for the Ziegfeld Follies in 1934 and 1936.

Cherry retired in 1938 after her marriage and June was signed to a film contract by MGM. Her first film, Dancing Co-Ed (1939) provided only a small part, but her next film, Babes in Arms (1939), gave her a significant role opposite Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. She performed with Rooney and Garland again in, Strike Up the Band (1940) and with Rooney in two "Andy Hardy" films, Judge Hardy and Son (1939) and Andy Hardy's Private Secretary (1941).

She went on to perform in the films,Gallant Sons (1940), Henry Aldrich for President (1941), Sweater Girl (1942). She played the character "Dodie Rogers" in seven "high school" comedy films with Frankie Darro and Noel Neill from 1946 to 1948. Her final film was Music Man (1948).

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

For Me and My Gal (1942).

For Me and My Gal (1942). Musical directed by Busby Berkeley. Cast: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, in his screen debut, George Murphy, Martha Eggerth and Ben Blue. The film was based on a story by Howard Emmett Rogers inspired by a true story about vaudeville actors Harry Palmer and Jo Hayden, when Palmer was drafted into World War I.

The story begins at the beginning of World War I, when Jo Hayden and Harry Palmer, perform the musical number "For Me and My Gal," both Jo and Harry think that they would be a great team, but Jo does not want to hurt her dance partner Jimmy's feelings. When they return to the hotel, Jimmy insists that Jo, team up with Harry. It does not take Harry and Jo, long to take their show on the road.

While traveling by train to Chicago, Jo reads that Harry and his partner, comic Sid Simms, are now playing on the prestigious Orpheum circuit. Harry, is jealous that he and Jo have not been as successful and when he accidentally enters the private car of vaudeville headliner Eve Minard, he is star struck.

While in Chicago, Harry starts to neglect Jo and when she is visited by Jimmy he feels sorry for her. That night, Jo goes to Eve's hotel and tells her that she loves Harry. Eve, tells Jo that Harry is an opportunist and to prove her point, asks Jo to hide when Harry arrives. Eve, asks Harry to join her act, he accepts.

Back at their hotel, Harry tries to break the news to Jo, not knowing that she over heard him and when she begins to cry, he realizes that he is in love with her and turns Eve down. They receive a telegram from their agent, Eddie Milton, saying that they are booked for the Palace in New York and Harry proposes that they get married.

After arriving in New York, they learn that the telegram was supposed to read "the Palace in Newark," they are heartbroken. Harry still wants to get married, but Jo wants to wait until they perform at the Palace. Bert Waring, manager of the Palace, sees their act in Newark and offers to book them. Unfortunately, Harry receives his draft notice and is sure that he will lose his big chance. When Harry is to report for his physical he decides to take matters in his own hands and slams a lid of a huge trunk down on his hand.

When Jo receives a telegram informing her that Danny has been killed in action, Harry tries to comfort her, but when she sees his hand, she realizes what he has done and says that she never wants to see him again.

Six weeks later, Harry learns that his hand is permanently crippled and he will never be allowed into the Army. While at a bond rally Harry runs into Sid, who suggests that Harry go with him to France as a YMCA entertainer.

When, he and his partner end up too close to the front, Harry goes off to warn the ambulance convoy heading into danger. He is wounded while destroying an enemy machine gun that was waiting for the convoy.

After the war, during performance at the Palace Theatre, Jo sees Harry in the audience and runs to him. The two reunite on stage to sing "For Me and My Gal".

This movie is a musical/drama/romance and there are a few twists that set it apart from many other wartime romance musicals.

Fun Facts:

For Me and My Gal marked the first real "adult" role for the nineteen-year-old Judy Garland. The original script had called for Harry Palmer to be involved with two women, a singer, which was to be Garland's role, and a dancer, who would have most of the dramatic scenes, but acting coach Stella Adler, who was an advisor to MGM at the time, suggested to producer Arthur Freed that the two roles be combined, and that Garland be given the part. Adler also suggested Gene Kelly for the lead.

Kelly was 30 years old at the time, and had made a mark on Broadway as the star of Pal Joey and the choreographer of Best Foot Forward. When David O. Selznick signed him to a film contract, Kelly's intention was to return to Broadway after fulfilling his contractual obligation, but he ended up staying in Hollywood for a year because Selznick didn't have a role for him. When Arthur Freed inquired about getting Kelly for For Me and My Gal, Selznick handed over the contract, and Kelly got the part, over the objections of Freed's bosses at MGM. The casting of Kelly meant that George Murphy, who was originally going to play "Harry Palmer", was switched to playing "Jimmy Metcalf".

Gene Kelly and Judy Garland got along well – she had been in favor of his getting the part, and during shooting she helped Kelly adjust his stage acting for films, and backed him in disagreements with director Busby Berkeley, who she did not like. Kelly and Garland went on to star together in two other films, The Pirate (1948) and Summer Stock (1950).

The film was also the American motion picture debut of Hungarian singer Martha Eggerth, who had appeared in over thirty films in Germany. Her career in Hollywood did not last long: she appeared in only two other American films.

When the film was initially previewed, the audience was dissatisfied with the ending: they thought that Jo (Garland) should end up with Jimmy (Murphy) rather than Harry (Kelly). This prompted Louis B. Mayer to order three weeks of additional shooting to give Kelly's character more of a conscience and to reduce Murphy's presence in the film.

Marta Eggerth (born April 17, 1912). During the early 1930s, she made more than 40 films. Some of her well known performances are: Where is this Lady (1932); Ein lied, ein Kuss, Ein Madel (Berlin 1932); Die Czardasfurstin (1934); Die Blonde Carmen (Berlin 1935); Casta Diva, the story of Bellini (Rome 1935); Das Hofkonzert (1936); Zauber der Boheme, with Jan Kiepura (Vienna 1936); as well as two films written especially for her by Franz Lehár-- Es war einmal ein Walzer (1932) and Die ganze Welt dreht sich um Liebe (Vienna 1935). It was on the set of the 1934 film Mein Herz ruft nach dir (My Heart is Calling You) that she met and fell in love with the young Polish tenor, Jan Kiepura. They were married in 1936 and together became known as Europe's Liebespaar (Love Pair) causing a sensation wherever they appeared.
Jan, toured the United States and landed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Hollywood and during the early 1940s, made two movies with Judy Garland, For Me and My Gal (1942) and Presenting Lily Mars (1943).