We’re here today for the first regular (Sunday) post as part of the Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon, and it’s a triple-feature, as we delve into All-American Co-Ed and Fiesta from 1941, and Flying With Music from 1942!
Now why, you might be asking, am I doing a triple-feature in one post, as opposed to three like I’ve done before? Well, the answer is simple. These three titles are all streamliners! For the uninitiated (which would also have included me a few years back), Hal Roach had been producing a number of short subjects (including the likes of Laurel and Hardy and the Little Rascals), up through the 1930s. However, he felt that, by the mid-30s, they were becoming less popular with audiences. With the rise of double-features, Hal Roach came up with the idea of films that were somewhere between the length of a short subject and a regular movie. As not all theatres were equipped for regular double-features, this new format allowed them to show two streamliners in the space of one movie. Due to their length, about four streamliners could be produced for the same cost of one regular movie, while also being more profitable. So, since we have three streamliners that fit the musical bill, I figured it would be best to stick them all together in one post.
All-American Co-Ed (1941)
Film Length: 48 minutes, 26 seconds
When the Zeta Fraternity at Quinceton College puts on a big show, the publicity helps out that college. Seeing what it has done for Quinceton, the publicist at Mar Brynn Horticultural School for Girls, Hap Holden (Harry Langdon), enlists the help of student Virginia Collinge (Frances Langford) to convince her aunt and college president Matilda Collinge (Esther Dale) that their college needs some publicity to attract more students. They convince her to look into some horticultural beauty queens, designating them the “Girls Most Likely To Succeed.” To help gain more attention, they also label the men from Quinceton’s Zeta Fraternity as the “Men Least Likely To Succeed.” Now, the men of the fraternity don’t like that, and decide to send in one of their own “undercover” as one of the beauty queens. Much to his regret, Bob Sheppard (Johnny Downs) is elected, and is given the alias “Bobbie DeWolfe,” who is the “Queen Of The Flowers.” Once he arrives, he finds himself falling for Virginia, and wants to call off the stunt. However, Virginia assumes that he and “Bobbie” are going together, and decides to break things off with him. Meanwhile, his fraternity brothers are angry with him for trying to back out, and send in some local members to give him a nudge. With all this trouble going on (and a show he’s helping the girls prepare), can Bob get himself out of this mess and back into Virginia’s good graces?
I’m more or less writing my comments now after having watched all three of these “films.” All-American Co-Ed was the middle of the group for me. I very much enjoyed this one for its story and some of its comedy. The music itself is only so-so, even “Out Of The Silence,” which was nominated for the Best Song Oscar that year. Again, the music is not really that memorable, but it’s enjoyable enough within the film. The dancing is nothing to write home about, with the opening number rather terrible (to be fair, that’s on purpose), although the final tune, “The Farmer’s Daughter” (which was written by Walter G. Samuels and Charles Newman) has some decent dancing. The film’s biggest trouble, in some respects, has to do with the concept of a straight male going undercover as a female at an all-girls college (even if he does otherwise try to keep to himself and keep sex out of it). Apart from that, this is an otherwise entertaining musical.
My Rating: 8/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Born To Dance (1936) – Frances Langford – Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
Zenobia (1939) – Harry Langdon
Marjorie Woodworth – Flying With Music (1942)
Film Length: 44 minutes, 17 seconds
In a Mexican village, everybody is awaiting the return of Cholita (Ann Ayars), the niece of Rancho de las Flores owner Don Juan Hernández (Antonio Moreno). In particular, her sweetheart José (Jorge Negrete) is planning to marry her. However, when she arrives, Cholita quickly announces her engagement to radio star Fernando Gómez (George Givot). When Fernando, who is not a native Mexican, makes some disparaging remarks about the town and the “bandits” in the area, José and Don Juan Hernández decide to teach him a lesson. José and a few of his friends pretend to be bandits, and come riding into town. They scare Fernando, and “kidnap” Cholita. However, she gets away from them, and quickly realizes what they have done. The next day, she announces her intentions to leave, along with Fernando. Will she and José come back together, or will they go their separate ways?
Out of the three musical streamliners, Fiesta was arguably the one I came out of with the lowest opinion. This film’s biggest problem is that it leans fairly heavily on a few Mexican stereotypes (although, to be fair, it admits that with one of its characters spouting a few, and the other characters take advantage of that to try to scare him away). I would say that most of the music is forgettable. The main exception to that (for me) would be the song “Never Trust A Jumping Bean” (which was written by Edward Ward, Chet Forrest and Bob Wright and sung by Armida). After watching this streamliner twice, I find that that song manages to get stuck in my head (with no complaints from me!), and also has some fun Mexican dancing to go along with it. The story concept itself has certainly been done elsewhere (and better than here). While my comments may lean negatively here, I will still say that it was an enjoyable film, and one which I would have little trouble recommending for some (hopefully) harmless fun!
My Rating: 7/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
George Givot – Flying With Music (1942)
Flying With Music (1942)
Film Length: 46 minutes, 11 seconds
Harry Bernard (George Givot) has been hiding out on a Caribbean island, but finds himself pursued by two men: Joe (Edward Gargan) and his assistant, Wilbur (Jerry Bergen). When Harry meets a man who is supposed to act as a tour guide for a group of American women (but is too scared to fly on the plane with them), Harry volunteers to take over as the guide. The group includes one chaperone and five young women. They are all on this trip because Ann Andrews (Marjorie Woodworth) convinced her father that it would be an “educational” trip. So, their chaperone, Miss Mullens (Norma Varden), insists on just that, and Harry goes along with her orders to keep his job. However, Ann’s real reason for taking the trip is to meet a Latin singer that she has fallen in love with (but has never met or seen, outside of a photograph). When their pilot, Don Terry (William Marshall), asks her out, she takes the opportunity to go to a nightclub where her “flame” has been reported to perform at. At that nightclub, she finds that he is not there, but on the island of La Monica. Don learns why Ann is going out with him to the nightclub in the process, but decides to keep fighting for her interest. The island of La Monica is not on their itinerary, but, when they learn the truth about Harry, Ann and Don blackmail him into changing it (which works for him anyways, as Joe and Wilbur had once again found him). Don tries to keep romancing Ann, but will he be able to get her to forget her Latin “lover?”
Of the three, I find Flying With Music to be the most fun overall. It took a second viewing for me to come around to it more, but I find it to be quite enjoyable. The music for this film was written by Edward Ward, Chet Forrest and Bob Wright, and is overall the most memorable of these three streamliners. It contains songs like “If It’s Love,” “Pennies For Peppino” (which received a nomination for Best Song Oscar), “Rotana” (which, when all is said and done, feels like a poor man’s version of “Carioca” from the Astaire-Rogers film Flying Down To Rio, but it’s still entertaining), and the two I enjoyed the most, “Caribbean Magic” and “Song of the Lagoon.” More fun is added by Edward Gargan as a detective following George Givot’s Harry Bernard with the assistance of Jerry Bergen as Wilbur (who keeps his partner from actually catching Harry, since he would not be paid any further once they catch him). Admittedly, this also leads into one of the film’s more dated sections, with Harry getting knocked out and Wilbur putting clay on Harry’s face (thus making him look black), which is made worse by Harry leaning heavily into a cringeworthy black stereotype. Thankfully, it’s fairly brief. Even with that problematic moment, I will admit to enjoying this one quite a bit!
My Rating: 8/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Fiesta (1941) – George Givot
All-American Co-Ed (1941) – Marjorie Woodworth
What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners Collection Volume 4: The Musicals
These streamliners are available on DVD as part of The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners Collection Volume 4: The Musicals from Classicflix. All-American Co-Ed and Flying With Music are both black-and-white films, and Fiesta is in color. The two black-and-white films look pretty good, save for a lot of dust and dirt and scratches that remain. I have no prior experience with Fiesta (and how it should look), so I can only guess, based on some of the other Technicolor films of the era that I’ve seen, that the color is off (again let me strongly emphasize, I AM GUESSING AS TO HOW IT SHOULD LOOK, I DO NOT KNOW FOR SURE). I wish all three could receive full-fledged restorations, but, at the same time, I fully understand why not. These are part of Classicflix’s DVD-only Silver Series, where they release films/streamliners/TV series that either don’t have the elements, or what they have is in bad enough shape that it would be too expensive to restore (compared to what the expected sales would be). It’s not perfect, but at least they are making sure these are made available for audiences to discover and potentially learn to love, anyway. I would say that the three musical streamliners in this set certainly are not big classics on their own, and there are some issues that date them. Still, they are quite entertaining, and I feel the set is well worth it, if only to enjoy some good music, some entertaining stories, and all within a shorter time span (seriously, if you can watch the entirety of an episode of an hour-long show in one sitting, you can watch one of these)! So I would definitely recommend it!
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