Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2021): Rita Hayworth in… Music In My Heart (1940)

Welcome to my newly rebranded column for “Film Legends Of Yesteryear!”  Allow me a moment to explain.  Two years ago, in 2019, once a month I reviewed a movie released in the year 1939, as a celebration of that year’s 80th anniversary. While I did nothing of the sort in 2020 (since this isn’t exactly a regular column), for 2021 I will be focusing on the films of actress Rita Hayworth! Granted, it’s not a special birthday or anniversary or whatever. It’s more like I was given a set of twelve of her films for Christmas, and I didn’t feel like making her a “Star Of The Month” (and then trying to cram all twelve films into one month). So, since her birthday is on October 17, I will be posting a review of one of her films on the 17th of every month, and I am currently thinking about hosting a three-day blogathon around her birthday in October. Anyways, that’s the plan, so let’s get things started with her 1940 musical Music In My Heart, which also stars Tony Martin! Of course, we’ve got a theatrical short first, and then we’ll move on to the main feature!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Pink Tail Fly (1965)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 17 seconds)

An exhausted Pink Panther tries to get some sleep, but is interrupted by a persistent fly. Yeah, this type of story is certainly nothing new, and has been done many times in various fashions. Still, there is some fun to be found in the Panther’s fight against the fly, as he tries to kick the fly out of the house (and fails miserably). Worth a few good laughs to see this one periodically!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Robert Gregory (Tony Martin) is anxious about his immigration status.  He fears being deported, especially since he has been the understudy for the leading man in a Broadway musical (who never seems to get sick or injured).  When it’s heard that Robert will, indeed, be deported, the leading man decides to fake an illness so that he can play the part once.  The show goes well, but Robert has to leave right after the performance in order to catch a boat that is sailing (and thus doesn’t have time to change out of his costume).  His cab makes a mad dash for the docks, but crashes into another cab also trying to make the same boat.  The  passenger in the other cab, Patricia O’Malley (Rita Hayworth), is trying to make it in time to marry wealthy publisher Charles Gardner (Alan Mowbray).  With one cab out of commission, they both take the one cab to the docks, but they just miss the boat. Since she learned about Robert’s immigration status, she offers him a place to stay overnight at her uncle Luigi’s (George Humbert). Meanwhile, Charles and his butler, Griggs (Eric Blore), had gotten off the boat when Patricia didn’t arrive in time, and the immigration authorities swore out a warrant for Robert’s arrest. Charles tries to get over being jilted, but finds himself still wanting to marry Patricia. The following morning, he sends Griggs to help smooth things over. Meanwhile, Robert has won over Patricia’s younger sister Mary (Edith Fellows), her uncle Luigi and restaurant owner/cook Sascha (George Tobias). While Griggs is there, Robert tries to prevent him from being successful at bringing Patricia and Charles back together (at the urging of Mary, who things Patricia should not marry Charles). Griggs thinks that Robert looks familiar, but can’t quite place him. Afterwards, Robert sings at a rally for a local politician, and proposes to Patricia (who says yes). Finally, Griggs figures out that Robert is wanted by the authorities and tells Charles. However, Charles is too much of a gentleman and doesn’t want to turn Robert over to the police. So, Griggs goes behind his back and has a special newspaper printed up (only one copy) that claims Robert had left behind a wife and children. He tries to get it in front of Patricia, who, upon seeing the story, decides to go back to Charles without explaining her reasons to Robert. Will things work out between the two, or will Robert be deported, leaving Patricia in a loveless marriage?

Music In My Heart was Rita Hayworth’s first starring role in a musical, but it hardly left much of a mark on her career. Quite frankly, the movie was intended as a vehicle for Tony Martin, who had recently left his contract with 20th Century Fox. While Rita was the film’s leading lady, it was still an unremarkable role, as Tony Martin is the only one who does much of any singing here (granted, Rita would usually lip-synch, as her singing would normally be dubbed over, but she doesn’t even do that here), and what little dancing she does here doesn’t really amount to much. Instead, more is given to some of the character actors, including Eric Blore (who had been in a few of the Astaire-Rogers films and was doing his same thing here), and George Tobias. For me, both of them managed to make their roles memorable and hilarious! I personally didn’t find the music (written by Chet Forrest and Bob Wright) to be that memorable, but it wasn’t terrible, either (with the song “It’s A Blue World” apparently becoming a hit and being nominated for an Oscar). I did enjoy this movie for what it was. It’s not great, but it’s one I don’t think I would have any problems coming back to as “comfort cinema,” I enjoyed it that much! So, it’s a movie I personally would recommend taking the time to see!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Music In My Heart (1940)

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment. The movie appears to have been given a scan in HD, but has not undergone a full-blown restoration, as there are specks and dirt here and there, and other minor issues. Still, it looks great in HD otherwise, and, for the price, is well worth it.

Film Length: 1 hour, 10 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Tony Martin – Deep In My Heart (1954)

Only Angels Have Wings (1939) – Rita Hayworth – You’ll Never Get Rich (1941)

Merrily We Live (1938) – Alan Mowbray

Swing Time (1936) – Eric Blore – The Lady Eve (1941)

Balalaika (1939) – George Tobias – Sergeant York (1941)

Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate CollectionYou’ll Never Get Rich (1941)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… In Person (1935)

We’re back for some more fun with the 1935 Ginger Rogers movie In Person, also starring George Brent and Alan Mowbray!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Rocket To Mars (1946)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 6 minutes, 35 seconds)

While touring a museum, Popeye and Olive accidentally start a rocket that takes Popeye to Mars. Fun little cartoon, possibly one of the first to feature an alien invasion (or so I’ve read). Admittedly, Olive’s presence is so quick, you almost wonder why they bothered. The fighting between Popeye and the Martian Bluto (and his troops), especially after Popeye has his spinach, is fun as always (even if it is a little one-sided). Obviously, realism goes down the drain here, but that’s the fun, and I definitely enjoyed this cartoon!

And Now For The Main Feature…

After being mobbed by a group of unruly fans, movie star Carol Corliss (Ginger Rogers) developed a fear of crowds and people. Wearing a disguise of a wig, glasses, buck teeth and a veil, she tries to go back out under the guise of “Clara Colfax,” with limited success. On one attempted outing, she is nearly in an accident, but is helped by Emory Muir (George Brent). When she later overhears him talking with his uncle Judge Thaddeus Parks (Grant Mitchell) about going to a mountain retreat, she tries to get in on the idea. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Aaron Sylvester (Samuel S. Hinds), a friend of the judge, reluctantly signs off on the idea, but doesn’t tell Emory who “Clara” really is. When they arrive, Emory lets “Clara” stay in the cabin by herself, while he goes to a nearby shack. In the morning, while bird-watching, he spies Carol swimming in the lake, and follows her wet footprints back to the cabin. Going into town for an errand, he finds a few pictures of Carol Corliss in the magazines and realizes who she is. Upon returning to the cabin, he finds that Carol has abandoned her disguise and decides to tell him who she is. He fakes a lack of knowledge of Carol Corliss, and has her work around the cabin, doing cleaning and cooking chores instead of letting her sit around doing nothing. As Carol tries to convince him of the truth, she starts getting through her fear, even taking him to a local screening of one of her movies, where she has to deal with another mob of fans. There, she also runs into her co-star, Jay Holmes (Alan Mowbray), who has come after her to bring her back to Hollywood. Emory threatens to leave, but Carol manages to con the local sheriff into forcing a marriage between the two. However, the sheriff catches Jay instead, resulting in some confusion until Emory shows up, and the two are reluctantly married, with plans to divorce before Carol goes back to Hollywood.

Based on a novel by Samuel Hopkins Adams (who wrote It Happened One Night), the movie was originally conceived as a potential Astaire-Rogers film. Fred Astaire turned it down, but Ginger decided in favor of it, and was joined by others who had worked on the Astaire-Rogers films, including director William A. Seiter (who had directed the 1935 Roberta), regular writer Allan Scott, choreographer Hermes Pan and lyricist Dorothy Fields. The new music was written by Oscar Levant. Honestly, the Astaire-Rogers connection makes it a bit more fun, with Easter Eggs such as the song “Lovely To Look At” playing on the radio when they first get to the cabin, or Alan Mowbray’s line of “I’ve co-starred in every picture that Carol Corliss has ever made” (which probably fit Ginger better, as she had had a movie career apart from Fred, but, outside of his small debut in Dancing Lady, she had co-starred with him in every movie he had done up to that point).

Now, I had first heard of the movie when I read the book Astaire And Rogers by Edward Gallafent most of fifteen years ago. According to that book, it was said to be a difficult movie to find, so when I found it listed on the schedule for the Turner Classic Movies channel a few years later, I jumped at the chance and recorded it on my DVR. I ended up enjoying it very much! With only three new songs, it really barely qualified as a musical (especially since the first song doesn’t really happen until more than halfway into the movie), but they were still fun! Admittedly, the song “Don’t Mention Love To Me,” sung by Ginger for the “movie-within-a-movie,” was rather forgettable. However, the song “Got A New Lease On Life” was fun, giving Ginger a chance to dance around the cabin while she was still preparing the food (and if I have any complaints about that one, it’s that the dance was too short). But I REALLY enjoyed the tune “Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind,” which starts with her walking on a revolving bar while she sings, before getting off to dance with the male chorus. While her dancing may not be as polished as it would be when she danced with Fred Astaire, it’s still a fun dance number! I do admit to having mixed feelings about George Brent’s character. On the one hand, Ginger’s character is a bit selfish and too proud to do work to start out, but then again, I do feel that his thing of making her do domestic chores is pushing it a little. Still, I will readily admit to enjoying this movie, and I very heartily recommend it!

So, as you can imagine, after seeing it that first time, I very patiently waited for this movie to be released on DVD, and finally, the Warner Archive Collection announced it for release on DVD on March 19, 2019, much to my happiness (and it certainly took long enough to come out)! Now, do I wish it could have been given a full restoration and released on Blu-ray? Yes. But I’m no fool. As I said before, this movie has been described as rare and hard to see, which makes me question what shape the film elements might be in or what’s available, and, since the movie has been (to quote my favorite song from this movie) “out of sight and out of mind,” it certainly wasn’t likely to be popular enough to warrant what might be a costly restoration, so I’m definitely glad to have it on disc, so that it is that much easier to see!

Film Length: 1 hour, 27 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #5 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Top Hat (1935)Ginger RogersFollow The Fleet (1936)

42nd Street (1933) – George Brent – Jezebel (1938)

Alan Mowbray – Rose-Marie (1936)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Stand-In (1937)

Now we have another new disc release for 2019, the 1937 comedy Stand-In, starring Leslie Howard, Joan Blondell and Humphrey Bogart.

There’s trouble at the banking offices of Pettypacker & Sons. They have an ownership in Colossal Studios, but are considering selling it to Ivor Nassau (C. Henry Gordon) for less than its worth. Atterbury Dodd (Leslie Howard), one of their big number crunchers, believes they should NOT sell, and he is sent to Hollywood to take charge of the studio and figure things out. Once there, he meets former child actress Lester Plum (Joan Blondell) and Douglas Quintain (Humphrey Bogart), the producer of the movie being made. While Dodd tries to figure out how to cut costs, he has to deal with Nassau and a few of the people that stand to benefit from the sale of the studio.

I’ll admit, this was a movie I had never heard of previously, and it was mainly Bogie’s presence that appealed to me. This movie did turn out to be a wonderful surprise! I enjoyed all the performances, including Bogie in what was apparently his first sympathetic role (all the while carrying around a Scottish-terrier, to boot). To say that actor Jack Carson’s character, Tom Potts, is obnoxious seems like an understatement (but it works for the role). And of course, watching Leslie Howard (who is probably best known as Ashley Wilkes, the guy that Vivien Leigh’s Scarlet O’Hara was chasing after for most of Gone With The Wind) as he tries to come to grips with Hollywood and all its phonies is hilarious, especially considering he has no idea who many of the stars are! I know I enjoyed watching him tell off a mother who was trying to get her little girl to audition for him, since he was the head of the studio! The only letdown on this movie was the ending, which was maybe a little too abrupt, in terms of everything coming together. That, and I wish they had done more with the quirky residents of the boarding house that Dodd stayed at. But outside of that, I found myself enjoying the movie quite a bit, and I would heartily recommend it!

This movie has been made available on Blu-ray and DVD by ClassicFlix. According to a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie, this was originally being planned as their first release when they started the label, but they canceled those plans when they found that the available film elements were not usable, especially for the level of quality they were planning. However, they did find some better elements at the British Film Institute that, while not perfect, were good enough to work with. The resulting transfer looks pretty good. There are some scratches here and there, but this is likely to be the best the movie looks for the foreseeable future.

Update (11/5/2021): Due to poor sales on the release, ClassicFlix has since discontinued their Blu-ray release (so good luck finding any copies for the time being at a decent price). However, their DVD is still available, which is what I have now switched the link to.

Film Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Petrified Forest (1936) – Leslie Howard

Footlight Parade (1933) – Joan Blondell – The Opposite Sex (1956)

The Petrified Forest (1936)Humphrey BogartAngels With Dirty Faces (1938)

My Man Godfrey (1936) – Alan Mowbray – Merrily We Live (1938)

Jack Carson – A Damsel In Distress (1937)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Original Vs. Remake: My Man Godfrey (1936) vs. Merrily We Live (1938)

Ok, so this isn’t really a case of “Original Vs. Remake,” but since the movies My Man Godfrey (1936) (MMG) and Merrily We Live (1938) (MWL) seemed fairly similar to me, I felt the need to compare the two, and let you know what I think about them. Of course, to simplify things, I’ll just borrow the plot descriptions from both of my reviews.

In My Man Godfrey, we find Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) and her sister Cornelia (Gail Patrick) competing against each other in a scavenger hunt for the social elite. They both come to the city dump, looking for a “forgotten man.” Cornelia, who is a spoiled brat, finds Godfrey (William Powell), and offers him five dollars to come with her, but he turns her down. Irene, who is a little more scatterbrained, but not quite so spoiled, realizes the idea is wrong, and Godfrey agrees to come with her to help her beat Cornelia. Afterwards, she hires Godfrey to be the family butler. The rest of the movie is about Godfrey as he works for the family, who are all a little screwy, except for the father, all the while Godfrey tries to keep his own background hidden while avoiding the affections of Irene, who falls for him.

In Merrily We Live, our story starts in the Kilbourne household, where their chauffeur has disappeared with the family silver. Emily Kilbourne (Billie Burke), the family matriarch, has had a history of hiring tramps, but after this betrayal, she decides to stop, to the happiness of the rest of the family. However, Wade Rawlins (Brian Aherne) comes to the door after the car he was driving goes off a cliff while he is trying to get some water. The butler tries to make him leave, but Emily sees him, and decides to hire him. His reception from the other members of the family is a little cool at first, but slowly, everyone warms up to him, with all the female members of the house (except for Emily) developing a crush on him, as he falls for eldest daughter Geraldine (Constance Bennett).

Both movies definitely seem to go off on similar trajectories. Both feature tramps being hired by rich families as servants. Both have several female members of the household that seem to fall for the “tramps.” The fathers are the ones who appear to be the most normal members of the household (although Mr. Kilbourne in MWL seems to have a slight lapse when he gets drunk). One shared actor is Alan Mowbray (Godfrey’s friend Tommy Gray in MMG and the butler Grosvenor in MWL). Also, from what I have heard, actress Constance Bennett was actually considered for the role of Irene in MMG, losing out to William Powell’s choice of Carole Lombard. Of course, one shared coincidence between the two movies is that the actresses portraying the family matriarchs (Alice Brady in MMG and Billie Burke in MWL) were both nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscars for their respective years (although neither won).

The differences in these movies are what everybody would most want to know about. When we first meet Godfrey, we can plainly see that he is a tramp, and we have little reason to doubt it. On the other hand, with Wade Rawlins (MWL) we really can’t say for certain that he is, just that he is wearing some old clothes and hasn’t shaved recently. Godfrey appears to be sane, and questions what is going on in the household, whereas Wade Rawlins appears to almost fit right in with the family. There is some element of timing at play as well, as the Bullocks (MMG), rich though they are, still can feel the effects of the Depression, as Mr. Bullock is constantly trying to remind everybody, while the Kilbournes (MWL) don’t seem to have any troubles with it.

The ultimate question here, which is the better movie? I myself believe them both to be wonderful movies. The main difference seems to be in the tone of the movies, as My Man Godfrey seems to be a mixture of comedy thrown in with some serious moments, as we all stop to think about the effect of the Depression, while Merrily We Live seems to keep seriousness at bay, with comedy constantly at the forefront. Due to this, most people would say that My Man Godfrey is the better movie. I myself would have to give a slight edge to Merrily We Live. I prefer the constant comedy, but it also may depend on mood. Either way, I highly recommend both movies if you get the chance to see them, they are both just that good!

My Man Godfrey

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Merrily We Live

Film Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

The Winner (in my opinion): Merrily We Live (By a VERY slim margin)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… My Man Godfrey (1936)

And now it’s time to dig into another recent release on disc, the 1936 movie My Man Godfrey, which stars William Powell as Godfrey and Carole Lombard as Irene Bullock.

To start, we find Irene Bullock and her sister Cornelia (Gail Patrick) competing against each other in a scavenger hunt for the social elite. They both come to the city dump, looking for a “forgotten man.” Cornelia, who is a spoiled brat, finds Godfrey, and offers him five dollars to come with her, but he turns her down. Irene, who is a little more scatterbrained, but not quite so spoiled, realizes the idea is wrong, and Godfrey agrees to come with her to help her beat Cornelia. Afterwards, she hires Godfrey to be the family butler. The rest of the movie is about Godfrey as he works for the family, who are all a little screwy, except for the father, all the while Godfrey tries to keep his own background hidden while avoiding the affections of Irene, who falls for him.

With this movie, we have a highly regarded screwball comedy. We have four Oscar-nominated performances, with William Powell (Best Actor), Carole Lombard (Best Actress), Mischa Auer (Best Supporting Actor) and Alice Brady (Best Supporting Actress), in the first movie to be nominated in all four acting categories. Carole Lombard’s Irene is particularly screwy (and I get the impression the screwball genre was coined by a reviewer talking about her character). To a degree, we find ourselves siding with Godfrey early on, when he first comes to work for the family. Their maid, who has already been working for them a while, warns him to keep his things near the door so he can make a quick getaway. As he meets the family, we certainly can see him considering leaving (and I think most of us would be considering it, too), but he ends up staying, feeling it would be better than to go back to the dump. He even ends up helping them before all is said and done.

I enjoyed this movie very much, and it is one I would definitely recommend to anybody that might be interested in it. The movie is in the public domain, so it is available on DVD from many labels, but for the best quality, with the most recent restoration, it is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection (it’s a bit more expensive, but I think it is worth it).

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #4 on Top 10 Disc Releases of 2018

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Star Of Midnight (1935) – William Powell – Libeled Lady (1936)

We’re Not Dressing (1934) – Carole Lombard – Nothing Sacred (1937)

Shanghai Express (1932) – Eugene Pallette – One Hundred Men And A Girl (1937)

Rose-Marie (1936) – Alan Mowbray – Stand-In (1937)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… Merrily We Live (1938)

Time to jump in again with the recent release of the 1938 screwball comedy Merrily We Live, starring Constance Bennett, Brian Aherne, and Billie Burke.

Our story starts in the Kilbourne household, where their chauffeur has disappeared with the family silver. Emily Kilbourne (Billie Burke), the family matriarch, has had a history of hiring tramps, but after this betrayal, she decides to stop, to the happiness of the rest of the family. However, Wade Rawlins (Brian Aherne) comes to the door after the car he was driving goes off a cliff while he is trying to get some water. The butler tries to make him leave, but Emily sees him, and decides to hire him. His reception from the other members of the family is a little cool at first, but slowly, everyone warms up to him, with all the female members of the house (except for Emily) developing a crush on him, as he falls for eldest daughter Geraldine (Constance Bennett).

My thoughts on this movie? I highly recommend it! As a screwball comedy, it does its job, as I spent most of the movie laughing at everything going on (and while I may have had silent moments, I made up for them whenever I thought of the movie)! The family is definitely very screwy. Billie Burke, in her only Oscar nomination, delights as the absent-minded and completely nutty Emily Kilbourne. Bonita Granville creates a lot of mischief as youngest sister Marion Kilbourne, usually accompanied by her two Great Danes, affectionately named “Get Off The Rug” and “You Too.” Alan Mowbray is the butler Grosvenor, who is constantly threatening to leave, with his bag usually ready in a closet in the kitchen. Clarence Kolb as Henry Kilbourne is the “head of the house” (although who can tell, considering the respect his children have for him at times), and is given a wonderfully gleeful moment when he comes home at night drunk, and Brian Aherne’s Wade Rawlins has to help him into the house quietly. I can name many more moments, but too many more would spoil the fun. I think this movie is definitely worth a shot, if you get the chance!

The movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from ClassicFlix.

Film Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #3 on Top 10 Disc Releases of 2018

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Stand-In (1937) – Alan Mowbray – Music In My Heart (1940)

Dinner At Eight (1933) – Billie Burke – The Young In Heart (1938)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!