“Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart (September 2021)” featuring… Deep In My Heart (1954)

For today’s entry in the Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon, we’ve got the 1954 all-star musical biopic on composer Sigmund Romberg, Deep In My Heart, starring Jose Ferrer, Merle Oberon and Helen Traubel!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Strauss Fantasy (1954)

(Available as an extra on the Deep In My Heart Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 49 seconds)

Johnny Green conducts the MGM Symphony Orchestra in a medley of tunes by the three Strausses: Johann Strauss Sr., Johann Strauss Jr. and Josef Strauss.  It’s a nice, short little concert with some fun, recognizable classical music (even if it is slightly edited to fit in the short runtime).  This short is probably best played in the background of whatever you might be doing, but it’s still enjoyable!  My only real complaint is that, on this Blu-ray, this short is using an old, unrestored, non-anamorphic transfer, and I wish that could be improved upon.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Farm Of Tomorrow (1954)

(Available as an extra on the Deep In My Heart Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection or as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 6 minutes, 32 seconds)

We are shown the “farm of tomorrow.” This one has some fun, but I’ll admit it quickly goes a little sour for me. Instead of being as much about farming, it quickly devolves into gags revolving around the crossbreeding of different animals (and some objects). There are some good gags to be found here, don’t get me wrong, but it just seems like it goes the wrong direction. Still, it’s one I’ll probably find myself returning to here and there (with my expectations in check).  Of course, the transfer for this cartoon is older on the Deep In My Heart Blu-ray, so it doesn’t look as good as it does on the Tex Avery set released several years later.

And Now For The Main Feature…

In New York City, composer Sigmund “Romy” Romberg (Jose Ferrer) works at the Café Vienna, run by his friend Anna Mueller (Helen Traubel).  One night, a music promoter named Berrison, Sr. (David Burns) listens to Romy’s music, but determines it to be old-fashioned.  Inspired by Berrison’s descriptions of what type of music he wants to promote, Romy writes a ragtime tune that quickly becomes a hit.  That song’s success attracts the attention of theatrical impresario J. J. Shubert (Walter Pidgeon), and Romy auditions a new song for Shubert’s upcoming show.  Shubert’s leading lady, Gaby Deslys (Tamara Toumananova), is at first indifferent to Romy’s new song, but when a visiting actress, Dorothy Donnelly (Merle Oberon), praises it, Gaby decides to have Shubert buy it.  When he sees the show on opening night, Romy is disgusted with the overall presentation of his song.  Anna holds a party at the Café Vienna afterwards, where Romy is offered a five-year contract by producer Bert Townsend (Paul Stewart).  Initially, Romy turns it down.  As he explains to his new friend Dorothy Donnelly, he had wanted to bring his show Maytime to Bert and Shubert, but couldn’t bring himself to do it after what they did with his song.  Dorothy encourages him to sign the contract, so that he can become better-known and gain enough clout to get them to do the show.  He signs, although he frequently finds himself at odds with the shows he writes for.  Still, he keeps doing them because of his free-spending habits with the checks he is given.  He tries asking Bert Townsend to produce Maytime again and again, but he keeps turning Romy down.  Going back to Dorothy for advice, she suggests a slight deception.  The two of them go to a fancy restaurant, where they run into Florenz Ziegfeld (Paul Henreid).  While being watched by Shubert, they pretend to show Ziegfeld Maytime, and he goes along with their ruse.  It works, prompting Shubert to finally do it. Maytime becomes such a big hit, that they have a second company performing it at the same time.  Romy’s success goes to his head, and he comes up with another show called Magic Melody.  With Bert unwilling to produce it, Romy decides to do so himself (but it fails).  Broke and humbled, he returns to Bert repentant.  Of course, Bert needs him back, and he sends him along with two of his writers to Saranac Lake to work on a show.  They work hard on the show, but when frustrations run high, the two writers push Romy to go out for a bit.  While out riding his bicycle, he meets and falls for Lillian Harris (Doe Avedon), who is staying at Saranac Lake with her mother (Isobel Elsom).  Lillian develops some affection for Romy, but her mother thinks he is too vulgar.  Things go wrong when Bert visits and insists on hearing what Romy and the two writers have put together (all, of course, while Lillian and her mother are trying to visit).  Bert likes what he hears, but it horrifies Lillian’s mother.  Lillian is willing to make up with Romy, until Bert sends flowers to all the women at Saranac Lake (in an attempt to get Romy to come back to Broadway), which is too much for Lillian.  A year later, Romy has helped put together another show, but he still hasn’t gotten over Lillian.  Dorothy tries to rouse his spirits by asking for his help in writing music for a show she’s been adapting, but he is feeling too low and plans a trip to Europe after the opening of the show.  Will Lillian return and help him out of his funk, or will he make that trip to Europe (and be miserable the whole time)?

In the early 1950s, MGM made plans for a musical biopic on composer Sigmund Romberg, with producer duties assigned to Arthur Freed. Originally, the plan was to have the real Sigmund Romberg make an appearance as himself in a prologue to introduce the film, but he died before the film could go into production. Producer Arthur Freed ended up giving this one to his regular associate producer, Roger Edens, as he attempted to launch his own unit at MGM, and Roger Edens hired Stanley Donen as the director. It wasn’t necessarily a movie that either of them wanted to make, though. The musical biopics that MGM had produced tended to be more like revues featuring some of the big-name talent at MGM for various songs, without much plot, which didn’t appeal to Stanley Donen (but he did the project because Roger Edens, who had been championing Stanley’s rise, asked him to do it). Being his first producing gig, Roger Edens felt that he needed something that would have been a success, even if he didn’t find the material appealing (and ended up producing only one more film, Funny Face, after this). The original plan was to have Kurt Kasznar star as Sigmund Romberg, but rising star Jose Ferrer expressed interest in doing a musical, and that was the end of that.

To be perfectly honest, this is a movie that I have both a difficult time recommending and yet also an easy time recommending.  If you find that confusing, then allow me to explain.  I first saw this movie as part of the nine-film DVD set Classic Musicals From The Dream Factory Volume 3, which included films like Hit The Deck (1955), Kismet (1955), Broadway Melody Of 1936 (1935), Born To Dance (1936) and a few others that I haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet.  At that time, I hadn’t seen ANY of those films, just clips here and there.  Of that group of nine films, I originally came out with the lowest opinion on Deep In My Heart.  Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it a little bit, but I also would have told you at that time that that first viewing was also going to be my last.  My biggest problem (at that time)?  Complete lack of familiarity with composer Sigmund Romberg and his music.  I had already seen some of the other musical biopics on different composers like Jerome Kern (Till The Clouds Roll By), Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (Words And Music), Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby (Three Little Words), etc., and was at least familiar with their music from some of the various film musicals that they had written for.  But Sigmund Romberg?  I hadn’t heard of him, and I hadn’t heard any of his music (not helped by the fact, if I am remembering correctly, that the only clips with his music in any of the That’s Entertainment films came from the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy film New Moon, which I hadn’t seen at that time and had no plans to see).  So I went in blindly, and came out barely remembering anything with any fondness (maybe the song “I Love to Go Swimmin’ with Wimmin” done by Gene Kelly and his brother, Fred Kelly, but that was it on my first time).

So, that’s what I held against the film (and why I have a difficult time recommending it).  But, as you will look at my score (and the fact that I also feel I CAN easily recommend it), my opinion has changed.  What caused me to go back and give this film a second chance?  Maytime (1937).  I will grant you that, to the best of my knowledge, only one song from the original Broadway show’s score made it into that film, which was “Will You Remember?”, but that song alone gave me a very positive feeling towards that whole movie.  In the back of my mind, I somehow remembered the song being included in Deep In My Heart, and the name “Sigmund Romberg” seemed familiar, so I was willing to revisit this movie. I found myself enjoying it much more the second time around, now that I was a little more familiar with Sigmund Romberg’s music. I’ve since seen a few other films with Sigmund Romberg’s music and enjoyed them (mostly just the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy films The Girl Of The Golden West and New Moon, but I certainly hope to see more when I get the chance).

I will say that, more than anything, the music (and dancing here and here) is what makes this movie so appealing to me. I certainly enjoy the song “Will You Remember” by Vic Damone and Jane Powell quite a bit (it’s not as good as the version from the 1937 Maytime, but that is partly because that film gives the song an actual context as part of the story, leaving me much more emotionally attached, but I can still enjoy this film’s version, too). It is also kind of fun seeing Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney (married offscreen, with her appearance in this film due to Jose Ferrer pushing MGM to borrow her from Paramount) doing the rather appropriate song “Mr. And Mrs.” Gene Kelly joined by his brother Fred Kelly for the aforementioned song “I Love to Go Swimmin’ with Wimmin” is quite entertaining, and one of the better dance routines in the film. The other is Cyd Charisse and James Mitchell dancing to the song “One Alone,” which is just breathtaking to watch (and a little steamy, too). The closest objection that modern audiences might have (besides the overall lack of recognition of Sigmund Romberg) is the “Jazz-a-doo” stuff with Jose Ferrer putting on soot that resembles blackface (although that would likely be historically accurate, given that he was imitating Al Jolson, who did that, from what I’ve seen and heard). Personally, while it took me a few tries to like this film, I’ve come to enjoy seeing it every now and then, and consider it my second favorite composer biopic from that period (trailing only Three Little Words). If you can familiarize yourself with the music of Sigmund Romberg beforehand, then I do think that this is a fun movie worth seeing (without that recognition, it’s much harder to recommend)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 2 hours, 12 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Caine Mutiny (1954) – Jose Ferrer

Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) – Walter Pidgeon – Hit The Deck (1955)

Now, Voyager (1942) – Paul Henreid – Never So Few (1959)

White Christmas (1954) – Rosemary Clooney

Brigadoon (1954)Gene KellyInvitation To The Dance (1956)

Athena (1954) – Jane Powell – Hit The Deck (1955)

Athena (1954) – Vic Damone – Hit The Deck (1955)

Kiss Me Kate (1953) – Ann Miller – Hit The Deck (1955)

Brigadoon (1954) – Cyd Charisse – Silk Stockings (1957)

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) – Howard Keel – Kismet (1955)

Music In My Heart (1940) – Tony Martin – Hit The Deck (1955)

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) – Russ Tamblyn – Hit The Deck (1955)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

We’re back again to keep things musical this month with today’s entry in the Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon, as we take a look at MGM’s all-star musical from 1945, Ziegfeld Follies!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Luckiest Guy In The World (1947)

(available as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 21 minutes, 9 seconds)

Charles Vurn (Barry Nelson) struggles monetarily, due to his desire to get rich quick (mostly by gambling). When he accidentally kills his wife, his luck “seems” to change for the better. This was the last short in the “Crime Does Not Pay” series of shorts produced by MGM. It’s an interesting short, that feels well-acted and pulls you in for the story. Amusingly, considering this short’s inclusion as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray, it includes part of Red Skelton’s skit from the movie done as part of a radio program heard in a car. I’m still no fan of the “Crime Does Not Pay” series, but this one was interesting to see once, anyways.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Hick Chick (1946)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 or as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray, both 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: 7 minutes, 10 seconds)

Hick rooster Lem ends up fighting with a city slicker for the affections of his girlfriend, Daisy. A bit of fun here, with the city slicker rooster imitating Charles Boyer, while Daisy also does an imitation of Katharine Hepburn (if I’m correct). Not the most original, with the hick rooster constantly being punched in the face the same way by the city slicker, but it’s still fun. Enjoyed the chasing around (plus the bull being “stripped” of his fur several times). Maybe not Tex Avery’s best work, but I had a few good laughs here, and that alone makes it worth it!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Solid Serenade (1946)

(available as an extra on the Ziegfeld Follies Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 25 seconds)

Tom the cat tries to serenade his girlfriend, but when he disturbs the sleep of Jerry the mouse, he lives to regret it! An old classic “Tom & Jerry” cartoon, with him famously singing “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby.” I’ve seen this one for years, and always get a laugh out of watching Tom facing off against Killer, the bulldog, when Jerry lets him loose. The gags just get funnier as the short goes on, and this one never gets old!

And Now For The Main Feature…

(Narrator): Ziegfeld Follies is one of those films with a very simple plot.

(Host): How simple is it?

(Narrator): I expected that from you, so I’ll tell you. Florenz Ziegfeld (William Powell) looks down from heaven, and imagines what it would be like to put on just one more of his famous Ziegfeld Follies shows using the talent in Hollywood (especially at MGM).

(Host): Yeah, yeah, what else?

(Narrator): That’s it.

(Host): That’s it?

(Narrator): Yep, and that all takes place within the first ten minutes of the movie. After that, it’s a revue like the earlier reviewed King Of Jazz, with different stars singing, dancing, doing comedy skits, whatever their specific talents were.

(Host): So what’s on the program?

(Narrator): Well, here’s a list of what’s included, and we’ll get into the various segments afterwards:

  • “Here’s To The Girls” sung by Fred Astaire, danced by Cyd Charisse and chorus, Lucille Ball and chorus
  • “Bring On The Wonderful Men” sung by Virginia O’Brien
  • “A Water Ballet” featuring Esther Williams
  • “Number Please” with Keenan Wynn
  • “Traviata” sung by James Melton and Marion Bell
  • “Pay The Two Dollars” with Victor Moore and Edward Arnold
  • “This Heart Of Mine” sung by Fred Astaire, danced by Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer
  • “A Sweepstakes Ticket” with Fanny Brice, Hume Cronyn and William Frawley
  • “Love” with Lena Horn
  • “When Television Comes” with Red Skelton
  • “Limehouse Blues” danced by Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer
  • A Great Lady Has “An Interview” with Judy Garland
  • “The Babbitt and The Bromide” sung and danced by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly
  • “Beauty” sung by Kathryn Grayson

(Host): And that’s all?

(Narrator): Yep, that’s all. Admittedly, there was more filmed, but that’s all that made it into the movie. But, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.

(Host): Ok, so start at the beginning.

(Narrator): (whispering aside to audience) He asked for it! (winks at audience, then turns back to Host, speaking in normal voice) “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the–

(Host): No, no, NO! Not that far! The making of this movie!

(Narrator): Ok, fine. Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (1867-1932) was a famous stage producer. On the suggestion of Polish-French singer Anna Held, he started producing the American version of the Parisian Folies Bergère. From 1907 until 1931, he produced a yearly revue of the Ziegfeld Follies, with these shows sporting songs, dances, comedy sketches, and such. They mainly ended when he passed away in 1932. After his death, his widow Billie Burke sold the film rights of his life to Universal Pictures. However, with the rising costs and disagreements between the film’s producer and the studio, Universal ended up selling the rights to MGM. In 1936, MGM released The Great Ziegfeld, to great acclaim, box office, and a Best Picture Oscar win. A few years later, in 1939, studio head Louis B. Mayer planned the idea of a film version of a Ziegfeld Follies show, and gave the project to his new producer, Arthur Freed. However, with Arthur Freed’s new unit only just getting started, it took a while before they could really get into the project. With the success of Ziegfeld Girl in 1941, they really started to focus on the idea. The plan was to try and use some of the various songs, sketches and comedy routines that MGM had been acquiring over the years. At first, George Sidney was assigned to direct the film, but he left after a short while (supposedly, he wasn’t happy with the first month’s worth of shooting) and was replaced by Vincente Minelli (although some of what Sidney filmed was retained for the final product). The movie was originally intended to be released in 1944 to celebrate MGM’s 20th anniversary, but things didn’t work out that way. Filming initially took place between April 10 and August 18, 1944. When the movie was given its sneak preview (with a running time of nearly three hours), audiences didn’t respond as positively as they would have hoped. This resulted in the studio making some changes to the movie, removing many segments and doing some re-takes and additional sequences. Even once finished (as the film is now), they still took their time in releasing it, waiting almost half a year before finally giving it a wide release in 1946.

(Host hands the narrator a small business card)

(Narrator): (reading the card) “And now a word from our sponsor?”

(Pie comes flying in from offstage and hits the Narrator in the face)

(Host): That’s right folks, our sponsor this week is Pie N De Face! If you’re feeling gloomy, and you don’t know what to do (and you’ve got a friend or family member nearby), use Pie N De Face, and you’re sure to bust a gut laughing! Also comes with a portable washing machine (water falls from above the Narrator, drenching him), soap (Narrator is scrubbed with soap, then drenched again), and dryer (a strong gust of wind blows on the Narrator, drying him up and fluffing out his clothing) so that you can use it again in a hurry!

(Narrator): (Angrily walks off-stage, sound of pie hitting him in face again, then sounds of gushing water and wind) (yells) Let’s move on here! Start talking about the movie!

(Host): Alright. Computer, bring in the “This Heart Of Mine” set.

(Computer): Bringing in comedy set.

(Out pops a set with three distinct sections that look like a subway car, a courthouse and a jail cell. There are also two telephone booths and an old CRT television set with what appears to be a bottle of an alcoholic beverage, although nothing inside is visible. A huge pile of sweepstakes tickets drops on the Host, burying him).

(Host): (from underneath the pile of sweepstakes tickets) Ow.

(Narrator): (Walking back onstage) That’s the ticket!

(Audience groans)

(Narrator): Ok, ok, they can’t all be good! Anyways, it may not be what he asked for, but we should mention the comedy sketches. Obviously, opinions will vary for most, but in general, the comedy bits in this movie are among the more controversial aspects of it, as there are those that don’t think they have aged as well as the various musical numbers. There is a degree to which I agree with that. The bit “Pay The Two Dollars” with Victor Moore and Edward Arnold is the worst, as Victor Moore plays a businessman who gets in trouble for spitting on the subway (a minor offense), but, because of the fact that he is unable to pay the fine, combined with the insistence of his lawyer that he fight the charge (even though he just wants to pay the fine), he is sent to jail and then later prison, before being pardoned. In general, this one is just cringeworthy, watching Victor Moore’s character getting in worse and worse scrapes, both financially and with the law, just because his lawyer doesn’t want to lose the case (and charges his client an arm and a leg to do it). Maybe it’s funny once or twice, but eventually this becomes one worth skipping. Computer, drop “Pay The Two Dollars.”

(Computer): Dropping the cheapskate.

(Trapdoor opens up beneath the Host).

(Host): (Falling through the trapdoor with some of the sweepstakes tickets) Aaaaaaaaahhhh!

(Narrator): Moving on, we have the the “Number Please” comedy bit with Keenan Wynn, where he keeps asking the operator for a specific number, but keeps getting the wrong one. This one is decently funny, but, when all is said and done, it’s essentially the “Alexander 2222” (or whatever other name they go with) comedy routine, and, when you’ve seen Lou Costello do that routine, nobody else is as good.

(Phone booth rings)

(Narrator): (Steps in phone booth and picks up phone) Hello? (Muffled voice overheard on phone) Mmm-hmm. (Muffled voice continues) You don’t say. (Muffled voice starts to sound angry). You don’t say! (Muffled voice gets angrier. Narrator cups his hand over the phone and gives the audience a look). I think most of you can predict what I’m about to tell you, so say it with me. (breathes in) “He isn’t saying.” Computer, drop this obscene caller.

(Computer): Dropping the obscene caller.

(Host): (from the other telephone booth, getting quieter as if falling again) Not agaaaaaaaiiiiinnnn!

(Narrator): The next comedy sketch would be “A Sweepstakes Ticket” with Fanny Brice, Hume Cronyn and William Frawley. Fanny Brice was the only featured star in this movie to have actually been one of the big stars from a Ziegfeld Follies show. Different sketches and ideas were thrown around for what to do with her for this movie, but what we got was a sketch in which she plays a housewife that has the winning ticket in an Irish sweepstakes. The problem is her husband, played by Hume Cronyn, has given the ticket to their landlord (William Frawley in what would become a familiar occupation for one of his most famous characters half a decade later) as part of their rent, so they must try to get it back from him. There’s some fun with their attempts to get the ticket back, so it does manage to be slightly more memorable. (speaks loudly) Of course, I’ve got that winning ticket in that pile somewhere…

(Host comes running back onstage and dives into remaining pile of sweepstakes tickets, only to fall through the still open trapdoor)

(Narrator): Knew I forget to take care of something. Computer, close the trapdoor.

(Computer): Closing the trapdoor.

(Trapdoor closes)

(Narrator): Our last comedy sketch is “When Television Comes” with Red Skelton. (Walks over to the television set and takes a swig from the bottle on top) While Red Skelton seems to be one of the more “you love him or you hate him” types, I will admit that I personally like his comedy. I don’t think his comedy bit here is as good as what he did in Lovely To Look At, but it’s still some good fun as he plays an advertiser that gets slowly more drunk on the sponsor’s product while alternating (by the turn of his hat) as a poet with some rather amusing poetry (if you can call it that). Out of all the pure comedy sketches in this movie, this is the one that I enjoy the most. (Takes another swig from the bottle) Ah, that’s good stuff. (To audience) Before you get the wrong idea, I’m drinking the hard stuff. Milk. What? You expected something alcoholic? We wouldn’t let anything of that nature on here! But let’s get back to the movie!

(Host): (weakly from offstage) What about “A Great Lady Has An Interview” with Judy Garland?

(Narrator): Well, that’s kind of a different story. That one is a musical number, which was written by Kay Thompson and Roger Edens for actress Greer Garson, in an attempt to spoof her screen image at the time. When the two writers performed it for Greer Garson and her husband and her mother, they expressed their feelings that it wasn’t for her. Instead, Judy Garland ended up doing it. Personally, while I think that Judy Garland does a good job with it (and I’m glad that she got something in this movie, considering she was another star that had a lot of stuff planned as possibilities that didn’t pan out, and, as big as she was at MGM, she did need to be in this film), I think the humor of the piece falls flat. Maybe I’m saying that coming from a complete lack of knowledge in regards to Greer Garson (having only seen her in the film Blossoms In The Dust which was part of a set of Christmas films I got on DVD a number of years back), but I can’t believe that I’m the only one who has no knowledge of her, which causes this number to age poorly, in my opinion.

(sign drops from above)

(Narrator): (reading the sign) “And now back to our sponsor Pie N De Face?”

(another pie comes flying in from offstage and hits the Narrator in the face).

(Host): (trying to stifle a giggle) If you’re feeling gloomy (starts giggling more intensely), and you don’t know what to do (and you’ve got a friend or family member nearby), use Pie N De Face (busts out in raucous laughter), and you’re… sure to… bust a gut… laughing! (starts rolling on the floor in uncontrollable laughter)

(Narrator): (wiping pie off his face) Oh, very funny. Veeeeerrrry funny. Are you through yet?

(Host still laughing on the floor)

(Narrator): Fine. I’ll finish the ad. (starts speaking fast to get it over with). Also comes with a portable washing machine, soap, and dryer so that you can use it again in a hurry! (In quick fashion, water drops on the Narrator, followed quickly by soap, more water, and then a strong gust of wind fluffs him up again)

(Host): (still on the floor laughing) Had enough?

(Narrator walks offstage muttering angrily to himself)

(Host): (laughter subsides) Ok, let’s try this again. Computer, bring in the “This Heart Of Mine” set.

(Computer): Bringing in “Beauty” set.

(From above, a bunch of soap suds and bubbles drop down, covering the stage and sticking to the Host)

(Host): (spitting out soap bubbles) No, no, no, not that! Computer! Bring in the “This Heart Of Mine” set!

(Computer): Bringing in “Water Ballet” set.

(Host): (dreading what is coming) Oh, no!

(A glass pane comes down covering the front of the stage, with water filling in behind it and washing away all the suds. The Host suddenly finds himself swimming in all the water as the water level continues to rise.)

(Narrator): (walking back onstage in front of the glass pane) Ah, two musical numbers that ended up being far different than what was originally planned. As I’ve hinted at already, a lot of the various stars were being given numerous songs or sketches in the planning stages, some of which managed to be filmed (but were dropped after the initial preview). One of those stars was singer James Melton, who had filmed at least four songs, but only one was retained: the operatic “La Traviata.” Personally, I think that to be one of the weakest (if not THE weakest) segments retained for the movie. I’ve seen it described as being filmed like a song for a TV variety show, which feels quite accurate. Overall, I don’t really like it at all (and only would have been able to tolerate it if it could have been done, for example, by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy instead of James Melton and Marion Bell).

(The water level continues to rise. The Host swims his way over to the glass pane and taps on it.)

(Narrator): What? Oh, right, the two different musical numbers. Well, we have the one segment with Esther Williams doing her underwater ballet. Originally, this segment was done with James Melton singing the song “We Will Meet Again in Honolulu,” but after the initial preview, Melton’s appearance was cut, with only Esther Williams’ swim routine sticking around. It’s nothing compared to some of the spectacles she would do in some of her later films (at least, those that I’ve seen), but it’s entertaining enough.

(With the water level at the top, an agitated Host pounds furiously on the glass pane.)

(Narrator): (looking back) Now what? (sees water level) Oh, right! Computer, pull the plug.

(Computer): Pulling the plug.

(A hole opens up in the center of the stage, draining all the water. As the water goes down the hole, the Host goes down with it.)

(Narrator): (When all the water is gone) Computer, put in the plug.

(Computer): Putting in plug.

(The hole in the center of the stage closes up.)

(Host): (from down below) Why can’t that thing work that well for me?!?!?

(Narrator): (Ignoring the Host’s complaint) Now where were we? Oh, yes. The song “There’s Beauty Everywhere” was also quite different for its original conception. James Melton also originally sang that song, and director Vincente Minelli envisioned having Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer and Cyd Charisse dancing among soap bubbles. However, the bubble machine caused a lot of trouble, with the gas from the bubbles causing the cameraman to faint and otherwise became a constant hazard, not to mention the bubbles themselves getting out of control. As a result, they weren’t able to film it right (with the bubbles generally obscuring parts of Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer’s faces), so most of the idea was abandoned. Some of the footage featuring Cyd Charisse was kept in the film, and James Melton was replaced by Kathryn Grayson with some newly shot footage. Personally, I think it’s not really that memorable of a song, especially as it is, and makes me wish they could have (safely) pulled off their original vision.

(From offstage, the sound of machinery fizzling out can be heard. Then the Host walks onstage)

(Host): Darn it. There goes our sponsor’s machine. All those soap suds and that water shorted it out.

(Narrator): (in a mocking tone). Awww, that’s too bad.

(Host): (imitating the Narrator) “Awww, that’s too bad.” (Normal voice) Oh, you’ll get over it. Getting back to the movie, are you finished with the water ballet and “There’s Beauty Everywhere?”

(Narrator): Yes.

(Host): Anything you want to say about the song “Love” before segueing into discussing the Fred Astaire stuff?

(Narrator): Well, “Love,” as sung by Lena Horne, is a fun piece of music, and she does a wonderful job of singing it. I can’t really say much one way or the other about how it was staged, as that aspect doesn’t really feel that memorable. Still, as I said, the song itself sticks quite well in my memory, and is one of the better songs in the film.

(Host): Ready for Fred Astaire?

(A screen drops down from above)

(Narrator): (ducking behind the screen and popping out on the other side wearing a top hat and a tuxedo with tails, and carrying a cane) Ready!

(Host): Alright. We’ll give this one last shot. Computer, bring in the “Fred Astaire” set. (closes eyes and flinches)

(Computer): Bringing in “Fred Astaire” set.

(Host): (slowly opens one eye and looks around to see a set divided into four sections, with one occupied by a group of ladies all decked out in costumes with big headdresses, another occupied by the Chinatown section of London, another in a park with a statue of a man on a horse, and the other with a barren wintry landscape. Seeing the coast is clear, he unflinches and breathes a sigh of relief) Phew. Finally! (Suddenly, a piano drops on his head, knocking him out)

(Narrator): Hmm. That piano sounded out of tune. Oh, well. (pulls the unconscious Host out from under the piano and drags him offstage) Anyways, back to Fred. Compared to some of the many stars who had multiple segments planned that, for one reason or another didn’t make it into the final film, Fred Astaire managed to get four segments in the movie, besting Cyd Charisse and Lucille Bremer, who were tied at two each (while everybody else had one). Even then, Fred still had at least one segment cut, the song “If Swing Goes, I Go Too” (a song that he himself wrote). While the footage of that song no longer exists, the recording of it does. However, that was not included (for some reason) as an extra on the recent Blu-ray release.

Anyways, to get back to what is actually in the movie, after William Powell’s Ziegfeld introduces the idea behind the movie (in what little exists for a “plot”), he hands things off to Fred Astaire to start things off. Fred introduces everything with a few kind words about Ziegfeld, concluding with a reminder that Ziegfeld was a specialist in glorifying girls before launching into singing the song “Here’s To the Girls.” After singing the song and dancing (very, very briefly) with Cyd Charisse, he leaves the stage, leaving Cyd to dance with some other chorus girls, before we have a merry-go-round with ladies all dressed in pink, leading up to Lucille Ball leading a group of cat-like dancers (with a whip in hand). Of course, after glorifying the ladies, Virginia O’Brien shows up on horseback to “Bring On The Wonderful Men” (although it’s just her onscreen, without any men showing up). Neither song is necessarily that great, but they do help start off the proceedings quite well.

Moving on from there, we have Fred’s third appearance in this film (I know I’m doing this out of order, but we’ll get to his second appearance in a bit), dancing alongside Lucille Bremer for the song “Limehouse Blues.” Now, one thing that should be said here. Fred was worried about his song “If Swing Goes, I Go Too” becoming dated (because of the style of music), which is why that was deleted, but, among his song-and-dance routines that survived, “Limehouse Blues” has fared worse over time, with both him and Lucille Bremer made up to look Asian in appearance. But, if you can get past that, this is a wonderful routine that is out of the ordinary for Fred Astaire. For one thing, it’s a bit more balletic, with him doing some tricks like cartwheels, and, for another, both he and Lucille work with fans throughout the dream sequence. In spite of it’s issues, it’s still a very interesting routine that shows how well he could do with a variety of dance styles.

(Host): (Walking back onstage) Have you gotten to Fred and Gene yet?

(Narrator): No, I was just getting there. Fred’s last appearance in the film is for the song “The Babbitt And The Bromide,” which was originally written by the Gershwins for the Broadway show Funny Face starring Fred and his sister Adele. This time, Fred was paired with up-and-comer Gene Kelly, with the two of them providing the choreography for the different sections of the song. Before starting the song, they both rather amusingly reference each other’s big partners (obviously, for Fred it was Ginger Rogers, but for Gene, it was Rita Hayworth, since Cover Girl was still Gene’s big breakthrough at that point). Whatever the case, it’s still a lot of fun to see the two of them dancing together in their prime, as that was to be the only time they could work anything out (yes, I know they also danced together in That’s Entertainment, Part 2, but that was with them both nearly thirty years older than they were here).

(Host): Ok, that’s all fine and dandy, but what about “This Heart Of Mine?”

(Narrator): Yes, I know you’ve been leading to that one, but that’s why we’ve saved the best for last.

(A moving sidewalk starts up underneath the Host, who starts walking to keep up with it)

(Host): This isn’t too bad. Anyways, “This Heart Of Mine” is, in some respects, a shorter version of the story for the other Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer film, Yolanda And The Thief, with Fred playing a thief out to steal something from Lucille Bremer’s wealthy character.

(The Narrator pulls out a remote and presses a button. The moving sidewalk starts to move faster, forcing the Host to start jogging, then running.)

(Host): (Running out of breath) That’s not so easy! (Angrily points at the Narrator) You were planning this, weren’t y- (Host trips and falls on the moving sidewalk, which is going so fast now that he practically flies offstage. A commotion is heard backstage as he crashes into various objects.)

(Narrator): And off he goes again. Getting back to the “This Heart Of Mine” segment, it’s arguably one of the film’s best moments. We’ve got Fred and Lucille doing a ballroom dance together, with a beautiful piece of music to back them up. I know I like it, and the song itself gives me chills, especially when the chorus sings it near the end. It’s a longer song, clocking in at over ten minutes, but it’s well worth it for me.

Overall, I find this to be a very enjoyable film. As I’ve indicated, it’s a bit uneven, but, let’s be fair. As a revue, it’s going to be hard to keep everything good. Whatever the case, it’s one I’ve seen many times over the years. Most of the music is good, and there’s some fantastic dancing throughout (mostly provided by Fred Astaire, but there are some others doing well here, too). For me, I always like to sit through the whole thing without skipping through anything (in spite of the variation in quality of the segments). If you can get past the essentially nonexistent plot, then it’s a movie worth recommending (and certainly the best movie revue I’ve seen, even if that is a short list)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The Blu-ray features a new transfer that comes from a 4K scan of most of the original camera negative. While some of the original negative is gone, I would say that overall, this transfer is much improved! The detail is much better, and the colors certainly have that three-strip Technicolor look to them! The picture has been cleaned up of dirt and debris. Extras include (besides the three shorts already mentioned) a featurette on the movie and audio-only outtakes of different musical numbers that were originally planned for the movie. I certainly think that this is the best way to enjoy this movie!

(Host comes back onstage carrying a stack of pies on his left hand, and one lone pie on his right, looking like he might throw them)

(Narrator): What are you doing with those?0

(Host): Well, even though the machine is broken, we do still have a sponsor for this post who needs-

(Narrator): (interrupting) Oh, no you don’t! I’ve had enough of Pie N De Face! Now give me those pies!

(Host): Are you sure? (winks at the audience).

(Narrator): Of course I’m sure! Now let me have them!

(Host gives the audience a look. However, that look is long enough for the Narrator to act and push the lone pie into the Host’s face. The Host falls down, and the pies in his other hand go flying. The Narrator starts laughing hysterically, and then all the pies fall down, covering the both of them. They wipe the pie off their faces, look at each other, and burst into uproarious laughter.)

(Narrator): (After finally calming down) Computer, bring the curtain down.

(Computer): Bringing the curtain down.

(The whole curtain falls down from above, landing on the Host and the Narrator).

(Narrator): Well, it seems that the Writer has thrown in almost everything now.

(A kitchen sink falls from above and lands on the Narrator’s head, knocking him out)

(Host): You just had to go there, didn’t you? Well, that’s all folks!

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!

“Star Of The Month (March 2021)” Featuring Gene Kelly in… Marjorie Morningstar (1958)

It’s the last Sunday of the month, and so we’ve got one last Gene Kelly film to end out his run as Star Of The Month! This time, it’s the 1958 movie Marjorie Morningstar (based on the 1955 novel of the same name by Herman Wouk), which also stars Natalie Wood! But first, we have a fun theatrical short!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Vitamin Pink (1966)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 25 seconds)

The Pink Panther is selling some pep pills out west, but finds himself stuck as a deputy when he gives some to an escaped convict. Of course, the fun here is in watching those pep pills work, first for an older man who is given new life to chase after a young and attractive woman (in one of the short’s more dated moments), and then the bandit, who gets away with a lot of money. It does admittedly repeat itself a little while the bank robber steals from a second and third bank, but the way that the Panther captures the villain is rather amusing, and a proper ending for the short (with everything coming full circle for the robber). I certainly know I enjoyed seeing it again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

College student Marjorie Morgenstern (Natalie Wood) is unsure of what direction in life to take. She wants to be an actress on the stage, but her parents, Arnold (Everett Sloane) and Rose Morgenstern (Claire Trevor), want her to marry and raise a family. Her mother is particularly thrilled when Marjorie’s boyfriend, Sandy Lamm (Edward Byrnes), proposes, but Marjorie turns him down. Her family is planning a summer vacation with Sandy’s family, but Marjorie wants to be apart from them. She ends up taking a job as the dramatic counselor at Camp Tamarack in the Catskills, along with her college friend Marsha Zelenko (Carolyn Jones). One night, at Marsha’s insistence, they take a canoe to the South Wind resort on the other side of the lake. Since they aren’t guests at the resort, they sneak into the theatre there, where Marsha runs off with a musician, and Marjorie stays to watch the rehearsals. She meets the director, Noel Airman (Gene Kelly) and his assistant Wally Wronken (Marty Milner). Wally is instantly smitten with her, but she only has eyes for Noel. Later that night, while waiting for Marsha to return, Marjorie is caught by resort owner Mr. Greech (George Tobias), but Noel bails her out by offering her a job. Soon, her uncle Samson (Ed Wynn) comes to the resort to work in the kitchen (and keep an eye on Marjorie for her parents). Marjorie and Noel become close, but trouble arises when uncle Samson dies of a heart attack when entertaining visitors. Marjorie returns to the city and finishes college. After she graduates, she runs into Noel, who has now become an advertising executive and seems to be doing well. However, his insecurities come to light when his former assistant Wally becomes a success on Broadway, and so Noel starts drinking. Again, Marjorie tries to leave him, especially after discovering him with another woman. Soon, Marjorie’s friend Marsha gets married, but she tells Marjorie off for leaving Noel, who very obviously loves her. Noel returns, announcing that he has finished a musical play that he had been working on, and Marjorie gets Marsha’s new husband to help finance it. Things still don’t go right, as the critics attack the show savagely, and Noel disappears once again. Can Marjorie find him this time, or will she let him be?

I’m now coming off my first time seeing Marjorie Morningstar (unlike the other Gene Kelly films that I’ve reviewed this month, which I’ve generally seen quite a few times at this point). I will readily admit to the fact that he is the main reason I wanted to see this movie. At the time he made this movie, Gene was coming off of his contract at MGM ending after nearly fifteen years. I’ve mainly seen his musicals from that era (and at least two of his non-musical roles), and this film feels like quite a departure. He’s not playing his usual cocky and self-assured self here. Instead, his character is full of insecurities, as he tries to figure out what to do with his life, especially as his new love for Marjorie pushes him to try and be better (although without much success). It’s a different role than I’m used to seeing from him, and yet, his performance here works for me. He does do some dancing here. It’s nothing big, and certainly nothing that would make us forget all the wonderful dances he had already done earlier in his career. Still, it doesn’t take away from the movie.

For actress Natalie Wood, this film was part of her transition from mostly childish roles into adult characters. I feel that she does a fairly good job here with the role. We do see in her a character that is trying to break the mold, trying to break away from tradition (mainly the old idea of getting married, settling down and raising a family instead of having a career). I wouldn’t say that her performance is anything special, necessarily, but she does well enough to sell the movie. Admittedly, she does have one dance routine (and not even with Gene), and it does feel awkward to watch. Quite frankly, I wonder why they even bothered putting it in the movie, as it would be just as good (if not better) without it.

Overall, though, I do enjoy the movie. Ed Wynn’s appearance in the movie is fun. Definitely different from many of the (mostly Disney) roles I’ve known him for most of my life, but he’s still entertaining, and makes you like his character. The movie’s main song, “A Very Precious Love” (by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster) ended up being nominated for an Oscar. Personally, it didn’t stick with me after one viewing, but we’ll see in the future. Like I said, this is a decent movie, and one I’m glad was pulled out of the vaults so that it could be seen again. It’s not as good as many of Gene’s earlier films, but it’s still one I would recommend giving a chance!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber Studio Classics (although last I knew, it was part of their “While Supplies Last” sale, so when it’s gone, it’s gone).

Film Length: 2 hours, 3 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Les Girls (1957)Gene Kelly

Miracle On 34th Street (1947) – Natalie Wood – Kings Go Forth (1958)

Raw Deal (1948) – Claire Trevor – Two Weeks In Another Town (1962)

Silk Stockings (1957) – George Tobias – The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

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!

“Star Of The Month (March 2021)” Featuring Gene Kelly in… Invitation To The Dance (1956)

We’re back for yet another one of Gene Kelly’s films (since he is the Star Of The Month), and this time it’s his 1956 all-dancing film Invitation To The Dance! As always, we have a theatrical short to get through first, but, due to the nature of the movie itself, we’ll do things just a little different this time!

Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pink Pistons (1966)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 2 seconds)

The Pink Panther buys a compact car (with a mind of its own) and ends up in a drag race. Most of the fun in this cartoon is with the drag race against an older lady, which, as we quickly find out, is Granny Flash, the senior citizens drag race champion. And, for that reason, I would say this cartoon is a little uneven (if not too short). The exposition of buying the car (and seeing some of its gadgets) goes on too long, and the drag race is over so quickly you’re left wanting more. Had the opening been shortened and/or the race been extended, this one would have been a lot better.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Gene Kelly had long wanted to do an all-dance film, but it wasn’t until 1952 that he was able to convince the MGM studio executives to let him do it. Part of the movie was filmed in England, as MGM had some of their money frozen there, and this allowed them to actually use it for something. With all the European dancers who were cast, filming took a while to be completed, as they all had schedules of their own. It had originally been Gene Kelly’s vision that he would only appear in one segment, but, as he was the only big-name movie star in the film, the MGM executives insisted that he be in all of them. There were plans to have a fourth segment, “Dance Me A Song,” which would have utilized popular music (and it would have been the segment that Gene Kelly had hoped to make his lone appearance in). Supposedly, that segment was filmed, but it ended up being cut. Even though filming did end in 1953 (and production in 1954), it took a few years before MGM decided to even try releasing the movie. The delay was the result of uncertainty on the part of the MGM executives over the film’s marketability (especially at a time when the rise of television was causing a decline in ticket sales). When they did finally release it, it was to art house theatres (where it flopped).

“Circus”

(Music by Jacques Ibert)

For part of the show at a circus, the Clown (Gene Kelly) pretends to be in love with a lady (or, as the cast list shows, the Loved, as portrayed by Claire Sombert), but she is in love with the Lover (Igor Youskevitch). However, life imitates art, as the Clown has feelings for her offstage, too. But, just like onstage, she only has feelings for the Lover, who is also a tightrope walker. As the Clown watches her worry while her Lover does his aerial acrobatics, he is depressed and jealous. He watches as they meet that night, and then go off alone. He finds her cape, and pretends it is her, but she finds him with it and learns of his feelings for her. Her Lover comes back, finds the two of them together, and storms off. While she cries, the Clown decides to walk the tightrope himself, much to her fear as she calls out for everybody from the circus. Tragically, the Clown is not as adept on the tightrope, and he falls to his death (but pushes her and her Lover to come back together before he dies).

For me, this segment falls into the middle, as to which one I prefer. While I understand the whole idea of having Gene Kelly in all the segments, this one feels like the one he was needed for the least. I mean, he spends the entire segment underneath that clown makeup, which obscures him enough that, if you didn’t know that was him, it would be otherwise hard to tell. The two parts of this dance story that are the most enjoyable for me are his dance with all the other clowns while he is wearing all the jangling bells, and the duet between Claire Sombert and Igor Youskevitch. Now, I’ve been watching this movie as a whole off and on for most of the last decade, but it was only on this last viewing that I realized this seemed like the dance version of the classic Charlie Chaplin film The Circus (which I only finally saw in 2020). After all, we’ve got a clown falling for a gal in the circus, but she is interested in a tightrope walker (obviously, it’s shortened quite a bit for this half hour segment). Honestly, I would say I prefer to watch the far better Chaplin film, but this isn’t too bad.

“Ring Around The Rosy”

(Music by André Previn)

This story follows a bracelet as it makes its way around. It is bought by the Husband (David Paltenghi) for his Wife (Daphne Dale) as an anniversary present. He gives it to her at a party, but he storms off when he sees her flirting with an Artist (Igor Youskevitch). Later, the Artist (now in possession of the bracelet) is infatuated with his Model (Claude Bessy), and gives it to her. After a performance, she comes out to see her boyfriend, the Sharpie (Tommy Rall). He notices the bracelet, and soon ends up with it himself. At a nightclub, he presents it to a Femme Fatale (Belita), but watches as she goes off with a Crooner (Irving Davies). Now, he has it, but he gives it to the Hatcheck Girl (Diana Adams). Coming back to her apartment, she unexpectedly runs into her boyfriend, the Marine (Gene Kelly). When he spies the bracelet on her wrist, he takes off with the bracelet and goes away, to her sadness. After going to a bar, he meets the Girl On The Stairs (Tamara Toumanova) and flirts with her. Afterwards, he gives the bracelet to her. While she is walking by a hotel, she spies the Husband, who notices the familiar bracelet. He buys it from her, and returns home to reconcile with his Wife.

In between all the various dancers and the story, this segment has the greatest variety. However, I do feel it is the weakest of the three. I don’t mind the story revolving around the bracelet, as that makes it interesting. What I’m not as thrilled by is the fact that, in spite of the sheer size of the cast, not everybody actually does any dancing. Some sections are more fun than others though. I do enjoy the balletic duet between the artist and the model, especially since her character seems to be hungry, and is eating and drinking while she is doing her dancing. Besides Gene Kelly, this segment also includes another familiar face, Tommy Rall (Frank from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers), who does some tap dancing and some of his flips during his section. still, even with all the different styles of dance incorporated here, this is the one I struggle to get through the most. It’s not terrible, as I do enjoy it, but it’s still the weak link of the entire film for me.

“Sinbad The Sailor”

(Music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)

We begin here with Scheherazade (Carol Haney), as she tells a story about a lamp. Her story starts in a marketplace, where Sinbad (Gene Kelly) winds up buying a bunch of souvenirs, which include that lamp and a book. When he rubs the lamp, the Genie (David Kasday) pops out. At first, Sinbad doesn’t believe he is a genie, until he uses his magical flute to chase away a snake. Thrilled, he wishes to go into the world of the book that he had bought. There, he finds himself in a valley of jewels. The two of them encounter a guard dragon, but the Genie’s flute again helps them out. However, a pair of guards show up and take Sinbad to a palace, where a sultan orders his execution. However, the Genie’s flute softens the guards, and Sinbad encounters one of the harem girls, for whom he quickly falls in love with. However, the guards still refuse to let him leave, and he has to outwit them before he, the Genie and the harem girl can get away.

Ah, this is the fun one. This segment was filmed in the U.S., with the animation being done under William Hanna, Joseph Barbera and Fred Quimby. The story works quite well, and the special effects are great here, too! While you won’t find Gene dancing with any famous cartoon characters here (like when he danced with Jerry the mouse in Anchors Aweigh), the animation is still fantastic! Whether he’s dancing with the dragon, the two guards, or the harem girl, everything works quite well! It’s worth seeing this movie just for this segment alone!

My Overall Impression

In some respects, this was the first “silent” movie I ever watched. I’ll admit, the lack of dialogue and singing/musical numbers originally put me off, and left me with no desire to see the movie. But, I’m glad I did see it, as it’s been fun to watch every now and then! The music itself isn’t particularly memorable, and, as you can tell from my comments on the individual segments, the quality (and my opinion) varies. But, there is some enjoyment to be found here, especially with all the great animation! I’ve mainly been watching the available DVD from Warner Archive Collection during that time, and this is one that I do wish could be given a full restoration (especially to enjoy the “Sinbad” segment looking more vibrant). But, I also understand it has a limited appeal, and seems unlikely to get that restoration any time soon (but I’ll be glad to be proven wrong if and when that happens). So, I would definitely recommend giving this one a try if you think you can handle an all-dancing movie! The overall film is one hour, thirty-three minutes in length, with all the segments clocking in at about half an hour each.

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Deep In My Heart (1954)Gene KellyLes Girls (1957)

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!

“Star Of The Month (March 2021)” Featuring Gene Kelly in… Brigadoon (1954)

We’re back for more fun with Gene Kelly, as we next celebrate our Star Of The Month through his 1954 musical Brigadoon, which also stars Van Johnson and Cyd Charisse!  Of course, as always, we have a theatrical short to get through, and then it’s on with the show!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pink Punch (1966)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 27 seconds)

The Pink Panther has come up with a health drink of his own, and tries to promote it. He is thwarted, however, by an asterisk from one of his signs that turned green and keeps turning everything green. There are a few good laughs here, as the Panther tries to deal with the small asterisk (and its much bigger “parent”). I’ll admit, it’s not one of the better Panther cartoons, as I generally prefer those where he is “winning,” as opposed to his opponents, but at least there is still some fun to be had here.

And Now For The Main Feature…

A pair of American hunters, Tommy Albright (Gene Kelly) and Jeff Douglas (Van Johnson), have come to Scotland to hunt grouse.  However, they quickly find themselves lost.  They come across a village that wasn’t on their map, and, since they are hungry, decide to stop by and see if they can find any food.  On the outskirts of the village, they run across Fiona Campbell (Cyd Charisse), who directs them to the village square.  Tommy is captivated by her, but Jeff tries to push him on towards the square for food.  Everyone in town is frightened at the sight of these strangers, and one of the vendors rejects their money.  However, Charlie Dalrymple (Jimmy Thompson) is in a good mood because he is getting married, and buys them breakfast.  Fiona comes to town to run some errands in preparation for her sister’s wedding, and Tommy decides to join her.  They start to gather some heather, but Fiona runs away when they get near a bridge at the edge of the town’s boundaries.  Tommy runs into Jeff (who was trying to get away from an over-amorous shepherdess), and they stop outside the Campbell home.  There, Tommy sees their family Bible, and is confused by the birthdates of Fiona and her sister being listed as nearly two hundred years earlier.  In between that and some other comments he had heard from the villagers, Tommy confronts Fiona and asks her to explain what’s going on.  Unable to give an explanation herself, Fiona agrees to take them to the schoolmaster Mr. Lundie (Barry Jones), who can explain everything.

According to Mr. Lundie, the town wasn’t on the map because of a miracle.  Two hundred years earlier, the country was full of witches and sorcerers who were turning the people away from their faith in God.  The town’s minister, Mr. Forsythe, was growing old, and worried that those witches would come to the town after he died and do the same there.  So, he went outside the town’s boundaries, and prayed to God for a miracle.  He asked that the town would disappear into the highland mists, only to appear for one day every one hundred years (so as not to be influenced by the outside world).  Of course, there was a condition that required the townspeople not to cross the boundaries, or the entire village would disappear forever.  There was a provision for outsiders wanting to stay, in that, if they loved someone in the village, they would be able to stay as well.

Unsure of how much he believed what he was told, Tommy still decided to stay and see Charlie’s wedding to Fiona’s sister, Jean (Virginia Boswell).  At first, things go well, but then Charlie’s rival for her affections, Harry Beaton (Hugh Laing), starts a fight.  When he loses, he expresses his hatred for the town, and tries to leave.  Everybody, including Tommy, try to find Harry and stop him.  He is only stopped when Jeff (who had left the wedding before the fight broke out) tries to do some hunting, and accidentally shoots and kills Harry while he was up in a tree.  Everybody assumes that Harry fell and hit his head, and they decide to keep Harry’s death quiet for the remainder of the day.  With that crisis over, Tommy decides to stay in Brigadoon with Fiona, and goes off to find Mr. Lundie.  However, he runs across Jeff, who tells him about how he had shot Harry, which leaves Tommy confused.  Can he convince himself to stay with Fiona after this, or will the two be separated forever?

The movie was based on the Broadway show of the same name, which opened in 1947 and went on to be a hit.  MGM bought the film rights in 1951, intending the film for Gene Kelly (although, because of his schedule, it took a while to get started).  Gene Kelly and director Vincente Minelli had hoped to film it on location in Scotland, but a combination of bad weather and high costs prevented that.  After trying other locations, they were forced by studio heads to do it entirely on the sound stages at MGM to keep costs low. Even with that attitude, though, the MGM executives thought this movie was going to be a big hit, and decided to put a bit more money into it by using some of the money that had been allocated to a little movie called Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (of course, we all know how that turned out, with Seven Brides becoming the well-regarded classic).

Personally, I have no experience with the musical play at all, only the 1954 film.  I admit, I didn’t take to it that much on my first try, and I really didn’t care for much of the music. In the time since that first viewing, I’ve come to appreciate the music of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe more (mostly through My Fair Lady), so when I tried again a few years back (almost a decade after my first time seeing it), I enjoyed Brigadoon a lot more. The music overall is a lot of fun, and there is some fantastic dancing to be enjoyed here (but more on that in a moment). While others take issue with this movie not being filmed on location, I actually like it better on the soundstages. For one thing, it’s more of a fantasy, and thus the not-as-realistic settings work much better for me (that, and I enjoy seeing just what all the various craftsman could actually put together back then without the aid of CGI). Now, is this movie perfect? Far from it. Dancer and actor James Mitchell had originally played the part of Harry Beaton in the original show, and was under contract to MGM at this time, but they instead opted to cast Hugh Laing (borrowed from the New York City Ballet) as Harry. While that in and of itself isn’t bad, it feels very much like Hugh Laing is underutilized. I would have expected him to do a lot more dancing, especially with his background, but he is instead relegated to doing a little at the wedding right before his character tries to kiss the bride against her will (I know that he did more in one of the still extant deleted scenes from the movie, but it still wasn’t that much). Van Johnson’s character isn’t exactly the most likeable guy, either (at least, not the way he portrayed him).

Still, Gene Kelly certainly made the film fun to watch. His dancing in this movie was always interesting. On my first viewing, the only song that actually stuck with me was the song “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean,” and I like how all the villagers had their own style of dancing (from their own time), and then Gene and Van Johnson started doing some more modern dancing, which they all wanted to see. Gene’s duet with Cyd Charisse to “Heather On The Hill” is absolutely beautiful to watch, both the dancing and the scenery (and, if you recall, it made my list of Top 10 Dance Routines). His dance solo to “Almost Like Being In Love” is also quite entertaining, as he goofs around while enjoying the feeling of being in love. Honestly, Gene Kelly makes this film worth seeing! It’s not a perfect movie, but I enjoy it enough to recommend it (especially if you can see it through its restoration on Blu-ray)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 48 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Singin’ In The Rain (1952)Gene KellyDeep In My Heart (1954)

The Caine Mutiny (1954) – Van Johnson

The Band Wagon (1953) – Cyd Charisse – Deep In My Heart (1954)

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!

“Star Of The Month (March 2021)” Featuring Gene Kelly in… Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

Time for my first entry of my own Star Of The Month for March 2021’s Gene Kelly, and where else to start but with one of his most well-known musicals, Singin’ In The Rain, also starring Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor! Of course, first we have a theatrical short to get through, and then it’s on to the show!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bully For Pink (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, 2 seconds)

The Pink Panther decides to try being an amateur bullfighter, and borrows a magician’s cape to use. This one is a bit of fun, with all the various tricks that occur because of the magician’s cape (including the angry rabbit). Admittedly, it does feel a lot like the classic Looney Tunes cartoon “A Bully For Bugs,” which is not a point in its favor, as that earlier Bugs cartoon is very much a classic, and this one feels like an inferior knockoff. Still, it does have a few good moments, and I certainly laughed a few times, so there is that.

And Now For The Main Feature…

(Narrator): All Hollywood is abuzz at the premiere of the new silent film The Royal Rascal starring that great screen team of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen).

(Host): Don’t you mean The Three Musketeers? 😉

(Narrator): Not completely. Yes, this movie did re-use some footage from that 1948 Gene Kelly film (without sound) for The Royal Rascal, but they also threw in some new stuff to add in Jean Hagen’s Lina Lamont for this “silent movie.” Getting back to the story, after the movie’s premiere, Don makes a speech to the audience, all the while preventing Lina from talking. Backstage, we find out why: she speaks with a thick Queens accent and with a somewhat squeaky voice (and, as the press agent Rod, who is played by King Donovan, puts it, “Lina, you’re a beautiful woman. Audiences think you’ve got a voice to match. The studio’s gotta keep their stars from looking ridiculous at any cost”). Of course, to make things worse, the gossip columnists and fan magazines keep linking Don and Lina together romantically. She doesn’t mind going along with the idea, but he has no interest in her.

Anyways, getting back to the story, producer R. F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell), the head of Monumental Pictures is throwing a party to celebrate his new picture. Don is riding with his friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) when Cosmo’s car suffers a flat tire. Before they know it, Don is mobbed by some of his fans, and, in an attempt to get away from them, he hitches a ride with passing motorist Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). At first she is startled, but, once she recognizes who he is, she offers him a ride back to his home (but not before she makes some comments about silent movie actors and their “lack of” acting ability). Don makes his way to the party, but he is slightly shaken by her comments. R.F. uses the party to show off some new sound technology, but nobody thinks it will take off, even though rival studio Warner Brothers is making the movie The Jazz Singer with the tech. When R.F. brings out a cake for Don and Lina, who should pop out but Kathy Selden herself? After she does a song-and-dance number with some others, Don pursues her. She tries to hit him with a cake, but misses and hits Lina instead.

(Host): That’s a sight that never gets old!

(Narrator): You’re darn tooting it doesn’t! Anyways, Kathy runs off after that. Don later hears that she has been fired, and tries to find her, but no luck. So, it’s up to Cosmo to cheer him up.

(Host): Indeed. To quote Cosmo, “Now the world is so full of a number of things I’m sure we should all be as happy as…, but are we? No. Definitely no. Positively no. Decidedly NO. Uh-uh. Short people have long faces, and long people have short faces. Big people have little humor, and little people have no humor at all. And in the words of that immortal bard, Samuel J. Snodgrass, as he was about to be led to the guillotine…”

(Narrator): You better not be getting ready to “Make ‘Em Laugh!”

(Host): Indeed I am! I mean, how can you not? That’s one of the most fun moments in this entire movie (and, for those who may recall, this was part of my Top 10 Dance Routines list)! I don’t care how much the music may have been lifted from the Cole Porter tune “Be A Clown” (from The Pirate), it’s still fun (and funny) to watch Donald O’Connor pull off all those stunts! As they say, “Don’t you know all the world loves a laugh? My dad said be an – (slips on a banana peel) Whoops! (goes sliding offstage) Where did that banana peel come from?

(Narrator): (finishes eating a banana) I have no idea. Are you all right?

(Host): Sure, although my feet crashed into the globe out here. (I wonder how many people will get the joke). I’ll just be a few minutes while I get out of it!

(Narrator): Ok. Getting back to the story, Don and Lina prepare to start their next film, but things get slowed up when everybody realizes that The Jazz Singer is a big hit, and they decide to turn the next Lockwood and Lamont film into a talkie. While watching a musical number being filmed for another movie, Cosmo runs across Kathy and lets Don know about it. Don is ecstatic to finally see her again (and gets a good chuckle out of the idea that she had known more about him than she had indicated during their first meeting). Of course, the show must go on, and so Don, Lina and the rest of the crew try to learn the new “talkie” business for their next film, The Dueling Cavalier. At a preview for the movie, the audience laughs at how poorly done it is, and everything is looking down for everybody. Despondent, Don, Cosmo and Kathy return to Don’s house. Things start looking up when Cosmo comes up with the idea to not only have the film changed into a musical, but also have Kathy dub Lina’s voice.

(Host): (Walks back onstage with a bunch of umbrellas and sets them down) And, of course, that brings us to this movie’s most iconic moment, that of Gene Kelly singing (and dancing) in the rain! For a song that had been published in 1929 and had made its way through a number of MGM films over the years, most notably by Cliff Edwards in The Hollywood Revue Of 1929 and Judy Garland in Little Nellie Kelly, it’s this simple moment that has been engrained in the hearts of all those that have seen it (of course, as I’ve said before, I enjoy swinging it Judy’s way in that earlier film, but I easily understand the appeal of Gene Kelly’s version, too)! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some dancing to do! Maestro, some music, please!

(Narrator starts up a record player. The song “Singin’ In The Rain” starts playing.)

(Host): (Picks up umbrella and opens it. Rainwater starts consistently pouring out from under the umbrella. Music stops) Well, that’s not the right umbrella. Let me try another here… (Opens up a new umbrella. This one has big holes that aren’t stopping the rain). Seriously, how are there multiple bad umbrellas in the same bunch? (mutters to self) Must be that somebody let the Narrator near the props again… (Pulls out another umbrella and opens it, finding it to be alright) (normal voice) Oh, good, a normal one! Well, here we go! (Music starts up again. Suddenly, a big wind comes rushing in, blowing the host up in the air like Mary Poppins and carries him way offstage) I’ll be baaaaaaaaaaack!

(Narrator): Now that that foolishness is over, let’s get back to the story. Don and Cosmo tell R.F. their idea, and, since he likes the idea, they get back into working on the movie almost immediately, with plans to give Kathy credit for the voice and a publicity campaign for her once the movie opens. Everything is looking good, and then Lina discovers what’s going on. She then does interviews for the newspapers, making herself out to be the new singing star, and privately threatens to sue R.F. if he tries to correct that (and forces him to make Kathy be her voice from now on). With all this trouble, will Kathy be given a voice (and career) of her own, or will Lina win out?

(Host): (Quickly running back onstage) Whew! That wind sure took me quite a ways away! And I see you finished telling the story without me. So, I guess everybody is here now for my opinion. Well, this is one of the movies that helped me to develop a fondness for musicals, and it was certainly my introduction to Gene Kelly. Watching him in this movie, whether he’s dancing alone, or with others, has always been fun, and made the idea of learning tap dancing appealing to me (and I can definitely tell you I once did a tap solo to the title tune for a dance recital)! The rest of the cast is great, too, and they all do their parts so well! And the music is quite memorable, with a good chance of it getting stuck in your head (it always does in mine, anyways)! Admittedly, as I’ve said in a previous post, with regard to the music of Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, I prefer the score to Broadway Melody Of 1936 more, but for sheer number of tunes, overall fun and a better movie, it’s hard to go wrong with Singin’ In The Rain! It’s one of the easiest movies for many to recommend, and I certainly would have to be part of that group! Seriously, if you haven’t seen it yet, go out there and see it now! And remember that motto: “Dignity. Always dignity.”

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video, either as an individual release or as part of the four-film Musicals Collection.

Well, now that that’s over, let’s try this song-and-dance again! (Opens umbrella and starts to sing, although badly offkey) I’m singin’ in the rain – (umbrella is hit with lightning bolt, and is now singed. Host pauses for a second before trying again) I’m singin’ in the – (umbrella is hit again with a bolt of lightning, and now only the umbrella shaft remains) I’m singin’ – (lightning hits the shaft, destroying it too) I’m s – (lightning hits the host, leaving him singed) I – (lightning hits again, and now the host is singed more and knocked out cold).

(Narrator): (tries to hide bag of lightning bolts) Hmm. has anybody seen that bag I borrowed from Zeus recently?

(A pie comes flying in from offstage and hits the Narrator in the face)

(Host): Now THAT’S funny!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with… Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

On April 26, 2022, Warner Home Video released Singin’ In The Rain in the 4K UHD format. I had always thought that their earlier Blu-ray (from 2012) looked pretty good, but the new UHD blows it out of the water! The resolution is certainly much improved, allowing us to see better detail (and all this from a film whose original camera negative was mostly destroyed, save for one reel, in the infamous 1978 Eastman House fire, and which has relied mostly on dupe negatives ever since). The colors are much improved by the HDR, toned down from the slightly yellowish image on the Blu-ray and DVD (and, according to the experts on the subject that I’ve read, the UHD is closer to being what it is supposed to look like). Of course, if you’re looking to “future-proof” this film, then do know that the Blu-ray included with the UHD is still the 2012 release, and not a remastered Blu-ray with a new transfer (which admittedly does allow you to see just how different the UHD is from the older Blu-ray). I’ll certainly recommend the 4K UHD quite heartily as the best way to enjoy this wonderful classic!

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #2 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2022

**ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

An American In Paris (1951)Gene KellyBrigadoon (1954)

Something In The Wind (1947) – Donald O’Connor – Anything Goes (1956)

The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950) – Debbie Reynolds – Give A Girl A Break (1953)

The Harvey Girls (1946) – Cyd Charisse – The Band Wagon (1953)

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!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… An American In Paris (1951)

“It’s very clear our love is here to stay.” In case you haven’t guessed already, the next movie I want to talk about is that classic 1951 Gene Kelly musical, An American In Paris, also starring Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant and Georges Guetary.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Service With A Guile (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, 29 seconds)

Popeye and Bluto help Olive repair an admirals car. Another fun outing as Popeye and Bluto try to one-up each other in fixing the car, resulting in even more trouble. And a fun ending I didn’t quite see coming after Popeye eats his spinach and repairs the car. While still voiced by Harry Welch instead of regular Jack Mercer, I didn’t notice it as strongly this time, which made things better. While some of the gags may not be new, they worked well enough I had a good time watching this one! Certainly another fun short that continues to make this set (and seeing some of these old Popeye shorts) well worth it!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Ex-G.I. Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) is living in Paris as a painter, alongside his pianist buddy Adam Cook (Oscar Levant). One morning when displaying his paintings, Jerry ends up selling two of them to Milo Roberts (Nina Foch), who decides to help support him as an artist. They go out to a club that night, where Jerry runs into Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron). He is instantly infatuated with her, although she is less than thrilled with his attentions (and the same could be said for Milo as well). The next day, Jerry tries to ask Lise out again, and with a little persistence, she says yes. What Jerry doesn’t know is that she is engaged to Adam’s friend Henri “Hank” Baurel (Georges Guetary), who had raised her after her parents were killed in the war. Hank is given an offer to go to America, and he hopes that he and Lise can get married before they have to leave. Meanwhile, Milo is doing all she can to help Jerry towards giving an exhibition of his paintings, by providing a new place for him to work from and helping make contacts. When Jerry is given advice to tell Lise that he loves her, he does, only to find out she is engaged to another man (and to Hank, who had given him that advice without knowing who Jerry was in love with). In frustration, Jerry takes Milo to a party, where they run into Hank and Lise before they prepare to leave.

The idea for the movie famously came to producer Arthur Freed after he attended a concert for George Gershwin’s song An American In Paris. He liked the title for a movie, and went about getting the rights to the song (along with a number of other George Gershwin tunes). With Gene Kelly quickly cast, they ended up giving the role of his romantic interest to newcomer Leslie Caron, after Gene saw her performing in a French ballet and lobbied for her to get the part. Of course, the final ballet, set to the title tune, would prove a controversial addition, as previous attempts at lengthy ballets (especially in the 1945 Fred Astaire musical Yolanda And The Thief, also directed by Vincente Minelli) had failed to connect with audiences. But Arthur Freed and company stuck to their guns, and it became a high point of the movie (and the beginning of a trend whereby many musicals in the fifties would make use of dream ballets).

I can’t deny that a lot of the fun here is indeed the music and dancing! Gene Kelly gets a lot of the fun, especially with the likes of his tap solo to “I Got Rhythm,” where he gets to work with a bunch of French children as he teaches them a little English. Of course, he also has his romantic duet with Leslie Caron to “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” which is a thing of beauty in and of itself. But that ballet to the title tune is definitely a highlight, especially since some of the music should solidly be stuck in your head by that point, after having been used as background music for most of the movie. But the variety in dance styles and sets during that ballet is just so much fun to watch!

And this movie works so well as a comedy, too! From the character introductions for Jerry Mulligan, Adam Cook and Hank Baurel, we get the camera “mistakenly” showing somebody else before showing us the actual characters (especially a hoot with Oscar Levant’s Adam, if you know how much of a sourpuss Oscar’s characters tend to be and then we are shown a guy that is “too happy” before moving on to Adam)! And then the comic interactions between them on songs like “By Strauss” and “Tra-La-La (This Time It’s Really Love).” Of course, it’s hard not to laugh at Adam after Jerry tells him he is in love with Lise (especially since Hank had told Adam about Lise at the beginning of the movie) and then, when Hank comes in, Adam is nervously re-lighting his cigarette and drinking all the tea while he waits for Jerry or Hank to say just the wrong thing. Just priceless to watch! Honestly, this movie sells itself, it is just so wonderful, I can’t even begin to recommend it enough! “‘S Wonderful!”

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Summer Stock (1950)Gene KellySingin’ In The Rain (1952)

Leslie Caron – Father Goose (1964)

Oscar Levant – The Band Wagon (1953)

Screen Team VS: Bing & Fred vs. Frank & Gene

In 1941, a chance meeting between director Mark Sandrich and composer Irving Berlin resulted in them planning on a musical inspired by various holidays. It was planned as a vehicle for Bing Crosby, and they also decided that it would be right up Fred Astaire’s alley, too. And so we had those two friends paired together for the classic 1942 Paramount movie Holiday Inn. A few years later, MGM responded with their own song-and-dance team of Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh. While I haven’t seen anything that makes them out to be rival teams, considering the individual members were indeed rivals, one can’t help but want to compare them. While I certainly have my preference as to which I enjoy watching more (and so, like on the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway, the points don’t matter), I still feel like talking about the two teams, mainly sticking to the movies they made together.

Holiday Inn (1942) – My Rating: 8/10

Blue Skies (1946) – My Rating: 10/10

Anchors Aweigh (1945) – My Rating: 5/10

Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1949) – My Rating: 9/10

On The Town (1949) – My Rating: 8/10

Screen Team Edition: Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire

Screen Team Edition: Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly

So let’s start with some of the more obvious differences. Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire made two movies together, while Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly made three. Between their two films, Bing and Fred have two songs that they work together directly and two more that they are both involved together (just not as much). Frank and Gene can claim about twelve songs that they work together in pretty solidly through their three movies. Irving Berlin provides all the music for Bing and Fred, while Frank and Gene are served by the likes of Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn, Roger Edens, Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein.

To get a little deeper into the elements of that differentiate the two, I would say at least two come to mind: how their friendships are portrayed on screen, and how their offscreen careers may have affected the films. On screen, Bing and Fred were similar to Bing and Bob. They were both romantic rivals, and they had no troubles double-crossing each other when it came to romance in Holiday Inn. While Blue Skies started out with a similar relationship, partway through, Fred’s character started to soften, and care enough for the film’s leading lady that he wasn’t as willing to come between them. Meanwhile, Frank and Gene portrayed their characters as good buddies. Admittedly, Gene mainly tried to help Frank to get him off his back in his own attempts at romance, but he still felt like he was betraying a good friend when he fell for the same girl that Frank first fell for. Admittedly, some of that might be different just purely from occupations, as Bing and Fred portrayed characters in show business, and in two of their three movies, Frank and Gene were sailors who no doubt had gone through a lot together.

I also believe their movie careers affected these movies. When Bing and Fred were teamed up, they had both been in the movies for nearly a decade, and were some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. When Frank and Gene were paired together, neither of them had been in the movies for very long (in fact, I get the impression Anchors Aweigh was Frank’s first starring role). Consequently, that affected the various situations. I get the impression from what I have read that both Bing and Frank weren’t big into rehearsing, while Fred and Gene were both perfectionists who put a lot of work into what they did. With Bing as a more established star, he apparently didn’t feel the need to rehearse as much (and I can only imagine that must have driven Fred nuts), thus his dancing comes off poorly. With Frank not as established, he had to put in more rehearsal time with Gene, and so we see them looking at least decent together (and who knows how much natural talent Frank might have had as a dancer compared to Bing). Of course, age might also come into play, too, and Frank and Gene were both in their late 20s/early thirties when first paired together, while Bing was in his late 30s and Fred already in his forties.

Personally, I can’t help but wish the four had made a movie together (and no, I’m not including the first That’s Entertainment movie that they all co-hosted, since they never actually share the screen at any time). Of course, I do know that they had some team up here and there. Rivals Bing and Frank worked together in High Society, Robin And The 7 Hoods, The Road To Hong Kong (Frank makes a cameo appearance), and several TV specials. Fred and Gene worked together for one song in Ziegfeld Follies and again as co-hosts of That’s Entertainment Part 2. Not to mention Bing and Gene making cameo appearances in the Marilyn Monroe movie Let’s Make Love (although they don’t appear together). I think both teams were truly wonderful to watch, but I will always pick Bing and Fred as the more fun team to watch together.

Holiday Inn

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

Blue Skies

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

Anchors Aweigh

My Rating: 5/10

Audience Rating:

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

On The Town

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

Winner: Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire (again, just my opinion)

Screen Team Edition: Frank Sinatra & Gene Kelly

Now we are here to consider MGM’s big song-and-dance team from the 1940s, that of Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly. When they were first paired together for the 1945 musical Anchors Aweigh, they were both rising stars, having just been introduced to the movie-going public within the last few years. From what I’ve read, I do get the impression that they became friends after working together on that movie (although their friendship certainly had its problems). That first movie certainly turned out to be a success, enough so that they were teamed up again for two more movies in 1949, Take Me Out To The Ball Game and On The Town. So, without further ado, let’s get through the plot descriptions, all borrowed from the individual reviews.

Anchors Aweigh: While on leave, sailor Joe Brady (Gene Kelly) is looking for a good time with his girlfriend Lola, and his shy shipmate Clarence Doolittle (Frank Sinatra) wants his help and advice on finding a girl for himself.  Before they can get too far, the police ask for their help with a young kid (Dean Stockwell), who has run away from home to join the navy. They take him back to the home of his aunt, Susan Abbott (Kathryn Grayson), whom Clarence decides he wants to go out with. Joe tries to help him out (and get him off his back), but they find themselves in a lot more trouble than they bargained for when Joe lies and tells her they know movie star José Iturbi (himself) and can get her a screen test. They try to talk to Iturbi, but they just keep missing him. Meanwhile, Joe is developing feelings for Susan, and Clarence realizes that he likes the waitress at the restaurant that Susan works at. (Length: two hours, twenty minutes)

Take Me Out To The Ball Game: During the off season, baseball players Dennis Ryan (Frank Sinatra) and Eddie O’Brien (Gene Kelly) tour the country on the vaudeville stage, but it’s time to return for spring training! When they rejoin their team, however, they find that the owner has died, and a distant relative has inherited the team. They soon find out the new owner is K. C. Higgins (Esther Williams), and she knows her stuff! Dennis immediately falls for her, but Eddie doesn’t get along with her at all. Once the season starts, Dennis finds himself being chased by Shirley Delwyn (Betty Garrett). At a big party for the team, Dennis realizes that he likes Shirley, and Eddie finds out that Katherine Higgins likes him! Of course, there are also some gamblers causing trouble by trying to fix things so that the team won’t win the pennant. (Length: one hour, thirty-three minutes)

On The Town: On leave for just one day, sailors Gabey (Gene Kelly), Chip (Frank Sinatra) and Ozzie (Jules Munshin) explore New York City. While on the subway, Gabey sees a subway worker putting up a poster of Ivy Smith (Vera-Ellen), the new Miss Turnstiles. He decides to find her, and his buddies try to help. Along the way, they are helped by cab driver Brunhilde Esterhazy (Betty Garrett), who takes a shine to Chip, and Claire Huddesen (Ann Miller), who likes Ozzie. Gabey does find Ivy, and they all go out as a group (at least until Ivy sneaks away to get to her job). Gabey tries to find her again, all the while the group has to evade the police, due to the dinosaur skeleton that Ozzie had accidentally knocked over at a museum that they visited, as well as the cab that Brunhilde was driving beyond her shift. (Length: one hour, thirty-eight minutes)

Since by now, you should have read my comments on those movies, my purpose here is to talk about them as a team. In Anchors Aweigh, as in the other two, their characters spent a lot of time together, and they ended up being paired together for three songs: “We Hate To Leave,” “I Begged Her” and “If You Knew Susie.” Take Me Out To The Ball Game is a slightly different case, as we still have Frank and Gene doing the title song and “Yes, Indeedy” together, but, with the likes of “O’Brien To Ryan To Goldberg” and “Strictly U.S.A,” we start seeing them make the transition into a three-man team, with Jules Munshin joining in. With On The Town, it pretty much IS a three-man team, with them doing “New York, New York” and “That’s All There Is, Folks” as a trio, plus “Prehistoric Man,” “On The Town” and “Count On Me” with the gals.

With three films and a changing dynamic, it’s difficult to nail down commonalities between the movies. To a large degree, Frank and Gene do essentially play relatively similar characters in all three, with Gene generally being a ladies’ man, and Frank playing somebody who is shy and a lot more awkward in his attempts at romance. But in all three movies, they are good friends, willing to help each other out, and wary of betraying each other, especially in the first two when Gene’s characters find themselves falling for the gals that Frank’s characters first liked. And it is that friendship that helps drive these films, whether it just be the two of them, or three, with Jules Munshin joining in. As far as I know, these are the only three times that Frank and Gene worked together (outside of them both hosting the first That’s Entertainment movie, albeit separately). If there are any other times they worked together, I don’t know about them yet, but they are a fun team to watch! I certainly would recommend seeing their three movies together (although I would recommend the second and third moreso than the first movie).

Anchors Aweigh

My Rating: 5/10

Audience Rating:

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

On The Town

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… On The Town (1949)

And we’re back from the sea for another musical romp with Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin as they go On The Town with Betty Garrett, Ann Miller and Vera-Ellen.

On leave for just one day, sailors Gabey (Gene Kelly), Chip (Frank Sinatra) and Ozzie (Jules Munshin) explore New York City. While on the subway, Gabey sees a subway worker putting up a poster of Ivy Smith (Vera-Ellen), the new Miss Turnstiles. He decides to find her, and his buddies try to help. Along the way, they are helped by cab driver Brunhilde Esterhazy (Betty Garrett), who takes a shine to Chip, and Claire Huddesen (Ann Miller), who likes Ozzie. Gabey does find Ivy, and they all go out as a group (at least until Ivy sneaks away to get to her job). Gabey tries to find her again, all the while the group has to evade the police, due to the dinosaur skeleton that Ozzie had accidentally knocked over at a museum that they visited, as well as the cab that Brunhilde was driving beyond her shift.

This is the third and final movie that Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly made together (well, unless you want to count them both being hosts of the first That’s Entertainment documentary). And of the three, it was the only one that Gene Kelly actually got paired up with a dancer, as Kathryn Grayson was mainly a singer and Esther Williams a swimmer. This movie is based on a Broadway show with music by Leonard Bernstein, although only a handful of songs were retained, with new music provided by associate producer Roger Edens. Of course, this movie is remembered as much for the behind-the-scenes team of Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen (who had worked together as choreographers for some of Gene’s movies and co-wrote the story for Take Me Out To The Ball Game) being upgraded to co-directors, a team that also co-directed the classics Singin’ In The Rain and It’s Always Fair Weather.

I enjoyed this one. I do have to admit, it took me several viewings over a number of years, but my opinion has improved. While it does veer back into the “sailors-on-leave” territory that Frank and Gene did with Anchors Aweigh, it maintains some of the improvements made for Take Me Out To The Ball Game (TMOTTBG), including the shorter runtime and Jules Munshin as the third buddy. I will say I don’t like the music quite as much as TMOTTBG, but it is a huge improvement from Anchors Aweigh. And, to a lesser degree, I almost wish they had given Jules Munshin a little more screentime, as he is the only one of the sailors that we don’t see on his own when they all separate. But, again, that’s just a minor complaint. For me, this is an increasingly fun film to watch, and one I would heartily recommend.

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD individually and on Blu-ray as part of the five film Frank Sinatra Collection from Warner Home Video.

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