Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Tom, Dick And Harry (1941)

And our next movie is the Ginger Rogers film Tom, Dick And Harry, also starring George Murphy, Alan Marshal and Burgess Meredith.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Island Fling (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: 7 minutes, 9 seconds)

Popeye and Olive end up on an island with a love-hungry Robinson Crusoe (Bluto). Another fun cartoon, with gags galore as Bluto tries to woo the newly arrived Olive, with Popeye getting sent off to do other things, like hunt and search for buried treasure. Personally, I love the joke with Bluto’s “Hope” chest right next to a “Crosby” chest, but the rest is fun, too! The main downside here, though, is Bluto’s man Friday, who is a rather racist stereotype in looks and personality. Still, I had some fun with this one!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Telephone operator Janie (Ginger Rogers) has been going with car salesman Tom (George Murphy) for quite a while now, and he has decided to propose after a recent promotion. Janie tentatively says yes, although she dreams of being able to meet a millionaire. The next day, she sees a big car owned by a millionaire driving by her bus stop, and she decides to get in. She gets a date with the driver, Harry (Burgess Meredith), but finds out on the date that he was not the owner but an auto mechanic who was delivering the car to the owner. After one date with him, he proposes, and she accepts, particularly due to the power of his kiss. The next day, Harry comes across Tom at his business, and Tom, unable to refuse a potential sale, tries to convince him to buy a car instead of going on his date with Janie. Harry, who knew about Tom already, decides to take advantage of the situation and has Tom come to pick up his girlfriend to get her approval. Tom is shocked when he stops in front of Janie’s house, and he ends up leaving them at Inspiration Point (a make-out spot for couples). Harry and Janie end up getting a ride back with millionaire Dick Hamilton (Alan Marshal) and his girlfriend, although Janie really gets his attention. The next day, she disconnects a call between Dick and his girlfriend, which results in them breaking up since each thought the other hung up. Dick asks Janie out, and flies her out to Chicago. On the return trip, Janie tricks him into proposing, but he likes the idea and leaves the offer open (and of course, she says yes). Upon returning to her home, they are met by Tom and Harry, and now Janie must make a choice of who to marry!

After her dramatic turn in Kitty Foyle, Ginger Rogers followed it up with this movie. She returned to a comedy, and was re-teamed with her Bachelor Mother director Garson Kanin. The Oscars took place during filming, when she won Best Actress for Kitty Foyle. Afterward, she was famously greeted by the male cast and crew wearing top hats and tails, in her honor. Tom, Dick And Harry was the last film as part of her seven year contract with RKO studios at the time, and, with her Oscar win, she had more freedom as a freelance actress, making movies for other studios as well as RKO.

I will admit, as I’ve been going through Ginger’s filmography in order (at least, for the movies I actually have), I was very reluctant to return to this one. I saw it once at the beginning of the decade, and it was one that I didn’t take to very strongly. So, imagine my surprise when I found it a whole lot more enjoyable the second time around! A lot of the humor worked much better, and it was fun seeing Phil Silvers in one of his early roles, even if he was supposed to be an annoying character as the ice cream man trying to sell his ice cream at Inspiration Point (and ruining many a good romantic mood at the place, no doubt). What made it weird for me on the first viewing (and, to a degree, it still was again this time) was the dream sequences as she imagines life married to each of the men (and one final one where she was married to all three). Those sequences were funnier this time around, but it still feels weird seeing the “kids” in those dreams (which really amounted to being the actors made up to look younger). Honestly, though, that is probably the main complaint I have against this movie, as it was a lot of fun the second time around! Burgess Meredith does impress me the most as Harry, and is generally worth a few good laughs (especially when he goes to Tom’s workplace and, even though he resisted at first, goes along with the sales pitch to see how Tom would react later during the test drive)! All in all, a very fun movie, and one that is very easy to recommend!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 27 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Kitty Foyle (1940)Ginger RogersRoxie Hart (1942)

Little Nellie Kelly (1940) – George Murphy – For Me And My Gal (1942)

Burgess Meredith – Magnificent Doll (1946)

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2018) on… Little Nellie Kelly (1940)

“My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you.” -George M. Cohan (James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy)

No, I’m not doing Yankee Doodle Dandy at this time, but it’s still worth thinking of George M. Cohan, since the movie I am discussing, is the 1940 musical Little Nellie Kelly, which is based on one of the shows he originally wrote (and for those eagle-eyed enough to spot it, is briefly mentioned during one montage in Yankee Doodle Dandy). The movie stars Judy Garland (as both a mother and her daughter), George Murphy, and Charles Winninger.

The movie starts in Ireland, with Nellie (Judy) becoming engaged to Jerry Kelly (George Murphy), much to the objections of her stubborn non-working father, Michael Noonan (Charles Winninger). They all immigrate to America, and study to become citizens, with Jerry planning to become a policeman. Nellie becomes pregnant, and gives birth after Jerry becomes an officer. Apparently, the birth had some complications, and Nellie dies. Between the feuding Jerry and his father-in-law, they raise Little Nellie (Judy again) together. The question remains, will Michael ever learn to work and learn to get along with Jerry?

As I mentioned, this movie was based on the 1922 Broadway show written by George M. Cohan. How much of the show made it into the movie, I don’t know, beyond about two songs. While much of the music can be fun, the real treat is hearing Judy do “Singin’ in the Rain” her way! I can see why Gene Kelly’s version remains so popular, but I actually prefer hearing Judy swinging it her way! The song was not written for this movie or the original show (and had been introduced in the movies nearly a decade earlier).

The rest of the movie is still fun, and it’s such a delight to watch Judy in her first grownup role as Nellie (and we certainly get to see her put her dramatic abilities to use in the hospital). For her alone, this movie is worth it!

The movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #11 in Top 11 Movies Watched in 2018

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Strike Up The Band (1940) – Judy Garland – For Me And My Gal (1942)

Broadway Melody Of 1940 (1940) – George Murphy – Tom, Dick And Harry (1941)

Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939) – Charles Winninger – Something In The Wind (1947)

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 (2018) on… Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940)

Here we are again, to delve into the movie that teamed up the king of rhythm, Fred Astaire, and the queen of tap, Eleanor Powell (don’t look at me, that’s how the trailer referred to them), Broadway Melody of 1940. The movie also stars George Murphy and Frank Morgan.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Big Premiere (1940)

(available as an extra on the Broadway Melody Of 1940 Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 34 seconds)

When the “Our Gang” group are kicked out of a Hollywood premiere, they decide to hold one of their own! It’s one of the few “Our Gang” shorts that I’ve had the opportunity to see yet, and, although it’s one made after MGM took over the series from Hal Roach’s studio, there’s still some fun to be had here. The group are all a little older, but they still manage to be funny, as they hold their own premiere. Their movie is rather laughingly bad (in a good way), and their antics made me chuckle! I certainly look forward to seeing more of the series (especially from the earlier Hal Roach era)!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Milky Way (1940)

(available as an extra on the Broadway Melody Of 1940 Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 58 seconds)

When three little kittens are sent to bed without their milk, they decide to take a trip to the Milky Way. It’s an interesting, if somewhat predictable cartoon. The animation is the big plus, as the story doesn’t break any ground, with everything narrated in song. It won the Oscar that year for Best Short Subject (Cartoon), although some of the others nominated have since become better known (and more important) over time. That being said, it’s at least a fun eight minutes, that should leave you with a smile.

And Now For The Main Feature…

In this movie, Johnny Brett (Fred Astaire) and King Shaw (George Murphy) are a dance team at Dawnland Ballroom. There, they (or rather, Johnny in particular), are discovered by Bob Casey (Frank Morgan), a theatrical producer, but Johnny, thinking he was a bill collector, gives his partner’s name as his own. So Casey sells King Shaw to his associates as a new partner for their star, Claire Bennett (Eleanor Powell). They like King Shaw, and so use him (even though Casey had meant for the role to go to Johnny). On opening night, King Shaw is drunk and passes out, so Johnny goes on in his place. Nobody knows this except Claire, who is furious with King Shaw. So the question remains: will Johnny become the Broadway star he was intended to be?

At the time this movie was made, Fred Astaire was just coming off The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle, then planned as his last film with Ginger Rogers (although they would reunite in 1949 for The Barkleys Of Broadway), and the last film on his contract with RKO Studios. Broadway Melody Of 1940 brought him back to MGM for the first time since he made his film debut in the 1933 musical Dancing Lady. One of MGM’s big musical stars at the time was Eleanor Powell, considered one of the few female dancers in the movies capable of out-dancing Fred. They were paired together for this film, although initially their respective reputations left them both nervous and timid as they started working together. However, after Eleanor finally decided they needed to get past that, they started working together with their usual fervor (if not more so, since they were both perfectionists). The movie itself was originally planned to be in color, but the war in Europe meant that the studio couldn’t count on foreign revenue, so they went with the much cheaper to film black-and-white photography.

In a number of ways, this movie is the oddball in the Broadway Melody series. The previous three movies, (1929, 36 and 38) had all featured music by the songwriting team of Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. This time, the score was provided by composer Cole Porter, with a slight reference to the song “Broadway Melody” used for a brief portion in the opening credits. Of course, that change in composers is at least partly because lyric writer Arthur Freed had transitioned away from songwriting into being a film musical producer during the time between the ’38 and ’40 films. Another change here is that star Eleanor Powell, who had headlined the previous two films in the series (which both feature her as a Broadway newcomer trying to make it big in her first show), is now starting this movie as the “big Broadway star,” with Fred Astaire being the character trying to make it big.

There is a LOT of dancing in this movie, since all three leads were dancers. What makes it odd, is that this might be one of the few movies that Fred’s leading lady actually does MORE dancing in the movie than he does. They both have the same number of routines (and most of them are together), but for at least two routines, Eleanor starts off on her own while somebody else is singing, before being joined by Fred. Of course, I think just about all the dancing is fun to watch (and the music very fun to listen to). I enjoy some of the songs like “Please Don’t Monkey With Broadway,” “I’ve Got My Eyes On You” and “I Concentrate On You.” Of course, the most famous part of the movie is the “Begin the Beguine” song (which, incidentally, is the only song NOT written for this movie, as Cole Porter had written it several years earlier for the 1935 Broadway show Jubilee). With that routine in particular, we are treated to Fred and Eleanor proving their tap dancing abilities as some of the best ever in Hollywood.

In my own opinion, this is the best movie in the Broadway Melody series. Sadly, it was also the last one. A few years later, there were plans for another that would have teamed Eleanor with then newcomer Gene Kelly, but those plans fell through (although some stuff was filmed, including one solo routine for Eleanor that ended up being inserted into the Gene Kelly movie Thousands Cheer). So, I do very heartily recommend this movie if you get a chance to see it.

The movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Broadway Melody Of 1940 (1940)

On April 13, 2021, Warner Archive Collection released Broadway Melody Of 1940 on Blu-ray, featuring a new transfer that came from a 4K scan of nitrate preservation elements. All I can say after seeing this transfer is “WOW!!” It’s a HUGE improvement over the previously available DVD. The clarity is much better, with the detail showing off the various costumes and scenery much better. The picture has been cleaned up of all dirt and debris, and there’s nary a problem in sight. In short, it’s a typical (great) transfer from the folks at Warner Archive, and is VERY much recommended as the best way to see this wonderful classic!

Film Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

**ranked #8 in Top 11 Movies Watched in 2018

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle (1939)Fred AstaireYou’ll Never Get Rich (1941)

Honolulu (1939) – Eleanor Powell

George Murphy – Little Nellie Kelly (1940)

The Shop Around The Corner (1940) – Frank Morgan – Casanova Brown (1944)

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 (2018) on… For Me And My Gal (1942)

And we’re back again, for the 1942 MGM musical For Me And My Gal, starring Judy Garland, George Murphy and Gene Kelly.

Coming Up Shorts! with… For Pete’s Sake! (1934)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 (1933-1935) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 18 minutes, 6 seconds)

Wally (Wally Albright) and the Gang try to fix up a doll for Marianne (Marianne Edwards), but a bully breaks her doll. So the Gang tries to get her a new doll, but they have to deal with the bully and his father to get it. This short was quite entertaining, managing to tug on the heartstrings while still making us laugh! It’s at its funniest when the kids try to earn some money by beating some rugs and cutting the grass, but Spanky (George McFarland) and Scotty (Scotty Beckett) are consistently funny as they try to tell the other kids what they’re doing wrong. I enjoyed this one, and certainly look forward to revisiting it in the future!

Coming Up Shorts! with… La Fiesta de Santa Barbara (1935)

(Available as an extra on the For Me And My Gal Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 18 minutes, 41 seconds)

This Technicolor short features a Spanish festival and show. Most of the fun here is seeing various Hollywood celebrities of the era, including a VERY early appearance by Judy Garland alongside her sisters. The music and dancing provide the rest of the entertainment. There is some (admittedly weak) humor here, provided by Andy Devine (as a “bullfighter”) and Buster Keaton, who provides a “bull” for him to fight. Nothing spectacular here (outside of seeing some of those celebrities in color), so this short is maybe worth one viewing but nothing beyond that.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Every Sunday (1936)

(Available as an extra on the For Me And My Gal Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 33 seconds)

The Professor’s (Wright Kramer) orchestra isn’t gathering crowds in the park anymore, so the city officials are considering a change in orchestras. However, with the help of his granddaughter, Edna (Deanna Durbin), her friend Judy (Judy Garland) and Judy’s father (Richard Powell), they are able to attract big crowds again. This short’s main appeal is the presence of Deanna Durbin (in her debut) and Judy Garland. They both get a solo, and also sing together to finish the short. The plot itself isn’t much to write home about, but thankfully, most of the short is devoted to Judy and Deanna singing, which makes this one worth seeing every now and then!

And Now For The Main Feature…

The movie starts out in 1916, in the small town of Clifton Junction, Iowa. A bunch of vaudevillians have just come to town on the train. One of them, dancer and tramp comic Harry Palmer (Gene Kelly), is arrogant and quickly gets on the nerves of Jo Hayden (Judy Garland), who is part of a troupe under the leadership of Jimmy Metcalfe (George Murphy). However, Harry convinces Jo to leave Jimmy’s act and join him as part of a song-and-dance act. Over time, we see Jo develop feelings for Harry, although he is more concerned with getting to the Palace Theater in New York City (the dream of every vaudevillian). In his impatience to get there, Harry almost joins a more famous actress when she makes him an offer, much to Jo’s dismay. In trying to leave, Harry finally realizes that he loves Jo, and they make plans to get married after they have done their first show at the Palace. All the while, the U.S. has been drawn into the conflict of the first World War, which results in Harry getting a draft notice right when they learn that they are scheduled to play the Palace. Will they be able to perform at the Palace (and get married), or will the war prevent that from happening?

The idea for the movie started out with a script entitled “The Big Time,” which would have followed Harry Palmer, who was supposed to be in a relationship with two different women: a singer (a role which was planned for Judy Garland), and a dancer (whom he was supposed to marry and then betray). On the advice of acting coach Stella Adler, producer Arthur Freed combined the two roles and gave Judy the part. Originally, George Murphy was given the role of Harry Palmer, but he was switched to Jimmy Metcalfe when Arthur, on the advice of both Stella and Judy, gave Hollywood newcomer Gene Kelly the role. This film provided Judy with a more dramatic role, as she embraced being given a more adult role for the entire film (as opposed to an adult role for part of the film like in Little Nellie Kelly two years earlier). Judy was also generous in helping Gene adjust to acting for the camera (as opposed to the stage). Reshoots were required when preview audiences complained about the film’s original ending, due to Harry Palmer being such an unsympathetic character, and so Gene was given new scenes to help wartime audiences sympathize with his character more. Of course, the film proved to be a hit, helping Gene get his start in Hollywood, while also proving Judy’s dramatic abilities.

I will readily admit that I’ve seen this movie many times over the years, and it’s one that I’ve always enjoyed. In general, I like so much of the period music, which helps set the stage for what vaudevillian performances were (probably) like. In particular, I like the stuff early on in the film with Judy Garland and George Murphy with their “doll shop” and “beach” routines (in particular, their version of the classic song “By The Beautiful Sea” is quite the earworm, and is my personal favorite version of that song). But, obviously, the real fun is seeing Judy and Gene Kelly working together. Even though it’s their first film together, you can tell right when they do the title tune that they have great chemistry (and that helps make that song and dance another one of my favorite moments from this film). Realistically, the vaudevillian lifestyle portrayed in this film makes this musical function a lot better (at least, there’s generally a reason for everybody to start singing and dancing, as opposed to just breaking into song completely out of the blue). It really continues to astound me that this film was directed by Busby Berkeley, since it lacks his famous overhead shots and kaleidoscopic “dances.” And I appreciate that, as he allows everyone to actually dance for entire routines. Plain and simple, this is a wonderful movie, one that I love to come back to again and again, and, for that reason, I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending this one very highly!

The movie is available on DVD from Warner Brothers.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with… For Me And My Gal (1942)

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On June 7, 2022, Warner Archive Collection released For Me And My Gal on the Blu-ray format. The transfer comes from a 4K scan of the best available preservation elements. Quite simply stated, it’s a typical (great looking) Warner Archive release. The detail is much improved over the previously available DVD, and the picture has been cleaned up of all scratches, dust and debris. Otherwise translated, the Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection is the way to go when seeing this movie now!

Film Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

My Rating (after Blu-ray): 10/10

*ranked #5 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Little Nellie Kelly (1940) – Judy Garland – Girl Crazy (1943)

Gene KellyAnchors Aweigh (1945)

Tom, Dick And Harry (1941) – George Murphy

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!