Film Legends Of Yesteryear: Screen Team & “Musical Screen Teams (September 2022)” featuring… Kiss Me Kate (1953)

Today, we’re here to get into my first entry for my own Musical Screen Teams blogathon! That would be the 1953 musical Kiss Me Kate, featuring the team of Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel in their final film together!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Washee Ironee (1934)

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

(Length: 16 minutes, 38 seconds)

Rich boy Waldo (Wally Albright) tries to get into a football game with the Gang, and ends up falling in the mud. His mother is throwing a society party (at which she expects him to play the violin), so the Gang tries to help wash out his clothes. This one was decently entertaining. In particular, Spanky (George McFarland) going through town in his goat-led “ambulance” (complete with him imitating a siren) was one of the shorts’ more amusing bits, as was the kids making a mess of the society party. It does go a bit wrong when Spanky stops to get help from a Chinese kid at the laundry (the main problem being the way the other kids all treat him by attempting to speak “Chinese”). Apart from that, though, I enjoyed this one, and would gladly watch it again!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Barney’s Hungry Cousin (1953)

(Available as an extra on the Kiss Me Kate Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 6 minutes, 42 seconds)

Barney Bear has come to Jellystone National Park, hoping to enjoy a nice picnic. However, one of the bears living there keeps trying to steal his food! This one was quite fun. Admittedly, it is essentially the same joke over and over, as the one hungry bear keeps stealing Barney’s food, no matter what Barney does to get away from him or prevent it. Still, it serves its purpose in being funny, which makes it worth seeing!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Composer Cole Porter (Ron Randell) has put together a musical version of the Shakespearean play The Taming Of The Shrew, with plans to have it directed by Fred Graham (Howard Keel) with Fred also playing the lead role of “Petruchio.” They both want Fred’s ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi (Kathryn Grayson), to play the part of “Katherine,” and they invite her to Fred’s apartment to convince her to be a part of the show. She almost consents until Fred’s current girlfriend, nightclub performer Lois Lane (Ann Miller), shows up. Lilli decides to leave but quickly returns to accept the role when Fred and Cole decide to be sneaky and offer Lois the part of “Katherine.” During rehearsals, Fred and Lilli continue to argue, but start to reconcile right before the show’s opening night. However, Fred sends some flowers to Lois with a note (but his valet mistakenly delivers the flowers to Lilli), and Lilli (who believes the bouquet of flowers were meant for her) reads the note during a moment onstage. In a rage, she starts going off-script and hitting Fred hard. In retaliation, he spanks her onstage at the end of the first act. Having had enough, Lilli decides to leave the show immediately and go to be with her fiancé, Tex Callaway (Willard Parker). Fred at first has no clue how to convince her to stay and finish the show, but he quickly comes up with an idea. Fred learns that his castmate Bill Calhoun (Tommy Rall) (who is actually Lois’ boyfriend) had taken part in a crap game earlier, and lost a lot of money (but signed Fred’s name on the IOU). While he’s initially mad at Bill, due to the two thugs (Lippy, as played by Keenan Wynn, and Slug, as played by James Whitmore) hounding him about the money, Fred is able to make use of the situation by convincing the two men that he can only pay them back if the show is a hit (and it needs Lilli to stay for that to happen). So, the two men force Lilli to go through with the show for a while. However, between acts, the two men find out that their employer has been killed, thus negating Fred’s “IOU.” Without their help, can Fred convince Lilli to stay with him (and the show), or will she go off to live life with a millionaire?

The whole idea was the result of a 1935 performance of Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew in which then-stage manager Arnold Saint Subber watched the show’s stars, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, fight backstage. Later on, as Arnold Saint Subber was becoming a Broadway producer, he decided to make use of the idea as a backstage musical. With the help of his new partner, Lemuel Ayres, he brought in Bella and Samuel Spewack to write the book along with composer Cole Porter to write the score. They were all hesitant about the project, but they were able to come up with a show that would be a big hit with audiences, one of the few to run more than one thousand performances at the time. MGM quickly bought the movie rights, but film production was delayed since they couldn’t start until the Broadway show’s run had ended. In making the transition from stage to screen, the musical kept most of its score (save for at least one song that ended up being spoken), and added the Cole Porter song “From This Moment On” (originally written for the Cole Porter show Out Of This World, even though it was dropped before its premiere). Of course, the song “From This Moment On” is famous here for the fact that Bob Fosse had the opportunity to choreograph a section of the dance for himself and his partner, Carol Haney, which helped him greatly on the path to becoming a famous choreographer.

I picked this film (which I’ve seen many times over the years) to go with my Musical Screen Teams blogathon, with my planned focus on Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, who had worked together previously in Show Boat (1951) and Lovely To Look At (1952). While I don’t quite think the film itself is the best of the three, I do think that their characters’ relationship works the best here. Unlike the other two films, we don’t see their original romance here. Instead, they’ve already been a married couple and gotten divorced. Yet, the seeds of love between them still exist somewhat despite the anger and hatred that Keel’s Fred keeps causing by his current relationship with Ann Miller’s Lois (even if Lois is just using him to help her own career and that of her boyfriend). On the musical side of things, Keel and Grayson only have two duets (the rest of the time, they are part of an ensemble), but those two songs, “So In Love” and “Wunderbar” are among some of the film’s best moments. “So In Love” is indeed, as it’s title suggests, a beautiful love song, used mainly as an audition for Grayson’s Lilli (and, even though Fred is using it to help manipulate her into doing the show, it still helps show enough of those seeds of attraction I already referred to). “Wunderbar” is just plain fun, as their characters recall a previous show they did together, with them even goofing around and trying to upstage each other, while also dancing together.

Of course, Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson are hardly the only things that make this movie wonderful. One thing this movie is noted for is the fact that it was made as part of the 3-D fad during the early 1950s (when Hollywood was trying to come up with ways to get people out to the theatres due to the rise of television). I personally can’t speak to how good the 3-D is, since I’ve never seen it on a big screen, and I haven’t had any of the technology to see it that way at home (since the Blu-ray came out while 3-D Blu-rays required a 3-D player and a 3-D TV, neither of which have I ever had). Still, one can get a sense of the 3-D aspects through many moments in the film, especially when they throw stuff at the camera during some of the dances. In general, Ann Miller (in some respects, the “third member” of the screen team, since she was also kind of the girlfriend briefly for Howard Keel’s character in Lovely To Look At) gets some of the best moments to show off her dance abilities. Her tap solo “auditioning” for the show to “Too Darn Hot” is one of the film’s highlights (regardless of whether you see it in 3-D or not). She also has “Why Can’t You Behave?” with Tommy Rall on the rooftop, and several routines with him, Bobby Van and Bob Fosse, all of which are fun! In my opinion, this is a very highly regarded musical for good reason, with great music by Cole Porter, great singers and dancers, wonderful comedy and Shakespeare! So, it’s certainly a film I would recommend very highly!

This movie is available on Blu-ray, either individually from Warner Archive Collection or as part of a four-film Musicals collection from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #5 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Lovely To Look At (1952) – Kathryn Grayson

Calamity Jane (1953) – Howard Keel – Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954)

Lovely To Look At (1952) – Ann Miller – Deep In My Heart (1954)

Good News (1947) – Tommy Rall – Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954)

Bob Fosse – Give A Girl A Break (1953)

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“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)

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!

“Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart (September 2021)” featuring… Kismet (1955)

Next up among the films that I’ve been looking forward to revisiting for the Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon, we’ve got the 1955 musical Kismet starring Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Dolores Gray and Vic Damone!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Battle Of Gettysburg (1955)

(Available as an extra on the Kismet Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 29 minutes, 37 seconds)

The story of the Battle of Gettysburg is told using footage filmed at the Gettysburg National Military Park.  This short is narrated by Leslie Nielsen, with Frank Ferguson reading off Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address at the end.  This is one of those shorts where you will either love it or hate it, as it is filmed without any human actors or reenactors, just narration, some sound effects to help get the idea across, the actual locations and some of the statues of the military men involved.  Without any people onscreen, I personally find it to be very dull, and mainly for education or Civil War enthusiasts.  Of course, watching it on this disc doesn’t help, as it is an unrestored, non-anamorphic transfer that limits the size of the picture, while also not being as detailed as one would prefer.  Overall, I have to give this one a hard pass, as I just didn’t care for it.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The First Bad Man (1955)

(Available as an extra on the Kismet 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, 35 seconds)

This short tells the story of Texas, circa one million B.C., where Dinosaur Dan laid claim to being the first bad man in Texas. In some respects, a precursor to The Flintstones, with the caveman era combined with modern ideas. Granted, this cartoon seems to have two distinct halves, with the first introducing us to the world it’s taking place in, and then the second, mainly preoccupied with Dinosaur Dan (and the posse chasing after him). It works quite well, even if not quite to the level of some of Tex Avery’s earlier cartoons. Still, it’s a fun cartoon, certain to provide many laughs (it certainly did for me)!  Of course, given that the Kismet Blu-ray preceded the Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 collection by several years, the transfer therefore isn’t as restored as the later version, with some specks and dirt still remaining (and the color not quite as vivid).

And Now For The Main Feature…

In the city of Baghdad, the Poet (Howard Keel) and his daughter, Marsinah (Ann Blyth) go about trying to sell his rhymes. They have no luck, so they separate, with Marsinah trying to snatch some food for their empty bellies. The Poet finds himself kidnapped by some men, who bring him to the famous robber, Jawan (Jay C. Flippen). The Poet is mistaken for Hajj the beggar, who some years earlier had put a curse on Jawan, resulting in his young son being kidnapped from him. Sensing an opportunity, the Poet charges Jawan one hundred gold pieces to undo the curse, and promises Jawan that he will find his son that very day. Jawan gives him the money and returns to Baghdad to look for his son, while the Poet makes his way back to the city on foot with his new fortune in hand. Meanwhile, Lalume (Dolores Gray), the wife of Baghdad’s judge, the Wazir (Sebastian Cabot), has just returned from Ababu. The Wazir was seeking a much-needed loan from the ruler of Ababu, and Lalume brought the news that the Wazir would be given all the gold that ten camels can carry. The catch? A royal marriage for the three princesses of Ababu, quite specifically to the Caliph (Vic Damone), which could prove troublesome. Elsewhere, the Poet has returned to the city, and gives Marsinah some money to buy herself some new clothes and such. He does some shopping of his own, but he is arrested when the Wazir’s guards notice that the purse of gold bears the sign of a wealthy family that had been robbed. Meanwhile, the Caliph has been walking around the city incognito, and sees Marsinah. Falling for her, he approaches her (without revealing his identity), and, since they are both interested in each other, they promise to meet later that evening. Now in front of the Wazir, the Poet is accused of being a thief, and sentenced to have one of his hands chopped off. He pleads for his hand to be saved, attracting Lalume’s attention. However, his pleas fall on deaf ears, and the Wazir orders BOTH hands to be chopped off, resulting in the Poet calling down curses on the Wazir. Before anything further happens, Jawan is brought in. Upon seeing the Poet, Jawan immediately starts lashing out at him in anger for deceiving him. He quickly changes his tune, however, when he sees the amulet around the Wazir’s neck. As the Wazir claims to have had it since his youth, Jawan declares that the Wazir is his son. The Wazir has no interest in Jawan (and thus sends him to the dungeon), but he is interested in the Poet’s “powers.” Upon realizing that the Poet had cursed the Wazir, he wonders what will happen. The answer comes quickly, as the Caliph makes a quick visit to announce that he will be getting married that night. Frustrated at the prospect of not getting his loan from the ruler of Ababu, the Wazir listens to Lalume’s advice and restores the Poet’s freedom and gold, and even makes him an Emir in exchange for reversing the curse. Lalume, of course, knows the Poet has no powers, but she is intrigued by him (and complains to him in private how bored she is by her marriage to the Wazir). When they hear the Caliph’s procession as he goes after his bride, the Wazir orders the Poet to do something about it. Under threat of being executed, the Poet starts up a big curse reversal ceremony (with Lalume’s help) as a distraction so that he can escape (which he does). The Poet quickly finds Marsinah and tries to explain the situation to her as they run. When they hear that the Caliph didn’t find his bride-to-be, the Poet reconsiders, and decides to go back to the Wazir’s palace to be an Emir. With Lalume’s help, he sends for Marsinah and invites her to stay there, where she will be safe. While the Caliph has the Wazir’s people searching the city for Marsinah, he visits the Wazir’s home. The Wazir still tries to push the princesses of Ababu as a potential marriage alliance, when they both see Marsinah amongst the Wazir’s harem. Believing her to be one of the Wazir’s wives, the Caliph declares that he will instead choose a bride that night from among those seeking a marriage alliance. When the Caliph leaves, the Wazir marries an unconscious Marsinah (so that the Caliph doesn’t catch him in a lie), although upon waking, she declares that she will kill herself if he tries to take advantage of her. Will Marsinah survive this night? And will the Poet be able to see past his own ambitions for his daughter’s sake?

Edward Knoblock originally wrote the play Kismet, which made its debut in 1911. Over the years, it made its way to movie screens several times, in 1914, 1920, 1930 and 1944. MGM had produced the 1944 film, and afterwards, musical producer Arthur Freed made plans to put together a film musical of the play, but held back on those plans when he heard that a musical version was being readied for Broadway. MGM bought the film rights even before the show opened. Luckily for the studio, it turned out to be a hit. Arthur Freed intended to have the film version directed by Vincente Minelli, but Vincente declined at first, stating that he didn’t care for the show. He only came around when he was promised his pet project, Lust For Life, in exchange for directing Kismet. However, a lot of his focus while making Kismet was spent on preparing for Lust For Life, and Stanley Donen had to finish filming when the production ran over and Vincente Minelli left for Europe for his film. As a result, Kismet wasn’t well-received by audiences, which was enough to end Howard Keel’s career in film musicals, as he returned to the stage after this film.

Due to Vincente Minelli’s indifference to the show, this movie has a common complaint of spectacle being emphasized over the actors, and it does seem that way. I will admit, visually, this film is a marvel to look at (even more so on the Blu-ray release from Warner Archive Collection), with the various sets and colors. The acting is a bit more inconsistent, with Howard Keel and Dolores Gray taking a more tongue-in-cheek/theatrical approach, while a lot of the rest of the cast (especially Ann Blyth and Vic Damone) play it straight. Obviously, it boils down to preferences, but I prefer Howard Keel and Dolores Gray’s performances, as I feel like they fit the material better (and they also look like they are having fun doing it). I also think Monty Woolley, who plays Omar (the Caliph’s advisor) leans more towards the theatrical, but he has so little to do beyond his initial two appearances, interacting with the Poet (in Hajj’s place) and walking through the market with the Caliph. Quite frankly, I consider Monty Woolley’s character being relegated to the background a minor strike against the movie.

Regardless of the performance styles one thing I can say about this movie: the music is absolutely beautiful to listen to! For the stage show, the music was adapted from themes of Alexander Borodin, with new lyrics and music written by Robert Wright and George Forrest. While I don’t think their acting style works as well for the film, I DO think that both Ann Blyth and Vic Damone have wonderful singing voices, particularly for the song “Stranger In Paradise,” which is probably my favorite song from this film. I also like the song “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” which is sung (and quite beautifully, I might add) by Ann Blyth. Howard Keel has some fun with stuff like “Fate” and “Gesticulate,” and Dolores Gray has the really fun “Not Since Nineveh” and the sensual “Bored” (even if the way that the song’s ending is staged comes across as a little stiff and unnatural). I first saw this movie on DVD as part of the Classic Musicals From The Dream Factory: Volume 3 set (and saw it twice then), but after upgrading it to Blu-ray after it was released in 2014, it’s become an almost yearly viewing, I’ve enjoyed it so much! So, if you can get past the disparate styles of acting, there is a good film and a wonderful musical to be found here (and one that I would certainly recommend)!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 53 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Deep In My Heart (1954) – Howard Keel

Dolores Gray – The Opposite Sex (1956)

Hit The Deck (1955) – Vic Damone

Since You Went Away (1944) – Monty Woolley

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Annie Get Your Gun (1950)

We’re back for some more fun, as we dig into the classic 1950 musical Annie Get Your Gun, starring Betty Hutton and Howard Keel!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Small Talk (1929)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 1 (1929-1930) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 25 minutes, 4 seconds)

Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins) is adopted, and the rest of the Little Rascals run away from the orphanage to come see him. This is the first sound short for the series, as evidenced by the title card (not to mention the silent start followed by all the noise created by the kids). Not too surprisingly, considering the new sound technology, the acting (from both kids and adults alike) is a little stiff. Still, there’s some charm and humor to be found, like with Wheezer’s attempt to call his friends on the phone, or Farina (Allen Hoskins) dealing with a parrot. It’s certainly enough fun that I look forward to watching more from this series!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show (as led by Colonel William “Buffalo Bill” Cody played here by Louis Calhern) has arrived in Cincinnati, and everybody is excited about it. One person who is not, however, is hotel owner Foster Wilson (Clinton Sundberg), who is still angry about the trouble caused at his hotel by a rival Wild West show run by Pawnee Bill (Edward Arnold). Foster has Buffalo Bill’s whole troupe thrown out, even after the show’s star, sharpshooter Frank Butler (Howard Keel), offers him a side bet of $100 if the local champion sharpshooter can best him. However, Foster then runs into Annie Oakley (Betty Hutton) and her siblings. When Annie shows him how good of a shot she is, he rushes off to make the bet. While she waits for the match, Annie meets Frank, and is instantly smitten with him (although he admits to her that she is not his type). Later, at the match (after she realizes that he is the “swollen-headed stiff” that she’s up against), she bests him in the match. Buffalo Bill and Frank’s manager, Charlie Davenport (Keenan Wynn), want to have Annie join the show, although Frank, bitter at losing, doesn’t want her to. Annie overhears the conversation, and convinces Frank to let her join the show as his assistant. As they tour the country, Annie tries to learn to read and be more ladylike to appeal to Frank. Business starts falling off for the show, however, as they realize how much competition Pawnee Bill’s show is bringing them. So, Buffalo Bill and Charlie decide to promote Annie as their star attraction, with plans to have her do a special trick that she has been practicing. She is reluctant to do it, until Charlie sells her on the idea that Frank would be thrilled to see her do it. The reality is different, however, as Frank is jealous over her quick promotion to star billing, and he feels betrayed when he sees her perform the trick. He decides to leave the show and join Pawnee Bill’s show. Meanwhile, Chief Sitting Bull (J. Carroll Naish) was in the audience when Annie performed her stunt, and he decided to adopt her as his daughter. In doing so, he offers to put money in Buffalo Bill’s show, which enables them to go on a European tour. They perform for the various crown heads of Europe, who give Annie many medals for her shooting abilities. However, Annie still misses Frank, and the show is going broke (because they weren’t being paid to put on those “command performances”). So, Buffalo Bill offers to take the show back home, to Annie’s delight. On the boat trip back, the troupe is invited to a party being given by Pawnee Bill to welcome them back, and, assuming that Pawnee Bill is doing well financially, they try to plan a merger of the two shows to help everybody out. At the party, they learn that Pawnee Bill is also struggling, but they make plans for the merger by planning to sell Annie’s valuable medals. Annie and Frank are reunited, but his old jealousies are reawakened when he sees all her medals, and the two decide to have a shooting match to determine who is indeed the better shot. Will these two be able to reconcile, or will their petty pride keep them apart?

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II produced a musical show based on the life of sharpshooter Annie Oakley. The original plan was to have composer Jerome Kern write the score (with Dorothy Fields providing the lyrics), but Jerome Kern passed away only a few days into working on the show. Irving Berlin was brought in to put together the score, and the show (which starred Ethel Merman as Annie Oakley) became a big hit. With the various studios vying for the film rights, producer Arthur Freed was able to get them for MGM, with plans to have Judy Garland star. However, he made the mistake of making Busby Berkeley the director. a problem as many of Judy’s pill addictions had begun as a result of working on some movies with him years earlier. She tried, but under Berkeley’s direction she struggled again, slowly going downhill health-wise and unable to give a good performance. Berkeley was fired, but, it was too late, as the damage had been done, and Judy’s struggles resulted in her being fired from the movie. Other actresses were considered, but it was ultimately decided to borrow Betty Hutton from Paramount. And that was hardly the only casting change to occur, either, as Frank Morgan (originally cast as Buffalo Bill) passed away in his sleep (and was replaced by Louis Calhern). The role of Annie Oakley was one that Betty Hutton had wanted, but she found a cold reception from the cast and crew of the film (not helped by some of her public comments on the matter). Still, the movie proved to be a big hit, more than making up for its high production cost.

This is a movie that I have been enjoying for quite a while now! I will readily admit that Irving Berlin’s music is one of the biggest reasons I like it, with songs like “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “They Say It’s Wonderful,” “You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun,” Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly,” “I Got The Sun In The Morning,” “My Defenses Are Down” and “Anything You Can Do!” Howard Keel is good in what was his first lead role in a film musical (and, besides Irving Berlin’s music, was also part of the film’s appeal way back when I first saw this film). As to Betty Hutton and her performance, I have to say that I like her in this film. In some of the other films I’ve seen with her, she tends to be too much at times, but, being too young myself to have ever seen Ethel Merman in the role on stage (although I’ve seen her in a few other films she made both before and after this one), I think that Betty Hutton fits the part of Annie Oakley far better than Judy Garland could have (and I can say that, having seen the outtakes from the movie, which include footage that was shot for Judy for two of the songs). Plain and simple, this is one movie I really enjoy! The only really sour point about it (and that may have come from the Broadway show) was the ending, which is different from what actually happened historically, and, in the process, takes on a very sexist attitude that ruins things a little. But, for me, the rest of the film builds up more than enough goodwill to offset that. This is a very entertaining show business musical, and one I highly recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The Blu-ray makes use of a new transfer made from a 4K scan of most of the original nitrate Technicolor negatives. I say “most of” because two reels worth of the original negatives were burned up in the infamous Eastman house fire that claimed many film elements all those years ago. For those two sections, they made use of positive safety separations that had been made for protection for those moments. Regardless of the sources, this film looks ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL!! The color is as good as one could hope for, and the detail is much improved. Seriously, this Blu-ray is highly recommended (and, quite frankly, the only ways to see this movie are either via physical media or on TV, as they haven’t gotten the rights cleared yet to show this one digitally, either via digital copies or streaming)!

While this film has no connection to my reviews for June’s Star Of The Month (Claudette Colbert), it does effectively end the month! So stay tuned for tomorrow, when we shift gears to July’s star, James Cagney!

Film Length: 1 hour, 48 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #7 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Howard Keel – Show Boat (1951)

The Asphalt Jungle (1950) – Louis Calhern – Athena (1954)

Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1949) – Edward Arnold

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Show Boat (1951)

I’ve got a fun musical today, as I revisit the Show Boat story (although this time, it’s the 1951 version starring Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner and Howard Keel)!

The Cotton Blossom is in town!  Everybody is looking forward to seeing what show Cap’n Andy Hawks (Joe E. Brown) and his troupe are putting on!  His current troupe includes popular leading man Steve Baker (Robert Sterling), his equally popular leading lady (and wife offstage) Julie LaVerne (Ava Gardner), and dancers Ellie May Shipley (Marge Champion) and Frank Schultz (Gower Champion).  However, the boat’s engineer, Pete (Leif Erickson), who has been trying to flirt with Julie, gets into a fight with Steve (and loses).  Out for revenge, Pete goes to the local sheriff with some information about Julie.  Meanwhile, Cap’n Andy’s daughter, Magnolia (Kathryn Grayson), meets gambler Gaylord Ravenal (Howard Keel) while she is trying to air out the costumes, and they quickly fall for each other.  That night, the sheriff comes during the show, threatening to arrest Julie, a mulatto, for being married to a white man.  They are able to avoid arrest, but they are forced to leave the Cotton Blossom, much to everybody’s regret (well, everybody except Cap’n Andy’s wife Parthy, played by Agnes Moorehead).  But, Cap’n Andy is a quick thinker, and secures Gaylord’s services as a leading man, while giving his daughter Magnolia a chance as the leading lady.  Audiences take to them, and the two become quite popular.  Offstage, they fall in love, and decide to get married.  They leave the show boat, and move to Chicago.  Things are fine for a while, as Gaylord’s gambling is successful.  However, his luck starts to run out, and they have to give up their lavish lifestyle.  When they hit rock bottom and Magnolia calls him out for his obsession with gambling, he leaves her.  Just in the nick of time, Magnolia runs into Frank and Elly, who help her get a job at a local nightclub for New Year’s.  That night, Cap’n Andy goes out to see Frank and Elly perform, hoping to learn where his daughter is, only to find her faltering in her first performance.  With her father’s support, Magnolia pulls herself together and wins over the audience.  Afterwards, she tells her father what happened (including the fact that she is now pregnant), and asks if she can return home to the show boat (which obviously thrills Cap’n Andy).  As time goes on, both Gaylord and Magnolia continue to go their separate ways.  Will they ever be reunited, or will time forever keep them apart?

MGM bought the film rights to Show Boat a few years after Universal Studios released their 1936 version.  The plan was to feature Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, but by then their box office appeal was on the decline.  Still, producer Arthur Freed wanted to do something with the property, and ended up doing so when MGM produced their musical biopic on composer Jerome Kern, Till The Clouds Roll By.  In that film, they borrowed some of the score from Show Boat as they presented a highly shortened version (including actress Kathryn Grayson playing Magnolia Hawks several years before the 1951 film).  At one point, it was also planned to have Lena Horne play the role of Julie (since she had done the part in Till The Clouds Roll By), but a combination of the Code and her stuff being cut in some Southern states prevented her from getting the part.  Ava Gardner got the role, practicing singing to Lena Horne’s recordings, but then she got dubbed by Annette Warren (although her recordings are still extant, and included as extras on the recent Blu-ray release).  The movie proved to be fairly popular with audiences, and they got the gang back together (Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel and the Champions) the next year for another remake of a Jerome Kern musical, Lovely To Look At.

This is a movie that I’ve seen for years, and was first introduced to it by my late grandmother.  It’s one that I’ve come to appreciate more each time I get the chance to see it.  From the first time I saw it, I will readily admit that the moment that has stuck with me the most is William Warfield’s rendition of the classic “Ol’ Man River.”  He does such a WONDERFUL, fantastic job singing it.  It’s always guaranteed to give me goosebumps, it’s so powerful.  Howard Keel is, in my mind, perfectly cast here, and is very enjoyable to listen to.  I will admit, it took me a while to come around to the husband-and-wife dance team Marge and Gower Champion, but after I saw them in Lovely To Look At (and really took to that film), I’ve come to appreciate their dancing here as well.  While I do wish that Lena Horne could have been cast as Julie, I will readily admit that I like Ava Gardner’s performance here, as I have yet to see anything else she did that moves me as much as she did here, as somebody whose life is going downhill, and yet still tries to take care of a friend that tried to defend her.  It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s one I will quite readily admit to wanting to watch with some frequency!  So I would certainly give it some of my highest recommendations!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, featuring a new master from a 4K Scan of the original Technicolor negatives. One thing that has long been in this particular version of Show Boat‘s favor has been its three-strip Technicolor look. However, that hasn’t been the case for some time, as the film has had less-than-stellar transfers that have robbed it of that look. Finally, FINALLY, this movie has been given a new restoration that has returned it to its former glory! The colors are so fantastically vivid, and the detail is much improved! I know this Blu-ray was only just released in February 2021, but, honestly, I’d be surprised if this isn’t considered one of the best (if not THE best) restorations of the year! So, if you’ve never seen this movie and want to try it (or have seen it, but only through its previous terrible transfers), don’t stop, don’t hesitate, get this one! You won’t regret it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 48 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

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

*ranked #3 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Ziegfeld Follies (1945) – Kathryn Grayson – Lovely To Look At (1952)

Ava Gardner – Mogambo (1953)

Annie Get Your Gun (1950) – Howard Keel – Lovely To Look At (1952)

You Said A Mouthful (1932) – Joe E. Brown

The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle (1939) – Marge Champion – Lovely To Look At (1952)

Gower Champion – Lovely To Look At (1952)

Dark Passage (1947) – Agnes Moorehead – The Opposite Sex (1956)

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“Star Of The Month (January 2021)” Featuring Doris Day in… Calamity Jane (1953)

For my next contribution for January’s Star Of The Month, we have Doris Day’s classic 1953 musical Calamity Jane, also starring Howard Keel! As usual, we have our requisite theatrical shorts to get through, and then, we’ll be ready for the movie!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pop-Pie A La Mode (1945)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 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, 53 seconds)

After being shipwrecked, Popeye makes it to an island that, as he later discovers, is inhabited by cannibals. This one is a bit harder to say much positive about. The cannibals are all rather blatantly racist stereotypes, with their blackface-type appearance, as well as their overall manner of behavior. That alone says it all about this cartoon. On the one hand, it should be preserved, as it has been, but at the same time, it certainly is a reminder of our past (and sadly, still present) issues, and should be avoided by parents with young and impressionable children. One of the weakest cartoons from this set for that reason.

Coming Up Shorts! with… So You Love Your Dog (1953)

(available as an extra on the Calamity Jane Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 10 minutes, 31 seconds)

Joe McDoake’s “faithful” dog Dusty continues to get him in trouble by turning on him, both during war and peace. The dog very strongly resembles Lassie, and their intelligence makes this one quite fun. Poor Joe. He thinks Dusty is quite trustworthy, while the dog is actually trying to do him harm. Overall, it’s a bit of fun, and one of the few of the Joe McDoakes series that I’ve seen so far that I enjoyed enough that I would watch it again.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Duck Dodgers In The 24 1/2 Century (1953)

(available as an extra on the Calamity Jane Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes, 4 seconds)

Duck Dodgers (in the 24 1/2 Century!) tries to claim Planet X in the name of the earth, but Marvin the Martian has other plans. Yep, it’s that classic Daffy Duck (Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century!) cartoon! What more needs to be said? It’s always fun to laugh at Daffy’s antics here, especially with Porky Pig as the more adept “Eager Young Space Cadet” working in Daffy’s shadow. Seriously, it’s hard not to enjoy this one whenever I get the chance to see it! It may not have been restored for the 2015 Calamity Jane Blu-ray release, but the fun still shines through just the same!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Ah, “Calamity” Jane Canary (Doris Day). Trouble and her just seem to go together. Upon her return from riding shotgun on “The Deadwood Stage,” she learns from a pair of prospectors that Second Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin (Philip Carey), a soldier that she has a crush on, was killed by a Sioux war party. Or captured. The two prospectors didn’t really have a chance to find out, as they only narrowly escaped from the Sioux themselves. So, off Calamity rides, in hopes of finding the truth. She is able to find the Sioux war party, and, to her joy, she finds Danny alive. She quickly chases off the small band of Sioux, and rescues Danny.

Back in Deadwood, more trouble is brewing, as Calamity’s friend and proprietor of the Golden Garter saloon (and theatre), Henry “Milly” Miller (Paul Harvey), has hired Francis Fryer to headline his show. The problem? Milly was expecting an actress, not an actor! So he has Francis Fryer (Dick Wesson) dress in drag and pretend to be a woman, an act that doesn’t last long. With all Milly’s patron’s complaining and threatening to leave, Calamity tries to do what she can by promising them Milly has already sent for a big actress. When questioned about who he sent for, she mentions the only actress she can think of: Adelaid Adams (who was big around town because of her picture, which comes with some packs of cigarettes). Francis knows Adelaid, and he privately tells Milly that she would never come to Deadwood. Undaunted, Calamity goes off to Chicago (or maybe I should say “Chicagee,” like her). She catches a show, but is unable to see Adelaid Adams (Gale Robbins) up close. Going backstage, she meets Adelaid’s maid, Katie Brown (Allyn McLerie), in Adelaid’s dressing room, and assumes her to be Adelaid. In between the real Adelaid leaving and her own desires to be onstage, Katie decides to go with Calamity to Deadwood. Once there, she tries to perform like Adelaid, but fails. It comes out that she’s not Adelaid, and, after arguing with the audience, Calamity suggests they give her a shot anyways, since they all have their own dreams that they came to Deadwood hoping to see fulfilled. In doing it her own way, Katie makes a big hit with the men in town.

Calamity offers to take Katie out to live together in her cabin, and after the initial disappointment about the messy state of the place, the two of them work together to make it a home. While they are at it, Katie also gives Calamity a makeover to help her look more like a woman. Further trouble comes about when Danny and Calamity’s friend “Wild Bill” Hickok (Howard Keel) both come a-calling for Katie, with both hoping to bring her to an upcoming dance. Katie knows about Calamity’s feelings towards Danny, and tries to suggest they all go together. After drawing straws, Bill is stuck taking Calamity. At the dance, they and everybody are all awestruck to see how beautiful Calamity looks in a dress. However, Danny still only has eyes for Katie, and Calamity storms off after seeing them kiss. The next day, Calamity tells Katie to get out of town, before Bill takes her aside to tell her off. The question remains, will Katie go, or will all the relationship troubles get sorted out?

Calamity Jane was very much Warner’s answer to the MGM musical Annie Get Your Gun. Originally, Jack Warner had tried to get the rights to the stage musical of Annie Get Your Gun, intending it for Doris Day. However, MGM outbid him. When Judy Garland, who had originally been cast in Annie Get Your Gun, pulled out, Doris once again had hopes of doing the movie, but Jack Warner refused to loan her out, with the part going to Betty Hutton. Instead, Doris Day was given the part of Calamity Jane, with the role becoming one of her best-known, and one of her favorites (admittedly, it’s been said that Calamity Jane was a project already in the works for her even before the possibility of being in Annie Get Your Gun).

I will say that Calamity Jane was, if I’m remembering correctly, my introduction to Doris Day. At the time, I was more familiar with Howard Keel (mostly from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers). In all the time since, though, I’ve enjoyed watching this movie, as well as seeking out some of her other film musicals. I enjoy the overall film, from the cast, to the music, and the story as well. I know the movie version of Calamity Jane was far different from the real-life person, but I do enjoy this cleaned-up film (far more than the more recent HBO TV series Deadwood, which I barely could last through an entire episode of). The music in this movie, written by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, is quite memorable. I enjoy the “Deadwood Stage,” get a kick out of “I Can Do Without You” (which seems strangely reminiscent of “Anything You Can Do” from Annie Get Your Gun), and enjoy her signature tune “Secret Love,” but the song that’s always stuck in my head after watching this movie is her duet with Howard Keel for “The Black Hills Of Dakota.” That one I always enjoy. Honestly, this movie is a lot of fun, and I would have no trouble whatsoever recommending this one!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video, either individually or as part of a four film Musicals collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

On Moonlight Bay (1951)Doris DayYoung At Heart (1954)

Lovely To Look At (1952) – Howard Keel – Kiss Me Kate (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 (2019) on… Lovely To Look At (1952)

“To me, dancing is the loveliest way I know to meet a girl. It’s the only way I can hold a girl in my arms in a crowded room and still have her all to myself. Dancing is the whistlestop before romance.” – Gower Champion in Lovely to Look At

Now we’re back for the 1952 musical Lovely To Look At, starring Kathryn Grayson, Red Skelton and Howard Keel.

Tony (Howard Keel), Jerry (Gower Champion) and Al (Red Skelton) have plans for a Broadway show, but find they are under-financed to convince anybody to back the show. Then Al receives a letter stating that his Aunt Roberta had passed, and he had inherited half of her dress shop in Paris. So Tony, Jerry and Al make the trip to Paris to sell Al’s half to finance their show, but they find that the shop, now run by Stephanie (Kathryn Grayson) and her sister Clarisse (Marge Champion), has seen better years. With the creditors closing in, the three men decide to convince them to put on a big fashion show with music, dancing comedy. Of course, there are different romances brewing, as Jerry and Clarisse fall for each other, while Al falls for Stephanie, she likes Tony, and Tony likes her, except his girlfriend Bubbles Cassidy (Ann Miller) shows up (but ends up falling for Al). But when one of the models (Zsa Zsa Gabor) introduces them to producer Max Fogelsby (Kurt Kasznar), who offers them the chance to do their show immediately, will they stay to help with the fashion show or will they return to New York?

As the second filmed version of the Broadway musical Roberta (following the Astaire/Rogers film from the 1930s), this film brought back some songs dropped from the earlier film while retaining some that were written for the previous movie. Having seen the earlier Roberta many times, Lovely To Look At was a movie I was curious about, but had low expectations for when I first saw it nearly a decade ago. All I can say is that I’m glad I was curious, as it has become one of my favorite movies, usually one I try to watch at least once a year!

The score, with music written by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Otto Harbach (and some updated lyrics by Dorothy Fields), is absolutely wonderful! In That’s Entertainment, Part 2, Fred Astaire said that “Jerome Kern wrote some of the loveliest melodies I’ve ever heard, and none lovelier than this one, sung by Kathryn Grayson” (referring, of course, to the song “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”). That’s a sentiment I very much agree with, as I very much prefer this sung version of the song. Kathryn does it so wonderfully and with so much emotion, I know I can’t help but want to cry along with her as she finishes. That being said, the instrumental version used earlier in the movie for husband-and-wife dance team Marge and Gower Champion is even better yet! It is such a wonderful combination of beautiful music and breathtaking dancing, I look forward to it every time I watch the movie (and, for those who noticed, it made my Top 10 Dance Routines list, too)! Also worth noting for Marge and Gower is the song “I Won’t Dance,” a fun and flirtacious dance between the two that is full of fun and lifts as well!

Of course, with Red Skelton in the cast, you can bet there is room for some comedy, too! Early on, he gets a chance as he rides an elevator that looks so unsafe in how it moves that most of us would much rather walk up the stairs after seeing it in action (and then a bit later when somebody else tries to use it, and we listen to him with his badly mangled French). But his best moment is probably his “Irish Tenor” comedy bit later in the movie. Seriously, if you can get through that without laughing, then I don’t know what you’re even reading about this film for, it’s so good!

Overall, this is very much a fun musical that I always enjoy. I admit, the fashion show sequence at the end of the movie is a bit odd (partly due to the fact that that sequence was directed by Vincente Minelli instead of Mervyn LeRoy who directed the rest of the movie), with the Marge and Gower dance routine to “Yesterdays” really being a jolt, but over time and multiple viewings, I’ve still come to appreciate it just as much as the rest of the movie! A very highly recommended movie if you get the chance to see it!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #5 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2019

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Show Boat (1951) – Kathryn Grayson – Kiss Me Kate (1953)

Ziegfeld Follies (1945) – Red Skelton – Susan Slept Here (1954)

Show Boat (1951) – Howard Keel – Calamity Jane (1953)

Show Boat (1951) – Marge Champion – Give A Girl A Break (1953)

Show Boat (1951) – Gower Champion – Give A Girl A Break (1953)

On The Town (1949) – Ann Miller – Kiss Me Kate (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!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954)

“Nice night for a coon hunt.”

OK, now that I’m done trying to flirt with the ladies, we’ll get on to my thoughts on the movie Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.

Of course, the film’s plot is well known. Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) comes to town, determined to return home with a wife in tow. He finds Milly, (Jane Powell), who marries him, and sticks with him, even after she arrives and discovers Adam’s brothers (and his views). She then tries to positively influence the brothers, which works except for when Adam disagrees with her. At a barn-raising, the brothers fall for some of the girls from town, but get into trouble when the suitors from town start a fight with them. Feeling like they have no chance, they listen to elder brother Adam and kidnap the girls.

As a whole, I think this movie’s reputation speaks for itself. I know there are aspects to it that really don’t jibe with a lot of things today, and that is understandable. Of course, it is all up to the interpretation of the viewer. For me, personally, this movie is one I have enjoyed watching for many years, and one I definitely would recommend to everybody, as long as they are willing to try it. It’s worth it just for the barn-raising sequence alone! I may not have been watching it as much the last few years, but with my new Blu-ray disc, I will definitely be trying to watch it more often again. Speaking of which…

Now, normally, I don’t want to try and push any one format for viewing. In this instance, I really want people, if they can, to try the newly released Blu-ray, and I’ll tell you at least two reasons why. First, this release contains two versions of this movie. At the time it was made, the movie studios were trying to find a way to combat the recent menace of television, and get people to go back to the movie theatres. One way they tried to do that was by switching to widescreen movies. MGM decided to film this movie (and several others) in two different aspect ratios, because they weren’t sure whether it was going to be permanent or just a fad like the attempt at 3-D. They had the Cinemascope version (the one we all know and love), and they had an alternate widescreen version (framed in such a way that they could cut off part of the sides), using completely different takes. Of course, by the time the movie came out, Cinemascope had taken off in popularity, and so the alternate version was barely seen, until it was released on laserdisc in the late 90s (and again on DVD as part of a two-disc set around 2005).

The second (and better reason) to try the new blu is the movie’s new RESTORATION. For the most part, popular movies tend to be in rougher shape, but from what I have heard, back in the 70s, the studio decided to blow it up to 70mm. I don’t know whether it was the fact that they did it, or whether it was poorly done, but they REALLY damaged the original camera negative when they did that. So what we have seen, for years, is what they have been able to cobble together from the best sources they had available, which would not have produced a good Blu-ray without EXPENSIVE work. From what I have heard, they found an old print that had been made BEFORE the damage was done to the movie. Warner put a lot of work into it, and that is what they have released on blu. I can tell you right now, the movie looks AMAZING. So much more colorful than what we have seen for a long time. Does the movie look perfect? No, but from what I have heard, whatever problems remain have EVERYTHING to do with how the movie was originally filmed in the first place (after all, technology isn’t always perfect).

I have no idea whether the new transfer is available as a digital copy (possibly through Warner Archive Collection on iTunes), but I know the new transfer is NOT available on DVD. I know not everybody has the ability to watch blu-rays, but if you do (and you enjoy this movie), I VERY MUCH RECOMMEND you try it out! Pricing wise, it is a little expensive (which is to be expected, since Warner Archive is a MOD (manufacture-on-demand) division, which tries to give the same quality as the retail division, while acknowledging that sales will not be as good, so prices are a little higher to help offset that), but this two-disc set is priced the exact same as their one-disc releases, so it is a bargain!

“I’m a lonesome polecat…”

Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes (for both versions)

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Disc Releases of 2018

**ranked #5 in Top 11 Movies Watched In 2018

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Jane Powell – Athena (1954)

Kiss Me Kate (1953) – Howard Keel – Deep In My Heart (1954)

Jeff Richards – The Opposite Sex (1956)

Russ Tamblyn – Deep In My Heart (1954)

Kiss Me Kate (1953) – Tommy Rall – My Sister Eileen (1955)

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