Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2023) & Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2023): Rita Hayworth in… You Were Never Lovelier (1942)

We’re back again for a look at the other Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth film, their 1942 musical You Were Never Lovelier, co-starring Adolphe Menjou!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Spooky Hooky (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 6 (1936-1938) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 10 minutes, 42 seconds)

The circus comes to town, and Spanky (George McFarland) and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) make plans to play hooky to go see it. However, their plan goes awry when their teacher tells them that she bought tickets for the whole class to see it, leaving them in trouble when they have to retrieve their “doctor’s note” from her desk! It’s another short that seems slightly more fitting for the Halloween season, as the kids get spooked by everything in the school during a storm. It does lean a little too heavily into stereotypes when the black janitor gets easily scared, too, but that’s brief enough that it shouldn’t be a problem. It’s good fun, and I would certainly recommend it!

And Now For The Main Feature…

American dancer Robert “Bob” Davis (Fred Astaire) is in Buenos Aires on a “holiday.” Otherwise translated, he’s betting on the horse races at the Palermo Race Track. When he loses all his money, he decides that it’s time for him to get back to work, and heads for the Hotel Acuña, where he hopes to dance at the Sky Room. He tries to meet with the hotel’s owner, Eduardo Acuña (Adolphe Menjou), but Eduardo refuses to see him. Bob runs into his old friend, orchestra leader Xavier Cugat (played by himself), who offers to help Bob get noticed by having him sing with the orchestra at the wedding of Eduardo’s oldest daughter. At the wedding, Bob meets Eduardo’s second oldest daughter, Maria (Rita Hayworth), although he doesn’t immediately learn who she is. She is indifferent to him, and when he does actually talk to Eduardo, he makes the mistake of referring to her as being like “the inside of a refrigerator” (which is when he learns that Maria is Eduardo’s daughter). This certainly doesn’t endear Bob to Eduardo, and it also serves to alarm Eduardo with regards to Maria. Eduardo has two younger daughters, both of whom have fiancés, but it is the family tradition to marry off the daughters in order of their age. Eduardo consults Maria’s godmother (and the wife of his best friend), Maria Castro (Isobel Elsom), on what to do about Maria’s indifference to men (side note: with two characters in the cast called Maria, we will refer to them from here on out as Maria A and Maria C). Against her advice, Eduardo decides to start sending his daughter orchids and a note from an unknown admirer, with plans to produce somebody he approved of if the idea worked. For a time, it seems to work, with Maria A receiving orchids and a note every day at the same time. The idea starts to go awry when Eduardo takes a trip for a few days (and forgets to do something about the situation while he’s gone). Upon his return, he hastily attempts to make up for it, but, in an attempt to see Eduardo, Bob ends up taking the flowers and note (without Eduardo’s knowledge). When Maria A sees Bob deliver the flowers, she remembers him from her sister’s wedding, and assumes that he is the “unknown admirer.” Frustrated with this turn of events (and obviously unable to reveal that HE is the note writer), Eduardo has no choice but to go to Bob, who demands a contract to dance in Eduardo’s Sky Room in exchange for disillusioning Maria A. However, his attempts to deter her only make her fall harder for him (and he for her). At Eduardo’s anniversary party, Eduardo is so agitated by the whole thing that he announces that Bob is leaving the country (which Bob is forced to go along with). However, Eduardo’s wife walks in on him composing a farewell note to “Maria,” but assumes it is her friend Maria C. Bob sacrifices himself by revealing the whole truth, earning Eduardo’s admiration, but also finally disillusioning Maria A. Will Bob be able to overcome this problem and win Maria A’s heart back, or will their breakup be permanent?

In 1941, up-and-comer Rita Hayworth was teamed up with Fred Astaire for the Columbia Pictures musical You’ll Never Get Rich. She had enjoyed some success in films for other studios, but it was that film that established her as a major star for the studio she was under contract to. As a result, the studio wanted to replicate that success by teaming her up again with Fred. The studio decided to do a remake of an Argentinian film made the year before called Los martes, orquideas (otherwise translated as On Tuesdays, Orchids), with music provided by composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Johnny Mercer. Fred Astaire worked out the dance numbers with Rita, but, due to the lack of available rehearsal space on the Columbia lot, they had to rehearse in a room over a funeral parlor (usually pausing when there was a funeral procession). The film proved to be another hit with audiences and scored three Oscar nominations (Best Song for “Dearly Beloved,” Best Score and Best Sound Recording), although, due to circumstances, it was also the final time Fred and Rita worked together on the big screen.

This is a film that I’ve seen many, many times, and that I first saw when it was released on DVD back in 2004 (or thereabouts). Of the two Fred Astaire/Rita Hayworth pairings, this has long been my favorite. To say that I love the Jerome Kern/Johnny Mercer score is an understatement, but I particularly like the songs “I’m Old-Fashioned” and “Shorty George.” Fred and Rita’s dance duets to those songs are arguably the highlights of the whole film. Fred also has his fun dance solo for his “Audition Dance,” which is fascinating to watch as he makes use of the space in Mr. Acuña’s (Adolphe Menjou) office. The story itself is a bit ridiculous (and certainly creepy with a father writing love notes to his daughter). Still, this movie is a good source of humor that always keeps me coming back, especially with regards to Mr. Acuña’s secretary Fernando (played by Gus Schilling), who is constantly on the wrong end of Mr. Acuña’s wrath for one reason or another. The only real complaint I have against the film is that it takes a little over thirty-five minutes before we see any dancing in the film. OK, if you want to get technical, Rita does a little bit of dancing quicker than that when she (or rather I should say Nan Wynn, who was dubbing her) briefly sings “Dearly Beloved” in her bedroom, but that’s not really much of a routine. Apart from that (very) minor complaint, this is a film that I thoroughly love to see again and again, and I would very enthusiastically recommend it!!

This movie is available on DVD from Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Holiday Inn (1942)Fred AstaireThe Sky’s The Limit (1943)

You’ll Never Get Rich (1941) – Rita Hayworth – Tonight And Every Night (1945)

Roxie Hart (1942) – Adolphe Menjou – My Dream Is Yours (1949)

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 (2022) on… Lullaby Of Broadway (1951)

It’s been a while since I’ve watched (and reviewed) any of Doris Day’s films, so I’m back today for her 1951 musical Lullaby Of Broadway, also starring Gene Nelson!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Anniversary Trouble (1935)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 19 minutes, 22 seconds)

Spanky (George McFarland) has been elected the treasurer of the Gang’s club (“Ancient and Honery Order of Wood Chucks Club, Inc.”) and the Gang have decided to trust him with the money. However, it’s also his parents’ wedding anniversary, and the envelope containing the Gang’s money has gotten mixed up with his father’s gift to his mother. This one was absolutely hilarious from start to finish! Much of the humor is derived from Spanky being called to go see his father at the office (since his parents thought he stole their envelope) while the Gang waits for their money (since they disbanded the club and want their money back). One of Spanky’s methods in trying to get away is questionable for modern audiences, since he tried to don blackface to disguise himself as Buckwheat in an attempt to get away. Still, the short was an entertaining twenty minutes that I wouldn’t mind seeing again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

American entertainer Melinda Howard (Doris Day) has been in Europe for a number of years, but she’s earned enough that she decided to come home to New York City to surprise her mother, Jessica Howard (Gladys George), whom she believes to be the toast of Broadway. When she arrives at her mother’s mansion, Melinda meets the butler, Lefty Mack (Billy De Wolfe), who is also a friend of her mother’s. A surprised Lefty lies, telling her that her mother is on tour with a show, and is renting the place to brewer Adolph Hubbell (S. Z. Sakall) and his wife, Anna (Florence Bates). The truth is that Jessica has fallen on hard times as a result of her alcoholism, and the mansion is owned by the Hubbells. Lefty gives Melinda a place to stay in the servants’ quarters, and lets Mr. Hubbell know what’s going on. Since Mr. Hubbell is throwing a party that many Broadway performers have been invited to, Lefty hopes to get Jessica there to briefly see Melinda. At the party, Broadway producer George Ferndel (Hanley Stafford) tries to convince Mr. Hubbell to invest in his show. Mr. Hubbell refuses to do so because his wife is insisting that he not do so, and because Ferndel won’t let him do anything more than pay for the show. Meanwhile, one of Ferndel’s stars, Tom Farnham (Gene Nelson) (whom Melinda had unknowingly met on the boat to America) tries to spend time with Melinda (who was more open to him at the party than she had been on the ship). Melinda is disappointed when her mother doesn’t show at the party (because she had been hospitalized for drinking too much, although Melinda was told that she had to stay with her “show”), and vows to stay until she gets a chance to see her mother. With the food bills at the Hubbell household rising while Melinda stays, Lefty makes a suggestion that Mr. Hubbell should take her out to a restaurant, where she would be noticed by Ferndel (and also prove that Mr. Hubbell was not too old-fashioned to be involved in show business). As a result, she now has a part in the new show, with the opportunity to spend more time with Tom. Trouble arises when Mr. Hubbell spends too much time with Melinda and everybody else misconstrues their relationship. Things come to a head right before the show opens, when Mrs. Hubbell finds out about Melinda spending so much time with Mr. Hubbell, and she decides to divorce her husband. With everything falling apart, will Melinda be able to see her mother and perform in the show, or will she pack up and go back to Europe?

While actress Doris Day had originally planned to come to Hollywood as a dancer, a car crash ended that dream (resulting in her focusing on her singing instead). However, as she started to become a big star at Warner Brothers, she worked with dancer Gene Nelson and his wife Miriam to get back into dancing shape for her first starring role in Tea For Two (1950). With that film proving to be successful, she was paired up again with Gene Nelson for Lullaby Of Broadway. Gene’s promotion to leading man was mostly the result of him winning the 1950 Golden Globe for Best New Star (in Tea For Two) (that, and his Tea For Two co-star Gordon MacRae was proving to be an uncooperative contract player at Warners). Once again, Doris worked with Gene and his wife on the routines for Lullaby, including dancing on the staircase for the title number, which made her nervous. Onscreen, that nervousness didn’t show, and the film proved to be yet another hit for Doris Day and Warner Brothers.

I’ve had the opportunity to watch Lullaby Of Broadway a couple times this year (hadn’t seen it prior to the recent Blu-ray release), and it’s one that I will gladly admit to enjoying! Most of the fun is seeing a lot of the cast of the previous year’s Tea For Two together again (minus Gordon MacRae, as I mentioned before). The film is full of memorable tunes (culled from the catalog of music owned by Warner Brothers at the time), including the title tune, “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me,” “Just One Of Those Things,” “I Love The Way You Say Goodnight,” and several others. Doris Day is in fine voice for all of her songs, and she proves once again that she can dance, whether alone or with Gene Nelson! Honestly, the only complaint I have on her dancing is the slow motion section that ends “I Love The Way You Say Goodnight” (I think Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are great enough as a team to pull it off slow motion dancing in Carefree, but Doris isn’t as good technically, so it shows off her faults a bit more). As for her co-star Gene Nelson, I like him, but I’m not sure he fares as well as a leading man for two reasons: 1) he is fairly obviously dubbed on his singing voice (by Hal Derwin) and 2) compared to his earlier roles in The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950) and Tea For Two (1950), his dancing here seems “tamer,” lacking some of the acrobatic stuff and lifts he did before (which, in this case, makes him more like your average dancer as opposed to being a standout like he was in those earlier two movies). Apart from those two complaints, I’m good with him. S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall is fun as always, and Billy De Wolfe is funny in what feels like a rare role (for him) as a decent guy, especially when he does the comic routine to the song “You’re Dependable” with Anne Triola as the maid (and his girlfriend) Gloria Davis. I’m not quite as fond of this film as the earlier Tea For Two, but it’s still an entertaining musical with some fun music and dancing! As I said, I’ve already had fun watching it a few times in the time that I’ve had it on disc, and I certainly would recommend it!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Lullaby Of Broadway (1951)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. I haven’t been able to find anything specific about what was used for the transfer on the Blu-ray, but it’s still a typical Warner Archive release of a 3-strip Technicolor film. In short, the color looks great, and the picture has been cleaned up of all dust and dirt. However, this is a rare instance where I do have a complaint about the transfer, and that’s with some of the audio. The main problem is that the tap sounds for some of the dances (particularly Gene Nelson’s dance number “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart”) don’t quite sound right, as if that part of the audio wasn’t done right (similar to what I’ve heard was the problem on the initial pressing of Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ 2022 Blu-ray release of Blue Skies before that was corrected with a subsequent pressing). Since I only first saw this film through the Blu-ray, I have no idea whether that was something new or whether it’s always been that way. If it is a new problem for the Blu-ray, I wouldn’t say that it’s anything major (and, as far as I know, there has been no movement towards Warner Archive fixing it, which doesn’t surprise me after all the issues that they’ve had behind the scenes throughout the pandemic), so I still think that this release is worth it.

Film Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Tea For Two (1950)Doris DayOn Moonlight Bay (1951)

Tea For Two (1950) – Gene Nelson

Tea For Two (1950) – S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall

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!

Film Legends Of Yesteryear: Screen Team & “Musical Screen Teams (September 2022)” featuring… Give A Girl A Break (1953)

We’re back for my second and final entry for my Musical Screen Teams blogathon! This time, we’ve got another film from 1953, Give A Girl A Break, starring Marge and Gower Champion, along with Debbie Reynolds!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Mama’s Little Pirate (1935)

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

(Length: 18 minutes, 6 seconds)

Upon listening to his father read about the discovery of pirate treasure in a cave, Spanky (George McFarland) decides to lead the gang on a treasure hunt in a cave. However, his mother is opposed to the idea and orders him not to go. This was yet another entertaining entry in the series. Most of the fun is in watching Spanky try to be smart about how they are exploring the cave, only to have things go completely wrong (with his friend Scotty there to tell him off ahead of time). The over-exaggerated giant (as played by R. E. “Tex” Madsen) adds to the fun when he encounters the kids. I know I enjoyed this one, and look forward to seeing it again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Rehearsals for the show Give A Girl A Break have begun under director and choreographer Ted Sturgis (Gower Champion), but they’ve hit a snag. Their big star, Janet Hallson (Donna Martell), is angry with Ted for not fawning over her after she performed a number, and demands an apology. His half-hearted apology doesn’t convince her, and she decides to walk out on the show. Without a star, producer Felix Jordan (Larry Keating) suggests they go to Ted’s former dance partner, Madelyn Corlane (Marge Champion), but Ted dislikes the idea, since he is still mad at her for walking out on him. Instead, he suggests putting an ad in the paper, in an attempt to give somebody new a chance to make good. The next day, a great many young hopefuls show up, hoping to get the newly vacant part. Among that group are Suzy Doolittle (Debbie Reynolds), whom Ted’s assistant and gofer Bob Dowdy (Bob Fosse) quickly takes a shine to, and Joanna Moss (Helen Wood), who catches the eye of the show’s composer, Leo Belney (Kurt Kasznar) (since he had seen her dance before at a recital). Both of them are told to come back the next day to audition for the part. When Ted comes up to Felix’s office, he finds Madelyn there, who is also told to come back the next day to audition. That evening, Suzy rehearses at her mother’s insistence instead of going on a date with Bob (although he is understanding, and walks her home from the dance studio). Joanna goes back to her apartment to share the news with her husband, Burton Bradshaw (Richard Anderson), who also has his own news about a potential job that may take him elsewhere. Madelyn tells her boyfriend, Anson Pritchett (William Ching), about the audition, but he convinces her to withdraw. When Ted learns about Madelyn pulling out, he goes to see her and help her get past her fears. The next day, all three women audition, and Felix finds himself unsure as to which one to pick. With the other three men all equally adamant that their girl should get the role, who will win out in the end?

Give A Girl A Break ended up being far different from its initial conception. Originally, the film was to potentially star the likes of Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Ann Miller. However, much was changing in Hollywood at that time, as musicals were falling out of favor with audiences while television’s popularity continued to rise. As a result, the cast consisted of husband-and-wife dance team Marge and Gower Champion, Debbie Reynolds, and newcomer Bob Fosse. While there was still some big talent behind-the-scenes that had contributed to the film (such as composer Burton Lane and lyricist Ira Gerswhin, director Stanley Donen and screenwriters Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett), they weren’t enough to save the film. The movie lost money at the box office, effectively ending whatever chance the Champions had of becoming big stars (and didn’t do Bob Fosse any good as a movie star, either).

I first saw the film most of a decade ago. At the time, I was coming off of discovering the dance team of Marge and Gower Champion via Lovely To Look At (1952) (to be fair, I had previously seen them in the 1951 Show Boat, but their appearance there didn’t have anywhere near the impact that Lovely To Look At did in my estimation). In Give A Girl A Break, they have two dance routines together, set to the songs “Challenge Dance” and “It Happens Every Time.” In general, their “Challenge Dance” seems to be what they are known for here, as it feels like the better promoted dance of the two. Personally, I don’t care for it that much, and prefer “It Happens Every Time.” Admittedly, the lyrics to “It Happens Every Time” are quite forgettable (not helped by the fact that Gower’s singing voice was VERY obviously dubbed for this song, in spite of him actually singing for an earlier song in the film). The music, however, is quite memorable, and sticks with me long after I finish watching the film. Their dance is equally enjoyable, with them swinging around on a set full of poles. The whole song makes me think of their dance to the instrumental version of “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” from Lovely To Look At. I wouldn’t put “It Happens Every Time” on the same level as that one, but it certainly left an imprint on me.

As for the rest of the movie, I think it’s a lot of fun. Realistically, I think that Bob Fosse is what really makes this film. He has three songs and dances, “Nothing Is Impossible” with Gower Champion and Kurt Kasznar, and “In Our United State,” which is used for two different partnered routines with Debbie Reynolds (one a romantic duet in the park, and the other a dream dance sometimes referred to as the “Balloon Dance,” with them dancing “backwards and forwards”). Those three dances are some of the most fun and entertaining in the film, and easily make the movie worthwhile (alongside the previously mentioned “It Happens Every Time”). There are a few other tunes, but, apart from the “Puppet Master Dance” with Helen Wood and Kurt Kasznar, they don’t really stand out that much (and quite frankly, Helen Wood is fairly good as a dancer but very much underutilized compared to the other two leading ladies). It’s not an absolutely great film, as I think the Champions can’t really carry it in the acting department (they’re decent, just not great). Thankfully, Bob Fosse, despite being billed fifth, does a much better job (and is given nearly as much screentime as the Champions). While it certainly would have been fun to have seen what the film would have been like with its original conception, I do think that what we got is entertaining enough. I know I’ve certainly enjoyed seeing it a number of times over the last decade. So, as I have no hesitation about sticking it on when I feel like it, I would definitely have no qualms about giving it some of my highest recommendations!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Lovely To Look At (1952) – Marge Champion

Lovely To Look At (1952) – Gower Champion

Singin’ In The Rain (1952) – Debbie Reynolds – Susan Slept Here (1954)

Kiss Me Kate (1953) – Bob Fosse – My Sister Eileen (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!

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)

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!

Film Legends Of Yesteryear: Screen Team & “Screen Team Of The Month (July 2022)” Featuring Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers in… Top Hat (1935)

Well, we’ve had one solo film each for July’s Screen Team Of The Month (Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers), so that means that we need to finish the month off with one of their team ups! In this case, we’re going with their 1935 classic Top Hat!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Under The Counter Spy (1954)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 22 seconds)

A dangerous criminal called “The Bat” has stolen a secret formula, but has left the bottle in Woody Woodpecker’s house while evading the police. Woody mistakes the bottle for his tonic, and finds himself supercharged as he goes after “The Bat!” This one was apparently a spoof of Dragnet (which I’ve never seen but at least have some knowledge of), which makes it somewhat entertaining (probably even more so if you know the source material). Much of the humor is derived from the drained Woody drinking the tonic and then destroying everything with a mere touch. Of course, when “The Bat” goes after Woody while he is supercharged, “The Bat’s” foul deeds backfire on him! And I can’t deny that the final joke really makes this one! After being slightly disappointed with the previous few Woody Woodpecker cartoons included in the Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection, this one was a nice and hilarious return to form (without Woody having to be an obnoxious character) that I wouldn’t mind revisiting!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Watch The Birdie (1935)

(Available as an extra on the Top Hat DVD from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 18 minutes, 16 seconds)

Practical joker Bob (Bob Hope) wants to marry Dorothy Ripley (Nell O’Day). However, he goes too far with one of his jokes, and her father (George Watts) refuses to let them marry. This one is fairly entertaining, mainly as an early Bob Hope appearance. The various pranks he plays (and those played on him) are certainly a lot of this short’s humor (but, of course, Bob still has a few quips of his own). There’s also some extra fun with a quick appearance of Pete the Dog (of The Little Rascals fame). It’s not great, but I enjoy it enough that I don’t mind seeing it periodically.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Page Miss Glory (1936)

(Available as an extra on the Top Hat DVD from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes, 43 seconds)

A bellhop at a hotel in a small country town awaits the arrival of a big star, Miss Glory. While he waits, he falls asleep and dreams of being a bellhop in a big city hotel, where he has to page Miss Glory. This one was admittedly entertaining. There’s not much story to it, but who needs it when there’s some fun music written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. It’s an early Tex Avery cartoon, and while it’s not quite as wild as some of his later stuff, it’s good enough to be memorable. I certainly know I wouldn’t mind seeing it again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton) is producing a show in London featuring the American star Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire). One time, when Horace asks Jerry to stay overnight at his hotel room to help keep the peace between Horace and his valet, Bates (Eric Blore), Jerry starts madly dancing around the room. His dancing disturbs the sleep of Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers), who is occupying the room beneath them. When she comes up to complain (while Horace is away), Jerry becomes instantly smitten with her, and tries to go out with her. At first, she resists him, but she starts coming around to him. Their mutual attraction is short-lived, however, as various circumstances lead Dale to believe that Jerry (who had never introduced himself to her) is Horace Hardwick, who is married to her friend Madge (Helen Broderick)! Stunned and angry, Dale decides to leave London with her dressmaker, Alberto Beddini (Erik Rhodes), and go to Venice, Italy, where Madge is currently staying in order to warn her about “Horace’s” flirtations. Saddened by Dale’s departure, Jerry goes on with the show. When he learns from Horace backstage via telegram that Madge had invited them to go to Italy to meet her friend, Dale Tremont (since she was trying to set up Jerry and Dale as a couple), Jerry tells Horace to charter them a plane to Italy immediately. Meanwhile, in Italy, Dale tells Madge about “Horace” flirting with her, but Madge seems to take it in stride as being something in the norm for her husband. When Jerry and Horace arrive, Jerry keeps trying to see Dale, but is mystified as to why she is being so standoffish. At the same time, Horace is threatened by Alberto and is dealing with his wife being suspicious of him (but he assumes it’s because she heard about another accidental affair of his). When Jerry tries to propose to Dale, she slaps him, and later agrees to marry Alberto in the hopes that “Horace” will finally leave her alone. Will they be able to figure out the truth of what is going on, or will Dale be stuck married to a man that she doesn’t love?

Supposedly, the film was based on the 1911 play The Girl Who Dared by Alexander Faragó and Aladar Laszlo, but, from what I’ve read, the only aspect of the play retained for the film was the moment when Fred Astaire’s Jerry had to carry Horace’s (Edward Everett Horton) briefcase (which was one of the central moments that helped with the mistaken identity plot). More comparisons are generally made to the previous year’s The Gay Divorcee, in between the similar plot and (almost) identical cast (with Helen Broderick in Top Hat instead of Alice Brady). And it’s hard not to make that comparison, especially since Dwight Taylor, the author of the original play The Gay Divorce, was brought in to develop the story for Top Hat. However, Fred Astaire had some complaints about the initial script, including the idea that it too closely resembled The Gay Divorcee, and Allan Scott was brought in to do some rewrites (and yet, all these years later, the final film still resembles The Gay Divorcee in the minds of many). Irving Berlin was brought in to write the score, with the five songs that stayed in becoming hits at one time or another. Since Fred Astaire was mainly devoting all his time to the movies he was making with Ginger, he worked on most of the choreography with Hermes Pan (with Hermes Pan usually playing Ginger’s part), and they would show Ginger (who was still doing other films besides those with Fred) the choreography when they had it done. Top Hat would end up being a big hit with audiences, becoming the second highest grossing film of 1935 (behind Mutiny On The Bounty), and the highest grossing film in the Astaire/Rogers series. It would also be nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Original Song (Irving Berlin for “Cheek to Cheek”), Dance Direction (Hermes Pan for “Piccolino” and “Top Hat”) and Best Art Direction (Carroll Clark and Van Nest Polglase) (and regretfully losing them all).

Top Hat was the second Astaire-Rogers film that I saw (following 1949’s The Barkley’s Of Broadway, which I didn’t take to immediately), and it’s since become my favorite film in the series! Personally, Irving Berlin’s music is part of the film’s appeal for me, and I consider the score to be his best (I think some of the other musicals that used his music were better, but I like this score the best). All five songs are great fun (and easily get stuck in my head whenever I watch this movie)! I’d certainly give the edge to the songs “Top Hat, White Tie And Tails” (which I’ll admit to having done a tap solo to years ago, with the outfit becoming my go-to dance costume whenever I could use it for various specialty routines at dance recitals) and “Cheek To Cheek” (which is the song and dance that most defines the partnership of Fred and Ginger to me, and which I have also danced to, although it loses some of its meaning in the process since, at 6’4″, I’ve towered over most of my dance partners). But “No Strings (I’m Fancy Free),” “Isn’t This A Lovely Day (To Be Caught In The Rain)” and especially “The Piccolino” are all very delightful songs (and dances!).

The music (and dancing) are a big part of what makes the film a classic, but the comedy is right up there, too! Fred and Ginger certainly have some wonderful comedic moments together, and lines that stick with me, including this fabulous exchange:

-Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers): “What is this strange power you have over horses?”

-Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire): “Horse power.”

Of course, Fred and Ginger are hardly the only ones with comedic abilities here, as the rest of the cast handle it quite well, too. But it’s Edward Everett Horton (with his hilarious double-takes) and Eric Blore who steal the show, especially when together. Of course, Eric Blore’s Bates insulting the Italian policeman (who supposedly doesn’t understand a word of English) is one of the film’s most laugh-out-loud moments for me! Sure, the film’s plot is ridiculous, but with Fred and Ginger (and all the rest of the cast) to carry the film, who needs a good plot? I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending this film quite highly (seriously, go find a way to watch it now)!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Dancing Lady (1933)Fred AstaireFollow The Fleet (1936)

Star Of Midnight (1935)Ginger RogersIn Person (1935)

The Devil Is A Woman (1935) – Edward Everett Horton – Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

Helen Broderick – Swing Time (1936)

The Good Fairy (1935) – Eric Blore – Swing Time (1936)

Lucille Ball – Follow The Fleet (1936)

Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers (screen team) – Follow The Fleet (1936)

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!

“Screen Team (Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers) Of The Month (July 2022)” Featuring Fred Astaire in… Funny Face (1957)

Well, a few weeks back, we looked at one of Ginger Rogers’ solo films, so now we need to look at a solo film for the other half of this month’s featured Screen Team, Fred Astaire!  In this case, we’re going with his 1957 musical Funny Face, also starring Audrey Hepburn!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Termites From Mars (1952)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 21 seconds)

The Earth is being invaded by the Martians!  However, as Woody Woodpecker quickly finds out, these “Martians” are a bunch of termites out to eat up his home!  This one was a bit of a departure from some of the other cartoons in the series.  It’s different seeing Woody be the one getting picked on almost throughout the entire short (until he finally manages to turn the tables).  It has its moments, particularly when the “Martian” invasion is being announced.  It’s not the most original (since, as you can expect, the termites eat up almost everything wooden in sight).  I can’t say as I like this deviation from the regular series that much, but it at least breaks up the monotony (and keeps Woody from becoming too obnoxious).

And Now For The Main Feature…

Quality Magazine editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) is always in search of starting the next big fashion trend, whether it be everyone wearing pink, or clothing for intellectual women, or finding one woman to represent Quality Magazine itself.  It’s while in search of the second one (clothing for intellectual women) that Maggie and her crew invade a Greenwich Village bookstore to take some photos with their model.  They immediately get on the nerves of the shop owner’s assistant Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn), who complains about how they just take over the shop.  When they are finally done, the place is a mess, and Maggie’s head photographer, Dick Avery (Fred Astaire), stays behind to help Jo clean up.  In doing so, he learns of her desire to go to Paris, France and talk to some of the philosophers there.  Later on, when Maggie starts planning out a campaign for the “Quality woman,” Dick suggests using Jo.  Maggie at first dislikes the idea, as does Jo when she is dragged into the Quality offices.  However, when Dick explains to Jo that doing the modeling would result in a trip to Paris, she comes around to the idea.  It’s not smooth sailing at the start, though. Without realizing that she needs to meet with French designer Paul Duval (Robert Flemyng) (who is designing her outfits), Jo goes to a local bohemian café to talk with some of the philosophers there, which prompts Dick to go looking for her.  He helps her to realize her responsibilities, and she shows up for work the next day.  Duval successfully designs a series of outfits for her, and so Dick spends the next week photographing her in those dresses throughout Paris.  However, when they take pictures of her in a wedding gown outside a small country church, she is overwhelmed, and reveals to Dick that she loves him (and he responds in kind).  On the night she is to be presented to the press, she learns that Professor Émile Flostre (Michel Auclair), whom she had come to Paris in hopes of seeing, is speaking at the café, so she stops by to see him.  When Dick comes around to pick her up, he quickly becomes suspicious of Flostre’s intentions and drags her away.  With the two of them arguing, her presentation to the press is a disaster.  Jo decides to not come to the fashion show, and instead goes to a party that Flostre is hosting at his home.  Trying to get her to come to the fashion show, Dick and Maggie go to Flostre’s home in disguise.  But will their efforts work, or will Dick continue to drive a wedge between Jo and himself with his suspicions?

While they may share the same name, the movie is NOT based on the 1927 Broadway show Funny Face that had originally starred Fred Astaire and his sister Adele (although several songs from that show’s score were included in the film).  Instead, the movie was based on an unproduced Leonard Gershe play called Wedding Day.  Producer Roger Edens, working at MGM under famous musical producer Arthur Freed, had bought the rights to the play, intending it as a vehicle for Fred Astaire and then-popular star Audrey Hepburn.  Both Astaire and Hepburn wanted to do the film, but there was one major problem: she was under contract to Paramount Pictures, and they had absolutely no intention of loaning her out to MGM.  So, Arthur Freed let Roger Edens take the project to Paramount, and he brought with him director Stanley Donen and some other MGM talent.  They did some of the location filming in Paris, but the weather caused a number of delays, forcing them to make some adjustments.  Reviews were positive, but the film didn’t do too well at the box office initially.  It wasn’t until the film was reissued in 1964, alongside Audrey’s next big musical, My Fair Lady, that Funny Face was able to become profitable.

I’ve seen Funny Face many times over the years, and it’s a movie that I always love finding an excuse to come back around to!  Fred Astaire’s presence was indeed my original reason for seeing this movie, and he has indeed remained one of the film’s main attractions for me.  And, to be fair, I would say that seeing this film time and time again helped me grow to love Audrey Hepburn as well.  Their three dance duets together (“Funny Face,” “He Loves And She Loves” and “‘S Wonderful”) are definitely the highlights of the film, with the romantic “He Loves And She Loves” being my favorite of the bunch.  Fred and Audrey also get some fun solo routines in the forms of “Let’s Kiss And Make Up” and “Basal Metabolism” (I’ll admit, “Basal Metabolism” took me a while to come around to, since the music and style of dance are so far out of my normal preferences, but it’s grown on me with time).  Kay Thompson adds to the fun in a rare onscreen performance as the no-nonsense magazine editor who usually runs roughshod over everybody to get what she wants (and I wish she had done more work onscreen, she’s so much fun).  All in all, Funny Face is a movie that I love to see again and again, and I certainly recommend it highly!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD either individually or as part of the Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection from Paramount Pictures

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #2 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Roman Holiday (1953)Audrey HepburnLove In The Afternoon (1957)

The Band Wagon (1953)Fred AstaireSilk Stockings (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 2022)” Featuring Bing Crosby in… The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad (1949)

And now we have one final film featuring Bing Crosby as our Star Of The Month! In this instance, he does some voice work alongside Basil Rathbone in the 1949 Disney animated film The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad! However, due to the nature of the film, I will take a similar approach to last year’s Invitation To The Dance (1956) review, and throw in a table of contents to help find the different sections quicker!

Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Reckless Driver (1946)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)

While driving on the highway, Woody sees a billboard reminding him to renew his driver’s license. Going to the department of motor vehicles, he tries to renew it with officer Wally Walrus. This one was quite entertaining, as Woody dealt with Wally’s attempts to flunk him on the test. The various gags did their job, providing me with a few good laughs throughout. Woody and Wally still make for good enemies here, which makes it easier to keep coming around for more!

And Now For The Main Feature…

After Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs turned out to be such a hit for Walt Disney, he was approached about doing an animated movie based on the 1908 Kenneth Grahame book The Wind In The Willows. Walt was initially reluctant, but he ended up buying the film rights in 1938. A few years later (in 1941), his animators started working on the film. However, the movie suffered some delays in between his animators striking, and the project being shelved because he thought the quality wasn’t good enough. After the second World War ended, he went back to the idea, but decided to shorten the story and make it part of a package film. At first, the plan was to combine it with The Legend Of Happy Valley and The Gremlins (an original story by Roald Dahl), but The Gremlins ended up not happening, and The Legend Of Happy Valley ended up being paired with the story Bongo for the 1947 film Fun And Fancy Free. Meanwhile, work had begun on The Legend Of Sleep Hollow in 1946, and a decision was made to pair that up with The Wind In The Willows, with Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby brought in to narrate the two stories due to their audience appeal. The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad turned out to be a hit, and was Disney’s last package film until the much later The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh (1977). When aired on television in the 1950s, the two segments were separated (with The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow having a fourteen minute prologue on the life of author Washington Irving added to it), which was the only way to see the segments until the advent of home video (although the Washington Irving prologue has yet to be made available on home video).

The Wind In The Willows

As narrated by Basil Rathbone, we are told the story of one J. Thaddeus Toad (Eric Blore), who resides in Toad Hall near London, England. Toad Hall is a source of pride for many in the community, but trouble is at the door. Toad, famous for obsessively following the latest fads (or “manias”), is facing bankruptcy due to his escapades. His friend, Angus MacBadger (Campbell Grant), has taken over as his bookkeeper, but he has come to the conclusion that Toad must stop with these manias. So, Angus recruits some mutual friends, Ratty (Claude Allister) and Mole (Colin Campbell), to stop Toad’s latest mania: roaming around the countryside in a gypsy cart led by his horse friend, Cyril Proudbottom (J. Pat O’Malley). Ratty and Mole try to stop him, but he develops a new interest: motor cars! They try to lock Toad up in his room, but he escapes, and is soon arrested for “stealing a motor car.” At the trial, Toad says that he had gone to a tavern, where he bought a motor car from some weasels. Since he hadn’t any money, he traded them the deed to Toad Hall. When Toad asks the bartender, Mr. Winkie (Ollie Wallace), to give his testimony, Mr. Winkie instead declares that Toad had tried to sell HIM a stolen motor car! This results in the court throwing the book at Toad and sentencing him to twenty years in the Tower Of London. On Christmas Eve, Cyril comes to visit (disguised as Toad’s “grandmother”) and gives him an outfit to escape. Toad makes his way to Ratty’s home, where they all find out from Angus that the weasels (led by Mr. Winkie, no less!) have moved into Toad Hall. His friends now know the truth, but can they get the deed back and prove Toad’s innocence to the law?

Due to the two segments being separated for the early part of my life, I’m not sure if I ever saw the The Wind In The Willows as a kid (and if I did, it was maybe one time). That being said, I KNOW I saw the song “Merrily On Our Way (To Nowhere In Particular)” many, MANY times (mainly due to the song being included as part of a Disney Sing-A-Long VHS that I wore out from frequent viewings as a little kid). I finally got around to seeing the entire film in 2020 (the first time I had seen much of ANYTHING from the movie, including the sing-a-long in nearly two decades), and I can tell you this: that song STILL sticks with me, even after all this time! Even ignoring that, I also find the whole segment to be a lot of fun. Of course, one thing that makes watching this as an adult enjoyable is the voice acting. As a kid, you could have told me the narrator was Basil Rathbone, or that Mr. Toad was Eric Blore, and that would have meant nothing to me. Now, as a fan of classic cinema, those two names mean a lot more to me, which makes it just that much more appealing! Of course, it’s also easy to tell that some of the footage was “recycled” later on for part of the Disney film The Jungle Book, but it’s still fun to see how it was done the first time. Overall, The Wind In The Willows is an entertaining segment that I’ve come to enjoy seeing every now and then!

The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow

As narrated (and sung) by Bing Crosby, we are told the tale of traveling schoolteacher Ichabod Crane. He has just come to the New England town of Sleepy Hollow, where he becomes the new teacher. He maintains a firm hand in the classroom (except, of course, with students who have mothers that are good cooks). His ways are odd, which causes him to become a victim of the pranks of the most popular man in town, Brom Bones (although Ichabod just shrugs him off). The two quickly become rivals for the hand of Katrina Van Tassel, one of the most beautiful women in town (and daughter of Baltus van Tassel, the richest farmer in the area). Ichabod manages to outwit Brom Bones at every opportunity (helped by Katrina stoking the rivalry, since she doesn’t want to make things easy for Brom Bones, who always seems to get what he wants). On Halloween night, when Baltus Van Tassel throws a party, Brom Bones notices how superstitious Ichabod is, and tells the story of the Headless Horseman, who haunts an area nearby every Halloween as he looks for a new head (and of course, the area he haunts would have to be right along the way Ichabod has to travel to get home). So now, Ichabod has to face this long, scary ride back in the dark. Will he get back alright, or will he run into the Headless Horseman?

Ah. The Legend Of Sleep Hollow. The reason for this package film being included as part of this month’s Star Of The Month blogathon. Unlike the Wind In The Willows segment, I saw this one many a time as a kid (but stopped watching it long before I got into classic live-action films). As a kid, I always found this one entertaining (but, again, the fact that Bing Crosby narrated it meant zilch to me at that time). As an adult (and a classic film fan), not only is it more fun that Bing Crosby is narrating, I can now see the different ways that they incorporated elements of Bing Crosby and his persona into the segment, whether it be his manner of speech in his narration, the style of crooning (when Ichabod is leading the three women as part of their choral society), or Ichabod’s ears. Of course, having always thought of the character Brom Bones as being similar to the character Gaston from the later Disney film Beauty And The Beast, it feels weird to hear Bing’s voice coming out of that character as well, but certainly not enough to throw me. All three songs in this segment (“Ichabod,” “Katrina” and “The Headless Horseman”) are quite fun, but it’s definitely “The Headless Horseman” that is the most memorable! But the final section, with Ichabod going through the woods at night (and facing off against the Headless Horseman) is very effective in being scary, as the narration almost disappears, leaving us to endure Ichabod’s imagination slowly running wild (and who can blame him?) up until he realizes that (and then, of course, the Horseman shows up). It’s as scary as anything I can think of from a Disney cartoon, and yet, in spite of the fact that I just do not care for horror/scary stuff (as I’ve indicated in the past), I actually like to watch it! I can’t deny that this one is definitely a different Disney story, since it can be quite ambiguous, not only in the story’s ending, but in whether the story actually has a “hero” for us to cheer for (since Ichabod is interested in Katrina’s father’s wealth as much as he is her). As a kid, this one was fun for me, and as an adult, it’s even better!

My Overall Impression

While I left this film (or rather, I should say the segment The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow) behind for a long time, it was one that I had a lot of fun coming around to when I saw the whole thing in 2020. I’ve had the good pleasure to revisit it a few times since, and it’s been a fun Disney film! In some respects, it’s one that works well for two different holidays, what with part of The Wind In The Willows taking place around Christmastime (even if it barely touches on that in the story), and then The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow‘s most famous part being on Halloween night. With the now familiar-to-me voice talent behind-the-scenes, and the very enjoyable tales onscreen, it’s one that I very much enjoy, and have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Disney.

Film Length: 1 hour, 8 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949)Bing CrosbyHere Comes The Groom (1951)

International Lady (1941) – Basil Rathbone – We’re No Angels (1955)

Romance On The High Seas (1948) – Eric Blore

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 2022)” Featuring Bing Crosby in… Rhythm On The Range (1936)

We’re back for our third Bing Crosby film as we celebrate him as the Star Of The Month! This time, it’s his 1936 film Rhythm On The Range, also starring Frances Farmer, Bob Burns and Martha Raye!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Loose Nut (1945)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker is out playing golf, but his ball goes into a wet patch of cement. He quickly gets into a fight with the city worker who was trying to smooth it out, and they keep fighting as the worker tries to get Woody to fix it. This one was quite entertaining, with Woody being pushed into helping out (until the city worker makes fun of him, and then it’s every man and bird for himself). I enjoyed the gags, which came fast and furious (and certainly kept me laughing). While the story itself might be getting old for Woody Woodpecker, this one was still entertaining enough that I look forward to coming back around to it again in the future!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Heiress Doris Halloway (Frances Farmer) is currently getting ready to get married to a man she doesn’t love. However, her visiting aunt, Penelope “Penny” Ryland (Lucile Gleason), advises her against the idea. Upon listening to her aunt’s speech at Madison Square Garden (where a rodeo is being held), Doris agrees with her, and makes plans to join her aunt on her return trip out west. Meanwhile, at the rodeo, two of Penny’s ranch hands, Jeff Larabee (Bing Crosby) and Buck Eaton (Bob Burns), attempt to win enough money to buy a bull that Jeff wants (and they win just enough). Jeff and the bull get in Penny’s boxcar, where Doris is hiding out. Penny and Buck are delayed, which causes them to miss the train. When Jeff finally discovers Doris, she pretends to be a cook named Lois. He’s more concerned with his bull (much to her annoyance) and tries to get her to leave when the train stops. She sticks it out with him, and gives Shorty (George E. Stone) (one of a group of three hoboes traveling on the train) a telegram to send to her father. Upon returning to the boxcar, she accidentally agitates the bull with her red scarf, and he chases her off the train. Jeff comes to save her from the bull, but the train pulls away in the process. Shorty’s two hobo buddies, Big Brain (Warren Hymer) and Wabash (James Burke) realize (from reading her telegram) that she is an heiress that had run away, and hightail it after her in the hopes of getting a reward. Jeff and Doris have a few adventures together as they continue to make their way towards Penny’s ranch (including briefly being locked up in a barn by the three hoboes before the bull helps them escape). Meanwhile, Penny gets Buck on a passenger train while opting to stay behind and help find the missing Doris. On the train ride, Buck keeps running into Emma Mazda (Martha Raye), and finds out (when the train reaches his destination) that Emma is also bound for Penny’s ranch, as she is going to see her brother who works there. Jeff, Doris, Buck and Emma all meet up at Jeff and Buck’s cabin, before they finish the trek to Penny’s ranch. With Doris falling hard for Jeff, will she be able to tell him the truth about herself (and if she does, will he stay with her or leave)?

Rhythm On The Range is one of those movies that I’ve seen many a time over the last nearly two decades (so you can tell that I like it). Bing Crosby has long been one of the reasons that I’ve enjoyed the film so much. “I’m An Old Cowhand (From The Rio Grande),” one of the film’s biggest hit songs, has long been the most fun to see over and over again (and is more enjoyable considering the Sons Of The Pioneers appear during it, with Roy Rogers making an early appearance here). I would also say that I enjoy some of Bing’s solo songs, like “I Can’t Escape From You,” “Empty Saddles” and “Roundup Lullaby.” I’ll admit, as time has gone on, I can also in some respects see that he is also some of the movie’s problems as well. He does seem miscast here as a cowboy, and that seems to have been the general opinion, as, outside of a few cameo appearances, he didn’t really do any more Westerns, outside of his final theatrical film, Stagecoach (1966) (and even then, he wasn’t a cowboy). But that’s not enough to take away my enjoyment of his performance in this movie.

As for the rest of the cast, it’s a somewhat mixed bag. Bing’s leading lady, Frances Farmer, is the biggest strike against the film, as I find her performance as a whole very unbelievable, particularly where her line readings are concerned (but she’s not so terrible as to stop me from ever watching the movie again). VERY much in this film’s favor are Bob Burns as Buck Eaton and Martha Raye (who made her film debut here) as Emma Mazda. Their characters’ relationship provides much of the humor here, especially when the two are eating together in the train’s dining car (complete with jolts that add to the humor), and when they are explaining their relationship to Emma’s brother “Gopher” Mazda (as played by Charles Williams). Those two moments alone keep me laughing, and wanting to come back! As a whole, the movie feels like Paramount’s answer to the then-recent It Happened One Night (1934). Personally, I think that Rhythm pales in comparison to that or the similar also Western-ized version Can’t Help Singing (1944). Still, for me, it’s good comfort cinema that I like to come back to periodically, and therefore, I have no problems in recommending it!

This movie is available on DVD from Universal Studios, either individually, as part of a double-feature with Rhythm On The River (1940) or as part of the twenty-four film set Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Mississippi (1935)Bing CrosbyPennies From Heaven (1936)

Martha Raye – Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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

“Star Of The Month (March 2022)” Featuring Bing Crosby in… Mississippi (1935)

We’re back for another film featuring this month’s Star, Bing Crosby! This time, it’s his 1935 musical comedy Mississippi (based on Magnolia, a 1923 play by Booth Tarkington), co-starring W. C. Fields and Joan Bennett!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Woody Dines Out (1945)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 42 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker is hungry, but all the restaurants that he can find are closed. Finally, he discovers a place that specializes in stuffing birds, but it turns out to be the establishment of a taxidermist! This cartoon was fun, but it was only so-so. There was too much set-up going on, and the actual interplay between Woody and the taxidermist was virtually non-existent. There was barely any “battle” between them, which takes away from the fun. It was still enjoyable, just not the Woody Woodpecker series at its best.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Southern plantation owner General Rumford (Claude Gillingwater) is throwing a party to celebrate the engagement of his daughter, Elvira (Gail Patrick), to his ward, Tom Grayson (Bing Crosby), and he has invited a nearby showboat troupe, under the leadership of Commodore Jackson (W. C. Fields), to perform at the party. However, the festivities are interrupted when Elvira’s former beau, Major Patterson (John Miljan), arrives and challenges Tom to a duel for Elvira’s hand. When the pacifist Tom declines the duel, Elvira turns him down and he is ostracized by everyone. Well, everyone but Elvira’s younger sister, Lucy (Joan Bennett), who admires him for sticking to his convictions, and reveals to Tom as he is leaving that she has had a bit of a crush on him. He thinks that she is too young (since she is getting ready to go back to school), so he doesn’t make much of her confession. The commodore had offered Tom a job with his troupe, so Tom takes him up on the offer. When Tom saves the commodore’s life during a game of poker, the commodore responds in kind by trying to help Tom out. The commodore suggests the stage name of “the notorious Colonel Steele,” and builds him up as a singing killer, which is made much easier when Tom accidentally kills tough guy Captain Blackie (Fred Kohler, Sr.) in a brawl. The commodore continues to build up Colonel Steele’s reputation, by adding more “victims” (including a cousin of Lucy’s), regardless of whether anything actually happened. On a trip with her school, Lucy runs into Tom, and they fall for each other. However, when she learns that he is the notorious Colonel Steele, she rejects him. When Tom later learns that Lucy is engaged to Major Patterson’s brother, Joe (Ed Pawley), he must decide whether he will fight back this time or not. But will he be able to win out (and win back Lucy’s heart in the process)?

The role of Tom Grayson was actually planned for actor Lanny Ross, but Bing Crosby (a much more popular star at the time) was cast instead. My own opinion is that, nearly two years after doing College Humor (in which, as I stated last week, I thought his acting wasn’t quite natural yet), his performing skills had much improved (although I think he looks a little odd with the sideburns he is sporting, as well as the mustache he wears for the last part of the movie). I think he works much more effectively here (although there are some obvious moments with some of the stunts where the camerawork and editing don’t work as well to hide the fact that it wasn’t him doing the stunts), in a manner similar to most of his other thirties output (but still different from the persona he finally established going into the forties). Obviously, he’s in good voice here, crooning a few songs from Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (including the song “It’s Easy To Remember,” which was written for the film at Bing’s request after the two songwriters had returned to New York), plus “Swanee River.” As I had said in my review of Nice Girl? (1941), Bing’s version of “Swanee” was for a time my favorite for that tune (at least, until I saw that Deanna Durbin film). “It’s Easy To Remember” is honestly the only other song in the film that is that memorable. I would also say that his comedic skills were improving a little, helped by working with comedy legend W. C. Fields.

Speaking of W. C. Fields, he is one of the reasons that I’ve come to enjoy this movie as much as I have. It was the second film of his that I had seen (following The Big Broadcast Of 1938), and I particularly enjoyed his poker game, as he played with some men who claimed to hate cheaters (and yet, they were cheating themselves), all the while he kept drawing (and trying to get rid of) a fifth ace! Fields also gets some humor out of the song “Swanee River,” as it dates the film’s events as being around the time the song was written (since he is told that it is a new song), and then he claims that nobody will remember it (and then he keeps humming it throughout the rest of the movie)! It’s not a perfect film, as it struggles with some of the old stereotypes for blacks (since it is set in the Old South), as well as the way that Native Americans are treated (none really show up, it’s just Fields’ constant story of fighting off some Shug Indians). Still, it’s an entertaining film that I enjoy coming back to every now and then, and I think it’s worth trying (especially if it’s included as part of a set of Bing Crosby films)!

This movie is available on DVD from Universal Studios, either as part of the six film The Bing Crosby Collection or as part of the twenty-four film set Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 14 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

We’re Not Dressing (1934)Bing CrosbyRhythm On The Range (1936)

The Old-Fashioned Way (1934)W. C. FieldsMy Little Chickadee (1940)

Joan Bennett – Big Brown Eyes (1936)

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 2022)” Featuring Bing Crosby in… College Humor (1933)

We’re here to start off the month of March with an early film from this month’s Star, Bing Crosby!  That film, of course, would be the 1933 movie College Humor, also starring Jack Oakie, Richard Arlen, Mary Carlisle, George Burns and Gracie Allen!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Chew-Chew Baby (1945)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)

Wally Walrus kicks a very hungry Woody Woodpecker out of his boarding house (for nonpayment of rent).  Looking in the newspaper, Woody finds a personal ad for Wally, and decides to answer it disguised as a woman.  This one was fun, as we had more back-and-forth between Woody and Wally!  Woody’s antics in disguise were quite funny, but things were even funnier once Woody was no longer in disguise, and we got a quick series of gags as Wally tries to get rid of Woody!  I know I had fun with this one, and certainly look forward to revisiting it in the future!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Star high school football player Barney Shirrel (Jack Oakie) has come to Mid-West University, where he plans to study engineering (instead of going to work at his father’s big creamery).  He quickly becomes friends with his new football teammates/roommates Mondrake (Richard Arlen) and Tex Roust (Joseph Sauers), who invite him to join the Omicron fraternity.   Tex ends up leaving the college before the end of the term to get married.  As a parting gift, he gives Barney his helmet, and advises him to keep Mondrake away from booze and women.  When the next term begins, Barney has changed his focus to law, and is joined at Mid-West by his younger sister, Barbara (Mary Carlisle).  She quickly becomes Mondrake’s girlfriend, but she also catches the eye of the drama teacher, Professor Danvers (Bing Crosby).  With her spending a lot of time with Danvers, Mondrake becomes jealous and starts drinking heavily.  On the day of the big game against Nebraska, Mondrake gets so drunk that he ends up in jail.  At Barbara’s insistence, Professor Danvers helps get him out to play in the game (which they win). Even though the win nets the college a big game with another big college, Mondrake gets expelled and Danvers is forced to resign. When the big game finally arrives, Barney is nervous at having to lead the team without the aid of either of his friends. Will he be able to pull himself together in time to help the team, or will he fall completely apart?

College Humor was Bing Crosby’s second starring role in a full-length movie, following The Big Broadcast (1932) (alongside his appearances with the Rhythm Boys in various films, plus some of the two-reelers he did for Mack Sennett). And, quite frankly, it feels like it. Compared to some of his later films, he really isn’t quite a natural fit as an actor yet in this film (and it seems like the filmmakers thought the same, for, although he was the top-billed star, it feels more like he is a secondary character to Jack Oakie’s Barney Shirrel). While I don’t think his acting was as strong here as it would later become (at least, in my opinion), he still handles the singing chores well, singing along as part of the group for the sexual innuendo-filled “Down The Old Ox Road,” as well as handling the songs “Moonstruck” and “Learn To Croon.” Of course, “Learn To Croon” comes out as the song with the most lasting impact here, as it seems to be fairly well-associated with him (although, if you don’t care for the song, it will be that much harder to like the movie, as he sings it several times, and the music itself can be heard in the background throughout the movie). Now, I first saw this movie about ten years ago. I had previously seen the same year’s Going Hollywood for a number of years before that, and I had heard Bing sing part of the song “Just An Echo In The Valley” as part of the big “Going Hollywood” number in that (but I had thought it was part of THAT song, as opposed to being part of a different song entirely). When I first saw College Humor, I recognized the lyrics (when it was used as part of a medley when he is “teaching” his students), and figured that it must have been a hit song for him (which then-modern audiences would have recognized). In reading up on it for this post, I found out that “Just An Echo In The Valley” was apparently the closing theme for a radio show he was working on for the period of January to March 1933, which makes it that much more interesting and enjoyable to me! Like I said, though, Bing is not a great actor here yet, but he is still one of the film’s biggest strengths.

Now, I more or less commented briefly on this film a few years back when talking about the screen team of George Burns and Gracie Allen, in which I more or less stated it was not that great of a film (and that was originally all I had intended to do as far as commenting on the movie). I decided, in planning to feature Bing Crosby as my Star Of The Month for March 2022, that I should at least try to revisit it and elaborate a bit further. I will admit, this time around, my opinion of the film did improve a little bit, but most of my prior assessment is still the same. I think the biggest problem for me is Jack Oakie. As I commented when I reviewed The Eagle And The Hawk (1933), I just don’t care for the actor at all, and with him essentially in the lead role here, that is a big strike against the movie. What’s worse, I don’t think his character’s relationship with Amber (Mary Kornman) works very well, as very little screen time is devoted to it. They meet at a party and go out (although, when he drops her off back at her place, he ends up chasing another girl). The rest of the time, he seems to neglect her for football and his studies (and yet he needs her support for the big game several years later). As I mentioned in my post about George and Gracie, their presence here is little more than a couple of quick appearances (they’re funny for what screen time they do get, but it’s just not enough). Plain and simple, I think the bad stuff is represented too much here, and the good not enough. My opinion of this movie has improved a little with time, but I’ll still go on record stating that this film is still mainly for completists for any of the cast and crew involved. In short, I still can’t bring myself to recommend it.

This movie is available on DVD from Universal Studios, either as part of the six film set The Bing Crosby Collection or as part of the twenty-four film set Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 21 minutes

My Rating: 5/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

King Of Jazz (1930)Bing CrosbyGoing Hollywood (1933)

Mary Carlisle – Kentucky Kernels (1934)

George Burns/Gracie Allen (screen team) – We’re Not Dressing (1934)

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!