What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Romance On The High Seas (1948)

Now we’re back again for the 1948 musical Romance On The High Seas, starring Jack Carson, Janis Paige, Don DeFore and Doris Day! But before I get into the main review, I have a poll for you (that will run for one week), and I’ll explain right after:

So, for those that don’t know me well enough (or follow my FB page), I’m usually a little ways ahead in my viewing before most of my regular Sunday posts appear. While I haven’t gotten that far yet, I do essentially have my regular Sunday reviews planned out for the remainder of 2020. Watching this first Doris Day film, I decided I would go through the Doris Day filmography (or rather, what I have on disc, which is what I’m usually working with for these reviews). So, for four out of the five Sunday in January 2021, I am planning to feature Doris Day as the “Star Of The Month” (with the fifth Sunday being devoted to a movie featuring a screen team, although it could be one of the Doris Day films, depending on what the results are). Since I plan to follow up with a “Star Of The Month” for February and March (and will be offering polls to choose those stars over the next few weeks), I am asking for what movies you would like me to review (from the provided list). Please take your time to pick the four you would like to see! And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Coming Up Shorts! with… Hare Splitter (1948)

(available as an extra on the Romance On The High Seas Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 9 seconds)

While attempting to go on a date with his girlfriend Daisy, Bugs Bunny must contend with his rival for her affections, Casbah.  Fun old Bugs Bunny cartoon I’ve seen many a time over the years.  Bugs dressing in drag was always a bit of fun (and at least one joke still seems to be far more relevant than one would wish it).  Certainly fun to see again, even if it hasn’t been restored (at least for this release, anyways).

Coming Up Shorts! with… Let’s Sing A Song From The Movies (1948)

(available as an extra on the Romance On The High Seas Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 43 seconds)

This short is a collection of songs from various Warner Brothers movies, including song like “Am I Blue?”, sung by Ethel Waters in On With The Show, “By A Waterfall” from Footlight Parade, “Some Sunday Morning” sung by Alexis Smith in San Antonio and “A Gal In Calico” sung by Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson in The Time, The Place And The Girl.  Part of the “Memories From Melody Lane” series, it’s narrated by Art Gilmore.  After each song, the lyrics are shown so that the audience can sing along.  A bit of fun, even it it’s not a restored short.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Marital bliss doesn’t exist for this couple!  From the time they get married (and, quite frankly, even before that), Michael Kent (Don DeFore) and his wife, Elvira (Janis Paige), suspect each other of infidelity. And after two years of Elvira trying to plan a big trip for their anniversary, only for it to fall through because Michael is involved in some “business mergers,” she’s had enough!  While at a travel agency trying to plan a trip to Rio, Elvira quickly meets nightclub singer Georgia Garrett (Doris Day), who is known at the agency for planning trips she never goes on for lack of funds. When Michael has to cancel the trip for the third year in a row, Elvira decides to conspire with her uncle, Lazlo Lazlo (S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall), to send Georgia on the trip alone, posing as Elvira, while Elvira herself stays in town to secretly keep an eye on her husband. What Elvira doesn’t know is that her husband has hired a private detective, Peter Virgil (Jack Carson), to follow “Elvira Kent” on the trip. On the cruise’s first night, Georgia and Peter meet, and start spending a lot of time together. Of course, neither knows the truth about the other, and Peter starts to feel conflicted as he falls for his client’s “wife.” However, he has no “other man” to report. At least, until Georgia’s wanna-be boyfriend, Oscar Ferrar (Oscar Levant), shows up. Then there’s trouble, especially when Peter’s feelings are more conflicted, and he reports the “other man” to Michael, who decides to make the trip. Elvira catches wind of Michael leaving, and tries to get there ahead of him, but he is faster. From then on, it’s one big mess as everyone tries to figure out what’s going on!

Romance On The High Seas was originally planned with the hopes of starring either Judy Garland or Betty Hutton. When both of them proved unavailable, then one of those “it could only happen in Hollywood” star discoveries happened. Doris Day, who had mainly been a band singer up to that point, was getting ready to leave Hollywood after a series of career and personal failures. But, the night before she planned to leave, she sang at a Hollywood party, where lyric writer Sammy Cahn heard her and suggested that she try auditioning for director Michael Curtiz. It took a few attempts, since she broke down in tears partway through her first audition, but she got the role, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Certainly much ado is made of this being actress Doris Day’s first movie, and she really proves to be worth seeing in this movie, even if she is fourth-billed! I will admit, her performance doesn’t seem as good as you might expect from her later movies, but she does well enough that it doesn’t detract from the movie. She gets a few fun songs, particularly the Oscar-winning tune “It’s Magic” which became one of her biggest hits. And, of course, she’s supported by a great cast, including Jack Carson in one of his more likable roles, S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, who is always fun to see, and (love him or hate him) Oscar Levant, who is, well, Oscar Levant. You won’t find the plot to be that original or great, but the material is good enough. I enjoyed seeing it for the first time (again, Doris Day was the appeal here), and it’s one I would certainly recommend trying out!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The new Blu-ray boasts a 4K scan of the original nitrate Technicolor negatives. I’ll tell you, this new restoration is definitely a “WOW!” From the opening credits onward, you’re in for a treat! The color looks so vivid, just as it should for a movie in 3-strip Technicolor. Had this been a movie I had seen before, then, like last year’s 3-strip Technicolor Blu-ray release of Summer Stock, I would be giving this movie a bump up in the rating, it just looks that great! But, whatever the rating for the movie itself, Warner Archive gave it a great transfer, and it is certainly the best way to see this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 39 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) – Jack Carson – My Dream Is Yours (1949)

Janis Paige – Silk Stockings (1957)

It Happened On Fifth Avenue (1947) – Don DeFore

Doris DayMy Dream Is Yours (1949)

Oscar Levant – An American In Paris (1951)

Christmas In Connecticut (1945) – S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall – My Dream Is Yours (1949)

The Sky’s The Limit (1943) – Eric Blore – The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad (1949)

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

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

Coming Up Shorts! with… Service With A Guile (1946)

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

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 29 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

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

Leslie Caron – Father Goose (1964)

Oscar Levant – The Band Wagon (1953)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… The Band Wagon (1953)

If you’re not going your way by yourself, then let’s all get on The Band Wagon, the classic 1953 musical starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse!

Washed-up movie actor Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) decides to leave Hollywood and go to New York City to do a Broadway show written by his friends Lester (Oscar Levant) and Lily (Nanette Fabray) Marton. Lester and Lily have convinced actor/ director Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan) to do their show, and he quickly signs ballet dancer Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd Charisse) as the leading lady, along with her boyfriend/ manager Paul Byrd (James Mitchell) as the show’s choreographer. However, Tony and Gabrielle don’t hit it off well at first, and Jeff quickly gets out of control making the show quite different than what Lester and Lily had written. When the show opens out-of-town, they find just how badly out-of-control Jeff had gotten, and they all regroup to figure out how to salvage the show.

Similar to the previous year’s classic musical Singin’ In The Rain, The Band Wagon is a celebration of the music of composers Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz. The movie shared the title of the final Broadway show that Fred Astaire did with his sister Adele, but the movie was far different, being given a plot, instead of being a musical revue. Only a few songs from the show were retained for this movie: “I Love Luisa,” “Dancing In The Dark” and “New Sun in The Sky.” All the other songs were pulled from other stuff that Dietz And Schwartz did (with the exception of the song “That’s Entertainment,” which was written for this movie). However you look at it, the movie has a lot of wonderful music and dancing, including the song “Shine On My Shoes,” which featured Fred working with a real dancing shoeshine man, Leroy Daniels, and many others (I plan on commenting on some of the others in another post).

As much as I enjoy Fred Astaire’s films, this is one that took multiple viewings before I appreciated it. But I do believe it to be a wonderful movie, with a lot of songs and dances that certainly grow on you over time. For some, it is considered to be as great as Singin’ In The Rain. Personally, I think it’s better! I will agree most heartily with the iconic status of both the “Dancing In The Dark” and “Girl Hunt Ballet” dance routines, as they both leave me wanting to get up and dance myself (although that last part is just as true for a lot of the other music, too)! Yeah, the film’s ending is a little off, but, honestly, I’m not bothered by it that badly, and I would EASILY recommend this movie to anybody interested!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 52 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Easter Parade (1948)Fred AstaireFunny Face (1957)

Singin’ In The Rain (1952) – Cyd Charisse – Brigadoon (1954)

An American In Paris (1951) – Oscar Levant

Monte Carlo (1930) – Jack Buchanan

Fred Astaire/Cyd Charisse (screen team) – Silk Stockings (1957)

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