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)

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“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!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) Roundup Featuring… Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers

Welcome back to my new “Whats Old Is A New Release Again Roundup” series! This time around, I’m focusing on titles released in 2022 featuring either Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers (or both), whether they be on DVD, Blu-ray or 4K UHD. Due to the slower pace of releases, I will be starting out with two films, and updating this post as I see more (with the updates showing up on the 2022 Releases page). This post will be completed when I have seen all of the titles released in 2022, or at the tail end of March 2023 (whichever happens first). So, let’s dig into some of Fred and Ginger’s films that have seen a new release in 2022. So far, that list includes Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) and Blue Skies (1946)!

Remember, 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!

Note: Due to the fact that I’ve reviewed both Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) and Blue Skies (1946) previously, I have added my “Coming Up Shorts!” comments to those reviews.

Update: On 11/16/2022, comments were added on the recent 4K UHD release of Holiday Inn (1942), which completes this post for the year. Due to there being a previously written review for that film, the “Coming Up Shorts!” comments were added to that review.

Table Of Contents

Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)

  • Plot Synopses: It’s the Great Depression, and while producer Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) has a great idea for a show, he doesn’t have the cash to put it on. However, Brad Roberts (Dick Powell), the composer boyfriend of one of Barney’s potential cast members, decides to offer Barney the money to put it on (in exchange for his girlfriend being given the lead). The show’s a hit, but when it comes out that Brad (who is part of a wealthy society family) intends to marry his girlfriend, Polly Parker (Ruby Keeler), Brad’s older brother, J. Lawrence Bradford (Warren William), threatens to have him cut off financially. Mistaking Polly’s roommate Carol (Joan Blondell) for Polly, Lawrence tries to buy her off, but Carol and her friend Trixie Lorraine (Aline MacMahon) decide to get back at him. Will Lawrence be able to break up his brother’s relationship, or will he find himself in love?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes
  • Extras: FDR’s New Deal… Broadway Bound, Warner Brothers cartoons We’re In The Money (1933), Pettin’ In The Park (1934), I’ve Got To Sing A Torch Song (1933), Warner Brothers Shorts Ramblin’ Round Radio Row #2 (1932), The 42nd Street Special (1933), Seasoned Greetings (1933), Theatrical Trailer
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Warner Archive Collection
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: The transfer comes from a scan of the best preservation elements, and it looks fantastic!  It’s an understatement to say that it shows off all the details of the sets and costumes, especially for the various musical numbers!  The image has been cleaned up of all scratches, dirt and debris.  As usual, this Warner Archive release really shines as an example of a great restoration.  The Blu-ray is highly recommended as the best way to see this movie, and goes quite well with their earlier Blu-rays for 42nd Street (1933) and Footlight Parade (1933)!

Holiday Inn (1942)

  • Plot Synopses: A three person song-and-dance team splits up when one of their members, Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) gets the urge to buy a farm where he can rest and retire from show business. Farming doesn’t prove to be as easy or as restful as he thinks, and he decides to turn the farm into an inn that is only open for holidays (fifteen days a year). Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) is sent to the inn to audition, and she gets a job there. Jim falls for her, but one of his former partners, Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), finds himself partnerless. Upon meeting Linda, Ted also falls in love with her and wants to dance with her. Will Linda stay at the inn with Jim, or will she become a big star with Ted?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Extras (on both the 4K disc and the included Blu-ray): “A Couple Of Song And Dance Men;” “All-Singing All-Dancing;” “Reassessing ‘Abraham;'” Theatrical Trailer; and Feature Commentary By Film Historian Ken Barnes, including Audio Comments From Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby And John Scott Trotter
  • Format: 4K UHD
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 8/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: Honestly, this is a bit of a disappointing release. The 4K disc looks terrible, with a picture that is darker at times and loses some of the detail, and grain tends to be very distracting here, as if they are working from elements (or an older transfer) that doesn’t have 4K worth of data, although there are some moments here and there where the 4K disc actually looks good. Frankly, the included Blu-ray (which appears to use the same transfer, or close enough) actually looks better throughout. The Blu-ray is lighter and the grain is nowhere near as prevalent as it is on the 4K. Also, depending on your feelings about this, the film starts with a vintage Universal logo preceding the film’s Paramount logo. I only mention this because the film was originally produced by Paramount, was part of a large group of films sold to Music Corporation Of America (MCA)/EMKA , Ltd. in the 1950s, before becoming part of Universal Studios’ library when MCA took over the studio in the 1960s. Realistically, this release is at best recommended to those who don’t have the Blu-ray already (and even then it is questionable). If you already have the Blu-ray, then don’t bother with this one. If you want either the Broadway show or the colorized version of the film (neither of which is included as extras with this release), then I would suggest going with one of the earlier Blu-ray releases.

Blue Skies (1946)

  • Plot Synopses: Dancer Jed Potter (Fred Astaire) likes chorus girl Mary O’Hara (Joan Caulfield), but he makes the mistake of taking her to a nightclub owned by his friend, Johnny Adams (Bing Crosby). Mary falls instantly for Johnny, and he for her, much to Jed’s regret. However, Mary takes a slight issue with Johnny not being too responsible, as he has a bad habit of constantly buying and selling his nightclubs. That’s not enough to stop them from getting married, but Johnny’s refusal to change his ways really comes between them after they have a child, and they divorce. With Jed’s love for Mary growing over time, will she give him a chance, or will things go sour between them, too?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes
  • Extras: Audio commentary by film critic and author Simon Abrams, Trailers for Road To Morocco (1942), Daddy Long Legs (1955), Love Me Tonight (1932) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: According to the Blu-ray case, the transfer is coming from a new 2K master with newly remastered audio. In general, this release looks quite wonderful. It improves on Universal’s earlier DVD by fixing the previously windowboxed opening and closing credits, and the colors look quite good in general. It’s not quite as perfect as similar releases from Warner Archive, but it’s about as good as I can hope for with this film. The image has been cleaned up of scratches, dirt and debris. Quick note: on the initial pressing of this Blu-ray, there were some audio issues in which Fred Astaire’s taps were a lot more muffled. Kino Lorber Studio Classics looked into it and decided to fix the issue (it’s already been taken care of by this time). Customers are guaranteed to get the right copy at Kino’s own sites, but in case you get the incorrect copy from somewhere else, this link will take you to their replacement program.

My Overall Impressions

Since this post is in reference to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, my Screen Team Of The Month for July 2022, then, as you have noticed, I am foregoing my usual quick comments on these movies in favor of some reflection on the films regarding Fred and Ginger (especially since I have otherwise reviewed these two films previously). Neither Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) nor Blue Skies (1946) were substantial roles for Fred or Ginger, since neither of them were at the peak of their careers. Ginger’s star was on the rise after she played the part of Anytime Annie in 42nd Street (1933), which is when she was starting to really get noticed. For Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933), her big moment is the opening number, “We’re In The Money,” which she sings normally first, and then sings again in pig Latin (and this opening number is indeed worth the price of admission). Otherwise, she has a relatively minor part, mainly as one of the girls hoping to get a part in Barney Hopkins’ new show in the first half of the movie, and then she is relegated to two very quick appearances as she tries to get in on the gold digging that two of her friends are doing (before being quickly booted by them both times). On the other hand, Fred’s career was on the outs by the time of Blue Skies (1946). He was feeling burnt out, especially after Yolanda And The Thief (1945) bombed, and announced his retirement, effective after doing Blue Skies (although his retirement was short-lived, as he came back two years later for Easter Parade). With him playing second fiddle to Bing Crosby, he doesn’t really have as much to do, but he does get four musical numbers. They are “A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody” (partnered with leading lady Joan Caulfield, and this routine is only decent when he is dancing alone), “A Couple Of Song And Dance Men” with Bing Crosby (in a similar comedic vein to “I’ll Capture Your Heart” from Holiday Inn), “Heat Wave” with Olga San Juan and “Puttin’ On The Ritz.” The latter three songs are some of the film’s best moments, with “Puttin’ On The Ritz” being the film’s standout routine, as Fred utilizes special effects to make his cane fly up from the ground into his hand several times before finishing out with a chorus of Fred Astaires (one of the few times we could directly see just how well-rehearsed he was as we see that chorus so very in-sync with each other and the “lead” dancer). Fred’s earlier team-up with Bing Crosby, Holiday Inn (1942) is a different story from these other two films. While he was past both his partnership with Ginger (save for their reunion film The Barkleys Of Broadway from 1949) and his status as box office poison, Fred’s career was still on a bit of a downhill slope (admittedly not as steep as it would be within the next few years). Holiday Inn marked the first time since very early in his film career where Fred wasn’t the highest-billed male star of the movie, with him in some respects playing the film’s “villain” (a bit of a rarity in and of itself). He does get several song-and-dance numbers in the film, including the aforementioned “I’ll Capture Your Heart” with Bing Crosby; “You’re Easy To Dance With” with Virginia Dale; his “drunk dance,” “Be Careful, It’s My Heart,” “I Can’t Tell A Lie” and the Hollywood medley with Marjorie Reynolds; and his solo (with firecrackers!) to “Let’s Say It With Firecrackers.”

Well, now that I’ve commented on both of these films, I’ll give you my rankings on these releases, from highly recommended (1.) to least recommended (3.):

  1. Blue Skies (1946)
  2. Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)
  3. Holiday Inn (1942)

I admit, my personal preference definitely comes into play here, as I have long preferred Blue Skies over Gold Diggers Of 1933 or Holiday Inn. I very much enjoy listening to the music and Fred’s dancing in Blue Skies (always have preferred Fred’s way of filming dance over Busby Berkeley’s). The story is probably better in Gold Diggers Of 1933, and it has some fun music as well (again, Ginger’s “We’re In The Money” is one of the film’s biggest highlights). Fred has a few good moments in Holiday Inn, but, in spite of the fact that his role was larger in that film than in Blue Skies, I actually prefer him in the later Blue Skies. As to which film has the better transfer, that’s easy: Gold Diggers Of 1933. As I said, Blue Skies looks very good, and is definitely a nice improvement over the DVD. But, the color isn’t quite as good as what I’ve seen from three-strip Technicolor films released by Warner Archive, and Gold Diggers, while a black-and-white film, looks very, VERY good. The 4K UHD for Holiday Inn, however, is a disappointment with a lackluster transfer that really shouldn’t have been released. The Blu-rays for Blue Skies and Gold Diggers Of 1933 are both releases that are easy to recommend (especially since I think they are both good films with pretty good transfers). Holiday Inn is a tougher recommendation, since I not only can’t quite recommend the 4K UHD but also don’t think *quite* as highly of the film itself in comparison, but I certainly would recommend it at least from any of the previously available Blu-rays.

“Screen Team (Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers) Of The Month (July 2022)” Featuring Ginger Rogers in… Forever Female (1953)

Well, since it’s July already (with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as my featured Screen Team Of The Month), then I’d like to continue the “ladies first” trend with a look into one of Ginger’s solo films! In this case, that would be the 1953 drama Forever Female (partly adapted from James M. Barrie’s 1912 play Rosalind), also starring William Holden and Paul Douglas!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Born To Peck (1952)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 38 seconds)

An elderly Woody Woodpecker looks back on his life as a baby. This one was decently entertaining. It’s one of the few that I’ve seen that really emphasized Woody as a woodpecker, with everything that he keeps pecking on (although it becomes a bit of a one-joke cartoon in that regard). It’s hard not to feel for his father, who tries to take care of him (only for Woody to keep picking on him). I do like one of the final jokes, about Walter Lantz wanting to keep him around (when the elderly Woody attempts to commit suicide), as well as Woody trying to start pecking in a petrified forest (and you can guess what happens there). It’s a bit different, but it’s still one of his weaker ones (although it provided enough laughs that I’m willing to come back to it every now and then).

And Now For The Main Feature…

Broadway star Beatrice Page (Ginger Rogers) has just opened in a new play, No Laughing Matter, which was produced by her ex-husband, E. Harry Phillips (Paul Douglas). After the show’s opening night, Beatrice and Harry spend time at Sardi’s restaurant (joined by her current beau, George Courtland IV, as played by George Reeves) while they await the reviews. When the newspapers arrive, they find out that all the critics are blasting the play itself (while consistently praising Beatrice’s performance as the only positive of the show). While they are there, talent agent Eddie Woods (James Gleason) brings in his client, a new playwright named Stanley Krown (William Holden). Eddie tries to sell them on Stanley’s play, but Stanley can’t resist telling off Beatrice for her lack of humility before he leaves for his current job. He leaves his play, The Unhappy Holiday, with them, and Harry reads it overnight. The next day, Stanley comes to Beatrice’s apartment to get his manuscript back. Harry admits that he likes the play (which is about a nineteen-year-old pianist and her controlling mother), but since he only produces plays for his “twenty-nine-year-old” (otherwise translated, middle-aged) ex, Beatrice, he can’t use it as it is currently written. Instead, they suggest rewriting the play to make the younger girl twenty-nine years old so that Beatrice could play the part. Stanley objects at first, but Harry and Beatrice convince him to make the change. So, with Beatrice cast as the “younger” girl, Harry and Stanley set about to cast the mother, but have trouble finding somebody at the auditions. To their surprise, a young girl named Sally Carver (Pat Crowley) comes to audition for the role of the young nineteen-year-old girl (even though they try to tell her the part has been rewritten and cast). They try to leave her, but she later catches up to Stanley and reveals that she knew his original play because she had been employed at the agency that typed it up for him. Sally tries to convince him to go back to the play as it was originally written, but Beatrice, who is interested in Stanley herself, persuades him to keep the changes. Eventually, Beatrice gets Eddie to offer Sally a job in another show (out of town, of course). Later on, as the show gets close to its premiere date, Sally returns and, after watching a rehearsal, once again tries to get Stanley to see that the play is no good as it is. However, he still refuses to go back to his original play. When it finally opens, though, Sally is proved right. Beatrice still thinks there is hope, and encourages Stanley to keep working on it while she takes a vacation in Europe. While she is gone, Stanley and Harry hear about a small troupe that is performing Stanley’s original play, and go to see it. They discover that Sally is in it (playing the part she originally insisted she should play), and the audience likes it that way. Of course, the question remains: can Stanley convince Beatrice that she is indeed too old for the part, or will she get her way?

Since I pretty much reviewed all of the Ginger Rogers films I had on disc back in late 2019 and early 2020 (apart from six of her films with Fred Astaire), I knew that I wanted to look into a film of hers that I hadn’t seen in preparation for my Astaire and Rogers Screen Team Of The Month feature. Forever Female fit the bill (which worked for me, since it was a movie that I’ve wanted to see for some time). It’s a film that I’ve seen compared to the likes of Sunset Boulevard (1950) and All About Eve (1950) due to its subject matter (but I’m not in a position to compare it myself, since I haven’t seen either of those films yet). I find that Forever Female was a very entertaining film, and Ginger Rogers was certainly worth seeing in it. Her performance as a middle-aged woman who was pretending to be twenty-nine to continue to get younger roles worked quite well (much better even than some of her earlier roles where she was dressed up to look like a child, such as The Major And The Minor). I do think that the writing is where the movie fails her a little bit, however. SPOILER ALERT Considering her character, when she goes off on her “vacation” (which is really her chance to go to her own home and act her own age), I thought that her being obsessed slightly with her own youth was a little too much of a sexist female stereotype. Personally, I would have thought that, especially for a character involved with the theater, that audience appeal would have mattered more (since it seems like actresses have always struggled a bit more than men to get roles as they get older). END SPOILER ALERT Of course, I will also say that the rest of the cast worked pretty well here, too, in support of Ginger. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but I certainly enjoyed it. For that reason, I would certainly recommend giving it a try!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Perfect Strangers (1950)Ginger RogersBlack Widow (1954)

William Holden – Paris When It Sizzles (1964)

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!

TFTMM’s Screen Team Edition Presents “Screen Team Of The Month (July 2022)” Featuring Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers

Well, the month of June is past (and with it, my focus on Frank Sinatra), so, as my homepage indicates, we’re now here to focus on the Screen Team of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers! Originally, I had planned to focus on them for May 2022, but I delayed it after a lot of trouble at home (as alluded to in this post), with the hope that I would have more time and potentially be able to do the five films I had originally hoped to do. Even with the delay, things haven’t improved enough for me to do five films (which, honestly, I’m fine with now, as the slower pace with fewer reviews per month is actually a bit of a relief). So, it’s on with Fred and Ginger! Again, this is still not a blogathon, but if you’re interested in contributing, I certainly wouldn’t object!

Table Of Contents

Quick Film Career Bio

Fred Astaire

Birth: May 10, 1899

Death: June 22, 1987

On May 10, 1899, Frederick Austerlitz was born to Frederic “Fritz” Austerlitz and Johanna “Ann” Geilus in Omaha, Nebraska. As a growing boy, Fred was a bit frail and tended to be very serious, so his mother pushed him to take up dancing. At first, he didn’t care for the idea, but he came around to it. With both him and his older sister Adele showing some serious skill with dance, the family moved to New York City in early 1905 where they were taught dance, speaking and singing at the Alviene Master School of the Theatre and Academy of Cultural Arts. In this way, they worked towards coming up with a dance act for the two siblings to tour with on the vaudeville stage. They made their stage debut together in Keyport, New Jersey. Soon after, they got a contract with the Orpheum Circuit, and they toured the country with their act. With Adele growing taller than Fred for a time, they had to take some time off. After two years, they returned to the stage. As they traveled, they learned other styles of dance, like tap dancing and ballroom, from some of their vaudevillian acquaintances. Eventually, the Astaires were able to make it to Broadway, debuting in the 1917 show Over The Top. Over the next fourteen years, they proved to be popular with audiences on Broadway and in London, with their final show together being The Band Wagon in 1931. After that, Fred was on his own when his sister retired to marry Lord Charles Cavendish.

Embarking on a solo career, Fred did the Cole Porter show The Gay Divorce, but he yearned for something different, and signed with Hollywood studio RKO Radio Pictures. They briefly lent him out to MGM, where he made his film debut (playing himself) in a glorified cameo dancing with Joan Crawford in Dancing Lady (1933). Back at RKO, he was cast in Flying Down To Rio (1933), essentially playing the comedy relief opposite the film’s leads. However, he was paired up with Ginger Rogers (whom he had met and even briefly dated back on Broadway in 1930) for a dance to the song “The Carioca,” and history was made. Audiences and RKO executives were thrilled with the chemistry that the two shared, and Fred and Ginger would be teamed up again (this time, with top billing) for The Gay Divorcee (1934), the filmed version of Fred’s final Broadway show. While he wasn’t thrilled being considered part of a team again, he went along with it when he was offered ten percent of the profits. The Gay Divorcee also proved to be a big success, and the series continued on, with them reaching the height of their popularity as a team with their fourth film, Top Hat (1935). In the process, Fred had changed the way dance was used and filmed, as he insisted on minimal cuts during the dance itself and wanted to keep the dancers’ full bodies in view, while also trying to make dance itself integral to the plot. As time went on, though, the Astaire-Rogers films started to falter at the box office. Wanting to try going solo again (since he had only been making films with Ginger, while she had been doing stuff apart from him), he made A Damsel In Distress (1937). The film did poorly at the box office, and resulted in him being labeled “box office poison.” He tried to do two more films with Ginger at RKO, but his bad streak continued, resulting in both films losing money at the box office. After The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle (1939), he left RKO and started freelancing. He danced opposite Eleanor Powell (Broadway Melody Of 1940, MGM), Paulette Goddard (Second Chorus, Paramount Pictures), Rita Hayworth (You’ll Never Get Rich and You Were Never Lovelier, both Columbia Pictures), Bing Crosby (Holiday Inn and Blue Skies, both Paramount Pictures), Joan Leslie (The Sky’s The Limit, RKO) and Lucille Bremer (Yolanda And The Thief and Ziegfeld Follies, both MGM). With his popularity sinking again (in between Yolanda And The Thief bombing and playing second fiddle to Bing Crosby in two films), Fred announced his retirement following Blue Skies, with him focusing on his dance studios and on breeding racehorses.

His desire to be retired didn’t last too long, as he started to ponder going back to work. He was given a stronger nudge when MGM called him, hoping he would replace the injured Gene Kelly for Easter Parade with Judy Garland. Indeed, he did come back, and the film turned out to be one of his biggest hits! Fred and Judy were supposed to follow that up with The Barkleys Of Broadway (1949), but she had issues because of her dependence on prescription medications and had to be replaced. Fred’s old co-star Ginger Rogers was brought in for what would be their final film together (and their only one in color), and the film was a success. Fred was given an honorary Academy Award for artistic achievement (presented by none other than Ginger Rogers herself), and made a string of Technicolor musicals for MGM (with a slight stopover at Paramount for Let’s Dance). After making The Band Wagon (1953), his contract with MGM was terminated (due in part to the rise of television). He was about to start working on the film Daddy Long Legs over at 20th Century Fox, but his wife, Phyllis Potter (whom he had married in 1933) grew ill and died suddenly of lung cancer. In his grief, he wanted out of his contract for Daddy Long Legs (even offering to pay the production costs himself), but composer Johnny Mercer and the studio executives wanted him to do the film, hoping that working would help him through his grief. He listened to them, and the film did decently at the box office. However, his next two films, Funny Face (1957) and Silk Stockings (1957), lost money, and he decided to retire from dancing in the movies (although, over the next decade, he would do four highly acclaimed dance specials on television).

On the big screen, he took a more dramatic turn with the film On The Beach (1959), for which he received a nomination for the Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor. He continued to make the occasional appearances on the big screen, but also did work on TV as well, enjoying recurring roles on Dr. Kildare (1961-1966) and the final season of It Takes A Thief (1968-1970). He returned to the musical genre again on the big screen for Finian’s Rainbow (1969), although director Francis Ford Coppola overrode him on how to film the dance scenes for the movie. On the small screen, he kept himself in the limelight by voicing the mailman character S. D. Kluger in Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town (1970) and The Easter Bunny Is Comin’ To Town (1977), and made an appearance on the sci-fi show Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979) due to his grandchildren’s interest in the series. He received his sole Oscar nomination (for Best Supporting Actor) in the 1974 disaster film The Towering Inferno. His final film appearance was in 1981’s Ghost Story alongside several other actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood. He passed away a few years later from pneumonia (on June 22, 1987) at the age of 88.

Ginger Rogers

Birth: July 16, 1911

Death: April 25, 1995

On July 16, 1911, Virginia Katherine McMath was born to William Eddins McMath and Lela Emogene Owens at their home in Independence, Missouri. Not long after her birth, her parents split up (with her father even kidnapping her twice) and eventually divorced. With her mother trying to get work in Hollywood, Virginia moved in with her grandparents in Kansas City. When Virginia (who gained the nickname “Ginger” due to a younger cousin’s mispronunciation of her name) was nine, her mother was married again, this time to John Logan Rogers, and Ginger took on his surname (even though she was never legally adopted by him). They moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where her mother became a theater critic. With her mother bringing her along to some of the stage productions, Ginger began to dance and sing along with the performers. At the age of fourteen, she entered and won a Charleston dance contest, with the prize being the opportunity to tour as part of an act called “Ginger And The Redheads” on the Orpheum Circuit. At the age of seventeen, she briefly formed an act with Jack Culpepper (who would be her first husband for nearly a year). After the act dissipated, she tried doing a solo act, working with bandleader Paul Ash and his orchestra when they went to New York City. She made her Broadway debut in the musical Top Speed, but was quickly chosen (within two weeks of that show’s opening) to star in the Gershwin musical Girl Crazy (with Fred Astaire being brought in to help the dancers with the choreography).

Before she starred in Girl Crazy, she had been in a few theatrical shorts. Upon finishing her run in Girl Crazy, she signed with Paramount Pictures and made her film debut in Young Man Of Manhattan (1930). She made that movie (and several more) at Astoria Studios in New York City, before she got herself out of the contract with Paramount and moved to Hollywood with her mother. She worked at studios like Pathé Exchange, Warner Brothers, Monogram and Fox, without getting too far. It took getting the role of “Anytime Annie” in 42nd Street (1933) before she started getting recognition. She followed that up by memorably singing “We’re In The Money” in pig Latin for Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933). She made some other films for Warner Brothers and RKO Studios before famously being paired up with Fred Astaire for “The Carioca” in Flying Down To Rio (1933). Their chemistry together was enough for RKO executives to team them up again for The Gay Divorcee (1934), which cemented them as two of Hollywood’s biggest stars at the time. While Fred Astaire continued to concentrate all of his efforts on their films together, Ginger maintained her own solo career with a very busy schedule. As a team, Fred and Ginger’s popularity hit its peak with their fourth film Top Hat (1935). The costs of producing musicals (much higher than for dramas or comedies) resulted in the Astaire-Rogers films not being as successful after that, and the team split briefly. She proved her dramatic abilities in Stage Door (1937) and continued to hone her comedic abilities through films like Vivacious Lady (1938). With Fred Astaire being labeled box office poison after his own solo outing and RKO Studios facing bankruptcy, Fred and Ginger were teamed up again for two more movies. Sadly, the musical genre was losing its appeal to audiences, and both films lost money, thus ending the partnership (for a decade).

Ginger continued to enjoy success on her own, with comedies like Bachelor Mother (1939). She really hit her stride the next year with her role in Kitty Foyle (1940), a role which would win her the Oscar for Best Actress. Her Oscar win gave her more negotiating power when it came to her contracts with the studios, and she took the opportunity to do the projects she wanted for whatever studio, including The Major And The Minor (1942) (which was semi-autobiographical for her in that, when she was younger and traveling with her mother, she had dressed up to look like a child to get half-fare tickets), Tender Comrade (1943) and I’ll Be Seeing You (1944). During this time, she became one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood. The end of the decade saw her reunited onscreen with Fred Astaire when she replaced Judy Garland to do The Barkleys Of Broadway (1949).

Going into the 1950s, Ginger’s career started to go into decline, with fewer roles being offered due to her age. Her main success on the big screen during this period was her second film with Cary Grant, Monkey Business (1952). She continued to make movies throughout the decade while also starting to make appearances on various TV shows. Her final film role was that of Jean Harlow’s mother in Harlow (1965). She made her comeback on Broadway that same year when she played Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! and followed that up a few years later with the lead in the musical Mame in London’s West End. She made a handful of appearances in different TV shows like The Love Boat (1977-1986) and Hotel (1983-1988), with Hotel being her last onscreen role as an actress. In fulfilling a lifelong dream, she directed an off-Broadway production of Babes In Arms in 1985. In 1991, she published her autobiography, “Ginger: My Story.” Her last public appearance was when she received the Women’s International Center Living Legend award in March 1995. Just barely a month later, on April 25, 1995, she died from congestive heart failure at her home.

My Own Feelings On Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers

When I first started watching classic films, Fred Astaire was one of the performers that I took to early on. The first film of his that I saw was The Royal Wedding (1951) (technically, I heard his voice in the 1970 TV special Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town, which I had seen many times as a kid, but I never really had anything more specific to associate him with). While I liked him in The Royal Wedding, I didn’t really take to him that strongly at first, and in fact preferred Gene Kelly as a dancer. It really wasn’t until I saw Fred in Blue Skies (1946) later that year that I changed my mind and started concentrating on his films (specifically, his tap solo to “Puttin’ On The Ritz” and his duet with Bing Crosby to “A Couple Of Song And Dance Men” were what really sold me on him). Of course, following that up with Easter Parade (1948) really cinched my interest in him. I have by this point seen all of Fred’s film musicals, and while their quality may vary, I find I could easily put on any one of them and be happy with it. I’ve seen a few of his later non-musical films as well, with varying opinions (although my main opinion is that he was at his best in musicals).

Of course, I should be following up with my opinion of Ginger Rogers, but the reality is that I first developed a fondness for Fred, then their films together, then her on her own. The Barkleys Of Broadway (1949) was the first film I saw with both Fred and Ginger in it (if I’m remembering correctly, I saw it before I had seen Blue Skies, so I didn’t developed a solid interest in their team yet). After I saw the likes of Blue Skies and Easter Parade, I followed up with Top Hat (1935), which is when I not only developed an interest in seeing the rest of the Astaire/Rogers films, but it also cemented my interest in another “team,” that of Fred Astaire and composer Irving Berlin. Over the following couple of years, I saw all of the remaining Astaire/Rogers films whenever I could catch them on TCM, and enjoyed every one of them.

I think I might have seen most, if not all, of the Astaire/Rogers films before I started to venture into some of Ginger’s solo outings. I do remember that I saw in fairly quick succession Kitty Foyle (1940), Roxie Hart (1942) and I’ll Be Seeing You (1944), all of which I took to very strongly. Ever since, I’ve been trying to see more of Ginger’s filmography (which is a bit of a difficult task, since she made way more movies than Fred did). So far, I’ve enjoyed every one of them, even if only because of her presence, and that’s made it easier for me to keep looking for more of her films!

Fred Astaire Filmography

This is a list of all the films that I personally have reviewed from his filmography so far. Obviously, I will be adding to it throughout the month of July, and it is my plan to add to it as I review more and more of his films even beyond this month’s celebration.

Dancing Lady (1933)

Top Hat (1935)

Follow The Fleet (1936)

Swing Time (1936)

A Damsel In Distress (1937)

Carefree (1938)

The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle (1939)

Broadway Melody Of 1940 (1940)

You’ll Never Get Rich (1941)

Holiday Inn (1942)

The Sky’s The Limit (1943)

Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

Blue Skies (1946)

Easter Parade (1948)

The Band Wagon (1953)

Funny Face (1957)

Silk Stockings (1957)

The Notorious Landlady (1962)

Ginger Rogers Filmography

This is a list of all the films that I personally have reviewed from her filmography so far. Obviously, I will be adding to it throughout the month of July, and it is my plan to add to it as I review more and more of her films even beyond this month’s celebration.

You Said A Mouthful (1932)

42nd Street (1933)

Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)

Professional Sweetheart (1933)

Upper World (1934)

Star Of Midnight (1935)

Top Hat (1935)

In Person (1935)

Follow The Fleet (1936)

Swing Time (1936)

Vivacious Lady (1938)

Having Wonderful Time (1938)

Carefree (1938)

The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle (1939)

Bachelor Mother (1939)

Fifth Avenue Girl (1939)

Lucky Partners (1940)

Kitty Foyle (1940)

Tom, Dick And Harry (1941)

Roxie Hart (1942)

The Major And The Minor (1942)

Once Upon A Honeymoon (1942)

I’ll Be Seeing You (1944)

Magnificent Doll (1946)

Perfect Strangers (1950)

Forever Female (1953)

Black Widow (1954)

Entries For This Month

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man –

Forever Female (1953)

Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers Roundup

Funny Face (1957)

Top Hat (1935)

“Screen Team (Bob Hope And Dorothy Lamour) Of The Month (May 2022)” Featuring Bob Hope in… My Favorite Spy (1951)

We’re back for one final film as part of May’s Screen Team Of The Month featuring Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour! To finish it off, we’ve got one of Bob Hope’s solo outings, the 1951 comedy My Favorite Spy, also starring Hedy Lamarr!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Wet Blanket Policy (1948)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 25 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker is pushed by insurance salesman Buzz Buzzard into signing an insurance policy… with Buzz as the beneficiary! This one was an entertaining short, with a different slant than usual for a Woody Woodpecker cartoon. Usually, he’s the one being the pest for everybody else, but here, Buzz makes him look like a good guy! This time, Woody is mostly on the run from Buzz, who just keeps coming back after Woody hits him. I won’t say that it’s the greatest Woody Woodpecker cartoon, as the interplay between Woody and Buzz falls short of that between Woody and Wally Walrus. Still, it provided a few good laughs, making it worth returning to in the future!

And Now For The Main Feature…

At an airport, Eric Augustine (Bob Hope) is trying to evade some agents trying to capture him. He manages to get away, and the agents turn to the local police to help them catch him. The police pick up vaudeville comedian Peanuts White (Bob Hope) (who greatly resembles Eric). Peanuts tries to convince them of his identity, but they don’t believe him. That is, until they receive word that the real Eric is still hiding at the airport, so they let Peanuts go. However, they have to turn to Peanuts for help when the real Eric is injured in a shootout with the agents. They need Peanuts to impersonate Eric, who was going to buy a top-secret microfilm, but Peanuts, a bit of a coward, wants nothing to do with their spy intrigues. It takes a phone call from the U.S. President Harry Truman to convince Peanuts to go through with the whole charade. The agents help make him over to look more like Eric, and help him learn not only how to act like Eric, but who all Eric’s “friends” and enemies are. Upon getting him through enough training, Peanuts is sent off to Tangier. Upon arriving, he narrowly escapes an assassination attempt before ending up in a cab with Eric’s on-again-off-again lover (and fellow spy), Lily Dalbray (Hedy Lamarr). She quickly resumes her romance with “Eric,” but what Peanuts doesn’t know is that she is working for his nemesis, Karl Brubaker (Frances L. Sullivan). The plan is for her to steal the microfilm from “Eric” when he gets it, and have him killed. At the hotel he is staying at, Peanuts meets Tasso (Arnold Moss), another agent posing as “Eric’s” valet. Peanuts only has eyes for Lily, so Tasso has to keep reminding him that anybody could be passing him info on when and where he should meet with Rudolph Hoenig (Luis Van Rooten), the man who possesses the microfilm. Of course, while all this is going on, the real Eric has gotten away from the agents, and is making his way to Tangier. With all the double-crossing going on around him, can Peanuts successfully get the microfilm AND get out of the country alive? And will Lily fall for him, or follow through with her plan to have him killed?

With both My Favorite Blonde (1942) and My Favorite Brunette (1947) doing well for him, of course Bob Hope was going to return to this “series” again. For My Favorite Spy, he went back to spoofing the spy genre. Joining him for this third go-round (without any reference to her hair color in the film’s title) was Hedy Lamarr, whose own career was waning at this point. She hoped that, by working with Bob (then one of Hollywood’s biggest stars), she might be able to reverse that decline. Of course, the initial idea for the film was slightly different than what we got, with Bob’s character of Peanuts initially envisioned as being a schoolteacher (instead of a vaudevillian) being sent to Cairo (the movie’s working title was Passage To Cairo). But, things changed as they went along. Reportedly, Hedy Lamarr proved more adept at comedy (possibly even upstaging Bob Hope), resulting in Bob having some of the movie re-edited to make him the funnier one. The movie’s premiere took place at the home of Anne Kuchinka in Bellaire, Ohio (she had won a radio contest through Bob’s program in which people wrote letters giving reasons why the premiere should be held in their own home).

I’ve seen this one once or twice before, and I will admit that it’s one that I enjoy. As usual for a Bob Hope film, he’s certainly got his quips throughout, which usually land pretty well for a few good laughs. One of the film’s most memorable moments is when Bob’s main character, Peanuts, gets a dose of truth serum, with unexpected results (since the bad guys still think that he is the spy). I also enjoy the final chase sequence, which with its fire truck antics, is reminiscent of similar moments in the classic comedies Never Give A Sucker An Even Break (1941) and In Society (1944) (although, unlike those two films, it doesn’t share any footage). The film isn’t without its faults, though. For one thing, there’s no cameo from Bing Crosby (outside of a veiled reference). I’ll grant you that it’s not a major thing, since he didn’t make cameos in every Bob Hope film, but his presence is missed after he did make appearances in the other two “My Favorite” films. Another problem for me is that it feels like they really underused the “real” Eric Augustine in this movie. For the most part, he’s really not there a lot, and when he is around, he really doesn’t speak much, if at all (which is certainly enough to make you pause and wonder how everybody else mistook the far chattier Peanuts White for him). I don’t know how much of that is the tech (and its cost), but it just takes away from what could have been something more. It’s certainly far from a perfect film, but I think it provides enough humorous moments that I don’t mind coming back to it every now and again. Maybe for others, it might be better as a rental, but I think it’s worth recommending, anyway.

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)Bob HopeSon Of Paleface (1952)

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 (Bob Hope And Dorothy Lamour) Of The Month (May 2022)” Featuring Dorothy Lamour in… Lulu Belle (1948)

Since we started off the month of May a few weeks ago with a movie featuring our Screen Team Of The Month (Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour), it’s time to dig into their solo films! So, going with the principle of “ladies first,” we’ll start with one of Dorothy Lamour’s films, the 1948 Lulu Belle (based on the 1926 play of the same name by Charles MacArthur and Edward Sheldon), co-starring George Montgomery!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Woody The Giant Killer (1947)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 47 seconds)

With a housing shortage, Woody Woodpecker can’t find a place to stay. Buck Beaver gives him some magic beans, and a beanstalk takes him up to the giant’s castle in the clouds. This one was fun, although, at the same time, it wasn’t enough. It’s fun seeing Woody’s version of “Jack And The Beanstalk,” as the gags themselves are quite fun. The problem is there is too much exposition and not enough interplay with Woody and the Giant (who spends a good chunk of his appearance sleeping through Woody’s antics). Still, I had a few good laughs with this one, and certainly look forward to revisiting it in the future!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In Natchez, Mississippi, young up-and-coming lawyer George Davis (George Montgomery) visits the Blue Catfish bar and café on behalf of one of his clients. While he is wrapping up his business, one of the performers, Lulu Belle (Dorothy Lamour), is getting abused by her former lover, and George steps in to fend him off. Lulu is instantly interested in him, but George (an engaged man) manages to turn her down. However, she wants what she wants, and she later visits him at his office, where she causes trouble between him and his fiancée. He later comes back to Lulu after his engagement is ended, and the two get married. He gets rid of his law practice, and they move to New Orleans, where they live lavishly in a hotel. George struggles to find work, while Lulu takes up a new relationship with boxer Butch Cooper (Greg McClure). At one of Butch’s boxing matches, she meets successful gambler Mark Brady (Albert Dekker), whom she convinces to give George work as a boxer (out of town, of course). Mark, meanwhile, offers Lulu a job as a singer at his club, where he can keep an eye on her. George sees all this going on, and begins drinking heavily. Lulu begins yet another relationship with married millionaire Harry Randolph (Otto Kruger) when he visits the club (since he has connections on Broadway). Between this and Butch’s continued teasing, George has had enough and picks a fight with Butch, with the fight ending when George stabs Butch in the eye with a fork. George runs from the scene, but is caught and sent to prison for a few years. During that time, Harry takes Lulu to Broadway, where she becomes a big sensation. However, even though she had divorced him, she slowly comes to the realization that she loves George and not her career. However, all the men that she has had a relationship with have come to town, and she and Harry end up being shot. Police Commissioner John Dixon (Addison Richards) is in charge of trying to find out who did it, but can he find out the truth from everybody?

Like all of Dorothy Lamour’s solo films (those outside of the Road series and her films with Bob Hope), this one was new to me. I will readily admit that I liked Dottie in this film! In general, I found myself comparing her character here to her character in Road To Zanzibar (1941). In that film, she is a manipulator in that she tries to get what she wants out of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope’s characters (as she attempts to make her way to a richer suitor), and she takes things even further here, without any trace of conscience whatsoever (at least, not for most of the early part of the film). Apart from her performance, though, I find myself with mixed feelings towards this movie. Dottie is very much the femme fatale here, but, at the same time, this movie never really quite hits the film noir aspects very well. In general, that’s not helped by her more musical moments (mostly, they just consist of her singing on stage or in nightclubs). The movie also tries to veer into murder mystery territory, but it’s not that effective there, either. The whole tale is essentially told in flashbacks by George Montgomery’s George Davis and Lulu’s friend Molly Benson (as played by Glenda Farrell), and really doesn’t leave too much room for some of the others involved, all of whom are “suspects” at the end when the police commissioner tries to finally figure out who did it. In general, it just feels like the writing is where it all fails, which ruins some of the characterizations for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an enjoyable movie, especially as a chance to see more of Dorothy Lamour as an actress. It’s just one that I would come closer to recommending as a rental instead of a purchase (outside of a really good sale price).

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 27 minutes

My Rating: 6/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Road To Rio (1947)Dorothy LamourHere Comes The Groom (1951)

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 (May 2022)” Featuring Bob Hope And Dorothy Lamour in… My Favorite Brunette (1947)

Well, since I’m not doing as many films this month, I’m going to start off with a movie featuring this month’s Screen Team, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour! That film would be the 1947 comedy My Favorite Brunette, which also features Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney, Jr.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Fair Weather Fiends (1946)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)

Everything is just fine for Woody Woodpecker and his friend, Wolfie Wolf, as they sail around on their boat, eating all day long. Then a storm leaves them stranded without food on an island, and hunger sets in. This one was quite humorous, with the two attempting to eat each other. I’ll admit, the story was fairly predictable, pitting the two “friends” against each other when they get hungry, but they did have another bird to compete over briefly, which added to the hilarity. Not the most original cartoon, but it was funny, and I certainly would gladly watch it again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Ronnie Jackson (Bob Hope) is a baby photographer, but he dreams of being a private eye, just like Sam McCloud (Alan Ladd), whose office is right across from Ronnie’s studio. While Sam is away on a trip, Ronnie messes around in Sam’s office (since Sam asked him to man the phones while he is away) when Baroness Carlotta Montay (Dorothy Lamour) comes in. Mistaking him for Sam, she asks for his help in finding her missing wheelchair-bound husband. She leaves a map with him to keep hidden, and gives him an address to meet her at. Ronnie decides to take her case, especially when he sees her being followed by someone else, and drives out to the address. It turns out to be the mansion home of a friend of her family’s, Major Simon Montague (Charles Dingle). While she is out answering a call, the major tells Ronnie that her “husband” (actually, her uncle, as she thought that making him out to be her husband would make the case more attractive to “Sam”) is alright, and that she is currently mentally disturbed (which is why the baron is hiding in another room). At first, Ronnie believes the major based on her behavior when she returns, but, upon exiting the mansion, he looks in a window and sees the “baron” up and walking around (which he takes a picture of), leaving him to believe Carlotta’s story. He is discovered and makes a run for it, but one of Montague’s henchman, Kismet (Peter Lorre), follows him and attempts to burn the photo and its negative. Ronnie later tries to bring the police up to the mansion, but they don’t find anybody there (except for Kismet, who is posing as a gardener). Still suspicious, Ronnie tries to sneak in and look for clues. He does indeed find one (which was planted in an obvious spot for him to see by Kismet). Ronnie follows the clue to a sanitarium, where he is captured and held prisoner, alongside Carlotta and the real baron. While Montague explains to Ronnie what is really going on (he wants the baron’s mineral rights to a uranium mine), the baron secretly gives Carlotta a message to go see an engineer who had helped him put together the map (the one Carlotta had asked Ronnie to keep hidden). When they get the chance, Ronnie and Carlotta escape, and make their way to see the engineer, James Collins (Reginald Denny). However, before they can bring any of this to the police, Kismet kills James and makes it look like Ronnie did it. Ronnie gets away from the police, and escapes to Washington, D.C. with Carlotta. There, they attempt to stop Montague from getting the mineral rights, but will they ultimately be successful?

During the latter part of World War II, Bob Hope had some issues with the studio heads at Paramount Pictures, as he had wanted to hold onto more of his salary. It had been suggested to him by a big show business lawyer that he should form his own production company, and make his movies in partnership with Paramount. While he liked the idea, the heads at Paramount did not, and he was suspended for a few years. Of course, he had all his work with the USO to keep him busy, and enough popularity with audiences that the studio finally relented, and Hope Enterprises, Inc. was born. For their first production, they went with My Favorite Brunette, a sequel (in name only) to his earlier hit, My Favorite Blonde. Of course, with his own money being put in the picture, Bob Hope (known for goofing off on the set of his movies) took things a bit more seriously this time around. Given that they were spoofing film noir this time around, they were able to get genre regular Peter Lorre, as well as Lon Chaney, Jr. (in his first film upon leaving Universal Pictures). It worked well enough at the box office, though, as Hope Enterprises continued to produce Bob’s movies, and the My Favorite series would be revisited one more time in the early 1950s with My Favorite Spy.

Personally, I’ve seen My Favorite Brunette a number of times over the years, and enjoyed it. But when watching it for this review (the first time I’ve seen it in most of a decade), the film overall made a lot more sense to me. The biggest reason, of course, is that I am now a lot more familiar with the film noir genre (having mainly seen a bunch of movies from the genre after I made the jump to HD in 2014). So, that makes the presence of Alan Ladd (in a brief cameo as Sam McCloud) and Peter Lorre much better, as well as Lon Chaney, Jr., in a role reminiscent of the type that Mike Mazurki would normally be playing. Of course, the movie itself is fun because of Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour! While the film has many wonderful comedic moments, one of the most memorable is the scene where Bob’s Ronnie has just been told that Dottie’s Carlotta is crazy (while she was out of the room), and, when she comes in, she more or less does act a bit crazy, especially in the way that she handles the letter opener she is carrying (I know I certainly would be questioning her sanity while she is doing that)! And this film has what I consider to be one of the best “Bing Crosby cameo in a Bob Hope movie” moments (I can’t really say anything more without spoiling things, it’s one of those things that just HAS to be seen)! Quite simply stated, this is a fantastic comedy, with a great cast! I personally consider it the best of the My Favorite series with Bob Hope, and I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending it!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Road To Utopia (1946)Bob HopeRoad To Rio (1947)

Road To Utopia (1946)Dorothy LamourRoad To Rio (1947)

The Maltese Falcon (1941) – Peter Lorre – Silk Stockings (1957)

Road To Utopia (1946) – Bob Hope/Dorothy Lamour (screen team) – Road To Rio (1947)

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

TFTMM’s Screen Team Edition Presents “Screen Team Of The Month (May 2022)” Featuring Bob Hope And Dorothy Lamour

Well, May has arrived, which means that it’s time to “announce” my Screen Team for the month: Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour! (What’s that? You figured that out from reading this post’s title? Well, that’s just cheating!) 😉 As I’d mentioned before, I am no longer doing these series of screen teams/stars of the month as a blogathon, but I’m certainly open to anybody else interested in joining in if they so choose!

Table Of Contents

Quick Film Career Bio

Bob Hope

Birth: May 29, 1903

Death: July 27, 2003

Leslie Townes Hope was born on May 29, 1903 to William Henry Hope and Avis Townes in Eltham, London in the U.K. A few years later, the Hope family emigrated to the United States, where they took up residence in Cleveland, Ohio. As a kid, Bob did a number of odd jobs to help bring in some extra money, but he really found his niche as a performer, famously winning a talent contest with his impersonation of Charlie Chaplin in 1915. He briefly toyed around with the idea of being a boxer, but instead went into vaudeville as part of a dance team with his girlfriend at the time. He worked with different partners and different acts, until he was given the opportunity to emcee a show, where he realized he was funnier on his own. He enjoyed some success on Broadway, particularly with the show Roberta.

He did some shorts for both Educational Pictures and Warner Brothers, but none of them really made much of a mark. With his success on Broadway, though, he found himself with a new audience via radio. Hollywood came a-calling, mainly through Paramount Pictures, who cast him in The Big Broadcast Of 1938 (1938) (which also included Dorothy Lamour in the cast). While the film itself wasn’t that memorable, his duet with Shirley Ross, “Thanks For The Memories,” became a hit and essentially became Bob’s theme song, not only for his radio show but for many of his future endeavors. Paramount kept putting Bob to work in different movies, while he tried to work on his screen persona (which really started to take shape with the following year’s The Cat And The Canary). However, it would take being re-teamed with Dorothy Lamour and being cast opposite Paramount’s big star, Bing Crosby in Road To Singapore (not to mention all the ad-libbing that was involved) to turn Bob into one of the studio’s biggest stars. Throughout the remainder of the 1940s (and beyond), Bob continued to enjoy success with more Road films, the My Favorite series that started with My Favorite Blonde (1942), and the Paleface films. The fifties found him continuing to do comedies, but he also attempted to prove his acting abilities with a few dramatic parts. However, with his increasing focus on TV and changing audience tastes, his film career started to peter off in the 1960s, with his last starring role being in the 1972 film Cancel My Reservation.

In the early part of World War II, Bob Hope did a special performance for some troops at California’s March Field. Having always preferred the genuine laughs from a live audience, he now found himself with a lifelong mission of performing for American troops through the USO (United Service Organizations). He recorded some of his radio shows in front of servicemen, and when he made the switch to television in the fifties, he continued the practice (especially during wartime). It had its ups and downs (especially during the Vietnam War), but he continued to appear in television specials up through the 1990s (along with a few guest appearances on various TV programs). He finally retired in the latter part of the 90s, with his health starting to fail him. He celebrated his 100th birthday in May 2003, before he passed away from a bout with pneumonia on July 27, 2003.

Dorothy Lamour

Birth: December 10, 1914

Death: September 22, 1996

On December 10, 1914, Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton was born to Carmen Louise and John Watson Slaton in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a teenager of about 14 or 15, she left high school with the intention of working as a secretary to help support her mother and herself. She started entering beauty pageants, and was crowned Miss New Orleans in 1931. She and her mother relocated to Chicago, IL where she briefly worked as an elevator operator. After an audition, she was hired to sing with Herbie Kaye’s orchestra. This led to her working both onstage and on the radio for a few years. At one point, she was making an appearance at the Clover Club in Los Angeles, California, when a representative of Paramount Pictures saw her there. She was given the opportunity to do a screen test, and so Paramount Pictures hired her, with her making an uncredited appearance in College Holiday (1936).

Her next film at Paramount was The Jungle Princess (1936), which was her first starring role (and the one that established her as the “Sarong Girl”). Over the next few years, she had a variety of both starring roles and supporting ones opposite some of the big stars of Hollywood (including, as I mentioned before, starring in Bob Hope’s first film, The Big Broadcast Of 1938). Like Bob, she found greater fame through the Road series (especially since she was able to spoof her image as the “Sarong Girl”), holding her own against the constant ad-libbing from her two co-stars. With the U.S. getting involved in World War II, she became a popular pinup girl for American servicemen, and volunteered to help sell war bonds (doing so well she earned the nickname “The Bond Bombshell”). She continued to do a variety of different roles at Paramount (musical, comedy and drama), through the end of the war and into 1947, before she left Paramount.

She made a few films for independent producers, but none of them were that popular with audiences. After doing the film noir Manhandled (1949), she took some time off from Hollywood to be with her second husband William Ross Howard III and their two sons. She started to make a comeback through The Greatest Show On Earth (1952) and Road To Bali (1952), but, big as those roles were, they weren’t resulting in better film offers. So, she concentrated on performing in nightclubs and on stage (with some television appearances thrown in). She came back for a cameo appearance for The Road To Hong Kong (1962) (at Bob Hope’s insistence, since Bing Crosby had wanted somebody younger for the female lead) and made a few other film appearances alongside her guest star gigs on various TV shows. From the 1970s onward, she mainly focused on TV and the stage, with her autobiography, My Side Of The Road, getting published in 1980. She continued to work into the 1990s before finally passing away after she suffered a heart attack on September 22, 1996.

My Own Feelings On Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour

Bob Hope was one of the first classic movie stars that I took a liking to. The Princess And The Pirate (1944) was the first film of his that I can remember seeing, although I didn’t really start to focus in on him until I started seeing the Road series with his co-stars Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. After watching all the films from that series in short order, I started trying out more of Bob’s solo comedies, and found them just as enjoyable. For me, he came into his own once he did The Cat And The Canary, with most of his films faring quite well up through Alias Jesse James. While I’ve enjoyed some of his films after that (during the 1960s), they were nowhere near as good as his earlier fare. I may not be quite as much of a fan as I was initially, but he was essentially my gateway drug to classic films.

Dorothy Lamour took me a bit longer to come around to. Certainly, I enjoyed seeing her in the Road films with Bing and Bob (and when she was reduced to a cameo appearance for The Road To Hong Kong, it became quite obvious to me just how necessary she was to the rest of the series). Apart from the Road series, my main exposure to her was through the films she did with Bob Hope (plus her cameo appearance in Here Comes The Groom). That’s been starting to change the last couple of years, with a few of her solo efforts starting to get released on Blu-ray (though none of her famous “sarong” films have made it to the format as of this writing). While I don’t favor her as much as I do Bing and Bob, I can’t deny that she has been interesting to see in the handful of movies that I’ve managed to find so far.

As a team, they’ve been a lot of fun together. Since they essentially started working together on Bob’s first film (Big Broadcast Of 1938), they were able to develop some chemistry early on (although it really started to kick in with Road To Singapore, their second film together). Frankly, I think they are best together in their films apart from the Road series, where they are able to show off their chemistry a lot more (as opposed to the Road series, where she’s generally caught in the middle of Bing and Bob, with a greater preference for Bing’s characters, a running joke in the series). While they apparently had some issues getting along offscreen from some of what I’ve read, it’s nice to know that at least Bob knew she was more necessary to the Road series when it came time to making The Road To Hong Kong and fought for her inclusion in the film. I do like them together (and I can say that, having essentially seen all of the movies that they did together that I know of), which is certainly one of the reasons I decided to pick them as one of my featured Screen Teams!

Bob Hope Filmography

This is a list of all the films that I personally have reviewed from his filmography so far. Obviously, I will be adding to it throughout the month of May, and it is my plan to add to it as I review more and more of his films even beyond this month’s celebration.

College Swing (1938)

The Cat And The Canary (1939)

Road To Singapore (1940)

The Ghost Breakers (1940)

Road To Zanzibar (1941)

Caught In The Draft (1941)

Road To Morocco (1942)

Road To Utopia (1946)

My Favorite Brunette (1947)

Road To Rio (1947)

The Paleface (1948) (Original) (Update)

The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)

My Favorite Spy (1951)

Son Of Paleface (1952)

Road To Bali (1952)

Alias Jesse James (1959)

The Road To Hong Kong (1962)

Dorothy Lamour Filmography

This is a list of all the films that I personally have reviewed from her filmography so far. Obviously, I will be adding to it throughout the month of May, and it is my plan to add to it as I review more and more of her films even beyond this month’s celebration.

Spawn Of The North (1938)

Road To Singapore (1940)

Road To Zanzibar (1941)

Caught In The Draft (1941)

Road To Morocco (1942)

Road To Utopia (1946)

My Favorite Brunette (1947)

Road To Rio (1947)

Lulu Belle (1948)

Here Comes The Groom (1951) (cameo)

Road To Bali (1952)

The Road To Hong Kong (1962)

Entries For This Month

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man –

My Favorite Brunette (1947)

Lulu Belle (1948)

My Favorite Spy (1951)

Bob Hope And Dorothy Lamour Roundup

“Screen Team (Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy) Of The Month (January 2022)” Featuring Nelson Eddy in… Phantom Of The Opera (1943)

We’re here now to finish off our month-long celebration of Screen Team Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy by looking at one more of Nelson’s solo outings: the classic 1943 film Phantom Of The Opera, which also stars Susanna Foster and Claude Rains!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Screwball (1943)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 53 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker tries to watch a baseball game without paying, but has to deal with a policeman trying to stop him. While the idea of a cartoon character watching a baseball game and getting involved isn’t exactly an original idea, this short was indeed fun! There was a lot of hilarity here, from the policeman dealing with all the people watching through holes in the fence, to Woody dealing with other people in the stand so that he could see the game, to him going out on the diamond! This may not be the best baseball cartoon, but it provided quite a few good laughs, and I certainly want to come back and see this one again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

At the Paris Opera, chorus girl and understudy Christine DuBois (Susanna Foster) finds herself torn between two suitors: Inspector Raoul Daubert (Edgar Barrier) of the French police (who wants her to abandon a career in the opera) and the opera lead Anatole Garron (Nelson Eddy). Unbeknownst to her, she has another admirer: violinist Erique Claudin (Claude Rains), who has been anonymously helping to pay for her expensive singing lessons. However, that is about to come to an end, as he is losing the use of some of his fingers on his left hand, which has affected his playing enough that the orchestra leader Villeneuve (Frank Puglia) has let him go. Besides no longer being able to pay for Christine’s singing lessons, he also faces eviction, so he makes a desperate attempt to sell a concerto that he has written to a music publisher. When the publisher tries to throw Claudin out (while somebody in the other room is playing his music to attempt to help get it published), Claudin assumes that his music is being stolen, and strangles the publisher. The publisher’s assistant throws some etching acid in Claudin’s face to get him to stop, and he runs out of there. With nowhere else to go, Claudin makes his way into the sewers under the Paris Opera. He soon steals some costume pieces (including a mask), some food and the master key of the Paris Opera, an act of thievery that the superstitious stage manager Vercheres (Steven Geray) attributes to a ghost/phantom. At the next opera performance, Christine hears a voice promising to help her advance in her career. During the show, the Phantom drugs opera diva Biancarolli (Jane Farrar) and, as her understudy, Christine goes on in her place. Christine turns out to be a sensation, but afterwards, Biancarolli threatens to charge her and Anatole with attempted murder. She has no evidence to support her charge, but she relents when she blackmails everyone into trying to forget that anything happened that night (particularly where Christine is concerned). At the next show, the Phantom tells Biancarolli to leave Paris, but, when she refuses, he kills her and her maid. Anatole sees the Phantom and tries to give chase, but the Phantom escapes. As a result, the Paris Opera is closed by the orders of Inspector Daubert. When the Phantom sends a note demanding that the opera reopen and Christine be made the lead, the Inspector decides to allow the opera to reopen (but with someone else in the lead to lure the Phantom out of hiding). Meanwhile, Anatole has a plan of his own to get the Phantom out into the open. But will either of their plans succeed, or will more death and destruction occur until or unless the Phantom gets his way?

In 1925, Universal Pictures released a silent film version of the Gaston Leroux novel featuring Lon Chaney as the Phantom. The film was successful enough that Universal started producing a series of horror films, including the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein and The Invisible Man, amongst others. A remake of Phantom was considered in the mid-30s, but it was shelved when the studio’s financial woes resulted in the ousting of Carl Laemmle (Universal’s owner and co-founder) and his son from the studio. Plans were revisited in the early 1940s, with the likes of Deanna Durbin, Boris Karloff and Allan Jones being cast. However, several of those stars became unavailable (Deanna Durbin mostly because of a suspension for several months), and the movie was briefly considered as a vehicle for new comedy team Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. After Deanna’s suspension was over, she was again considered for the role of Christine DuBois, only for her to finally turn it down when Nelson Eddy was cast in the role of Anatole (mostly because she respected his regular screen partner Jeanette MacDonald and didn’t want to be compared to her). With Claude Rains cast as the Phantom, work was begun in earnest, with part of the film’s budget going towards soundproofing the opera stage (which had been used in the 1925 silent film). The film received mixed reviews, but still did well at the box office (well enough that a sequel bringing back Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster and Claude Rains was considered, but story issues and Claude Rains being unavailable resulted in the film, eventually called The Climax, being changed so that it was not related to Phantom at all, with only Susanna Foster returning, albeit in a different role).

One thing I should say about this movie, now that I’ve seen it, is that it is one that will leave a lot of people divided. For the most part, this movie tends to get lumped in with some of the other Universal horror films, and it really isn’t one. Realistically, you can simplify what most seem to think of it with one quick statement: too much opera, and not enough Phantom. So, due to it being counted as a horror film (a genre that I’m really NOT fond of), I had a lot of hesitation going into this movie. Doing this Screen Team blogathon is what finally pushed me into trying it, and quite simply stated, I really liked this Phantom! The lack of horror worked better for me, as did the almost-musical nature of the film (for the most part, it’s mainly confined to them singing onstage). Nelson Eddy is still in good voice, and he manages to keep his comedic abilities going (which really got their start in The Chocolate Soldier two years earlier). Most of the comedy bits have to do with Eddy’s Anatole and Edgar Barrier’s Inspector Daubert competing for the affections of Susanna Foster’s Christine DuBois, with the two of them frequently trying to come through a doorway at the same time.

Now, is this movie perfect? Certainly not. While I like the lack of horror, I still think it needed to be a bit more present than it was (now, to be fair, I’ve never read the original story, and the only other way I’ve seen this story is a half-hour episode of the TV series Wishbone, so I’m certainly not the best judge on how well the story was actually done). I don’t feel like Claude Rains’ Phantom is as threatening as he should be, and the final sequence where his character kidnaps Christine just doesn’t leave me feeling like she’s really in that much danger. Given that that feels like an overall weaker spot in the film to me, I blame it on the direction (as I feel that none of the actors make you feel the urgency of trying to catch up to the Phantom like they should). I also think that the Phantom’s makeup and costume aren’t as effective as they should be, since what we can see of his face around the mask doesn’t look the same as when we finally see the mask taken off at the end of the film. In spite of these issues, though, I did have a good time with this one, and I look forward to revisiting it periodically (particularly around Halloween, but anytime of the year will work for me). As long as you can live with the opera music/lack of horror, then I think this film is worth recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Chocolate Soldier (1941)Nelson EddyMake Mine Music (1946)

Now, Voyager (1942) – Claude Rains – Notorious (1946)

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!