“Screen Team (Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy) Of The Month (January 2022)” Featuring Jeanette MacDonald in… The Cat And The Fiddle (1934)

We’re back again for another solo film featuring half of this month’s Screen Team, Jeanette MacDonald! For that, we’ve got her 1934 film The Cat And The Fiddle with Ramon Novarro!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Loan Stranger (1942)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 50 seconds)

When Woody’s car breaks down, he gets a loan from a loan shark (or wolf in this case). After thirty days, the wolf comes to collect, but Woody won’t give him the money! This one was back to being fun (after the previous one was a bit of a letdown), as Woody takes on the wolf (and, based on the introduction to the wolf, it’s hard not to cheer for Woody)! The gags are fun, and we also have Woody singing “Everybody Thinks I’m Crazy” again for more hilarity! Kent Rogers does pretty well here voicing both characters (a fact I wouldn’t have known had I not read the IMDb page!), and I know I look forward to seeing this one again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In Brussels, penniless pianist and composer Victor Florescu (Ramon Novarro) makes a deal with a restaurant owner to play some music in exchange for a meal.  When Victor eats more than he agreed to, the restaurant owner tries to charge him for it, but he runs out on the bill.  He makes a successful escape when he hops into a passing cab, which is occupied by Shirley Sheridan (Jeanette MacDonald).  Victor is instantly smitten with her, and, upon arriving at their destination (which, although it is two different apartment buildings, is essentially the same spot since they are next door to each other).  Victor offers to pay the cab fare, but is unable to come up with the money.  The taxi driver (Henry Armetta) decides to take Victor’s portfolio (which contains all his music) as payment (at least, until Victor can actually come up with the money for cab fare).  In his apartment, Victor meets with his music teacher, Professor Bertier (Jean Hersholt), who has good news for him: he has an audition with an arts patron, Jules Daudet (Frank Morgan), who may ask him to write an operetta (that is, if Daudet likes Victor’s music).  Without his portfolio, Victor tries to remember his music, but is interrupted when a neighbor tries to play their own music.  Victor tries to complain through the window, only to discover that the neighbor playing the music is none other than Shirley!  Victor climbs across, and helps her out with some music that she is writing, before remembering his appointment with Daudet that afternoon.  He rushes off to find the taxi driver who has his music portfolio, and, upon finding him, stops traffic while they argue.  A passerby named Charles (Charles Butterworth) loans Victor the money for the portfolio, and Victor rushes off to meet with Daudet.  He is late for the audition, and starts an argument with Daudet before realizing who he is (which almost ends everything right there), but Victor’s declarations of his love for Shirley and how that love is more important than the audition cause Daudet to reconsider.  Daudet is mildly interested in Victor’s music, but while he is playing, Shirley comes to the conservatory looking for Professor Bertier.  She plays her music for him, and Daudet offers to publish her new song.  However, she slaps him when he tries to get fresh with her, and leaves.  Later, Shirley also comes to the realization that she loves Victor, but Daudet tells Victor that, if he is to write the operetta that’s been commissioned, he must do it in Paris.  Much to Daudet’s surprise, Victor declines, preferring to stay with Shirley.  Still, Daudet publishes Shirley’s song, which turns out to be a big hit, and both Shirley and Victor move to Paris.  It doesn’t work out too well for Victor, though, as he struggles to write his operetta in the midst of Shirley’s success, and he plans to return to Brussels.  When Shirley announces her plan to return with him, a jealous Daudet convinces Victor that Shirley would ruin her career if she went back.  Reluctantly, Victor fakes not being in love with her anymore, and returns to Brussels alone. He finishes his operetta, and goes into rehearsal, with the former operetta star Odette Brieux (Vivienne Segal) in the female lead, and her wealthy husband backing the show (at least, until he catches Odette kissing a reluctant Victor and withdraws his backing). Now, Victor is without a leading lady and a leading man, and also facing trouble for writing a bad check. His friend Charles (who is playing the harp for the show) turns to Shirley for help, but she refuses. Will Victor be able to put on his operetta? Will he and Shirley ever get back together?

After filming Love Me Tonight (1932) for Paramount Studios, Jeanette MacDonald took a trip to Europe, and, while there, she signed with MGM. The Cat And The Fiddle, which was based on the hit 1931 Broadway musical of the same name, was her first film under that contract. She was paired up with tenor Ramon Novarro (whose career was already on the downturn at this time), and the film was given a decent-sized budget to work with, part of which went towards filming the finale in the new three-strip Technicolor process (previously used mainly for Walt Disney’s cartoons, since he held exclusive rights for a few years). The movie ended up not doing very well at the box office (resulting in MGM opting not to renew Novarro’s contract the next year), but it did provide a model for the type of movie that would work for Jeanette herself (especially when she was paired up with Nelson Eddy the following year for Naughty Marietta).

In preparation for this month’s Screen Team blogathon, I decided to go with The Cat And The Fiddle for Jeanette MacDonald because it was a new film for me. As has been the usual for the films I’ve seen so far with her in them, I liked it! I thought the story was fun, and I thought the two leads had some good chemistry (nowhere near as much as she had with either Nelson Eddy or Maurice Chevalier, but good enough to help carry the movie). I will admit, I didn’t really find the score by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach that memorable overall, but the tune “The Night Was Made For Love” stuck with me (helped, obviously, by Jeanette’s beautiful singing voice). The movie did have some good comedic moments, with one of the main standouts being early in the movie, when Novarro’s Victor is running out on his food bill and joins a passing parade, causing the marching band to speed up their beat (and go from walking to running as they played)! Seeing it switch from black-and-white to color for the last five minutes was also interesting (and, leading into it, you could tell that they were about to do something special). Admittedly, it could use a good restoration to improve how it looks, but that can only happen if they actually have the film elements to do so, and I currently have no idea whether they do or not. It may not be Jeanette at her absolute best, but it’s still an entertaining pre-Code that I think is worth recommending!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 29 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Love Me Tonight (1932)Jeanette MacDonaldNaughty Marietta (1935)

Fast And Loose (1930) – Frank Morgan – The Good Fairy (1935)

Going Hollywood (1933) – Sterling Holloway – Remember The Night (1940)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Make Mine Music (1946)

Well, we’re back to start off the new year with a few reviews of some of last year’s new physical media releases. And I’m going to start by branching out into an animated Disney film, something I haven’t done before (mostly because I think everybody has some knowledge of the animated Disney classics and I don’t have much else to say on the subject). I definitely wanted to do today’s film, though, since it features the vocal talents of Nelson Eddy, half of my Screen Team Of The Month! That, of course, makes it the 1946 package film Make Mine Music, which also features the talents of Dinah Shore, Benny Goodman, the Andrews Sisters, Jerry Colonna, Andy Russell, Sterling Holloway, Tania Riabouchinskaya and David Lichine, the Pied Pipers, the King’s Men and the Ken Darby Chorus. Of course, due to the nature of the film, I’ll throw in a Table of Contents to help get to the various sections quicker, if you so choose!

Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… Readin’ And Writin’ (1932)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 3 (1932-1933) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 21 minutes, 2 seconds)

Brisbane (Kendell McComas) doesn’t want to go to school, so he tries to get himself expelled. This one didn’t have a huge amount of plot to it, but it certainly was fun, with all the antics that Brisbane tried in order to get himself expelled. Admittedly, it’s not too original, sharing some similarities to earlier entries in the series with the kids’ answers and Miss Crabtree’s (June Marlowe) double-takes, plus the attempts to play pranks on her (that end up backfiring). Still, original or not, it’s a lot of fun (even if it is, from everything I’ve read, June Marlowe’s last appearance as Miss Crabtree)!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Band Concert (1935)

(Available as an extra on the Make Mine Music Blu-ray from Disney Studios)

(Length: 9 minutes,18 seconds)

Mickey and his friends are trying to hold a band concert in the park, but have to deal with the interruptions of ice cream vendor Donald Duck and a tornado. Essentially the first Mickey Mouse short done in Technicolor, this also helped Donald Duck on his way to becoming a star at Disney. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen this one, but I can’t deny that it’s still a good one! Watching Donald as he tries to start playing “Turkey In The Straw” on his flute (and, in the process, dragging the rest of the band away from the William Tell Overture, which is what they were supposed to be playing) is a lot of fun! Of course, the relationship between him and Mickey is a bit more antagonistic, but that provides a lot of the humor here (as does the tornado which wreaks havoc on everything, but can’t stop the band from playing the song even as they get swept away). It’s an oldie, but a goodie!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Farmyard Symphony (1938)

(Available as an extra on the Make Mine Music Blu-ray from Disney Studios)

(Length: 8 minutes, 13 seconds)

On the farm, all the animals wake up and start the day when the rooster crows. This Silly Symphony cartoon really has no plot, just an emphasis on music. Honestly, this is one of the few Disney cartoons I’m not overly familiar with. I’ve seen it a handful of times, but I recognize the footage that was reused in the later 1951 Chip ‘n’ Dale short Chicken In The Rough. I much prefer that later short with its humor (and particularly Chip ‘n’ Dale), but this one is fairly entertaining.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Music Land (1935)

(Available as an extra on the Make Mine Music Blu-ray from Disney Studios)

(Length: 9 minutes, 36 seconds)

A war breaks out between the Isle Of Jazz and the Land Of Symphony when a princess violin (from the Land Of Symphony) falls for a saxophone prince (from the Isle Of Jazz). This is a fun cartoon, one that I’ve seen many times over the years. The music certainly helps set the tone here, with the more classical music for one group, and the jazzy music for the other. The methods of “war,” with the rulers essentially leading orchestras that shoot the music at each other is quite memorable. Again, I have a soft spot for this cartoon, and I know I always enjoy seeing it again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Initially, Walt Disney started out with plans for a follow-up to Fantasia, which would have included some of the music that ended up in Make Mine Music. His plans were put on hold due to World War II, as well as much of his staff being drafted into the army/enlisted to help with training and propaganda films. As a result, he found himself with various ideas and stories that were either too long for theatrical shorts, or too short to be full-length features. So he decided to put these various ideas together into a package film of different segments with varying lengths. The movie itself was fairly well-received by audiences, although its initial theatrical run would be its only time in theaters. Some of the different segments were later reissued as individual shorts instead of getting a wide theatrical reissue for the whole film.

Due to the nature of this film, with its shorter sections, I will in some respects be treating them like my normal Coming Up Shorts! comments on theatrical shorts.

The Martins And The Coys

The King’s Men narrate this tale of a pair of feuding hillbilly families, the Martins and the Coys. The feud starts with a member of the Coy family stealing some eggs (and the Martins retaliating), and quickly almost all members of both families are killed off. Only one member of each family remains (Henry Coy and Grace Martin), and they fall in love with each other, much to the consternation of their deceased relatives watching from the clouds above. This one was new to me, and I will admit that I found the music to be fun, as was the story. Maybe not the absolute best part of this movie, but entertaining enough. This one admittedly has fallen prey to being censored by Disney, as they have removed it completely from the movie on home video in recent years. Most of what I read says it is about the gun violence (which is somewhat ridiculous, in my opinion, as I would say that the short’s ending with its domestic violence would seem more objectionable). Still, that does make it harder to see.

Blue Bayou

In this segment, the Ken Darby Chorus sings the song “Blue Bayou” as we watch a pair of egrets in the Everglades. Nothing really happens here, outside of watching one egret walking through (with the water rippling outward where it walks), so this one might be tougher to enjoy for those who prefer an actual plot or something happening. Apparently, this section was originally created to be part of Fantasia (or any of its originally planned future versions), with the Claude Debussy song “Claire de Lune” recorded by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski’s direction. The animation stayed for Make Mine Music, but the recording of “Blue Bayou” was substituted in by the time of the film’s release. Not the most remarkable segment, but the animation is still beautiful to watch.

All The Cats Join In

In this segment, Benny Goodman and his orchestra provide the music for the song “All The Cats Join In.” The story has a group of teens that decide to get together at a malt shop and dance to the music from the jukebox. This one was quite entertaining, especially with some of the various characters, vehicles and places being “drawn” as the story continues to happen (with the kids driving off in their jalopy before the “artist” is even done drawing the car). The song is fun, and this is one of the better segments. Like The Martins And The Coys, it has run afoul of being censored by Disney (although in this case, it’s mainly some mild female nudity that’s been edited out, as opposed to the whole segment).

Without You

This segment features Andy Russell singing a tune as we see nature through a window during and after a rainstorm. Like the earlier Blue Bayou short, this one really doesn’t have any action going on. The animation is interesting, especially as we see nature through the rain falling down the window. That’s honestly the only redeemable part of it, as the song itself is rather forgettable (but mercifully short).

Casey At The Bat

This segment tells the story of “Casey At The Bat” from the poem by Ernest Thayer. Jerry Colonna narrates, as we see the people of Mudville cheer on their baseball star, Casey, hoping he will bring their team victory. I’ve seen this segment separated as a short on TV many times over the years, and it’s one I’ve always found fun (even more so after I saw Jerry Colonna in a few live action movies, like his appearances alongside Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in a few of the Road movies). The story (even if completely true to the original poem) is entertaining and humorous, and as much a warning about being too cocky as anything. One I certainly love to see again and again (and therefore, one of this film’s better segments)!

Two Silhouettes

For this segment, Dinah Shore sings the song “Two Silhouettes.” Onscreen, we have a ballet dance from David Lichine and Tania Riabouchinskaya, who are animated via rotoscoping. It’s fascinating to watch this dance, even if it feels a little too simple compared to what other screen dancers could do with live action. But, I suspect, that is the problem, since the animators would have had to trace over everything, and so, to a degree, the simpler, the better for them. The title song is decent, and the combination of dancing and animation works pretty well. At least this one was more substantial than some of the earlier shorts in the film like Blue Bayou and Without You.

Peter And The Wolf

Sterling Holloway narrates this story of a little boy named Peter who goes out to hunt a wolf with some of his animal friends. I’ve seen this segment many a time (as its own separate short), and it’s always a lot of fun! The way they use the different musical instruments as part of the score to denote the various characters makes this one quite entertaining! Of course, Sterling Holloway’s narration is quite fun, too, especially as he tries to interact with the characters (not that they seem to hear him, anyways). Like I said, this segment is one I know I enjoy, and love to come back to every now and then!

After You’ve Gone

This segment features Benny Goodman and the Goodman Quartet playing the music. Onscreen, we see various musical instruments (led, in particular, by a clarinet) as they go through a musical environment. This is another one without much of a plot, and that’s a bit of a strike against it. The animation is fun to watch, especially when we have a pair of hands (which then turn into a pair of legs) play on piano keys. The music itself is fun, which adds to this segment’s charm. It’s still not a great one, but it’s entertaining enough for a few minutes.

Johnnie Fedora And Alice Bluebonnet

The Andrews Sisters sing a tale about two different hats. Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet are a pair of hats in a department store window who have fallen in love (until Alice is sold to a customer). When Johnnie has been purchased, he tries to find Alice, but keeps managing to miss her. I’ve seen this segment before via some of the various programs containing Disney shorts over the years. Until this viewing, I don’t think it sank in that it was the Andrews Sisters narrating, and their presence makes this fun short even better. It’s an entertaining little love story, with good animation and a lot of heart behind it. I know I still like it after all these years!

The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At The Met

Ah, the moment I’ve been waiting for (and, as it’s the reason I’m including this movie as part of my Screen Team Of The Month blogathon for January 2022, it will take at least two paragraphs to talk about it). A whale is heard singing opera out in the ocean, making the headlines of newspapers and causing a lot of debate over whether it is really possible for a whale to sing. Opera impresario Tetti Tatti thinks that the whale has swallowed an opera singer, and sets out with a schooner and a harpooner to “rescue the opera singer.” The whale, Willie, actually can sing, and tries to audition for Tetti Tatti when he hears that the impresario is seeking him out. The schooner’s harpooners find themselves enjoying Willie’s singing, as he dreams of what it would be like for him to sing at the Met.

This is another segment that I’ve seen many a time since I was a kid (although it was the individual short, which had been retitled Willie The Operatic Whale, which I saw on a VHS). Even though it didn’t exactly have a happy ending, I will admit that I liked it as a child, and, seeing it again as an adult, I have even more respect for it! As a kid, I couldn’t have told you who Nelson Eddy was, and I certainly wouldn’t have known that all the whale’s singing was done by him. Now I know, which is what makes this short even better for me! I find it very impressive how they were able to use technology (some of which Nelson Eddy had been fiddling around with on his own) to allow him to sing in different voices, from bass through soprano. I’ll admit, seeing Willie the Whale as Mephistopheles was somewhat scary as a little kid (albeit not in a traumatic way, thankfully), and still is a little scary, even as an adult. Still, it’s an entertaining short that I’m glad to be able to see again!

My Overall Impression

This is probably one of the few animated Disney classics that I hadn’t really seen in its entirety until recently. Mostly, I had seen a few of the shorts through the likes of VHS and TV programs, but never in this form. For me, it’s easy to say that the shorts I was previously acquainted with are the ones that stick with me, especially Casey At The Bat, Peter And The Wolf, Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet, and The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At The Met. In particular, Willie The Whale is the one that I have the fondest memories of (to the extent that, even after many years of not seeing it, the music still easily gets stuck in my head, even after one viewing), and helps raise my opinion of the overall film completely on its own. Amongst those that I hadn’t seen before in their entirety, All The Cats Join In was the most memorable, with its fun little story and music. It’s a very inconsistent film in terms of its quality (hard not to be when it is comprised solely of various shorts not all done by the same people), but I still think it is worth seeing and enjoying!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Disney. The Blu-ray release is available exclusively through the Disney Movie Club (or, for those who can’t become members, it can also be found through other sellers on eBay and other sites). The pros about the Blu-ray: the transfer looks quite good, in my opinion, and, as indicated above, it has three classic shorts included as extras (a new thing for Disney Movie Club exclusives). The con: it’s the edited version of the film, missing the Martins And The Coys segment and the edited out moments from All The Cats Join In. This is particularly frustrating, as being a Disney Movie Club exclusive makes it that much harder to purchase, and is therefore going to appeal mainly to collectors (who would mostly prefer to have the entire, UNCUT film). As a result, the version of the movie included runs about one hour, eight minutes in length. It’s got the main parts that I like and enjoy, but I can’t deny that I would scoop up the full version if the release were fixed (and I hope it does somewhere down the line).

(Full) Film Length: 1 hour, 15 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collection

Phantom Of The Opera (1943)Nelson Eddy

Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) – Dinah Shore

Hold That Ghost (1941) – The Andrews Sisters – Road To Rio (1947)

Road To Utopia (1946) – Jerry Colonna – Road To Rio (1947)

Remember The Night (1940) – Sterling Holloway

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“Star Of The Month (February 2021)” Featuring Clark Gable in… Dancing Lady (1933)

I’m back again to continue celebrating Clark Gable as my Star Of The Month, and this time around, I’m doing his 1933 film Dancing Lady, also starring Joan Crawford!  Of course, as usual, we’ve got a few theatrical shorts to get things started, and then it’s on with the show!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Mess Production (1945)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection)

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

(Length: 7 minutes, 7 seconds)

Factory workers Popeye and Bluto have to rescue Olive when she gets knocked for a loop by a swinging grappling hook. Apparently the first cartoon to sport a new design for Olive that would be continued, going forward. This one was fun, with all the gags of the boys trying to rescue her (and fight each other off at the same time). It was better than the previous two, with Jack Mercer again voicing Popeye. Admittedly, the whole gag of Olive sleepwalking after being hit in the head does kind of drag on, but it’s still fun enough to be worth seeing every now and then!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Plane Nuts (1933)

(available as an extra on the Dancing Lady DVD from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 19 minutes, 41 seconds)

Ted Healy and the Stooges perform onstage.  From what I can tell, this short apparently filmed part of their stage act, including Bonnie Bonnell, and was interspersed with clips from some Busby Berkeley choreographed numbers from the film Flying High.  Honestly, I don’t really care for Ted Healy as much here, but the Stooges themselves are at least somewhat fun.  As far as the dance numbers, I’d really rather see the film they came from, as they just seem out of place with everything else going on here.  Interesting but otherwise forgettable short.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Roast Beef And Movies (1934)

(available as an extra on the Dancing Lady DVD from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 16 minutes, 16 seconds)

Three men try to peddle their ideas to a movie producer, who offered up a lot of money to someone who could come up with a big idea.  This color short (made in Two-Color Technicolor or something similar, if I am guessing correctly) is a rare short that features Curly Howard (here billed as “Jerry Howard”) apart from his fellow Stooges Moe and Larry.  Given that he is not a prominent member of the trio, and the short is comprised of several sequences (two of which are borrowed from other films), it’s not particularly memorable.  They do attempt to use some Stooges-type of humor, but it really doesn’t work without the actual Stooges team.  At best, this one is only to be seen by fans of Curly, and otherwise should be avoided.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Dancer Janie Barlow (Joan Crawford) is doing a striptease in a burlesque theatre along with her friend Rosette LaRue (Winnie Lightner) and a number of other ladies, when the police raid the place and arrest them all.  Janie is sentenced to jail since she can’t pay her fine, but she is soon bailed out by rich socialite Tod Newton (Franchot Tone).  While he is interested in her, she would prefer to consider the bail money just a loan (which she intends to pay back).  With her newfound freedom, Janie opts not to go back to the burlesque theatre, and instead starts looking for work as a dancer on Broadway.  She tries to get into the show directed by Patch Gallagher (Clark Gable), even following him everywhere to get his attention, but her methods don’t work.  She runs back into Tod again, who offers to help her get her foot in the door with a letter of introduction to Patch’s producer, Jasper Bradley, Sr. (Grant Mitchell).  Jasper is delighted and has his son, Junior (Maynard Holmes) bring Janie to Patch for an audition.  Believing her to be a no-talent, Patch hands her off to his stage manager Steve (Ted Healy) to get rid of her.  However, she manages to impress Steve (and then Patch), and is given a job in the show.  Secretly, Tod offers to help finance the show in hopes of getting Janie to like him.  He proposes to her, but she wants to have her chance at stardom before she’s ready to settle down.  As the rehearsals go on, Patch decides to change things up, and promotes Janie to a starring role.  However, Tod decides to pull his backing, and the two Bradleys close the show (without telling everyone the real reason).  Tod almost immediately whisks Janie away on a trip to Cuba, while Patch decides to finance the show himself, with things going back to the way they were.  But, can he pull the show off?  And will Janie indeed give up on her dream of dancing?  Only watching the movie will tell!

Oh, where to begin with this one?  Joan Crawford, who had successfully transitioned from silent movies to talkies, was coming off a few flops and in need of a big hit.  The film was given to producer David O. Selznick, who was inspired by Warner’s recent success with 42nd Street and put together his own team for this film.  Joan Crawford had some choice in casting, and picked Clark Gable, for what would be the fourth of eight movies pairing the two.  The critics weren’t overly enthusiastic for the movie, but audiences of the time were, making it a big hit for MGM.

This is one of those movies where it’s just as much fun to see cast members who made it big AFTER this movie.  We have Eve Arden making a very quick cameo.  We have Nelson Eddy singing the song “That’s The Rhythm Of The Day.”  We’ve got the Three Stooges (although they were still stuck with Ted Healy at the time, and therefore are mostly in the background for the majority of the movie).  We’ve got a quick appearance from Sterling Holloway.  And, of course, we’ve got Fred Astaire making his film debut, playing himself (and getting introduced by Clark Gable)!

I can’t deny the fact that this is essentially MGM’s version of 42nd Street, from the very similar story to the Busby Berkeley-esque dance routines.  I would definitely say that I prefer Dancing Lady, as I’ve seen it many more times.  It does still have similar issues, with a lead female (Ruby Keeler in 42nd Street and Joan Crawford here) being featured as a big dance star (but whose skills don’t really look that good, especially in hindsight).  If Joan Crawford has any advantage, it’s her two dance routines with Fred Astaire, where her dancing looks a bit more polished.  Of course, those two songs (“Heigh Ho, The Gang’s All Here” and “Let’s Go Bavarian”) are some of the most fun tunes in the film (and are generally stuck in my head for a while afterwards)!  It’s not quite as much fun to watch Fred here, as neither the choreography nor the camerawork is as good as most would expect after watching his later films.  To be fair, I blame most of that on this being his first film, before he became big enough to have more control on how his dancing was filmed.  Not to mention the fact that his stuff was filmed over a two week period (and it shows, with his appearances and disappearances within the movie feeling quite random).

But, I digress.  I still need to talk about Clark Gable (after all, HE is the “Star Of The Month”).  While he may not have been the reason I originally saw this movie, I can’t deny that I have enjoyed Clark Gable’s performance in this film.  In him we have a very street smart director, one who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to tell his producer that.  Not to mention, he knows how to deal with the producer’s “demands” (such as when he is told to give Joan Crawford’s Janie Barlow an audition).  Of course, he’s not a pure tough guy, either, as his own insecurities come to light when he is forced to produce his show with his own money (and, lucky for him, Janie comes around to help pull him out of the funk he slips into).  All in all, this is a wonderful movie that I enjoy coming back to again and again, and therefore, I would definitely recommend it!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

No Man Of Her Own (1932)Clark GableIt Happened One Night (1934)

Franchot Tone – Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)

Fred AstaireTop Hat (1935)

Robert Benchley – Nice Girl? (1941)

Nelson EddyNaughty Marietta (1935)

Professional Sweetheart (1933) – Sterling Holloway – Alice In Wonderland (1933)

Eve Arden – Having Wonderful Time (1938)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Alice In Wonderland (1933)

“‘The time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.” If you haven’t guessed already, this time we’re here to talk about Alice In Wonderland. No, not the animated 1951 Disney classic, or the more recent 2010 live action remake, it’s the 1933 black and white live action film featuring Charlotte Henry as Alice.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Ant And The Aardvark (1969)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 15 seconds)

The ant finds a nearby picnic and tries to bring home some food, but is constantly being interrupted by the aardvark. The first cartoon in the series, giving us a typical predator vs. prey cartoon. A bit of fun here, with a few fun gags. Whether any will be remembered as being original, I doubt it, but it’s still a lot of fun, and one of the better cartoons in this set!

And Now For The Main Feature…

One night, while watching a snowstorm and petting her cat, Alice finds herself bored. In the process, she lets her imagination get away with her as she imagines things about a white rabbit, chess pieces and the looking glass above the fireplace mantle. She decides to try walking through the looking glass, and finds a different world there. When she spies the white rabbit, she follows him, only to fall down a rabbit hole. While there, she runs into many different characters, from the Caterpillar, to the Cheshire Cat, to the Red and White Queens, to the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, and many others.

Obviously, most will know of the 1951 Disney classic, but not too many know that Walt Disney had, with Mary Pickford, been trying to plan a live action and animation hybrid in the early 1930s. However, Paramount Studios beat them to the punch and got the film rights first (and had an animated segment in their film for “The Walrus And The Carpenter”). Many actresses were auditioned for the title role of Alice, with some sources claiming that Ida Lupino tested for it and was originally intended to get the role, but it ended up going to Charlotte Henry. It ended up being an all-star movie, as Paramount was hoping the film would help keep them from going bankrupt. However, the movie ended up being a flop.

Like many, I can guarantee that the 1951 Disney animated film is probably the most familiar version of the Lewis Carroll story for me. Not having read the actual stories, I can’t really say how accurate this movie is to the book. To a degree, I can understand why the movie originally flopped. In spite of all the big stars in the cast, most are hard to recognize underneath all those costumes. And speaking of costumes, I would certainly say that some of them might border on being too scary for little children, so this is not necessarily a movie for the whole family. As to plot, this movie is very episodic in nature, without much of a thread to pull everything together.

Still, that’s not a terrible thing, as some scenes are a bit of fun. I know I got a chuckle out of Alice’s conversation with the Dodo (played by Polly Moran), as the Dodo talks about history to help dry out Alice’s clothes (hmm, maybe I should try that sometime with my own 😉 ). While the character essentially seems to be a puppet, Humpty Dumpty is still very recognizable as being voiced by famous comedian W. C. Fields, and is one of the better scenes (even if it does feel too short). Edward Everett Horton seems well cast (and easily recognizable) as the Mad Hatter, and is joined by Charles Ruggles as the March Hare (although he’s not as easily recognizable in his costume) for the tea party scene (which is a lot of fun). As you can tell, I can EASILY go on about many of the scenes here, since they are so much fun (and that’s not even mentioning a familiar voice coming from the “wrong” character, since Sterling Holloway, who would later voice the Cheshire Cat in the Disney film, is the voice of the Frog here, with Richard Arlen voicing the Cheshire Cat here). I do think, when it comes down to preference, I would go with the Disney classic for its music, slightly more coherent story and it’s more family-friendly nature, but this one is still a bit of fun, and worth recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. The movie looks pretty good in high definition. There are some scratches here and there, and the picture isn’t perfect, but, given the fact that the movie didn’t even make its home video debut on DVD until 2010 and is therefore not going to be popular enough to warrant a full restoration (I would assume), this release looks good enough for me to recommend it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 16 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Design For Living (1933) – Gary Cooper – Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

Running Wild (1927)W. C. FieldsThe Old-Fashioned Way (1934)

The Eagle And The Hawk (1933)Cary GrantLadies Should Listen (1934)

Dancing Lady (1933) – Sterling Holloway – Going Hollywood (1933)

Design For Living (1933) – Edward Everett Horton – Ladies Should Listen (1934)

Charles Ruggles – Bringing Up Baby (1938)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Professional Sweetheart (1933)

And here we are for another Ginger Rogers movie, this time the 1933 comedy Professional Sweetheart, also starring Norman Foster, Zasu Pitts, Frank McHugh, Allen Jenkins and Gregory Ratoff.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Fistic Mystic (1946)

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

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)

Popeye and Olive come to Badgag, where they run into “Bourgeois” Bluto. As usual, Popeye and Bluto are fighting over Olive, this time in a Mid-East setting. Olive does have a bit more to do, especially as she helps Popeye get his spinach. The gags are fun here, with Popeye and Bluto trying to one-up each other (like always)! While Harry Welch still takes some getting used to as Popeye’s voice, he does decently enough here. Overall, a very fun short that I enjoyed seeing!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Popular radio star Glory Eden (Ginger Rogers), known as the “Purity Girl,” is on the verge of signing a new contract with her sponsor, the Ippsie Wippsie Wash Cloth Company, owned by Sam Ipswich (Gregory Ratoff). However, she really doesn’t want to sign, as she is less than thrilled with the “morals clause,” with her current contract, which states that, as the “Purity Girl,” she can’t eat what she wants, dress how she wants, wear makeup, go out to nightclubs or speakeasies, etc. After some arguing, she is able to at least convince them she should have a shot at a relationship with a man, and they end up picking a letter from one of her fans, Jim Davy (Norman Foster) from Kentucky. They bring him there, and while the men from the company are trying to plan the marriage, their press agent Speed Dennis (Frank McHugh) has to nudge Jim into proposing since he hadn’t had time alone with Glory. Meanwhile, rival company Kelsey Dish Rag owner Tim Kelsey (Edgar Kennedy) wants to sign up Glory for his company, and sends his man O’Connor (Allen Jenkins) to try and get her to sign. O’Connor manages to convince Jim (and then Glory) not to sign with Ipswich, offering them a honeymoon in Atlantic City. However, after the wedding ceremony is aired on the radio for the Ippsie Wippsie Hour, Jim discovers that O’Connor wanted Glory to sign a five-year contract with Kelsey and that the whole thing in bringing him up there was essentially a gag. Jim secretly brings Glory back to his home in Kentucky in an attempt to see if she can live with all the “simple things” she claimed she wanted.

In what was to be her first film at RKO, Ginger Rogers was signed to a three-film deal. The movie was written by former newswoman Maurine Dallas Watkins, who had famously written the play Chicago, which Ginger would do a version of onscreen with Roxie Hart nearly a decade later. Ginger’s only complaint with Professional Sweetheart (and one most of us fans would probably have, too) is that she was, for the only time in her career, dubbed for the singing parts. Otherwise, the movie was well-received, enough so that later that year, she was offered a better seven year contract, during which time she would famously be paired with Fred Astaire and become a bigger star.

Of course, this movie was made before the Code was firmly enforced, and boy, you can definitely tell it is a pre-Code! From some of the frank (for the time) discussions of sex, an openly gay character, and Ginger parading around at times in her underwear (admittedly still modest by our modern standards), it definitely would have been a far different film if it had been released a few years later! I very much had fun with this movie, as it was a complete surprise, and one I mainly tried out because of Ginger. It was very much worth it, not just for her but also for a lot of the character actors, including Sterling Holloway (the voice of Winnie The Pooh) as one of the reporters! I do admit, I’m not thrilled with Ginger being dubbed (then again, I don’t really care for the song, so there is that), and the relationship between Glory and Jim is kind of forced, especially since we’re supposed to believe they love each other, even though they don’t really spend much time together alone until Jim is pushed into proposing. Still, I had enough fun with this movie that I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending a fun movie that in some ways still manages to be relevant even today!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 13 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)Ginger RogersUpper World (1934)

Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) – Sterling Holloway – Dancing Lady (1933)

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

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)

If you’re in the money, then I hope you’re here as we get into the classic musical Gold Diggers Of 1933, starring Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Mush And Milk (1933)

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

(Length: 18 minutes, 18 seconds)

The gang are all stuck at a boarding school run by a cranky old lady (Louise Emmons).  Her husband, Cap (Gus Leonard) promises to give the kids a better life when his back pension comes through.  This one was a bit of fun.  It did tread some similar ground to what we’ve seen before, especially with the ways that the kids answered questions in school (but it’s still quite entertaining).  The most memorable and hilarious bit in this short was how Dickie (Dickie Moore) and Stymie (Matthew Beard) milked a cow with a vacuum cleaner (now why didn’t I think of that? 😉 ).  It’s sad knowing that this was the last short for Dickie Moore, Bobby “Wheezer” Hutchins and Dorothy DeBorba, but it was a fun sendoff just the same!

Coming Up Shorts! with… We’re In The Money (1933)

(Available as an extra on the Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)

When the department store is closed up for the night, everything comes to life!  This entry in Warner’s Merrie Melodies series mainly has the characters singing and dancing to the song “We’re In The Money.”  It’s interesting, if only because the song itself is fun.  There are some amusing gags here (particularly when some coins start singing along as well as some then-current celebrity caricatures), but that’s the most that can be said about this otherwise plot-less cartoon.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pettin’ In The Park (1934)

(Available as an extra on the Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes)

In the park, several couples cuddle up together (particularly a policeman and a maid).  Later on, a group of birds hold a swimming contest.  Another entry in the Merrie Melodies series, this one features the song (wait for it….) “Pettin’ In The Park.”  Given the short’s two distinct “plots” (if you can even call them that), it’s really not that interesting.  There are a few humorous gags and the song itself is fun, but that’s about all that can be said about this forgettable short.

Coming Up Shorts! with… I’ve Got To Sing A Torch Song (1933)

(Available as an extra on the Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)

People tune in to a radio station to listen to the song “I’ve Got To Sing A Torch Song.”  Yet another Merrie Melodies cartoon with a focus on the title song (and zero plot).  There’s some fun to be found here with some of the various celebrities that have been caricatured (that is, if you have any idea who some of them are).  Some of the jokes work well, but they’re still not enough to carry yet another underwhelming song-focused cartoon (even if the song itself is good).

Coming Up Shorts! with… Rambling Round Radio Row #2 (1932)

(Available as an extra on the Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 11 seconds)

This short contains several musical numbers.  There’s no real plot here, as it starts off with a focus on a trio of singers as they rehearse in composer Burton Lane’s room on board a ship, before switching to a pair of saxophonists and then finishing with a young lady singing in her room.  None of the music is that memorable, but Harry Barris doing “Music Has Charms” is fun, as is the pair of saxophonists (Rudy Wiedoeft and Bennie Krueger) with their comedic bits.  Not an overly memorable program, but at least it has some fun reasons to see it every now and then.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The 42nd Street Special (1933)

(Available as an extra on the Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 5 minutes, 45 seconds)

This short contains the send-off of a train dubbed the “42nd Street Special” as it leaves L.A. and makes its way to Washington, D.C. for the presidential inauguration of FDR.  There are a few familiar names and faces, like a very young Bette Davis and executives like Jack Warner and Darryl F. Zanuck.  Given that it’s mostly some quick speeches, it’s not very memorable.  Any appeal that this short has is purely from a historical standpoint, since it was part of Warner Brothers’ campaign to help promote 42nd Street (1933).

Coming Up Shorts! with… Seasoned Greetings (1933)

(Available as an extra on the Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 19 minutes, 47 seconds)

Lita (Lita Grey Chaplin) runs a greeting card store, but her dishonest neighbor/competitor is taking away all her business.  Then Lita comes up with the idea to sell talking “cards” (records). Later on, she also decides to make the records out of chocolate, which appeals to kids.  It’s an interesting short.  There are a few fun musical moments (particularly with songs from Gold Diggers Of 1933), and one comical moment of the competitor mixing up records (although we only see the reaction of one recipient).  It’s not the best acted short, but it provided some entertainment (and it was fun seeing a very young Sammy Davis Jr.).

And Now For The Main Feature…

Producer Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) has an idea for a show, but no cash to put it on with. He encounters songwriter Brad Roberts (Dick Powell) when he is meeting with some of the chorus girls from Barney’s attempted shows.  Brad puts up the money to do the show, as long as his girlfriend Polly Parker (Ruby Keeler) is given the lead. When the male lead has issues with lumbago, Brad has to go on in his place. The show is successful, but it is revealed that Brad is actually Robert Treat Bradford, a member of a wealthy society family. His older brother, J. Lawrence Bradford (Warren William) is less than thrilled that Brad is involved in show business, but he is particularly adamant that Brad should not go out with Polly, since Lawrence and the family lawyer Faneuil Peabody (Guy Kibbee) believe all chorus girls are gold diggers. Lawrence and Faneuil come to Polly’s apartment, and mistake one of her roommates, Carol King (Joan Blondell) for her. Carol and her other roommate Trixie Lorraine (Aline MacMahon) decide to play along with the mistake and get back at them for insulting them.  While it’s a game for the gals at first, they do start to have real feelings for the two men (and vice versa).

After the success of 42nd Street (1933), Warner Brothers quickly followed up with Gold Diggers Of 1933, bringing back a lot of the same cast, choreographer Busby Berkeley and songwriters Harry Warren and Al Dubin (and make sure you note who the songwriters are, as that helps make at least one line early in the movie that much funnier). But for the story, they made use of a Broadway show called The Gold Diggers which they had already filmed twice before, once as a silent film in 1923 and again as an early talkie in 1929 (The Gold Diggers Of Broadway, which is sadly now a lost film with the exception of a few surviving reels). Busby Berkeley was given more freedom and a bigger budget to work with for this movie, resulting in four big numbers, including the song “Remember My Forgotten Man,” which drew inspiration from the then-recent Bonus March (in which veterans of the first world war, suffering from the effects of the Depression, tried and failed to claim their government pensions that had been promised to them after the war).

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed the songs “We’re In The Money” and the “Shadow Waltz.”  “We’re In The Money” is probably this film’s most iconic number, starting us off with a group of chorus girls, led by Ginger Rogers, singing on stage how the Depression is over for them, as they are (literally) covered in money, only for the number to end early when a sheriff and his deputies come in and take everything because the show’s producer hadn’t paid the bills.  Of course, Ginger makes the song memorable by doing part of it in pig Latin (which was apparently something she was doing offscreen just for fun and, when somebody heard her doing it, they suggested she do it in the movie).  “Shadow Waltz,” while not quite as well known, is still visually entertaining as we see the dancers moving around with neon-lit violins, especially for Busby Berkeley’s trademark overhead shots.

There are definitely two distinct halves to this movie.  The first half focuses on everybody trying to put on the show and on the relationship between Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler’s characters.  The second half switches things up by emphasizing the gold digger aspects as Warren William’s character mistakenly tries to end his brother’s relationship and is instead taken for a ride by the roommates.  This situation works, and definitely keeps the movie from essentially repeating the earlier 42nd Street.  Overall, Gold Diggers Of 1933 is a very fun pre-Code film, and one that is highly recommended!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with… Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)

On February 8, 2022, Warner Archive Collection released Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) on Blu-ray.  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 and Footlight Parade (1933)!

Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #4 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Warren William – Upper World (1934)

The Public Enemy (1931) – Joan Blondell – Footlight Parade (1933)

42nd Street (1933) – Ruby Keeler – Footlight Parade (1933)

42nd Street (1933) – Dick Powell – Footlight Parade (1933)

42nd Street (1933)Ginger RogersProfessional Sweetheart (1933)

Blonde Venus (1932) – Sterling Holloway – Professional Sweetheart (1933)

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 2019 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Blonde Venus (1932)

Moving on to the next movie in the Dietrich and Von Sternberg set, we have the 1932 movie Blonde Venus, also starring Herbert Marshall and Cary Grant.

In this movie, Marlene Dietrich plays Helen Faraday.  Her husband, chemist Edward Faraday (Herbert Marshall), contracts radium poisoning.  He hears about an experimental cure in Europe , but they can’t afford it.  To help pay for it, Helen goes back on the stage to make some extra money. There, she meets millionaire Nick Townsend (Cary Grant), who takes a liking to her, even after he finds out she has a husband and son. He helps pay for her husband to go to Europe and be cured (but she doesn’t tell her husband the exact source of the money). The experiment works well enough that he returns early, but he doesn’t find his wife or son at home. She tells him about her affair with Nick, and he decides to take their son away from her, believing her to be an unfit mother. She runs away with their son, managing to stay just ahead of the detectives following her, until she realizes this is no life for her son.

I will admit, this is the movie in the set that I was most looking forward to. As this is one of Cary Grant’s early appearances, I was curious to see what he is like. This is before he had his fully developed screen persona, so it is different to see him like this (and the fact that it is one of his early appearances would make it the only reason why Marlene’s character would choose her husband over Grant’s character, I would say). His character is gone for a good section of the movie, but I would say he is still a likeable guy (even if he is fooling around with a married woman).

The rest of the movie is fun. Marlene gets a few songs to sing, but the most memorable is the song “Hot Voodoo.” It finds her coming out in a gorilla costume with a lot of African “natives” behind her, and she gets out of the costume before putting on a blonde wig and singing the song. It’s not exactly politically correct, but it does seem to be impressive, just the same. The movie does seem to jump around sometimes (from what I have read, partly due to the interference from the censors, who really changed the story from what was originally planned). The opening scene is where the movie shows that it is a pre-Code, with a bunch of women swimming in the nude. The water seems to cover everything as far as I can tell, but this is fair warning for parents. Of course, I think it is fun seeing Sterling Holloway, the original voice of Winnie the Pooh making a cameo appearance here. This movie isn’t perfect, but I did enjoy it and would recommend it to anybody interested!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Shanghai Express (1932) – Marlene Dietrich – The Scarlet Empress (1934)

Cary GrantThe Eagle And The Hawk (1933)

Sterling Holloway – Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)

Shanghai Express (1932)Dietrich & Von Sternberg In HollywoodThe Scarlet Empress (1934)

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