“Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart (September 2021)” featuring… Deep In My Heart (1954)

For today’s entry in the Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon, we’ve got the 1954 all-star musical biopic on composer Sigmund Romberg, Deep In My Heart, starring Jose Ferrer, Merle Oberon and Helen Traubel!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Strauss Fantasy (1954)

(Available as an extra on the Deep In My Heart Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 49 seconds)

Johnny Green conducts the MGM Symphony Orchestra in a medley of tunes by the three Strausses: Johann Strauss Sr., Johann Strauss Jr. and Josef Strauss.  It’s a nice, short little concert with some fun, recognizable classical music (even if it is slightly edited to fit in the short runtime).  This short is probably best played in the background of whatever you might be doing, but it’s still enjoyable!  My only real complaint is that, on this Blu-ray, this short is using an old, unrestored, non-anamorphic transfer, and I wish that could be improved upon.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Farm Of Tomorrow (1954)

(Available as an extra on the Deep In My Heart Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection or as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 6 minutes, 32 seconds)

We are shown the “farm of tomorrow.” This one has some fun, but I’ll admit it quickly goes a little sour for me. Instead of being as much about farming, it quickly devolves into gags revolving around the crossbreeding of different animals (and some objects). There are some good gags to be found here, don’t get me wrong, but it just seems like it goes the wrong direction. Still, it’s one I’ll probably find myself returning to here and there (with my expectations in check).  Of course, the transfer for this cartoon is older on the Deep In My Heart Blu-ray, so it doesn’t look as good as it does on the Tex Avery set released several years later.

And Now For The Main Feature…

In New York City, composer Sigmund “Romy” Romberg (Jose Ferrer) works at the Café Vienna, run by his friend Anna Mueller (Helen Traubel).  One night, a music promoter named Berrison, Sr. (David Burns) listens to Romy’s music, but determines it to be old-fashioned.  Inspired by Berrison’s descriptions of what type of music he wants to promote, Romy writes a ragtime tune that quickly becomes a hit.  That song’s success attracts the attention of theatrical impresario J. J. Shubert (Walter Pidgeon), and Romy auditions a new song for Shubert’s upcoming show.  Shubert’s leading lady, Gaby Deslys (Tamara Toumananova), is at first indifferent to Romy’s new song, but when a visiting actress, Dorothy Donnelly (Merle Oberon), praises it, Gaby decides to have Shubert buy it.  When he sees the show on opening night, Romy is disgusted with the overall presentation of his song.  Anna holds a party at the Café Vienna afterwards, where Romy is offered a five-year contract by producer Bert Townsend (Paul Stewart).  Initially, Romy turns it down.  As he explains to his new friend Dorothy Donnelly, he had wanted to bring his show Maytime to Bert and Shubert, but couldn’t bring himself to do it after what they did with his song.  Dorothy encourages him to sign the contract, so that he can become better-known and gain enough clout to get them to do the show.  He signs, although he frequently finds himself at odds with the shows he writes for.  Still, he keeps doing them because of his free-spending habits with the checks he is given.  He tries asking Bert Townsend to produce Maytime again and again, but he keeps turning Romy down.  Going back to Dorothy for advice, she suggests a slight deception.  The two of them go to a fancy restaurant, where they run into Florenz Ziegfeld (Paul Henreid).  While being watched by Shubert, they pretend to show Ziegfeld Maytime, and he goes along with their ruse.  It works, prompting Shubert to finally do it. Maytime becomes such a big hit, that they have a second company performing it at the same time.  Romy’s success goes to his head, and he comes up with another show called Magic Melody.  With Bert unwilling to produce it, Romy decides to do so himself (but it fails).  Broke and humbled, he returns to Bert repentant.  Of course, Bert needs him back, and he sends him along with two of his writers to Saranac Lake to work on a show.  They work hard on the show, but when frustrations run high, the two writers push Romy to go out for a bit.  While out riding his bicycle, he meets and falls for Lillian Harris (Doe Avedon), who is staying at Saranac Lake with her mother (Isobel Elsom).  Lillian develops some affection for Romy, but her mother thinks he is too vulgar.  Things go wrong when Bert visits and insists on hearing what Romy and the two writers have put together (all, of course, while Lillian and her mother are trying to visit).  Bert likes what he hears, but it horrifies Lillian’s mother.  Lillian is willing to make up with Romy, until Bert sends flowers to all the women at Saranac Lake (in an attempt to get Romy to come back to Broadway), which is too much for Lillian.  A year later, Romy has helped put together another show, but he still hasn’t gotten over Lillian.  Dorothy tries to rouse his spirits by asking for his help in writing music for a show she’s been adapting, but he is feeling too low and plans a trip to Europe after the opening of the show.  Will Lillian return and help him out of his funk, or will he make that trip to Europe (and be miserable the whole time)?

In the early 1950s, MGM made plans for a musical biopic on composer Sigmund Romberg, with producer duties assigned to Arthur Freed. Originally, the plan was to have the real Sigmund Romberg make an appearance as himself in a prologue to introduce the film, but he died before the film could go into production. Producer Arthur Freed ended up giving this one to his regular associate producer, Roger Edens, as he attempted to launch his own unit at MGM, and Roger Edens hired Stanley Donen as the director. It wasn’t necessarily a movie that either of them wanted to make, though. The musical biopics that MGM had produced tended to be more like revues featuring some of the big-name talent at MGM for various songs, without much plot, which didn’t appeal to Stanley Donen (but he did the project because Roger Edens, who had been championing Stanley’s rise, asked him to do it). Being his first producing gig, Roger Edens felt that he needed something that would have been a success, even if he didn’t find the material appealing (and ended up producing only one more film, Funny Face, after this). The original plan was to have Kurt Kasznar star as Sigmund Romberg, but rising star Jose Ferrer expressed interest in doing a musical, and that was the end of that.

To be perfectly honest, this is a movie that I have both a difficult time recommending and yet also an easy time recommending.  If you find that confusing, then allow me to explain.  I first saw this movie as part of the nine-film DVD set Classic Musicals From The Dream Factory Volume 3, which included films like Hit The Deck (1955), Kismet (1955), Broadway Melody Of 1936 (1935), Born To Dance (1936) and a few others that I haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet.  At that time, I hadn’t seen ANY of those films, just clips here and there.  Of that group of nine films, I originally came out with the lowest opinion on Deep In My Heart.  Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it a little bit, but I also would have told you at that time that that first viewing was also going to be my last.  My biggest problem (at that time)?  Complete lack of familiarity with composer Sigmund Romberg and his music.  I had already seen some of the other musical biopics on different composers like Jerome Kern (Till The Clouds Roll By), Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (Words And Music), Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby (Three Little Words), etc., and was at least familiar with their music from some of the various film musicals that they had written for.  But Sigmund Romberg?  I hadn’t heard of him, and I hadn’t heard any of his music (not helped by the fact, if I am remembering correctly, that the only clips with his music in any of the That’s Entertainment films came from the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy film New Moon, which I hadn’t seen at that time and had no plans to see).  So I went in blindly, and came out barely remembering anything with any fondness (maybe the song “I Love to Go Swimmin’ with Wimmin” done by Gene Kelly and his brother, Fred Kelly, but that was it on my first time).

So, that’s what I held against the film (and why I have a difficult time recommending it).  But, as you will look at my score (and the fact that I also feel I CAN easily recommend it), my opinion has changed.  What caused me to go back and give this film a second chance?  Maytime (1937).  I will grant you that, to the best of my knowledge, only one song from the original Broadway show’s score made it into that film, which was “Will You Remember?”, but that song alone gave me a very positive feeling towards that whole movie.  In the back of my mind, I somehow remembered the song being included in Deep In My Heart, and the name “Sigmund Romberg” seemed familiar, so I was willing to revisit this movie. I found myself enjoying it much more the second time around, now that I was a little more familiar with Sigmund Romberg’s music. I’ve since seen a few other films with Sigmund Romberg’s music and enjoyed them (mostly just the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy films The Girl Of The Golden West and New Moon, but I certainly hope to see more when I get the chance).

I will say that, more than anything, the music (and dancing here and here) is what makes this movie so appealing to me. I certainly enjoy the song “Will You Remember” by Vic Damone and Jane Powell quite a bit (it’s not as good as the version from the 1937 Maytime, but that is partly because that film gives the song an actual context as part of the story, leaving me much more emotionally attached, but I can still enjoy this film’s version, too). It is also kind of fun seeing Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney (married offscreen, with her appearance in this film due to Jose Ferrer pushing MGM to borrow her from Paramount) doing the rather appropriate song “Mr. And Mrs.” Gene Kelly joined by his brother Fred Kelly for the aforementioned song “I Love to Go Swimmin’ with Wimmin” is quite entertaining, and one of the better dance routines in the film. The other is Cyd Charisse and James Mitchell dancing to the song “One Alone,” which is just breathtaking to watch (and a little steamy, too). The closest objection that modern audiences might have (besides the overall lack of recognition of Sigmund Romberg) is the “Jazz-a-doo” stuff with Jose Ferrer putting on soot that resembles blackface (although that would likely be historically accurate, given that he was imitating Al Jolson, who did that, from what I’ve seen and heard). Personally, while it took me a few tries to like this film, I’ve come to enjoy seeing it every now and then, and consider it my second favorite composer biopic from that period (trailing only Three Little Words). If you can familiarize yourself with the music of Sigmund Romberg beforehand, then I do think that this is a fun movie worth seeing (without that recognition, it’s much harder to recommend)!

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

Film Length: 2 hours, 12 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Caine Mutiny (1954) – Jose Ferrer

Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) – Walter Pidgeon – Hit The Deck (1955)

Now, Voyager (1942) – Paul Henreid – Never So Few (1959)

White Christmas (1954) – Rosemary Clooney

Brigadoon (1954)Gene KellyInvitation To The Dance (1956)

Athena (1954) – Jane Powell – Hit The Deck (1955)

Athena (1954) – Vic Damone – Hit The Deck (1955)

Kiss Me Kate (1953) – Ann Miller – Hit The Deck (1955)

Brigadoon (1954) – Cyd Charisse – Silk Stockings (1957)

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) – Howard Keel – Kismet (1955)

Music In My Heart (1940) – Tony Martin – Hit The Deck (1955)

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) – Russ Tamblyn – Hit The Deck (1955)

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

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

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

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

(Length: 29 minutes, 37 seconds)

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

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

(Available as an extra on the Kismet Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection or as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 6 minutes, 35 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 53 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Deep In My Heart (1954) – Howard Keel

Dolores Gray – The Opposite Sex (1956)

Hit The Deck (1955) – Vic Damone

Since You Went Away (1944) – Monty Woolley

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

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

Today’s entry in the Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon is the 1955 film Hit The Deck starring Jane Powell, Tony Martin, Debbie Reynolds, Walter Pidgeon, Vic Damone, Gene Raymond, Ann Miller and Russ Tamblyn!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Prefabricated Pink (1967)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 11 seconds)

The Pink Panther sees a “Help Wanted” sign at a construction site, and hops right in to help out the workers.  I found this one to be middle-of-the-road as far as the Pink Panther is concerned.  It has its moments, as everything the Panther does keeps causing trouble for the various Little Men.  Honestly, I was slightly disappointed when the short started out with the Panther causing trouble for some of the workers, who would then get in trouble with the foreman (which was quite hilarious!) before dropping that idea entirely.  I’ll admit, sometimes jokes can go on too long, but that one wasn’t used enough in my opinion, with the remainder of the short just being similar to a lot of the stuff that the Panther has done before.  There is some fun and humor to be found here, that’s for sure, but I just feel I’ve seen the Panther do better with similar situations.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Chief Boatswain’s Mate William “Bilge” F. Clark (Tony Martin) and his two buddies, Rico Ferrari (Vic Damone) and Danny Xavier Smith (Russ Tamblyn), are on leave in San Francisco.  Bilge wants to go see his nightclub performer girlfriend, Ginger (Ann Miller), but Rico and Danny have some other plans.  When Bilge offers to have Ginger find them some dates, they agree to meet back at the club later.  However, none of them find things to be as they expect.  Bilge surprises Ginger, but she is mad at him for the fact that they have been engaged for six years, and tells him that she has met somebody else.  Rico goes to visit his mother, Mrs. Ottavio Ferrari (Kay Armen), but she is spending time with her neighbor (whom she likes), Mr. Peroni (J. Carrol Naish).  However, when Mr. Peroni sees just how old Rico is (as opposed to the picture his mother has of him at the age of nine), he leaves.  At home, Danny finds his father, Rear Admiral Daniel Xavier Smith (Walter Pidgeon), leaving for a meeting that will last the duration of his leave, and finds his sister Susan (Jane Powell) getting ready to go out and audition with the star of a Broadway show, Wendell Craig (Gene Raymond).  Danny goes to the theatre (which is right next to Ginger’s nightclub) to see Susan audition. There, he meets actress Carol Pace (Debbie Reynolds), who tells him that Wendell’s “auditions” usually happen at his hotel room.  The three buddies gets back together and commiserate over their troubles.  The three decide to go over to Wendell’s hotel room to get an unsuspecting Susan out of there.  Rico takes her away while the other two duke it out with Wendell, but she gets away from him.  When she arrives, she finds Danny and Bilge gone, and the place is a mess.  Wendell has already called the shore patrol, with intentions of filing charges (especially when he learns that one of the men was Susan’s brother).  She leaves with the intention of warning them and immediately runs into Rico. He takes her to his mother’s apartment, where everybody (including Carol) has gathered, with Ginger joining them later on.  They all try to figure out how to get the guys out of the mess they are in, but all that happens is everybody starts getting mad at everybody else and leaving.  The next day, the guys try to reconcile with the gals, and try to fix things.  But, with the shore patrol constantly breathing down their neck, can Susan and the guys convince Wendell Craig to drop the charges?

In 1922, a play called Shore Leave (by Hubert Osborne) was produced for the stage.  After that, the story would be adapted in many ways, including the 1927 stage musical Hit The Deck (with music by Vincent Youmans and lyrics by Leo Robin, Clifford Grey and Irving Caesar), plus different movie versions coming from both versions of the tale.  As early as 1947, MGM bought the film rights to the stage musical from RKO studios.  However, the delay in actually doing anything with the property hurt its chances.  By the time the studio got around to it, television had become big, keeping more and more people at home instead of going to the movie theaters.  As a result, the studios would try cramming a bunch of stars into one film, hoping their star power would be enough to get audiences into theaters. For Hit The Deck, their star power wasn’t *quite* enough, and most of the cast were fired by MGM either directly after this film, or within one or two more.

Hit The Deck has a number of wonderful musical moments, but I’d be remiss to not talk about the film’s best-known one, the song “Hallelujah” (which is done twice in the movie). The first time is done within the first ten minutes (give or take) by Tony Martin, Vic Damone and a (dubbed) Russ Tamblyn (with backup by The Jubalaires). That version is kind of fun, but it pales in comparison to the second time (done as the film’s finale by the majority of the cast). I’ll tell you, that finale is about as joyful a musical number as any that I can think of, and is easily enough reason for me to stick this movie on every now and then! I love the singing, I love the orchestration, and I enjoy Ann Miller’s dance routine. Admittedly, done as a tap routine where she “drills” the sailors with her tap steps reminds me very strongly of Fred Astaire’s dance to “I’d Rather Lead A Band” in Follow The Fleet (1936) (incidentally, that was another filmed version of the play Shore Leave, albeit with a score by Irving Berlin). Personally, I prefer Fred’s version, but Ann Miller still does quite well here.

Of course, the song “Hallelujah” is hardly the only reason I like to watch this movie. I also enjoy some of the other music, including “Lucky Bird” (sung by Jane Powell), “Why, Oh Why?” (done twice, once with the men, and once later with the ladies), “Chiribiribee” with most of the cast, “Lady From The Bayou” with Ann Miller, and “A Kiss Or Two” and the Funhouse dance with Debbie Reynolds and Russ Tamblyn (and quite frankly, the last two I mentioned make me wish that Debbie Reynolds and Russ Tamblyn had been teamed up for more films together). Of course, I know this movie is not without its issues. There is some argument to be made that, with its huge cast, not everybody gets equal screen time, and that is fair. Quite frankly, I also think the first few minutes of the film with the three guys before they get to San Francisco have little to do with the rest of the movie, and could be removed without losing much of the story. It’s not the MGM musical at its absolute best, but I do enjoy this movie, and it’s one I’ve enjoyed sticking on every now and then. If for nothing else, it’s certainly good for cheering me up when I’m down! Definitely a movie I would recommend!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 52 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Deep In My Heart (1954) – Jane Powell

Deep In My Heart (1954) – Tony Martin

Athena (1954) – Debbie Reynolds – The Tender Trap (1955)

Deep In My Heart (1954) – Walter Pidgeon

Deep In My Heart (1954) – Vic Damone – Kismet (1955)

Deep In My Heart (1954) – Ann Miller – The Opposite Sex (1956)

Deep In My Heart (1954) – Russ Tamblyn

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 (2021) with… Athena (1954)

Today, we’re here to look into the 1954 film musical Athena, starring Jane Powell, Edmund Purdom, Debbie Reynolds, Vic Damone and Louis Calhern!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Lazy Days (1929)

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

(Length: 20 minutes, 30 seconds)

Farina (Allen Hoskins) is just too lazy and tired to do much of anything, but when Joe (Joe Cobb) reads a paper for a baby contest (with monetary prizes), the whole gang decides to get their younger siblings ready for it (even the “lazy and tired” Farina). This short continues to be an improvement in how natural the kids can act using the then-new sound technology. The short itself has some issues that date it, mostly with making its main black character too lazy to do anything (and making his female friend do everything for him). There are some fun moments, mostly featuring Farina, whether when he is trying to get his younger brother bathed (and has to deal with a frog, a bee and a monkey), or when the pram that Farina puts his younger brother in falls apart (and almost has a life of its own). I still think it’s a fun short overall, and it’s a series I’m now starting to have fond feelings for!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Things are looking good for singer Johnny Nyle (Vic Damone), as he rehearses for his television show. However, after rehearsals end, he is surrounded by some of his fans, one of which is apparently a process server, who serves him with a subpoena. In desperation, he turns to a former Navy colleague, lawyer Adam Shaw (Edmund Purdom), for help. Adam is running for congress and worrying about his campaign with his law partners, but he offers to help Johnny out, just the same. Adam then goes to a nursery, where he talks with the owner about some peach trees he had purchased that weren’t doing very well. While there, he meets Athena Mulvain (Jane Powell), who suggests mulching to help save the trees. He is put off by her beliefs in numerology and declines her offer to help. However, she later shows up at his house anyway, and proceeds to mulch the peach trees. She kisses Adam before leaving, and catches a ride to her family’s store with Johnny (and proceeds to set him up with her sister Minerva, as played by Debbie Reynolds). The next morning, Athena stops by Adam’s home again to mulch the peach trees, much to the dismay of Adam’s fiancée, Beth Hallson (Linda Christian), who pushes him to tell Athena off. However, Athena disappears before he can speak with her, and so he has to try and track her down. It’s only with Johnny’s help that Adam is able to locate the Mulvain home, so he goes there with the intention of telling her off. There, he meets Athena’s Grandpa Ulysses Mulvain (Louis Calhern) and Grandma Salome Mulvain (Evelyn Varden). Grandpa tries to get Adam to join his exercise program (which includes Ed Perkins, as played by Steve Reeves, and Bill Nichols, as played by Richard Sabre, who are training for the Mr. Universe competition), but Adam only wants to tell Athena to leave him alone. Athena has him kiss her goodbye, but it ends up being more like a “hello,” as he discovers that he now loves her, too. He returns home, where he runs into Beth, and the two of them break it off. Meanwhile, Grandma Mulvain has put together a star chart for Adam and Athena, and has declared that trouble will arise because of Adam’s lifestyle. Undeterred, Athena decides to bring her sisters over to Adam’s house the next day and rearrange everything more to their way of doing things. Adam is feeling great, although his partners question him about Athena’s suitability due to his political career (especially after they meet Grandma Mulvain at Adam’s house). Adam is still determined, however, and brings Athena to a political reception. At first, everything goes fine, but then Adam’s ex, Beth, makes trouble for Athena, and she leaves out of frustration. Adam meets up with her later at their home, and declares he still loves her. However, the next day is the Mr. Universe competition. Ed Perkins wins it easily, giving Grandpa Mulvain the chance to extol the virtues of his lifestyle and how it helped Ed. Behind him, Ed tries to push Adam around and get him to stay away from Athena, but Adam uses a judo move to knock him down. In the process, that’s all the news focuses on, resulting in Athena leaving him and his political career going down the drain. Can Adam get back in Athena’s good graces, or will he lose out on everything?

Athena was originally intended as a vehicle for actress and swimmer Esther Williams. Along with director Charles Walters and writer Leo Pogostin, she put together the idea while they were making the film Easy To Love. However, while she was on maternity leave, Dore Schary (the head of MGM at that time) put the film into production, with singer Jane Powell cast in the title role (with her being given more time to sing, as opposed to the swimming numbers that Esther would have gotten). Richard Thorpe (who was given the jop of directing Athena) wasn’t exactly keen about the project, famously tossing pages of the script over his shoulder whenever they finished a scene. The film ended up losing money at the box office (with actress Jane Powell later in life admitting that she thought the film was nearly 20 years too early). However, one good thing came about as a result of this film. Steve Reeves, who played bodybuilder Ed Perkins, ended up being cast in the 1958 film Hercules when the daughter of that film’s director (Pietro Francisci) saw him in this movie and recommended him for the role.

I will admit, I kind of agree with the original audience reaction, as this is not one of MGM’s better musicals. I think Edmund Purdom’s performance is not as strong as it could be, leaving me wishing that more focus had been on Vic Damone’s Johnny (with him romancing Jane Powell’s Athena). The score (with music by Hugh Martin and lyrics by Ralph Blane) is mostly forgettable, with the exceptions of the songs “The Girl Next Door” (which is technically just a gender-swapped version of “The Boy Next Door” from Meet Me In St. Louis, and Vic Damone’s version, good as it is, pales in comparison to Judy Garland’s version in the earlier film) and the song(s) “Vocalize”/”Harmonize” (essentially the same tune, with slightly different lyrics). Both of those songs manage to get stuck in my head. The overall subject matter of this film is slightly off-putting (although it does have a few points I can agree with). This is a movie that I enjoy seeing every now and then, but, when I know that some of the cast members have made better movies together (at least, I think they are better), I would certainly hesitate in recommending this one to others (in spite of my decent rating for it).

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The Blu-ray is from a new remaster, which looks quite good (no surprise there, given that it’s from Warner Archive)! The detail is much improved, as are the colors. Seriously, this is probably the best way to see this movie at this point!

Film Length: 1 hour, 36 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) – Jane Powell

Susan Slept Here (1954) – Debbie Reynolds – Hit The Deck (1955)

Vic Damone – Deep In My Heart (1954)

Annie Get Your Gun (1950) – Louis Calhern – High Society (1956)

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