Film Legends Of Yesteryear: Screen Team & “Screen Team Of The Month (January 2022)” Featuring Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy in… The Girl Of The Golden West (1938)

Now that we’ve done one solo film each for Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, our Screen Team Of The Month (and we still have one more solo film for each to finish out the month), it’s time to focus on one of the eight films that they made together! In this instance, it’s their 1938 film The Girl Of The Golden West!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Ace In The Hole (1942)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)

Stable boy Woody Woodpecker longs to fly in the planes, but the bulldog sergeant refuses to let him. My own opinion is that this one is fun, but not quite as good as the previous ones in the set. It’s a wartime short, making it similar to the Disney cartoons featuring Donald Duck in the army (with Pete as a sergeant). I think the humor that comes from Woody trying to deal with the sergeant is fun, especially once he gets in the plane. My biggest problem with this one is the overall concept, since Woody is a bird (and one that can and does fly in other cartoons), so the idea that he wants to fly in the planes (and doesn’t seem to fly on his own, otherwise) just kind of makes this one not work as well. It’s fun, just not as fun and original as it could be.

And Now For The Main Feature…

As a little girl, young Mary Robbins (Jeanne Ellis) loses her parents, and comes west to California on a wagon train with her Uncle Davy (Charley Grapewin). One night, when they are camped, her singing is overheard by a young Gringo (Bill Cody, Jr.), a white boy who has been adopted by the leader of a group of Mexican bandits named Ramerez, who otherwise calls himself the General (Noah Beery, Sr.). When the General decides to ride into the wagon train’s camp, his crew is mistaken for Native Americans, and the General is shot. As the years pass, the young Gringo grows up and takes on the mantle of the Mexican bandit Ramerez (Nelson Eddy), fast gaining the attention of the law. Meanwhile, the now-grown Mary (Jeanette MacDonald) is living near the town of Cloudy Mountain and has taken over the Polka Saloon from her late uncle. She is beloved by all the men in town, but particularly by her friends, Sheriff Jack Rance (Walter Pidgeon) and “Alabama” (Buddy Ebsen). Once, when she takes the stagecoach to Monterey, the stage is stopped by Ramerez, but he is taken by her and allows them to keep going after he takes some of their valuables (well, everyone else’s anyway). Since she seems to be ungrateful for his mercy, he decides to go into Monterey (unmasked) with his friend “Mosquito” (Leo Carrillo) and teach her a lesson. In Monterey, Mary stops to spend some time with her old friend Father Sienna (H. B. Warner), who asks her to sing at Mass. There, she is heard by the Governor (Monty Woolley), who asks her to sing at a ball that he is hosting. Ramerez overhears the Governor sending an army escort to bring Mary to the ball, and he decides to knock out the officer and steal his uniform. Posing as Lieutenant Johnson, he comes to pick up Mary, but drives her out into the country. He tries to kiss her, but she resists, and takes the carriage to the ball without him. However, he still makes it to the ball, and briefly dances with her. When he sees the real lieutenant looking for him, he grabs a horse and gets out of there. When she is back in Cloudy, Sheriff Rance is furious that Ramerez had stopped the coach (and some of his deputies assigned to accompany her to Monterey), and tells Mary that he will spread word that the gold is being stored at the Polka (hoping to catch Ramerez in a trap). Suspicious of a trap, Ramerez has his buddy Mosquito pretend to be him to lead a posse on a wild goose chase, and goes to the Polka. He is surprised to find Mary there (and equally as surprised to find out that she owns the place), and cancels his plan to take the gold, even though the Sheriff and all the other men took the bait from Mosquito. He is invited to come to Mary’s cabin for dinner (much to the chagrin of Ramerez’ girlfriend Nina Martinez, as played by Priscilla Lawson, who decides to turn him in to the Sheriff for the reward money). While Ramerez is at Mary’s cabin, Sheriff Rance and a few men stop by. While Ramerez hides, the Sheriff tells Mary about Ramerez, but, angry though she may be with him, she doesn’t reveal his presence to the Sheriff. However, after the Sheriff and his men leave, she orders him to go away. Upon leaving, shots are fired, and Ramerez comes back into her cabin, wounded. She tries to hide him, but the Sheriff sees his dripping blood and arrests him. Mary tries to play a game of poker against the Sheriff, offering herself in marriage to the Sheriff if she loses. Will she be able to win, or will she have to marry the Sheriff? And will Ramerez survive being shot?

The Girl Of The Golden West came from a 1905 play by David Belasco, and was preceded by three different filmed versions of the tale. Giacomo Puccini had written an opera based around the play that premiered in 1910, but when MGM came around to the 1938 film for Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, that music was jettisoned in favor of a new score by composer Sigmund Romberg and lyricist Gus Kahn. Originally, the intention was to do a Robin Hood operetta, except Jeanette MacDonald didn’t agree to it (not to mention Warner Brothers also came out with their immortal classic The Adventures Of Robin Hood), although some of the idea was retained, with Nelson’s bandit shooting arrows to stop stagecoaches. At the time of filming, Jeanette and Nelson were apparently feuding (resulting in fewer duets in the movie), as Jeanette thought that Allan Jones (her co-star in The Firefly) would have been a better fit as a Mexican bandit than Nelson. As a result, scenes were added at the start to show how he became the “Mexican” bandit Ramerez. Ray Bolger was also to have been in the film, except the film’s length resulted in his scenes being cut for time. In spite of all this, the film still turned out to be profitable for MGM and their screen team.

As I mentioned when I reviewed Deep In My Heart, I didn’t initially care for the music of composer Sigmund Romberg until I finally saw the film Maytime. Once that movie gave me a new appreciation for his music (and Deep In My Heart), the next two Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy films that I wanted to see were the other movies with music by Romberg (The Girl Of The Golden West and the 1940 New Moon). Now, given what I said before about the two stars feuding during the making of The Girl Of The Golden West (resulting in barely any duets in the movie), one would think that that would make this film an odd choice to pick for my one team-up in this month’s Screen Team blogathon. But, having reviewed their first three films together (the best movies in the series, in my opinion), I would say that The Girl Of The Golden West is my favorite of the remaining five films (besides being the fourth film in the series). The music is one of the reasons, with the songs “Señorita” and “Mariache” (at least, I think that’s the spelling for this song’s title, according to IMDb and Wikipedia at the time of this writing) being quite memorable from the two leads, plus Buddy Ebsen singing “The West Ain’t Wild Anymore” as well. It’s also quite entertaining watching Jeanette MacDonald tackle a slightly different role in this film, as her character seems less refined than what I’m used to from her, not only in her speech, but in her way of moving around as well. Nelson Eddy may not be quite as good (since he’s playing a character pretending to be Mexican when hiding behind a mask), but he (and Jeanette) are still in fine voice here. The film is certainly far from perfect, as one still can’t help but wish that they had had more duets in this movie. I also sometimes feel like some of the songs are cut short, and I wish that some of them were a bit longer. Regardless, though, this film is still quite entertaining as an entry in the MacDonald/Eddy series of movies, and I have no problems whatsoever in recommending this one, too!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection, either individually or as part of the four-film set Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy Collection: Volume 1.

Film Length: 2 hours, 1 minute

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Maytime (1937)Jeanette MacDonald

Maytime (1937)Nelson EddyBalalaika (1939)

Big Brown Eyes (1936) – Walter Pidgeon – Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)

Born To Dance (1936) – Buddy Ebsen

Monty Woolley – The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942)

Maytime (1937) – Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy (screen team)

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“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)

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!

“Star Of The Month (May 2021)” Featuring Cary Grant in… Big Brown Eyes (1936)

Next up in our run of Cary Grant films as we celebrate him as the Star Of The Month, we have his 1936 film Big Brown Eyes, also starring Joan Bennett!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Three Little Pups (1953)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 44 seconds)

Three little pups (including Droopy) take on a dogcatcher. This one is a fun variation on the whole “Three Little Pigs” idea (with the narrator even briefly, “mistakenly” referring to them as pigs). Of course, the wolf as the dogcatcher is quite a bit of fun, especially once he reveals himself as a slightly different, more laidback character than we first see. That alone adds to the hilarity (and one can even see the time and influence of television in its early years here). A very fun cartoon (as have been most of the Droopys) and one worth coming back to periodically!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Some jewelry has been stolen from the wealthy Mrs. Chesley Cole (Marjorie Gateson). All the gossip is that the police are highly unlikely to recover it, so she turns to private detective Richard Morey (Walter Pidgeon), who has been successful in recovering stolen items. However, the police still try to help find the jewelry, and assign detective Danny Barr (Cary Grant) to investigate. Mrs. Cole is enamored with him (much to his dismay), and things get worse when Danny’s girlfriend, manicurist Eve Fallon (Joan Bennett) walks in on them. She assumes the worst about Danny, and returns to the barber shop where she works. Danny follows her to explain, but she ends up getting fired for yelling at him. However, another job is waiting, as her friend Jack Sully (Joseph Sawyer) has offered her a job as a reporter at the local newspaper, and she takes him up on it. Meanwhile, as we (the audience) quickly find out, Richard Morey is not really a private detective, but a mobster, and he pushes his lieutenant, Russ Cortig (Lloyd Nolan), to go meet the thieves in the park and pay them for the jewelry. However, they balk at the amount offered to them, and, in his anger, Russ takes a shot at them. He misses, instead hitting a baby in a stroller, and he runs off. The case of the baby killer becomes a big thing, and Danny is soon assigned to the case. Eve has forgiven him, and decides to help him out. Between the two of them, they find another thug who squeals on Russ when they push him hard enough. However, at the trial, there isn’t enough evidence to convict Russ, and he goes free. In frustration, Danny resigns from the force, planning to go after Russ on his own. Unable to publish what she believes to be the truth, Eve also resigns as a reporter and goes back to her old job as a manicurist. With Richard Morey hiding in the shadows as the leader of this gang (and willing to double-cross anyone), can Danny and Eve discover the truth, or will crime pay for this racketeer?

Big Brown Eyes was based on the two short stories “Hahsit Babe” and “Big Brown Eyes” by James Edward Grant. I myself haven’t read either of those stories (and so cannot comment on how well they were adapted). What I do know is that this movie seems to cover a few different genres, including comedy, gangster, and mystery. Especially with the two leads working together to solve the crime, it almost seems like one of the Thin Man clones that came about in the wake of that film’s success. My own opinion is that it’s an inferior film compared to that classic, but there is some fun to be had here. I enjoyed some of the comic moments that started the film, including a bit of ventriloquism as Cary Grant’s Danny attempts to reconcile with Joan Bennett’s Eve (whether that was actually Cary Grant doing some ventriloquism or just somebody else dubbing the other voice, I have no idea). The other fun moment is later in the film, with Danny packing, and Eve trying to figure out where he is going so that she can join him (and getting nowhere in the conversation). As for the mystery, it’s more or less of the Columbo variety, where we the audience quickly learn the culprits, and it’s just a matter of how they will be caught.

As the detective, Cary Grant does a fairly good job. It’s still not quite the persona we’re used to, but he’s still proving that he can act. You can see how much he wants to catch the crooks, and how much it bothers him when one gets away with murder at the trial. Not to mention he shows how uncomfortable he is when trying to interview Mrs. Cole (you know, the moment he gets in trouble with his girlfriend). It’s not Cary at his best, but he does well enough here. Overall, I’d say it’s still worth trying this movie out as something different for him.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Big Brown Eyes (1936)

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the three film Cary Grant Collection from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. This release makes use of an HD scan of the movie. It has its moments where it looks pretty good, and some moments don’t look as well (I’d sooner say middle of the road than completely awful). It’s not as cleaned up as one would prefer, but it’s mainly the start of the (original) Paramount credits that really looks rough, along with a few shots later in the movie. But, it looks about as good as I would begin to hope for (especially considering its relative obscurity), so it’s probably the best way to see it for now.

Film Length: 1 hour, 17 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Ladies Should Listen (1934)Cary GrantWedding Present (1936)

Mississippi (1935) – Joan Bennett – Wedding Present (1936)

Walter Pidgeon – The Girl Of The Golden West (1938)

Ladies Should Listen (1934) – Cary Grant Collection – Wedding Present (1936)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)

This time around, we’re here for the 1952 Esther Williams movie Million Dollar Mermaid, co-starring Victor Mature, Walter Pidgeon and David Brian.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Reducing (1952)

(Available as an extra on the Million Dollar Mermaid Blu-ray)

(Length: 8 minutes, 23 seconds)

Another short from the Pete Smith comedy series, this time on someone trying to lose weight. This time around, the short really wasn’t as fun. The “humor” (if you can call it that) about a woman trying to lose weight is, at best, dated, and, at worst, too mean-spirited to be that funny. It’s always worth trying something different, but sometimes you find a stinker, and this is one of them. Doesn’t seem to be restored either, but, as I said, in this case, it doesn’t matter.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Little Quacker (1950)

(Available as an extra on the Million Dollar Mermaid Blu-ray)

(Length: 7 minutes, 8 seconds)

Tom the cat steals a duck egg, only for it to hatch, and the little duckling turns to Jerry the mouse for help. A fun Tom & Jerry cartoon, and apparently the one that introduced the character “Little Quacker” (or whatever the little duckling was called). This was fun, as it’s been some time since I’ve seen any of the Tom & Jerry cartoons, and I enjoyed seeing this one. This one seemed to be in good shape, like it’s been worked on and/or restored. (Either way, I enjoyed seeing it!)

And Now For The Main Feature…

As a child in Australia, young Annette Kellerman (Donna Corcoran) recovers from polio by trying to learn to swim. Her father, Frederick (Walter Pidgeon), who owns and runs a music conservatory, encourages her to keep swimming, since it has helped her to get stronger, while also encouraging her to learn music and ballet. As she gets older, Annette (now played by Esther Williams) becomes a champion swimmer. However, the conservatory cannot sustain itself financially, so her father takes a job in London and brings her along. On the boat ride there, they meet promoter James Sullivan (Victor Mature), who is taking Sydney, a boxing kangaroo, to London with the help of his friend Doc Cronnol (Jesse White). James takes an interest in Annette and her abilities, and offers to manage her, but her father turns him down, since he prefers to keep her swimming as a hobby and not an occupation. When they get to London, they find out that the conservatory where Frederick’s job was supposed to be had closed down when the owner died, leaving them looking for work. James comes to them and offers Annette some money to help him promote Sydney by a 6 mile swim, to which she makes a counteroffer to do a 26 mile swim. At first, nobody is interested, but along the way, many people hear about it and come to cheer her on. Once she completes the swim, James gets an idea to take her to New York City to perform at the Hippodrome. However, once they get there, the Hippodrome manager, Alfred Harper (David Brian), turns them down, saying that Annette is not a big name in the U.S. In response, James and Annette make plans for her to do another big swim, except they run into trouble when she is arrested for indecent exposure because of the swim suit she was wearing. At the trial, the case is dismissed after convincing arguments on her side, plus some slight alterations to her one-piece swimming suit that cover her up more. The resulting publicity helps out when she and James do a show at a carnival. Things are looking up, and James is planning to ask her to marry him, when she is given an offer by a Mr. Aldrich (Howard Freeman) to do a more dignified lecture tour. James and Annette fight over it, and, although Annette ends up turning it down, James leaves, right before she gets a telegram from Alfred saying that she is being hired for a show at the Hippodrome. Her show is a success, and her father is hired as the conductor. James, meanwhile, starts doing a number of stunts and other things on his own, with little success. While she is at the Hippodrome, Frederick passes away, and Alfred falls for her. After a few proposals, she says yes. Before they get married, they head for Hollywood to do a movie. Only problem is, right before they finish, a glass tank full of water that she is swimming in breaks, resulting in her being badly injured. Will she be able to recover, and will she and James end up together again?

Million Dollar Mermaid was very much a passion project for actress Esther Williams. Annette Kellerman inspired Esther Williams in a lot of what she did, and Esther convinced her to let MGM do the biopic. Annette had some say in what they did with the script, as she tried to keep them from making it too Hollywood-ized. Granted, the film, in typical Hollywood fashion, did take liberties with the story, whether by how they characterized James Sullivan, or how they connected him to the famous dog Rin Tin Tin, among other things. But, Annette was happy with the film, and some of its casting (especially actor Walter Pidgeon playing her father).

My own opinion is that Million Dollar Mermaid is about as perfect an Esther Williams film as you can get. You get a few Busby Berkeley-staged swim routines, including the famous “Fountain And Smoke,” which has been shown in a few places, including in the That’s Entertainment film series. You get a movie that doesn’t need the writers to come up with ridiculous ways to get her into the water (although I don’t mind, as I’m generally used to the idea with musicals in general). And, of course, we have one of Esther’s best performances. I can’t even begin to imagine anybody else as Annette Kellerman. Esther’s performance just wows me here, and makes the movie worth watching. Of course, the rest of the cast is no slouch either! Walter Pidgeon, in particular, does very well as her father, being there to support her, even if he disagrees with her at first about swimming as a career. Honestly, this movie is just wonderful, and it’s very easy for me to recommend it!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, utilizing a 4K restoration from the original nitrate Technicolor negatives. As usual for them, it’s a fantastic transfer! How fantastic you ask? Well, I can only claim to have seen a handful of Esther Williams’ films before (including the previously reviewed Take Me Out To The Ball Game), and I’ve generally been indifferent to her. I hadn’t previously seen Million Dollar Mermaid, but this transfer brings out the color so magnificently, especially for the swim routines. If Warner Archive can give the rest of her films fresh transfers that look as good as this one (or better, if possible), then I’m certainly an Esther Williams fan now!!

Film Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #8 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1949) – Esther Williams

The Girl Of The Golden West (1938) – Walter Pidgeon – Deep In My Heart (1954)

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!