What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Mad About Music (1938)

I hinted at the idea that I would be well-represented in this month’s Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon, and that continues to be true! Today, we’re looking at the 1938 Deanna Durbin musical Mad About Music, also starring Herbert Marshall, Gail Patrick and Arthur Treacher!

Coming Up Shorts! with… A Tough Winter (1930)

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

(Length: 20 minutes, 35 seconds)

On a cold winter’s day, the gang spend some time inside with handyman Stepin Fetchit before getting together for a taffy pull. This one is one of the weaker shorts in this bunch, purely because of how poorly Stepin Fetchit and his very stereotyped comedy have aged (i.e., not well). There is some fun to be had with the taffy pull, as it starts out with the old “radio recipe switch”-type of gag (you know, where it starts off with one recipe and switches to another while nobody is listening). Then, there is all the mess the gang creates as they try to pull the taffy through the house (and boy, is it sticky). I would say that there is some enjoyment to be had here, but it mostly requires also being able to stomach the altogether too prominent Stepin Fetchit and his schtick.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Gwen Taylor (Gail Patrick) is a big Hollywood actress, with an equally big secret: she has a fourteen-year-old daughter! However, much to Gwen’s dismay, her manager, Dusty Turner (William Frawley), believes it’s better that the public doesn’t know about her daughter, as Gwen is considered a glamour girl. So, her daughter, Gloria Harkinson (Deanna Durbin), is going to a boarding school in Switzerland run by the Fusenot sisters, Annette (Elisabeth Risdon) and Louise (Nana Bryant). Gloria can’t talk about her mother, and since her father, a Navy flier, died when she was a baby, she decides to make up stories about a world-traveling, big-game hunter father. To help maintain these stories, she writes herself letters to send through the mail using different stamps from around the world collected by her friend, Pierre (Christian Rub), and has her mother send her different gifts, like an elephant tusk (although her mother has no idea why Gloria wants any of these things). However, another one of the girls at the school, Felice (Helen Parrish), doesn’t believe Gloria, and is bound and determined to prove that Gloria is making everything up. At a church service, Gloria meets a young boy named Tommy (Jackie Moran) from a nearby military boarding school who has a crush on her. When she finds out that he is also an American, she makes plans to meet him the next day. However, she gets into trouble and is punished. Being that the Fusenot sisters don’t like the girls mixing with the boys, Gloria’s only way to get out of there is to pretend to be meeting her father at the train station. However, all the other girls (including Felice) follow her, so she picks out the newly arrived composer Richard Todd (Herbert Marshall), telling him lies while making it appear to the other girls like he is supposed to be her father. Later, the Fusenot sisters come to Richard (via his butler/secretary Tripps, played by Arthur Treacher) to invite him to lunch. Upon learning why, he decides to come and tell the truth, but Gloria’s pleading convinces him to go along with her stories and pretend to be her father. For a few days, Richard enjoys acting as Gloria’s father, but then he is called to Paris on business. At first, Gloria plans to say goodbye, with plans to later “kill off” her father, but, upon seeing a newspaper story saying that her mother is in Paris, she decides to sneak on the train with Richard to go see her. But, with her mother being accompanied by her manager, Dusty Turner (who is trying to help Gwen maintain appearances as a glamour girl), will Gloria be able to see her mother? Or, for that matter, will she be able to maintain all the stories that she’s been telling about her father?

Following on from what I said about Deanna Durbin’s 1941 film Nice Girl?, I enjoyed Mad About Music as much for the music as I did for the rest of the film. This film had her singing four songs: three new ones written for this movie (“A Serenade To The Stars,” “I Love To Whistle” and “Chapel Bells”) with music by Jimmy McHugh and lyrics by Harold Adamson, plus the classic hymn “Ave Maria.” I will admit, her version of “Ave Maria” is a little different than what I’m used to whenever I have heard the song. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just slightly jarring compared to how I’ve heard others do it. I do kind of like it, though and it’s one I hope will grow on me more with subsequent viewings. Of the three new songs, though, I quickly grew fond of “I Love To Whistle.” Of course, I should warn you that, if you don’t like that song, this movie will be harder to enjoy, as it’s sung at least three times in the movie (with Cappy Barra’s Harmonica Ensemble joining in for some fun on the second time). Again, I like it (and I thought the harmonica band was fun to watch), so, for me, it’s a plus to hear it so much!

Of course, the music is hardly the only reason I like this movie, as I certainly think the comedy adds something to it as well! Most of the comedy stems from the lies that Deanna’s Gloria tells about her father, and some of the lengths she has to go to to maintain them. The funniest moments are when Herbert Marshall’s Richard Todd decides to go along with them, particularly when he’s telling stories at the lunch, even managing to go along with the curve balls that Helen Parrish’s Felice is determined to throw to disprove everything. Overall, it’s a very heartwarming tale as we see Gloria and Richard becoming a father and daughter. The only complaint I have is how quick Richard and Gail Patrick’s Gwen Taylor become a couple at the end, without anything happening beforehand to indicate that they would like each other, but it’s a very minor thing. Overall, a very entertaining movie that I know I look forward to revisiting again and again in the future, and one I have no problem whatsoever in recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios. The transfer on this one is pretty good. A lot of the dust and dirt has been cleaned up. There are some scratches and dirt here and there, but they are relatively easy to miss (and forget). Like the previously reviewed Nice Girl?, this film was one of nine licensed by Kino Lorber Studio Classics (and one of the six that were dropped when the first three-film set bombed), so I’m glad to see that it did make it out to Blu-ray just the same, in a release I would certainly recommend!

Film Length: 1 hour, 36 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #5 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

One Hundred Men And A Girl (1937)Deanna DurbinThat Certain Age (1938)

The Good Fairy (1935) – Herbert Marshall

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Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2021): Rita Hayworth in… Down To Earth (1947)

Well, the 17 has rolled around again, which means it’s time for another Rita Hayworth film! This time, it’s her 1947 movie Down To Earth, also starring Larry Parks! Of course, we’ve got a fun theatrical short to get the whole show started!

Playwright and actor Danny Miller (Larry Parks) has put together a show about the Greek muses. However, unbeknownst to him, the actual Greek muses hear about it, and object to how they are portrayed! In particular, Terpsichore (Rita Hayworth) is angered by this development, and decides to do something about it. Unable to go to Earth on her own, she goes to Mr. Jordan (Roland Culver), and convinces him to let her come to Earth to “help” Danny. He agrees to the idea, and sends her to Earth, with Messenger 7013 (Edward Everett Horton) along to keep an eye on her. She successfully auditions for Danny under the name Kitty Pendleton, and is given the lead role of Terpsichore. She enlists Max Corkle (James Gleason) to be her agent, and starts preparing for the show. Danny is enchanted by her, but the two keep coming to odds about how the muses are portrayed (particularly Terpsichore). After some time, Terpsichore convinces Danny to make some changes, much to the annoyance of Danny’s friend and co-star, Eddie (Marc Platt). When the show premieres out of town (with all the changes that Terpsichore made), it is poorly received, forcing Danny to go back to his original concept. At first, Terpsichore is infuriated and threatens to walk out, until Mr. Jordan shows her how Danny had indebted himself to gangster Joe Mannion (George MacReady), which would require the show to be a hit, or Danny would be killed. With this new information, she comes back to the show, ready to do things Danny’s way. But, will the show be a hit, or will Danny be murdered?

Down To Earth was intended as a vehicle for Rita Hayworth and rising star Larry Parks (then coming off his success in The Jolson Story). For a story, it was decided to make a semi-sequel to the earlier Columbia Pictures hit Here Comes Mr. Jordan (but I’ll comment on that angle in a few days). This was, for me, a very enjoyable movie! Rita Hayworth brings some of the fun as the muse Terpsichore. To be fair, though, her first scene with the other muses is, in my mind, one of the film’s weak spots, as her performance in that scene just feels off to me (but it’s quickly over, and she is otherwise good for the remainder of the movie). Her dances, while maybe not some of her best-known, are still fun to watch (even if the music is not that memorable). She has a wide variety here, from tap-dancing to Greek ballet, and some other modern dancing, and does well with all of them.

But Rita is hardly the only reason to see this movie, as I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish! James Gleason (Max Corkle) starts us off, and while the character’s occupation has changed from Here Comes Mr. Jordan (which is never fully explained why), he’s still just as fun with all the insanity that comes about because Mr. Jordan has come around again! And Edward Everett Horton is good fun as Messenger 7013, with a few memorable lines that stick with you! Dancer Marc Platt is given a bit more dancing to do than in Tonight And Every Night, which also adds to the fun. Seriously, this is a wonderful movie, and one I would indeed recommend!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Down To Earth (1947)

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment. This is my first time seeing it, but the movie looks quite good. The transfer here is much better than the previous Technicolor film in the set (Tonight And Every Night), with the colors looking much better. Admittedly, there are a few scattered shots where there is a lot of dirt and debris, but they generally last a second and they are done. One of the final scenes with Rita Hayworth and Roland Culver walking together has some issues for a few seconds, but nothing too egregious. Overall, I really liked the transfer for this movie, and I certainly would recommend it as the best way to see the movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Tonight And Every Night (1945) – Rita Hayworth – The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) – Edward Everett Horton – Pocketful Of Miracles (1961)

Tonight And Every Night (1945)Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate CollectionThe Lady From Shanghai (1948)

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!

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2020) with… The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)

We’re here now for The 2nd Happy Holidays Blogathon, hosted by Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, and to celebrate the holidays, we’ve got double the fun! First, we have the classic Disney short Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952), and then we’ve got our main feature, the 1951 Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell comedy The Lemon Drop Kid!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952)

(Available to stream on Disney+)

(Length: 6 minutes, 56 seconds)

Mickey and Pluto bring home a Christmas tree. Unbeknownst to them, Chip and Dale are living in that tree, and proceed to cause trouble for Pluto. As a fan of Chip and Dale, I can tell you right now I’ve seen this one many a time, and it never gets old! Their antics as they go up against Pluto never fail to bring a smile to my face (admittedly, I prefer their other Christmas short, Toy Tinkers with Donald Duck, but this one is still fun)! And, the quick cameo for some of the other big Disney characters at the end (Minnie, Donald and Goofy) brings the whole gang together! Seriously, while this may be one of the later Walt-era cartoon shorts, it still goes to show that they were still great!

And Now For The Main Feature…

(The Kid): “St. Nick don’t smoke.”

(Santa Claus in line): “I thought I was supposed to be Santy Claus.”

(The Kid): “Santy Claus, Kris Kringle, St. Nick, it’s all the same guy.”

(Santa Claus in line): “Oh, I get it. He don’t give his right name either.”

(The Kid): “Oh, now that’s sweet, you’re going to do a big business.”

(Gloomy): “Thanks”

(The Kid pulls a bottle out of Gloomy’s Santa suit)

(Gloomy): “Well, it’s cold out there in the street.”

(The Kid): “Santy Claus don’t drink.”

(Gloomy): “Oh no? Well, how come he’s always falling down chimneys?”

(Host): Now that we’re done looking at the Santa Claus legend from a few different “viewpoints,” let’s talk about the movie. In 1949, Bob Hope had made Sorrowful Jones, a movie based on a Damon Runyan story. With his role well-received by audiences and critics, he looked for another Damon Runyan story to do and chose the short story “The Lemon Drop Kid.” For the movie, he went with his director from Sorrowful Jones, Syndey Lanfield, but got involved in the production himself as usual. After seeing the director’s cut of the movie, Hope thought something wasn’t quite right, and he convinced Paramount to hire Frank Tashlin to do rewrites (although he only agreed to do it if he could direct the retakes, which they consented to). But, enough about the film’s background. I’ll hand it over to the narrator to tell the story!

(Sounds of horses’ hooves in the background. Narrator stands with binoculars looking out at the audience.)

(Narrator): “Annnnnd it’s Hogwash in front, Applejack second by a neck. They’re coming into the stretch. It’s Hogwash and Applejack. C’mon, Applejack!” (Note: for the benefit of my reading audience, I’m borrowing this quote from the 1962 Foghorn Leghorn cartoon The Slick Chick, since it seems appropriate for the situation)

(Host): HEY!!!

(Narrator): Huh? What? Oh, right. The plot description. Can’t we do that later? I’m in the middle of a good race here!

(Host): Okay, you’ve had enough. You better get started for New York City, and we’ll have you pick up the story from there, while I start with the events in Florida.

(Narrator): Oh, fine. (leaves the stage)

(Host): (mumbles under breath so as not to be heard) And be sure to dress warm, it’s cold up there! (Normal voice). We’re at a racetrack in Florida. Sidney Milburn, otherwise known to all as “The Lemon Drop Kid” (Bob Hope), is touting, trying to fool some gamblers into parting with their potential winnings, by trying to get at least somebody cheering for (and betting on) every horse in the race. All is looking good until he spies a woman about to make a $2000 bet. He persuades her to choose a different horse than the one she was planning on, but, once the race starts, he learns that she is the girlfriend of mobster Moose Moran (Fred Clark) and was making a bet for him. When the horse loses (and the one Moose had tried to bet on wins), some of Moose’s thugs bring the Kid to see Moose. Moose is indeed quite angry at having lost $10,000 (the amount he would have been paid since the horse he had wanted to bet on won the race), and threatens to have one of his goons, Sam the Surgeon (Harry Bellaver), kill off the Kid. Thinking fast, the Kid says that he can get the money for Moose if he had until Christmas. Moose decides to let him try, but reminds him that he can’t get away. So, off the Kid heads for New York City.

(Host runs off the stage in a cartoonish fashion, leaving behind a puff of smoke)

(In blows a cold wind, a regular blizzard, with the narrator walking through, wearing winter gear)

(Narrator): You thought I wouldn’t be prepared, didn’t you? Well, I heard him, so there!

(Host): (from offstage) Darn it!

(Narrator): Anyways, back to the story. In New York City, they’re getting hit with a big blizzard, and yet the Kid is still wearing the same outfit he was wearing in Florida (unlike me). He runs into his friend, Nellie Thursday (Jane Darwell), who is having money troubles of her own with her landlord demanding his rent. He learns from Nellie that her husband Henry will soon be released from jail, but she won’t have a place for them to stay, as the old folks homes she had applied to turned them down on account of Henry being an ex-con. Moving on, the Kid makes his way to the apartment of his girlfriend, Brainey Baxter (Marilyn Maxwell). She’s still a little mad at him for conning her out of a fur coat before he left for Florida, but he works on her sympathies and gets some money to get a “marriage license” (although he really wants the money so he can gets his winter clothes out of hock). Once he gets his winter outfit, he goes to see Brainey’s boss, nightclub owner and mobster Oxford Charlie (Lloyd Nolan) to get the money to pay Moose, but he is turned down. As he leaves the nightclub, the Kid sees a Santa Claus collecting money for charity, and decides to do the same thing himself. However, he is quickly arrested by a cop and charged with panhandling.

(The Kid): “That judge didn’t look honest to me.”

(Policeman): “For eighteen years, he’s been a member of the bar”

(The Kid): “That’s what I mean, drinking on duty.”

(Host): (Walking back onstage) Don’t worry, everyone. In spite of the Kid’s opinions, that judge was quite sober (and honest) when he sentenced the Kid to ten days in jail (since he couldn’t pay the fine). On his way to his cell, he runs into Nellie, who has been arrested for trying to take her husband’s picture out of her room after she was evicted by her landlord.

(Narrator): Hey, I thought I was telling this part of the story! Anyways, while in jail, the Kid gets an idea on how he can get the $10,000 together. Brainey soon bails him out, and threatens to take him to get a marriage license, but he detours her while he gets together a group of other con men. His plan is to put together a “home for old dolls” as he puts it, for Nellie to live in when her husband is released. They get together a few other homeless older women from around Broadway, and are there to welcome Nellie when she gets out of jail. Afterwards, the Kid gathers all the men together in their new Santa suits to collect the money to help “fund the old dolls home” (but they don’t know the Kid’s real reason for trying to collect the money).

(Host): And this takes us to one of my favorite moments in the whole movie: the song “Silver Bells.” It surprised me to learn that this was one of the moments that was changed by Frank Tashlin. According to TCM, director Sydney Lanfield had staged it in an empty casino with all the cast members standing together, almost as if they were a choir. That was a scene that Bob Hope didn’t like, and it was restaged by Tashlin on the city streets, with Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell walking the streets singing it. For me, it’s a scene that has stuck with me. For a while, I actually preferred this moment to the song “White Christmas,” as I used to have this scene on repeat on DVD (mostly around this time of the year) while I worked on homework back when I was in high school and college. While I don’t like it quite as much as I did then, it’s still one of the better scenes in the movie, and one I always look forward to watching (not to mention watching all the con men trying to raise money in their Santa suits in the lead-up to the song).

(Narrator): Yes, indeed. A wonderful song. Getting back to the story, Brainey decides to quit her job in Oxford Charlie’s nightclub for a while to devote more time to helping out at the home. As she leaves, she tells Oxford Charlie how much money they had raised in such a short time. Putting two and two together, he gets his own idea. Figuring that wherever Nellie Thursday lives is where the “Nellie Thursday Home For Old Dolls” is (and therefore, the place that will get the money collected), Oxford Charlie has his men kidnap the old ladies and Brainey and has them brought to his mansion. When the Kid finds out that everyone was kidnapped, he and a few of the guys go over to get them back, but Oxford Charlie reveals the Kid’s reason for collecting the money to everybody (all while the Kid sneaks away to avoid being pummeled by the other con men). With Christmas fast approaching, will the Kid have a change of heart (and find a way to help everyone out), or will he taken apart by Sam the Surgeon?

(Host): In between the previously mentioned song “Silver Bells” and the story’s Christmas Eve deadline, there is no doubt about this movie’s qualifications as a Christmas film! I know I enjoy watching this movie around Christmastime, with Bob Hope’s antics and quips continuing to make me laugh every time I watch it! I’ll admit, his cross-dressing gag near the end of the film is probably a bit dated at this point, but he still does it in such a way as to have me laughing the whole time (even with the rear screen projection during the brief period he is riding a bicycle)! The rest of the cast is pretty good, too, with Fred Clark as a tough gangster, who certainly makes you think twice about crossing him, Jane Darwell who garners sympathy for her character as she tries to survive and get ready for her husband’s upcoming release from prison, plus William Frawley as one of the more prominent crooks conned into helping out as one of the Santas out collecting for the home. But, as I said, this film’s rendition of “Silver Bells” is one of the film’s best and most touching moments, easily making the movie worth seeing just for that alone! But, yes, I certainly enjoy and recommend the rest of the movie, too!

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

And if you are interested in joining in on my month-long “Star Of The Month” blogathons for 2021, whether for next month (Doris Day), February (Clark Gable) or beyond, please be sure to check out my Coming Soon In 2021: “Star/Genre Of The Month” Blogathons post to sign up!

Film Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

(original review of The Paleface) (update) – Bob HopeMy Favorite Spy (1951)

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