Wednesday, July 24, 2013

That is how she won her Navy E!

Next up, let's talk about a couple of my favorite sailors: Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in their first film together...

Anchors Aweigh (1945)

Ah, Frank and Gene - a pair of fellas who could make any girl swoon. This was one of Frank Sinatra's earliest leading roles. I think it was one of the ones that helped define his on-screen persona as the quiet, shy, nervous charmer that he reprised in multiple films.This is my sister's favorite Gene Kelly movie and I certainly don't blame her. He's so incredibly sexy, charming, funny, and suave in this one. And to see the way he can handle a phone...

The film follows the story of two sailors on leave, Clarence (Sinatra) and Joe (Kelly). Once on shore, Clarence persuades Joe to help him find a girl. Joe reluctantly agrees and when the two are roped in to help a young boy, Donald, get home safely (Dean Stockwell in one of his earliest roles), Clarence quickly falls in love with the boy's beautiful Aunt Susie (Kathryn Grayson). As Joe attempts to bring the two together, he finds himself falling in love with Aunt Susie as well. But which one will get the girl?

There is, of course, a bit more to the plot, but that's what summaries are for, right? One tidbit that I know about this movie is, I think, a pretty well-known fact, but I'll share it anyway, just in case. Jerry the Mouse's role in "The Worry Song" was originally offered to Mickey Mouse but Walt Disney declined. I don't think he wanted his star to appear in a different production company's film. I think I read somewhere that Disney was very impressed with the end result. So that's pretty neat. As for Gene's other dancing partner... this wasn't Frank Sinatra's first musical but I believe it was his first dancing role. Gene Kelly pretty much had to teach him. When you see the end result, it's pretty incredible to think of having to learn from and keep up with Gene Kelly. Frank Sinatra, in my opinion, does really well. You can see him watching Gene as they dance in "I Begged Her" but you can hardly blame him for that.

This movie has some fantastic songs in it. Gene Kelly has a few really good dances to perform (my favorite is the "Mexican Hat Dance" he performs with the little girl) and Frank Sinatra gets to croon some mighty lovely tunes.

This is my sister's favorite Gene Kelly movie. What's yours?

All of the pictures featured in this post are from Doctor Macro.
Be sure to check my Facebook page for more pictures, movie clips, and quotes!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Somethin' about a sailor, somethin' about a sailor...

...but a soldier ain't so bad!

Okay, this next film in our nautical month was one of my favorites growing up. Sadly, it's relatively unknown by most people. I find that too bad because it's such a cute movie! It's a little odd - a discovery I've made only recently - but it's really fun. The movie is:

Two Girls and A Sailor (1944)

This one features June Allyson, Gloria deHaven, Van Johnson, and Jimmy Durante. Like many movies made at the time, a host of random stars make cameos throughout the film: Harry James, Jose Iturbi, Gracie Allen, Lena Horne, Xavier Cugat, Virginia O'Brien, and Ava Gardner. I had to rewatch the movie to find her. As a kid, I had no idea who she was or that she was someone famous.

The movie focuses on a pair of Vaudeville sisters, Patsy and Jean Deyo. Patsy (Allyson), the older sister, is very protective over her romantically inclined younger sister, Jean (deHaven). She constantly has to pull her out of different romantic entanglements, convinced that Jean hasn't found the right man yet. But, when Jean starts to receive orchids from a secret admirer, the two girls start to search for "Somebody." As they try to solve the mystery, they find themselves falling in love... unfortunately with the same man, a sailor named Johnny (Johnson).

It's a very fun movie and one of my favorite deHaven roles. Probably one of my favorite June Allyson roles too. But, oddly enough, their roles were originally meant to be reversed. In her autobiography, June Allyson explains about how she got the part. When June Allyson got offered the part in the film, she sought the advice of Dick Powell, who later became her husband. He read the script and advised her to pursue the role of the plain sister. He argued that no one would believe Gloria deHaven to be someone who could be out-shined and overlooked. He had a point; I think Gloria deHaven was one of the most incredibly gorgeous actresses ever. She followed his advice, won the role, and I'm pretty sure this film helped shape the rest of her movie career.


Like many '40's musicals, this one is chock-full of songs and there are some pretty amazing ones too. The selections vary from classical to big band and you're sure to find at least one that you really like. This movie was my introduction to Lena Horne, Jimmy Durante, Harry James, Tom Drake, and Van Johnson. It might have been my first time watching June Allyson and Gloria deHaven too. Oh, and some of the dresses in this one are simply divine! My sisters and I watched this movie together for years. I can't tell you how excited I was when I found it on dvd in the Warner Archives Collection! It is, sadly, pretty hard to find, but I highly recommend checking it out if you can. It's a wonderful film.

Be sure to swing by my Facebook page to see more pictures, video clips, and quotes from the film!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

You look sort of shipshape to me and I've spotted a few...

So, to continue with our delightful marathon about singing sailors, let's move on to a musical where the main sailor is not your typical musical star...

Born To Dance (1936)

This movie was in my public library growing up for as long as I can remember. And I don't know how long it took me to finally check it out. I kept wanting to. But I didn't know who Eleanor Powell was at the time and didn't know if I'd like her. As it happens, I didn't. I've grown to feel differently, of course. She's not my favorite but I know what an amazing performer she was and I love several of her scenes. This isn't my favorite of her movies, per se, but it's worth a watch just to see James Stewart singing!

The plot is kind of odd and convoluted (the main reason this isn't my absolute favorite) but I'll do my best to explain it. Ted Barker (Stewart) meets aspiring dancer, Nora Paige (Powell) and they fall in love. However, when a famous starlet Lucy James (Virginia Bruce) visits his ship and Ted rescues her pet Pekinese, he finds himself in the middle of a publicity campaign where he and Lucy are shown to be an item. Naturally, Nora becomes jealous and hurt. After much confusion, Nora and Ted are reunited and Nora becomes the star she deserves to be. There are some great supporting characters played by Una Merkel, Sid Silvers, Frances Langford, and Buddy Ebsen.

I don't know a whole heap about this one unfortunately. I know that when the movie was being made, the studios were doing their best to produce as many musicals as possible because of their popularity. To do so, they put some of their top stars in their musicals, even if the stars were not musically inclined. Thus, Jimmy Stewart as our leading man. Incidentally, I like Jimmy Stewart's voice. He's not exactly Bing Crosby, but his voice is sweet and sincere and when he sings "You'd Be So Easy to Love," he sounds perfectly vulnerable and gentle. I've read that they planned to dub his voice over but decided against it. I've also read that Cole Porter picked James Stewart for the role. In any case the song was a big hit.

Have you guys seen this one? What do you think of Jimmy's singing pipes? Are you Eleanor Powell fans? Which is your favorite Powell film? I'll be posting some pictures and clips of the film on my Facebook page in the following days so be sure to check them out!

All of the pictures in this post are from Doctor Macro.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Navy must be a wonderful institution.

It produces such a modest, shrinking type man...

It's summer! Summer means the beach! Sunglasses! Barbecues! Nautical-themed outfits! And what better way to nautical-themed outfits than nautical-themed posts? So, for the month of July, I will discuss my favorite sailor-filled musicals. Please feel free to weigh in on your personal favorites as well.

So, to start:

Follow the Fleet (1936)

As you can see by the poster, this film features the great Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It's one of their few films where they're cast as the secondary characters. If you ask my sister, those are the best - and she may be right. In their supporting roles, Fred and Ginger get a chance to shine without having to bicker, they get to have fun, crack jokes, steal scenes, and be adorable without having to go through all of the heartache and frustration of their mixed up romances as lead characters.

I'm going to steal the plot summary from IMDb: When the fleet puts in at San Francisco, sailor Bake Baker (Astaire) tries to rekindle the flame with his old dancing partner, Sherry Martin (Rogers), while Bake's buddy Bilge Smith (Randolph Scott) romances Sherry's sister Connie (Harriet Hilliard). But it's not all smooth sailing: Bake has a habit of losing Sherry's jobs for her; and despite Connie's dreams, Bilge is not ready to settle down.

So, there you have it. As far as trivia goes, I've read that Irene Dunne was originally intended for the role of Connie but was unavailable at the time. It's an interesting fact considering Dunne was cast opposite Scott in Fred and Ginger's other supporting role film a year prior, Roberta. Follow the Fleet also includes a young and pretty Lucille Ball. I believe this was when she was still in Ginger Rogers' mother's school for aspiring actresses. A sharp eye will notice a young Betty Grable as a singer in "Let Yourself Go." There's a bugle call gag in this movie that also shows up in The Gay Divorcee and Roberta. I'm not sure where this gag originated. Do any of you know? This movie is also notable for being the only one in the Fred and Ginger series where the two characters are, throughout the film, working class characters. They don't hobnob with high society, fly down to Italy for the weekend. Ginger isn't a model for a couture dressmaker. And Fred isn't a well-known dancer. Their previous gig as a dancing team featuring "High Class Patter and Genteel Dancing" is a bit of a joke.

 The movie features some spectacular dance scenes: there's the somber "Let's Face the Music and Dance," which is the only part of the movie where Fred appears in his typical hat and tails. This is the dance where Ginger's sleeve hit Fred in the face. From what I read he was pretty dazed by the impact. Small wonder, her beaded dress must have weighed a ton. "Let Yourself Go" is always a fun time. And, my personal favorite, "I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket" is so funny and cute - it's impossible to watch without smiling.


Have you seen Follow the Fleet? What are your favorite songs? Your favorite lines? Check my Facebook page for more pictures, video clips, and quotes!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Will you be a patriot or a lover?

Happy Fourth of July!

Er.. remember that time when I said I was going to post every week on this thing? Oh, yeah, about that. Anyway, here we go...

This won't be much of a post because
a) It's 1 in the morning and I work tomorrow
b) I don't know a whole heap about these movies and, while I'd love to do more research on each of them, see a, above and
c) okay, I don't actually have a point c, but I wanted to keep this list going.

I just wanted to talk about my favorite patriotic movies and on this patriotic holiday, it seemed appropriate to share them.

Holiday Inn (1942)

Fred Astaire's "Let's Say It With Firecrackers" routine has been a long-time favorite of mine. I love the music, the firecrackers, his facial expressions, his hopping around, his attitude, his outfit. I mean, really, it's a fantastic sequence. What's not to love? That's really about all this movie has in terms of Independence Day references. But, isn't that enough?

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Born on the 4th of July and all! Talk about made for a holiday viewing! This movie really is wonderful. It has so many fantastic songs, James Cagney is brilliant, Joan Leslie is delightful, it's funny, touching, and makes you feel pretty good about being American.

1776 (1972)

This is what I'll be watching when I get home tonight as I kick back with my subway leftovers and kick off my wet work shoes (yes, I know, I really know how to party). I love this movie. Really. It's so much more than the movie your US History teacher made you watch Sophomore year. It's so funny, the songs are amazing, the performances are fantastic. It makes me cry. It's romantic. It's one of my favorite movies ever. Tonight's viewing may very well begin yet another segment of my life where I watch the movie over and over again - and, do you know something? I wouldn't mind. It's totally worth every minute of its 3 hour running time (ok, I could do without a good portion of "Molasses to Slaves to Rum" and "Mama, Look Sharp" depresses me beyond belief... but every other minute is pure delight).

I'll be posting videos of these movies on my Facebook page today (provided I remember, of course). Those are my top picks for today. What are your favorite Fourth of July flicks?