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Centennial Summer hasn't been available for viewing since the mid-1980s, when, after many years of obscurity, it turned up for one showing on the SFM Holiday Network, and briefly on the Disney Channel. Since that time, the film has not been televised and, as of 2017, has never been released in any home video format. See more »
Although Centennial Summer did not approach the success that MGM's Meet Me In St. Louis either artistically or financially, the film still has a lot to recommend it. It may be the only musical in history done with mostly non-musical performers with leads Linda Darnell and Jeanne Crain dubbed by other singers.
Darnell and Crain are sisters and daughters of Walter Brennan and Dorothy Gish who are just like the family in Meet Me In St. Louis with the problems that your average middle class families in the Centennial year of 1876 had. They're all looking forward to the Centennial World's Fair of that year.
Some complications get thrown into the mix when prim and proper Dorothy Gish gets a visit from Constance Bennett who is quite the jet setter in those days before jets and flying were accomplished facts. She's in from Paris and she's bringing with her a nephew by marriage played by Cornel Wilde. Wilde uses the same French accent he did in The Greatest Show On Earth and Sword Of Lancelot and he gets both the sisters romantic motors running. In the meantime earnest young William Eythe going into a new medical field of obstetrics is hanging around hoping to pick someone up on the rebound, but he's hoping it's Crain.
Centennial Summer is known for the fact that it was Jerome Kern's last musical project and it was released the year after Kern died. He used three different lyricists for the various songs, Oscar Hammerstein, II, E.Y. Harburg, and Leo Robin. All Through The Day with lyrics by Hammerstein got an Oscar nomination for best song as did Alfred Newman's overall musical scoring. The song which obviously the studio thought would be the big hit was entrusted to a real singer Larry Stevens and introduced in a musical hall sequence.
I'm not sure what Darryl F. Zanuck was thinking in not casting the already proved Dolly Sister team of Betty Grable and June Haver in the leads. The film might have been better if he had.
Still for those like myself who love the music of Jerome Kern, Centennial Summer is a must see film.
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