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|Index||13 reviews in total|
This film precedes BEAU JAMES by two years, and can be seen as a kind of
warm-up for that Hope biography. As I mentioned in my comment there, Hope
was hoping to find a film property that he could demonstrate his dramatic
abilities in, so that he could possibly get a nod for an Oscar nomination.
So the two biographies and the serious toned THAT CERTAIN FEELING have a
certain individuality among Hope's comedies and films missing in the others.
Eddie Foy Sr. was one of the great comics of his era. His career was actually older than that of his friend and rival George M. Cohan, for Cohan was born in 1872 and Foy was already a travelling vaudevillian at that time. In fact he would be involved in a famous western event in 1881. Playing shows in Tombstone, in the Arizona territory, Foy came afoul of Ike Clanton and his gang, and was almost killed by them while on stage. The incident is suggested in John Ford's MY DARLING CLEMENTINE when Alan Mowbray (as a windy Victorian actor) is threatened by the Clantons. In the film GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRALL, the local Tombstone theatre has posters up for Foy's performance. However the director of that Paramount film did not think of having Hope perform a cameo in the Lancaster-Douglas film as Foy.
THE SEVEN LITTLE FOYS follows Foys personal life, and how he allows his professional interests (tours, bookings) to keep him from the woman he loved and married - and whom he loses when she prematurely dies while he is on tour. His sister-in-law (the wife and her sister are Italians) has never liked Foy. The death of the wife leaves Foy with his seven kids, but his sister-in-law wants him to give up his career, and watch the kids grow up. He doesn't want to do so, so he decides to put the kids into his act. The problem: the kids can't act, sing, or dance like their old man can. Still he perserveres, and the act becomes a success because of it's very awfulness (it's so comically bad, it's good). But the sister-in-law tries to take the kids away from Foy by legal means, leading to a court scene.
Cagney appears as Cohan at a Friar's Club roast for Foy (their entertainer of the year). The four minute scene includes a graceful soft shoe involving the two troupers Cagney and Hope. It is a wonderful moment in the film. And the film, as a dramatic comedy, does hold up well. Given time, perhaps Hope could have found a suitable film for an Oscar nomination, but he was a busy man, and he did not have the time.
One final point. This month was the centennial for the burning of the steamboat GENERAL SLOCUM, the worst disaster in the history of New York City before September 11, 2001. The SLOCUM killed 1031 people by burning or drowning. It got into movie history at the start of the film MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (best recalled for the first pairing of William Powell and Myrna Loy, and for the fact that John Dillinger was shot down by FBI men after leaving his secret location to see Myrna Loy's performance). The SLOCUM sequence is grisly well done in that 1934 film. But seven months before the SLOCUM Disaster, the Iroquois Theatre fire in Chicago killed six hundred people. It was the worst theatre fire in American history. Eddie Foy Sr. was playing in MR. BLUEBEARD in the theatre that day, and helped rescue many or the audience by calming them down. Although not much of the disaster is shown, it does appear (the only time I am aware of that it appears at all) in this film, THE SEVEN LITTLE FOYS.
Interesting that the generally considered high point of Bob Hope's
career has him essaying roles of famous celebrities of the past. Hope
played Jimmy Walker, the mayor of New York during prohibition and the
famous vaudevillian Eddie Foy who as we learned in Yankee Doodle Dandy
gave his country seven children. Hope acquits himself well and you
almost, but not quite forget that you are watching Bob Hope.
Eddie Foy (1855-1928) was one of the most celebrated acts of vaudeville in the golden age of vaudeville in the 19th century. Completely eliminated from the story are his first two wives, both of whom died and a fourth wife whom he married after the action of this story is over. Milly Vitale and her sister Angela Clarke however were quite real.
Eddie Foy, Jr. partially made a career of playing his celebrated father in many films, on stage, and in television. He did such a good job of bringing him to life, that whoever played Foy if his name wasn't Foy was going to be hypercritically judged. It's a great credit to Bob Hope that the public accepted him in the part with no reservations.
The story is familiar enough material, widower raising a large brood of children with the usual problems without mother in the picture. It just so happens that this family was in show business, a lot like the Cohan family so shown in Yankee Doodle Dandy.
Eddie Foy, Jr. played his dad in Yankee Doodle Dandy in that one celebrated exchange of one liners with James Cagney right before the You're A Grand Old Flag number. The highlight of this film is Cagney reprising his role as Cohan and doing a soft shoe routine at a Friar's Club dinner with Hope. Both Cagney and Hope did their turns in vaudeville before they were names and there was no need of any character preparation for their parts. The dance routine yes, but the acting no.
The Seven Little Foys is a heartwarming family film, a bit more serious than the usual Bob Hope fare, but still charming and entertaining.
***1/2 for this Bob Hope vehicle made in 1955.
The biography details the life of song and dance man Eddie Foy. Hope has the usual right wit and sarcastic blend to produce a wonderful performance. His dancing is exactly the right step as well.
He meets and marries a ballerina played by Millie Vitale. The children start coming real fast. Each time, Vitale's sister, a tough-looking strong woman named Clara, announces: "We're pregnant!"
7 little Foys enter the world. Eddie is too busy in his show business career and is rarely home. Go know that Vitale's cough is more serious than a cold. One night he arrives home to the news that his beloved wife had died during the day. Stricken with disbelief and sadness, Eddie vows to keep the family together and engages the children to appear in his act.
Meanwhile, Aunt Clara schemes to have Eddie declared unsuitable so that she can gain control of the children.
A fine musical and dance sequence with James Cagney reprising his role of George M. Cowan is shown in this delightful film.
Bob Hope executive produced and narrated a one hour TV sequel (serving as a
pilot) with Eddie Foy, Jr. as 'Eddie Foy' and Mickey Rooney as 'George M.
Cohan.' The Osmond Brothers played the boys and the youngest daughter was
played by Morgan Britney. George Tobias reprised his role as Foy's agent
'Barney Green' and Angela Clarke took over the role of 'Aunt Clara.' The
story picks up where the original ends with Eddie deciding to retire the act
and put the kids in public school. Cohan and Green plot to bring the act
back to the stage. Though in black-in-white, 48 minutes long, and a much
lower budget, the sequel is quite satisfying to fans of the original. Foy,
Jr. had served as narrator and consultant for the original so it was a neat
turn to have Hope narrate this one. I found a copy of the film from the web
site of "20th Century Nostalgia" for under fifteen dollars. I don't have
any affiliation with them but they are the only ones I know that carry it,
so I pass the information along to fans. The original is my favorite Bob
Hope movie (I own them all!) so I was a tough sell.
Companion film to Jimmy Cagney's Yankee Doodle Dandy, with Bob Hope as Broadway's Eddie Foy. Jimmy Cagney reprises his Yankee Doodle role as Foy's friendly rival George M. Cohan in a spectacular dance sequence. A far cry from his lighter other comedies, Bob Hope has never been better. Great for anyone seeking a great family entertainment or a colorful musical.
This is underrated as both a Bob Hope vehicle and a musical biopic:
even if it follows the basic path of all such films (the struggle to
achieve success followed by the pitfalls of celebrity, not forgetting
the obligatory romance and the equally inevitable tragedy), it's very
capably mounted with the script even garnering an Oscar nomination.
The star is in very fine form here, balancing characterization with his
traditional banter; Milly Vitale is radiant as his wife who bears him
seven children and then dies. Since Foy's only ever known showbiz, he
opts to drag them all into his act! Incidentally, one of the kids
(Bryan) grew up to be a film-maker himself but was mainly noted as a
producer with a penchant for the noir genre!
Even so, THE SEVEN LITTLE FOYS is perhaps best-known for a guest appearance by James Cagney, reprising his Oscar-winning role of George M. Cohan from YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942) where, incidentally, Foy was portrayed by his real life son, Eddie Jr; interestingly, George Tobias played Cohan's manager in that earlier film and Foy's here! Anyway, Hope and Cagney's one scene together which culminates in a dancing duel/duet is not merely the picture's undeniable highlight but pure cinema magic in and of itself where two top movie stars incarnate a couple of great vaudevillians strutting their stuff. As with a handful of other Hope titles I own, the film has unaccountably fallen into the Public Domain despite being a major studio production, but the copy I acquired thankfully maintains remarkably vibrant colors throughout.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Here's another one of those 'Million Dollar Movies' that I would watch
when it was shown every night for a week back when I was a kid growing
up in the Fifties. Of course then, the only way to see it was in black
and white, so to catch it in color today for the first time was a nice
treat. For a kid, I guess you could say that the stars of the picture
were the seven Foy siblings, but of course it was Bob Hope who brought
the picture to life as talented song and dance man Eddie Foy. It's
quite a unique story, at times heartbreaking and sentimental, but
rising to the occasion with family warmth and solidarity when the
situation requires it.
The family act notwithstanding, one of the standout scenes features that old Yankee Doodle Dandy himself, Jimmy Cagney, reprising his 1942 movie role as George M. Cohan The setting is the legendary Friars Club Outstanding Father of the Year Award for which Foy Sr. is being honored. Cagney and Hope lay it on very nicely in a well choreographed routine, and I was actually quite surprised to see Hope's performance as a hoofer. I don't recall ever seeing him go at it so effectively in any of his TV specials or overseas tours. It helps one appreciate just how talented the man really was.
It was a tragedy of course that mother Madeleine Foy passed away so young, and one wonders how history might have been entirely different had that event not provided the catalyst for Eddie to take his kids in as part of the act. For one, this movie might never have been made, as Eddie always considered himself a solo act. In which instance, a parental hearing on his fitness as a father might have gone an entirely different way. Interesting how life works out sometimes.
You can pick this film up as part of a nicely packaged five DVD, ten movie 'Hollywood Legends' collection. This one in particular features Bob Hope in a nice assortment of films spanning his career, including a couple of the 'Road' pictures. The latter have been remastered, and along with "The Seven Little Foys", have exceptional viewing quality. The color films especially, are particularly crisp and bright.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Seven Little Foys" stars Bob Hope as legendary vaudeville comedian
Eddie Foy. As with many bio-pics, great liberties are taken with the
truth here...you may want to go to Wikipedia to read about the real
story of Foy's romantic life and courtship...which is at variance with
what is presented here...although it is entertaining. Once married, the
Foys begin a family -- 7 in all -- but then Foy's wife dies while he is
on the road. The film does cover the infamous Iroquois Theater Fire,
where Foy was considered a hero. The movie is mostly about the ups and
downs of taking a family act on the road.
I sort of felt that Bob Hope was "walking through" this part...not his best role, but he does okay. The highlight of the film is the legendary dance routine with Hope (as Foy) and James Cagney, who reprises his role as George M. Cohan. Most of the film is very watchable, but not great. But this dance routine is a must-see.
The supporting cast is not very notable, although George Tobias is very good as the agent, and its nice to see Billy Gray (Bud on "Father Knows Best") as one of the sons.
I remembered this film as being better than when I recently viewed it. Very watchable, though not memorable...except for the dance routine. Probably not one for the DVD shelf unless you're a big fan of Bob Hope.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Everyone from Vaudeville is now gone. The only reason I remember it is
from the memories of performers like W C Fields, George Burns & Gracie
Allen, Henny Youngman, Jack Benny and others I saw in movies when I was
a kid and the film Yankee Doodle Dandy. Still, the Vaudeville
entertainers I saw when I was a child made me realize what a golden era
Bob Hope playing Eddie Foy here gives a warm memory to that era. Vaudeville is very well portrayed here and Hope has one of his better roles. Hope, known more for punch lines than acting proved a few times in his career that he could act. This is one of them.
While Vaudeville is gone the memories of it live on in films like this one. While You Tube might become the Vaudeville of the electronic era as home videos create a new frontier of entertainment, Vaudeville which lived from the post Civil War era until the 1930's will always be the most fruitful ground of entertainment in that era.
Movies took over when Vaudeville died, then came radio and music on records where some vaudevillians took over and dominated early on. Then came Television and now the Internet. With each progression we get farther from the roots of theater which date back to Shakespeare. This film recreates one of these important steps. Without, we would not understand how we got here.
This movie is a nostalgic trip worth taking with Cagney & Hope together in one number a major bonus.
In 1913, vaudeville comic Bob Hope (as Eddie Foy) and "The Seven Little
Foys" are a successful act. Second child Charley Foy (as Charley Foy)
introduces himself as narrator and takes us back to 1898, where Mr.
Hope is a solo act uninterested in women. This changes when beautiful
Italian ballerina Milly Vitale (as Madeleine Morando) arrives on the
scene. Although Mr. Hope is a tough nut to crack, the two somehow forms
a family. A tragedy occurs and there are hardships on the road. The act
becomes famous. Principal players include Hope's faithful agent George
Tobias (as Barney Green), comic foil aunt Angela Clarke (as Clara), and
eldest son Billy Gray (as Bryan Lincoln Foy). In a cameo highlight,
James Cagney reprises his "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942) role of George
***** The Seven Little Foys (6/1/55) Melville Shavelson ~ Bob Hope, George Tobias, Angela Clarke, Billy Gray
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