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The Fleet's In (1942)
Slight Paramount Fare has a Good Cast
This is a slight, inconsequential little Paramount musical that somehow manages to be whimsical & appealing.
Directed by Victor Schertzinger (his last movie), it boasts a good cast of rising stars at Paramount: Dorothy Lamour as the Countess of Swingland, a glamorous nightclub hostess who entertains sailors on leave; Betty Hutton as Lamour's impetuous roommate Bessie; William Holden as Casey the shy sailor who intends to win a bet so he can kiss the Countess; Eddie Bracken as the eccentric shipmate of Holden; and a very young and upcoming Barbara Britton.
While Lamour and Holden are the leading stars in this slightly erratic war-time entertainment, it is actually Betty Hutton's star-making show. She made her feature debut here. She literally steals almost every scene she's in, with her wacky comic acts. And her rapport with Bracken was a delight in its self.
Some scenes drag pretentiously, especially the routine comic acts performed on stage to entertain the soldiers. Still, the songs and numbers are quite enjoyable in their own whimsical sort of way, especially Hutton's delivery of "Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry."
Nice Fun and worth a catch, if you like this sort of musicals.
365 Nights in Hollywood (1934)
Above-average Faye musical Offers Pleasing Diversion
This is one of the earliest Alice Faye musicals I have seen and it's strictly for us, her fans and, perhaps, the connoisseurs of early musicals. While Not among Faye's best musicals, I thought "365 Nights in Hollywood", directed by George Marshall, was above-average musical: likable, pleasing, unpretentious effort that just passes the time. Ms. Faye - very young and looking exactly like Jean Harlow - plays an aspiring, talented movie star that joins a bogus film school, run by Grant Mitchell, and through the help of a has-been director, played by James Dunn, whom she ultimately falls in love, she succeeds and becomes a rising musical star. The songs and production numbers are well mounted and pleasing throughout.
If you like this one, I recommend "George White's 1935 Scandals"(1935), again with Faye and Dunn.
Coney Island (1943)
Betty Shines in Another Lively, Tuneful Fox Musical
Despite a slow start and trifling plot, "Coney Island" turns out to be One of Betty Grable's most sheerly exuberant musicals and another shimmering, glossily produced, exquisitely Technicolored Fox tuner set in the Gay 90s, directed with chic elegance by Walter Lang.
Betty is wonderful all the way and gave what she had as Kate Farley, the stage show entertainer/singer who is transformed by George Montgomery into a classy Broadway star with musical and vocal talents, despite the protests from Kate's manager, played by Cesar Romero. Charles Winninger, Phil Silvers and Hurst are the capably eccentric supporting players.
The songs and numbers are joyously, spectacularly staged, including the unforgettable "Cuddle Up a Little Closer", "Pretty Baby", "There's Danger in a Dance", "Beautiful Coney Island", "Put Your Arms Around Me", and "Lulu from Louisville."
Love Me Forever (1935)
If you are a lover of musicals, you must see this one
This is one of great forgotten musicals of the 1930s. After the success of 1934's "One Night of Love", Columbia Pictures and director Victor Schertzinger wasted no time in preparing more Grace Moore opera-themed musicals, and "Love Me Forever"(1935) turned out to be just as elegant, tuneful, melodious, exuberant and terrifically entertaining as "One Night of Love" which, in a sense, made opera more palatable to audiences.
Some might even prefer "Love Me Forever" to "One Night of Love" in terms of its sheer elegance, enjoyment, and quality of operatic songs in which Moore sings throughout. The musical selections are superb. I especially loved the thrilling excerpts from "La Boheme" (clever Grace Moore got to sing both Musetta and Mimi!). Moore's voice is again absolutely beautiful--strong, commanding and thrilling. The title song was haunting and attractive, too. Leo Carrilo is suitably cast as Moore's leading man, a diligent and charismatic connoisseur of opera who turns Moore's Margaret into a celebrity sensation while retaining his affection for the prima donna.
I agree with Arne that if you are a lover of musicals, this is a must viewing. I consider myself lucky to have seen this recently on a rare video print from a private collector.
Anna Neagle & Ray Milland in Enjoyable RKO musical
"Irene" is very entrancing screen version of Joseph Tierney and Harry McCarthy's 1919 stage musical, glossily directed and produced by Herbert Wilcox. I happened to catch it the other night, and I loved it. I was entranced by the charm of the actors -- and the songs, while not first-rate, are quite pleasing. Anna Neagle stars as whimsical Irish sales girl Irene O'Dare who is introduced into Long Island's high society culture, and becomes infatuated with two suitors, Ray Milland and Alan Marshall. Billie Burke plays their mother who becomes impressed with Irene, turns her into a celebrity sensation in "Madame Lucy" dress collection. May Robson is very memorable as the irrepressible Granny; so is Roland Young as Milland's partner in business. The highlight is the sumptuous ball sequence shot in Technicolor, "Alice Blue Gown", where Irene, dressed in blue, is waltzing with Milland in a very tuneful number. The other songs include, "You've Got Me Out on a Limb", "There's Something in the Air", "Worthy of You", and "Irene". Enjoyable stuff.
Sing Your Worries Away (1942)
Labored and Tedious
I really wanted to enjoy this seldom seen little RKO musical, directed by Edward Sutherland, starring Bert Lahr, Buddy Ebsen, Patsy Kelly, Kings Sisters, Alvino Rey & His Orchestra. But it didn't dazzle me as much as I wanted to. In spite of the nice, freewheeling songs, "Sing Your Worries Away" feels oddly flustered or clumsy.
It mainly works as a so-so vehicle for Bert Lahr and his zany jokes which are painstakingly obvious and labored. If you can stand the jokes, then the movie may be eminently watchable. Lahr plays a happy-go-lucky composer, Chow Brewster, who inherits $3,000,000 at a Boathouse Inn, where a crook (Sam Levene) and his gang drive Lahr to commit suicide so they can grab the money. Patsy Kelly provides nice supporting role as the eccentric hotel worker; Buddy Ebsen is very entertaining in his part as the friend of the slain victim. We also see some interesting appearances by June Havoc & Margaret Dumont to display their inimitable character traits.
For me, the high point is the rendition of the title number by the King Sisters at the hotel, and then Ebsen exuberantly dances with one of the sisters. It's a joyous little moment, but mostly the movie is a tedious affair.
The Dolly Sisters (1945)
Betty Grable & June Haver in a Joyous Fox musical
"The Dolly Sisters" is Betty Grable and June Haver's most joyously tuneful musical, a gaudy, loud, exquisitely Technicolored extravaganza of songs, dancing, and romance, the kind of vacuous yet tasteful fluff 20th Century Fox did well with great success. The studio head, Darryl Zanuck intended as a vehicle for Alice Faye & Betty Grable, but he couldn't convince Faye to get out of retirement, so producer George Jessel casted June Haver, and the movie become one of the top grossing pictures of the 1940s.
Grable and Haver (fantastic throughout) are the Hungarian born blonde sisters, Jenny & Rosie that took Broadway by storm. Their story begins with their arrival in New York in 1904, their subsequent rise from vaudeville acts to Broadway & Folies Bergere of Paris. They meet an aspiring composer Harry (John Payne) who arranges a meeting with Oscar Hammerstein to appear his Music Hall. Betty falls in love with Harry while June settles for a far less troubled romance with Frank Latimore. Betty is particularly very revealing, especially when she gets the nervous breakdown. Good performances also by S.Z. Sakall and Reginald Gardiner.
Lots of rollicking, uproarious songs/numbers, including the Oscar-winning "I Can't Begin to Tell You", the haunting "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows", plus some kitschy stuff like "Powder, Lipstick and Rouge", "Give Me The Moonlight, Give Me The Girl".
"Dolly Sisters" can be best appreciated if you see it back to back with June Haver's 1946's musical, "Three Little Girls in Blue", a joyous merriment in need of resurrection.
George White's Scandals (1934)
Alice Faye's Rousing Debut
The ineffable Alice Faye made her film debut in this rousing backstage extravaganza, an interesting assembly of Broadway revue, comic sketches, songs, and dancing, in which she played an aspiring singer Kitty Donnelly and her romance with Rudy Valle. Although the movie is loaded with big-scale Busby Berkeley-inspired production numbers, its chief virtue is to watch and be mesmerized by Faye's glorious singing, her distinctive contralto voice.
This is the movie where Faye sings "Oh, You Nasty Man" -- one of her most cheerfully lurid (though not necessarily the best), songs. Other songs and numbers include "So Nice", "Every Day's a Father's Day", "Following in the Mother's Footsteps", "Sweet and Simple", "Picking Cotton", and "The Man on the Flying Trapeze".
Audiences applauded Faye's vivacity, and the movie made her an instant musical star. Up until her 1936 musical, "Sing, Baby, Baby", Faye really looked like a Jean Harlow-ish platinum blonde with pencil eyelashes. A year later she starred in a follow-up, "George White's 1935 Scandals" - also worth seeking out, if only for Faye's singing.
Waikiki Wedding (1937)
The more I see Bing Crosby's undervalued Paramount musicals, the more he is becoming one of my favorite musical stars of all time. Except for the tedious 1933 musical "Going Hollywood", I was impressed by all of Bing's works and his sweet, aching crooning.
"Waikiki Wedding", sumptuously set in Hawaii, is one of Bing's best efforts, featuring such remarkable and beguiling tunes as "Blue Hawaii", "Sweet Leilani", "Sweet Is the Word for You", and "Nani Ona Pua".
Although I enjoyed "Blue Hawaii" as the best sounding song in the movie, the Oscar-winning "Sweet Leilani" is really my favorite after repeated viewings.
Bing plays a publicity agent Tony Marvin working for a pineapple company taking part in a native wedding feast and becomes involved in a scheme to escort a beauty contest winner, played by Shirley Ross. Ms. Ross has a nice, appealing presence and does a very good job playing Bing's love interest and the "Miss Pineapple Queen" winner on her trip to Hawaii.
I also enjoyed George Barbier, Martha Raye, Bob Burns, and an interesting early appearance by Anthony Quinn as one of the Hawaiian natives.
Frank Tuttle's direction gets a little slack in the second half, but the music and Bing's timeless singing are all you need to enjoy "Waikiki Wedding".
Wake Up and Dream (1946)
Give Me the Simple Life
Far and away, that's the most memorable song in this naïve and dated war-time fantasy, based on the novel "The Enchanted Voyage" by Robert Nathan, directed by Lloyd Bacon.
Since I'm a fan of 20th-Century Fox musicals of the Golden Age, I anticipated a great deal of lively, tuneful fun from "Wake Up and Dream", and I was disappointed by what I saw. A naïve, substandard children's fantasy, it mainly works as heavily sentimental reflection of its war-enshrouded time.
John Payne plays a farmer Jeff Cairn who, after he enlists in the Navy, disappears and is believed to be dead. Connie Marshall is his young sister Nella who is searching for him, along with a good-hearted old coot (Clem Bevans) in a boat called "Sara March".
June Haver, who deserved better than what she got, plays the saccharine waitress Jenny falling in love with Payne and goes along with the voyage, together with an eccentric dentist played by John Ireland.
The highlights are Payne's heartwarming rendition of "Give Me the Simple Life" at the beginning, and then later Haver, in a moment of sweet vulnerability, sings the song to show her love and adoration for Payne.
The Technicolor looks sumptuous, but the story is not that interesting. I suggest you skip it, unless you're interested in the stars or the subject.