Posts Tagged ‘MGM’

For the Elizabeth Taylor Blogathon: 1948’s A Date With Judy

My daughters humor my love of classic films and will actually sit down from time to time and watch some with me.  Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a favorite musical at our house, and from watching it, the girls wanted to see another film that featured Jane Powell.  One afternoon last year, TCM aired a musical comedy, A Date With Judy, and my daughters and I watched it.  What we didn’t know until we began the film was that Elizabeth Taylor was in it, as one of Powell’s co-stars.  Taylor began making films in 1942, had her first “starring” role in 1944’s National Velvet, and continued to hone her acting craft through her teen years in the later 1940s and early 1950s.  When I was asked to participate for this blogathon, to commemorate Taylor’s birthday-February 27th, I decided to write about A Date With Judy.  To read other bloggers’ pieces about Elizabeth Taylor and her films, visit Crystal’s site at In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.

 

ADWJ is an MGM romance comedy, filmed in technicolor gorgeousness.  There is music, dance, and singing(Powell, Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra, and Carmen Miranda.) There are gorgeous gowns-mainly made for Elizabeth Taylor’s character.  There is the handsome hero, whom both Jane and Elizabeth have aimed to catch, Robert Stack.  Leon Ames and Wallace Beery provide two father roles.  Rounding out the cast: Scotty Beckett, Selena Royle, Clinton Sundberg, George Cleveland, Lloyd Corrigan, Stuart Whitman(uncredited role as a guest at a dance), Jerry Hunter, and Jean McLaren.  The film was directed by Richard Thorpe and was based upon a popular radio show of the day, with the same title.   

The plot is pretty straightforward.  Santa Barbara High School is getting ready to host a big dance and Senior Carol Pringle(Taylor) has managed to snag bandleader Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra to play for the dance.  Carol’s bff, Judy Foster(Powell), has been helping Carol with the dance preparations and is mad at her boyfriend Oogie(Beckett) because he said he’s not going to take her to the dance!  At the local candy/ice cream soda shop, owner Pop Scully(Corrigan) introduces Judy to his nephew Stephen(Stack.)  Judy is immediately smitten and delighted when Stephen, although a college man, agrees to escort Judy to the high school dance.  All seems to be going well for Judy until Stephen meets Carol, and he falls for her!!

Judy also becomes upset with her father(Wallace Beery).  Melvin Foster(Beery) wants to surprise his wife at their upcoming Wedding Anniversary party with his improved dancing skills so he secretly takes dancing lessons from Miss Rosita Cochellas(Carmen Miranda) who also happens to be Xavier Cugat’s girlfriend in the film.  Judy thinks her father is having an affair with Miss Cochellas!

Jane Powell and Elizabeth Taylor play well together, as pretty teens who are friends yet clash over the same guy.  The misunderstandings are funny, done in good taste, and at the end of the film, all is right with the world for all the characters involved.  For a funny film, with a great look at 1940s teen pop culture, tune in to A Date With Judy.  TCM will be airing it at March 12th, at 6:00 pm eastern time/5:00 pm central.  Here is the link to the movie’s trailer that MGM used to advertise it back in 1948.

 

For the Singing Sweethearts Blogathon: The Girl of the Golden West

As a classic film fan, I know who Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy were, but I have to admit that I had never seen any of their films.  I had seen snippets of them singing on tv before, probably in some documentary or tribute to MGM movie musicals, so when the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society invited me to participate in their blogathon honoring MacDonald and Eddy, I agreed to participate.   Please visit the blog’s site in order to read other posts about these two Singing Sweethearts!

Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald sang in 8 MGM musicals together, 1935-1942.  I wasn’t sure which ones were going to be available to view so I did a bit of research via our family’s Amazon Prime account and decided to rent and watch The Girl of the Golden West  as it was based upon the famous opera by Giacomo Puccini and I figured an opera type of  musical would showcase the couples’ singing voices nicely.   When I told my incredulous husband that some Italian opera writer had taken an American play(written by American David Belasco in 1905) and made an opera out of it, he wondered if this qualified as the first “spaghetti western”?!  My apologies to Mr. Eastwood.   

 

The plot of TGOTGW was a fun one with twists and turns.  The bad guys and the good guys weren’t cut and dried, they had nuanced characters and all of the cast did a very good job in their respective roles.  The movie opens with a group of Kentuckians, relaxing in their camp for the night in the new to them territory of California.  As the stars twinkle in the sky and the campfires burn, a ten year old girl sweetly sings along to her uncle’s guitar and all who hear her sing are enthralled.  One of the listeners, who is some yards away hiding in the brush, is a boy of 10, called Gringo by his adopted Mexican guardian, the bandit Ramirez.  Gringo memorizes the girl’s song and as an adult, hums and sings it a lot, despite growing up to become a bandit himself.  There are often posters about the area declaring the reward money for anyone who can capture Ramirez and turn him in.

The girl who sang so sweetly, Mary, grows up to inherit her Uncle Davey’s saloon, The Polka.  She also provides a holding station for area miners’ gold until it can be delivered via stagecoach to the assayer’s office in Monterey.    The miners all love Mary, as does Sheriff Jack Rance.  Several times he has showered Mary with gifts and the question of marriage and each time she has told him that she’s not sure yet if she’s ready to marry anyone.  There is also the town of Cloudy Mountain’s blacksmith, Alabama, who has an enormous crush on Mary, but is too shy to ask for her to marry him.  In Monterey is Father Sienna and his mission church.  He befriended Mary and her Uncle Davey when they first arrived in California and the old Father often invites Mary to come and sing Ave Maria for Sunday Mass.  Mary travels by stagecoach one Saturday morning so that she can sing for the church service when Ramirez and his gang rob the stage.  Ramirez takes one look at Mary and he’s in love with her.  He loves her sassiness and her looks.  We, the audience, know that Gringo-the blonde boy has grown up to be the bandit Ramirez, adopting his guardian’s last name.  To hide the  fact that he is not Hispanic, he wears his sombrero low on his head to hide his hair and wears a bandana pulled all the way up to his eyes.  He also speaks with an exaggerated accent.  As he accosts Mary, she has nothing but ire for Ramirez and hopes one day he will be caught and turned over to the law.   Mary makes it to Father Sienna’s church and sings Ave Maria so beautifully that the governor, who happens to be in town, insists that this young lady be invited to sing at his “Rancho” the next evening.  Ramirez happened to be at the church and heard Mary sing which makes him love her all the more.  He happens to hear about the governor’s invite to Mary and the plan to have one of the lieutenant’s on the governor’s staff escort Mary to the Rancho.  Ramirez manages to steal a Lt. Johnson’s uniform and escorts Mary, but not before a side trip in the moonlight near Monterey Bay where he sings to her and steals a kiss.  Mary isn’t happy about the stolen kiss, but Lt. Johnson is now in her heart too, and when she returns to Cloudy Mountain, Sheriff Jack can tell that she must have met another man while in Monterey.

Sheriff Jack Rance loves Mary but she’s not sure if she loves him as much

Mary singing a song with Alabama, the blacksmith

Silent movie actor who transitioned to sound films well, H.B. Warner as Father Sienna

Gringo alias Ramirez holding up Mary’s stagecoach

Gringo alias Ramirez alias Lt. Johnson singing to Mary by Monterey Bay

Eventually, Lt. Johnson/Ramirez makes it to Mary’s saloon, he meets Sheriff Jack who takes an immediate dislike to him, his true identity is revealed much to Mary’s shock and disappointment, and to thwart Sheriff Jack’s capture of Ramirez, a poker game is initiated, the best 2 out of 3 hands wins: either Ramirez will face the hangman’s noose or Mary will wed Sheriff Jack and he will let Ramirez ride away into exile.

Ramirez and Sheriff Jack-pure hatred for each other and both love Mary!

Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald truly had impressive singing voices.  Eddy’s voice was a rich, warm baritone and he could easily hit the high notes when he had to. MacDonald’s voice was a lovely soprano that doesn’t hit the high notes too sharply.  Eddy had done some operatic training in his late teens, early adult years, with various voice teachers while MacDonald began singing as a child with a group in Philadelphia and then on to the stage where her older sister was working in NYC.

If you are curious about the duo’s films, as I was, then seek out The Girl of the Golden West.  The film’s soundtrack includes many songs with music by Sigmund Romberg and lyrics by Gus Kahn: Seniorita, Mariache, Sun Up To Sun Down, Shadows On The Moon, Soldiers Of Fortune, The Wind In The Trees, The West Ain’t Wild Anymore, and Who Are We To Say.  Polly Wolly Doodle(composer unknown) and Camptown Races by Stephen Foster are background music in the saloon.  Jeanette sings Liebestraum(Dream of Love) by Franz Liszt and Ave Maria by Johann Sebastian Bach, and then The Wedding March by Felix Mendelssohn is used near the film’s end.

MGM publicity still for the film

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this film showcasing the talents of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.  Great supporting cast members include: Walter Pidgeon as Sheriff Jack, Buddy Ebsen as Alabama, H. B. Warner as Father Sienna, Leo Carillo as Mosquito, Brandon Tynan as The Professor, Noah Beery Sr. as Ramirez, Charley Grapewin as Uncle Davey, Jeanne Ellis as young Mary, Bill Cody Jr. as the child Gringo,  Billy Bevan as Nick, the bartender, and Monty Woolley as the governor.  The film was directed by Robert Z. Leonard and screenplay was written by Isabel Dawn and Boyce DeGaw, based upon David Belasco’s play.    

My Classic Movie Pick: Mickey Rooney Films I Greatly Enjoyed

Mickey Rooney, who had a 9 decades long career in the Entertainment Industry, passed away April 6th.   In honor of him, Turner Classic Movies is going to present on Sunday, April 13th, 13 films that Rooney starred in.  Among this list are 3 of Rooney’s films that I have already seen and instead of one post about one movie, I thought I’d write short synopses about  3 of those films that I really enjoyed.

A Family Affair, 1937 from MGM studios.  Stars Lionel Barrymore(Great-Uncle of Drew Barrymore) as Judge Hardy, running for re-election to keep his judgeship and encountering opposition from some of the citizens of the small-town where he resides.   Spring Byington plays his wife Emily, Cecilia Parker is his daughter, Marion, and Mickey Rooney is his son, Andy.  A Family Affair was shot in 15 days!  It was considered a “B” movie by the studio and Lionel Barrymore didn’t want to be in it.  Another teen actor was set to play the part of Andy, but by the time filming was to begin, he had grown too tall so the part went to Rooney.  In his autobiography, Life is too Short, Rooney wrote that he knew the movie was a “B” movie but that fact didn’t keep him from putting his all into the role.  Surprising to MGM is that when the film opened at theatres, it became a huge hit and so profitable that MGM ended up making 16 Andy Hardy films.  The Hardy Family films usually center around Andy and the amusing difficulties he gets himself into and how he finally handles the difficulties with some advice from his wise father.  Movie Poster for AFA

Judge Hardy talking with his two teenagers.

Judge Hardy talking with his two teenagers.

Boys Town, 1938, also from MGM.  Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and won the Academy Awards for Best Original Story and Best Actor, Spencer Tracy.  Tracy plays Father Edward Flanagan who is called to the prison to hear the last confession of a prisoner scheduled to die in the electric chair.  The condemned man tells Father Flanagan that if only he had had good friends at the age of 12 instead of the delinquents he ran with, he’d probably not ended up in prison.   Father Flanagan takes the man’s words to heart, and with the attitude that their is no such thing as a bad boy, he opens up a home for boys in trouble outside of Omaha, Nebraska and calls the place Boys Town.   Mickey Rooney plays Whitey Marsh, a tough young hoodlum who’s older brother, serving time in prison, asks for Father Flanagan to take in his younger brother and try to turn his life around.  Tracy is great as the priest who is kind but very firm when he has to be.  Rooney is great as the snotty, brash, juvenile delinquint with a heart of gold.   Here’s a clip from the film Boys Town.  The film proved to be such a great box office success that in 1941 a sequel was made, Men of Boys Town and Tracy and Rooney reprised their roles.

Father Flanagan having a meeting with Whitey.

Father Flanagan having a meeting with Whitey.

Boys Town

National Velvet, 1945, from MGM.  Stars  12 year old Elizabeth Taylor as Velvet Brown, an English  girl who loves horses.  She enters the town lottery as the prize is a neighboring farmer’s unruly and spirited horse.  The winner of the first number called doesn’t appear so  another  number is  called and Velvet wins.  With the help of Mi Taylor( Mickey Rooney), a young drifter who has a lot of knowledge about horses and racing them, Velvet decides to train the Pi(her name for her horse) for the Grand National Race.  This is a charming movie, espousing hard work, reaching for one’s dreams, and filmed in gorgeous technicolor.  Look for Angela Lansbury playing Velvet’s older sister, Edwina.  Here’s a training sequence from National Velvet, featuring Taylor and Rooney.

Rooney and Taylor

Rooney and Taylor

National Velvet

Here is also the schedule that TCM has posted for Rooney’s films on Sunday.  TCM has also made a lovely tribute video of Rooney’s career and it can be viewed here.  Be sure to tune in and/or set your dvr machine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classic Movie Suggestions for New Year’s Eve

The Lady Vanishes (1938 film)

The Lady Vanishes (1938 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a Classic Movie fan.   I drive my family a bit nuts due to our dvr list being full of old movies’ titles.  Turner Classic Movies is my favorite channel, and I am often watching one of the movies from that channel and not watching network tv.   Our family usually stays home on New Year’s Eve, munching on favorite snacks,  and watching movies.  With all of this in mind, I thought I’d make some Classic Movie suggestions for New Year’s Eve viewing, movies that I have seen and highly recommend.

If you like a good mystery, with a bit of comedy mixed in and espionage, than The Lady Vanishes is for you.  It was one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s biggest hits in England, and he made this movie in 1938.  The movie stars Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, and Dame May Whitty, as the vanishing lady of the movie’s title.  Most of the action takes place aboard a train  as a group of British travelers are winding their way across continental Europe in order to get to a port city in France to then take a boat back to England.  Margaret Lockwood’s character is a young, rich socialite, who befriends Dame May Whitty’s character.  Upon awakening after a nap, Lockwood goes about the train to find Whitty, and she is not there, she has vanished!  No one on the train believes her that the elderly lady was on the train.  Michael Redgrave, playing a handsome music professor, agrees to help Lockwood search the train to find the missing elderly lady.  This movie was one of Hitchcock’s last British movies before he came to America and Hollywood.  In fact, this movie did so well at the British box office, that it helped Hitchcock prove to American movie studios that he knew how to make successful movies and he was able to make  a nice, profitable deal with MGM, who he made his first American movie with.

My next movie suggestion would be for an audience of teens and adults to experience the great character study that it contains. The movie is 12 Angry Men, directed by Sidney Lumet.  The movie stars Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, E. G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Ed Begley, Martin Balsam, and John Fiedler( great character actor known for his light and high-pitched voice.  He was the voice of Piglet in many Winnie the Pooh movies and one of the regular patients of Bob Newhart’s Dr. Hartley on the Bob Newhart tv show.)

Publicity photograph of Henry Fonda.

Publicity photograph of Henry Fonda. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The plot is very straightforward and pulls no punches.  A teen has been on trial for murder.  The action of the movie takes place in the jury’s deliberation room.  All but one of the jurors thinks the teen committed the murder and it is up to that one juror, Henry Fonda, to carefully relook at all of the evidence with his fellow jurors, and to see if it is possible  that the teen is innocent.  The movie is riveting,  and we also get to know each juror and what makes him tick, why some of the jurors are eager to just get a verdict in and leave so they can get on with their weekend plans.  Jurors and their prejudices are also scrutinized by Fonda and one another.   The movie is tense, dramatic, well-acted, and makes one look inward; how would we act if we were on a jury, deciding upon a life and death situation?

For an exciting family adventure, one cannot go wrong with a Disney movie and one of my favorites is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  The famous novel was written by Jules Verne and Walt Disney decided to make a movie based upon this popular book.  The movie appeared to American audiences in 1954, and it starred Kirk Douglas(who sings in the movie, and not too badly!), James Mason, Paul Lukas, and Peter Lorre.

Lukas and Lorre are scientists who have been hired by the U.S. Government to try and find out what is causing the mysterious sinkings of commerical ships on the high seas.  Kirk Douglas plays a sailor, Ned, who agrees to go along on the investigation.  The trio soon discovers that a technologically  advanced submarine, the Nautilus,

Captain Nemo

Captain Nemo (Photo credit: gnews pics)

Captain Nemo's Office

Captain Nemo’s Office (Photo credit: Peter E. Lee)

and a strange and engimatic Captain Nemo, played by James Mason, are responsible for the sinkings.  With Captain Nemo’s dire warnings about the environment, the movie doesn’t seem that dated, and what more can one ask for then an epic submarine vs. giant squid battle!

My last movie recommendation is the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  It is a favorite at our house, even our menfolk enjoy the humor in it, and the dance numbers and songs don’t make them cringe!  It was made by MGM in 1954, directed by Stanley Dolen, choreographed by Michael Kidd, and it starred Jane Powell as Milly and Howard Keel as Adam Pontipee.  Adam is the oldest of 7 brothers.  He decides on his next visit to town, when he buys supplies, that he’ll also get himself a wife.  He wants a helpmate who will cook and clean and sew, a woman who is pretty, but who can also work hard.  He finds that wife in Milly, a local girl who works in the town’s restaurant.  Milly agrees to marry Adam, but she is angered with him when they arrive at Adam’s cabin and find that his 6 brothers live there too.  The 6 are a mess-they’re rude, dirty, and after she gets over her initial shock,

Cover of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers...

Cover of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Milly takes on the task of turning these 6 new brothers-in-law into gentlemen.  She also impresses on them how to properly court a girl.  At a local barn raising, potluck and dance, the 6 brothers set their sights on 6 ladies from the town, who are unfortunately seeing 6 men from the town.  Adam, seeing his brothers moping around the cabin as winter sets in, tells them about a story written down by Plutarch, how some Roman Soldiers got wives from the Sabine Women.  The brothers take Adam’s advice  and hilarity ensues.  An interesting side note is that at the same time Seven Brides was in production, MGM was pouring more money and time into another musical, Brigadoon.  The studio fully expected Brigadoon to be a box office smash and to their surprise, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was the smash hit, and Brigadoon didn’t fare as well at the box office.   The roles of the brides and brothers were mostly filled by dancers, but Julie Newmar-pre Cat Woman days, and Russ Tamblyn-before he played Riff in the movie West Side Story, are a bride and brother you might recognize.   For a fun, toe-tapping way to welcome in the New Year, don’t overlook this gem!