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PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 10:03 am 
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I'm going through the major musicals (a good selection thereof) of classic Hollywood in a somewhat chronological way, and now I'm up to Betty Grable. (I'd already gone through Lubitsch, then did Hollywood Musicals of the 30s minus what follows, the Astaire & Rogers musicals, the MacDonald-Eddy operettas, Deanna Durbin, Rooney & Garland, and now finishing WWII-era musicals - minus BG and Vincente Minnelli, who I'll get to after BG).

These are the titles I came up through various sources that seem like the highest-rated ones. I probably won't get all of these but maybe 8 or so. Do some of you have opinions about which are the best, or best to avoid, whether on this list or not?

Thanks!

1940 Down Argentine Way (Cummings) Grable, Ameche
1940 Tin Pan Alley (W. Lang) Faye, Grable
1941 Moon Over Miami (W. Lang) Ameche, Grable
1942 Song of the Islands (W. Lang) Grable, Mature
1942 Footlight Serenade (Ratoff) Payne, Grable
1942 Springtime in the Rockies (Cummings) Grable, Miranda
1943 Coney Island (W. Lang) Grable, Montgomery
1943 Sweet Rosie O’Grady (Cummings) Grable, Young
1945 Diamond Horseshoe (Seaton) Grable, Haymes
1945 The Dolly Sisters (Cummings) Grable, Payne
1947 The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (Seaton) Grable, Haymes
1947 Mother Wore Tights (Lang) Grable, Dailey
1950 Wabash Avenue (Koster) Grable, Mature
1951 Meet Me After the Show (Sale) Grable, Carey
1953 How to Marry a Millionaire (Negulesco) Grable, Monroe


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 10:06 am 
Dot Com Dom
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How to Marry a Millionare isn't a musical. It's still of some interest as the first CinemaScope film (but second released, as Fox decided to advance the Robe into release ahead of it), but along those lines you might instead just watch something like Three Coins in the Fountain to get a more representative view of how Fox viewed this format shift


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 10:10 am 
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OK, thanks. I might still get it. When I saw the Rooney & Garland films, I included their non-musical films (Andy Hardy, etc.).


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 10:11 am 
Dot Com Dom
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If you're looking at non-musical Grable films, be sure to check out I Wake Up Screaming


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 10:17 am 
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domino harvey wrote:
If you're looking at non-musical Grable films, be sure to check out I Wake Up Screaming
Actually I did see that one as part of my "Foundations of Film Noir 1941-46" viewing spree. :)


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 10:26 am 
Dot Com Dom
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Grable's something of a blind spot for me, as most of her films are still in my unwatched piles, but I can't recommend the Lubitch/Preminger comedy That Lady in Ermine or the wartime musicals Four Jills in a Jeep and Pin-Up Girl, and while I do enjoy the Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend (it, like every Preston Sturges film, is worth watching), it's more of a western than it is a musical (though it falls in that gray area of comedy westerns being redeemed by being borderline musicals-- see Cat Ballou or Destry Rides Again). Maybe this thread will push me into finally getting to some of the movies you've listed in the first post-- I must confess Grable, like fellow Fox starlet Alice Faye, does nothing for me, so I've put off getting through most of their output despite having much of it on hand


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 10:40 am 
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For some reason, I don't have very high hopes for these films, which is why I don't want to get everything on that list. But I could turn out to be pleasantly surprised, and have 3 or 4 keepers.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2016 11:24 am 
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Tin Pan Alley and Diamond Horseshoe don't appear to be out on DVD yet, the rest are.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 25, 2016 4:36 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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Just watched Three For the Show and you were right to leave it off your list of potentials. Had I known going in that it was a musical remake of one of the stupidest screwball comedies ever made, Too Many Husbands, I would never have even bothered. Grable is too old for her part (and spends most of the movie looking tired), the Gowers are uncharacteristically unimpressive, there are several regrettable numbers set to familiar pieces of classical music ("William Tell" &c)-- but also, weirdly for a movie musical, it also takes over twenty minutes for the first musical number to even show up! A bit like Woody Allen's bit about such small portions, I know, but still


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 25, 2016 5:02 pm 
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Thanks, good to know it wasn't one I purchased!

Btw, I looked into her filmography a bit closer and, barring a mistake, I gather there are 21 "Betty Grable musicals" - actual musicals, excluding musicals where she just cameos or has a small part, or other genre films where there might be just a few numbers thrown in (e.g. The Beautiful Blonde from BB).

1. Down Argentine Way (1940)
2. Tin Pan Alley (1940)
3. Moon Over Miami (1941)
4. Song of the Islands (1942)
5. Footlight Serenade (1942)
6. Springtime in the Rockies (1942)
7. Coney Island (1943)
8. Sweet Rosie O'Grady (1943)
9. Pin Up Girl (1944)
10. Diamond Horseshoe (1945)
11. The Dolly Sisters (1945)
12. The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947)
13. Mother Wore Tights (1947)
14. That Lady in Ermine (1948)
15. When My Baby Smiles at Me (1948)
16. Wabash Avenue (1950)
17. My Blue Heaven (1950)
18. Call Me Mister (1951)
19. Meet Me After the Show (1951)
20. The Farmer Takes a Wife (1953)
21. Three for the Show (1955)

Three for the Show was the only one not at Fox.

I've ordered 13 (nothing after My Blue Heaven, which comes in a set) and I'll make an effort to do a little write-up for each when I get to them. (That Lady in Ermine also came in a set.) But I've got a few various WWII-era musicals I want to get to before I get to these.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 25, 2016 6:12 pm 
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Some of Grable's supporting parts in the '30s, before she was the famous World War II pinup, are a good place to start before moving onto all the uneven Technicolor musicals. For example, don't miss "Let's Knock Knees" from The Gay Divorcee, in which she finds Edward Everett Horton irresistible—as he lounges in a black tank top, shorts, and white socks with sandals!—and pulls him onto the dance floor as he plays the awkward part to great effect.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 25, 2016 6:44 pm 
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Gregory wrote:
Some of Grable's supporting parts in the '30s, before she was the famous World War II pinup, are a good place to start before moving onto all the uneven Technicolor musicals. For example, don't miss her very funny "Let's Knock Knees" in The Gay Divorcee. In it, she finds Edward Everett Horton irresistible—as he lounges in a black tank top, shorts, white socks with sandals!—and pulls him onto the dance floor as he plays the awkward part to great effect.
Yes, I've seen the Astaire-Rogers films and she's very enjoyable in that number!

My list was really to get at the musicals centered on her, but feel free to discuss anything she did in this thread. As I've said, my expectations aren't high for the Fox musicals - I'll be happy if I encounter some nice surprises and if I wind up with 4 or 5 keepers in there.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 12:09 am 
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I'm going to see 13 of these. First viewings:

Down Argentine Way (1940). [1/21] Apparently Betty Grable got the part because Alice Faye got sick, and it launched her into stardom. She’s paired with Don Ameche in one of those seemingly frequent Hollywood forays of the period into South American exotica. It’s hard to see what made this film such a success. It’s a mixture of pretty colors, occasional and fairly unmemorable songs that infrequently feature the leads, and a strong emphasis on the comedic narrative. Grable doesn’t have the performing or comedienne talents of a Ginger Rogers or Jeanette MacDonald, but she’s pleasant. The one number that stands out, by virtue of the skill involved, is the tap-dancing number by the Nicholas Brothers, but most of these numbers don't have anything to do with the plot. There’s nothing to dislike here, but nothing to charm you either.

Moon Over Miami (1941). [3/21] The second film, Tin Pan Alley, had Grable and Alice Faye together as singing sisters. Here Betty is a hamburger joint waitress from Texas heading out to Miami (with her sister, played by Carole Landis) to land herself a millionaire husband, and Don Ameche and Robert Cummings are competing for her affections. The booklet explains how the studio decided to go “all out” and worked hard and long over this one, and that shows. It’s a more accomplished film, with all of the elements working a little better, from the presence of more numbers (with Gable singing and dancing throughout) to a more confident-seeming Gable, more engaging characters and a stronger, more winning script. The songs again aren’t very memorable, but they’re decent enough. This is a stronger rom-com than a musical, and all in all as a film it verges on being good.

Song of the Islands (1942). [4/21] Business interests in Hawaii clash, which means the daughter and son of the respective colonialists, and romantic leads, Grable and Victor Mature, are pitted against each other. The short running time (75 min) is probably an indication of a smaller-budget affair, which in any event is definitively how this feels. This is mostly comedic fare, extremely mediocre, with infrequent and unappealing numbers, except for two at the front and back of the film that feature Gable – the former a fairly charming sequence referencing Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney and other contemporary pop culture icons. This is an ensemble comedy with Grable and Mature only now and then present, and too much of the screen time is given to Mature’s unfunny sidekick played by Jack Oakie. Grable looks great here though, but that can’t save it from being a poor film.

Footlight Serenade (1942). [5/21] I had assumed all the Fox Grable musicals were in Technicolor, but this one is in B&W - which makes sense given that it’s a backstager on Broadway, not an adventure in an exotic locale. Victor Mature is a loud, strong-ego’d boxer who’s made the center of a new production, and Grable and her out-of-work fiancé John Payne join up, with predictable romantic complications ensuing. The musical numbers all strongly feature Grable, and she gets to showcase her dancing a lot, which is good, but those scenes are filmed a bit lifelessly. Unfortunately they also seem to be a secondary concern by the filmmakers (there’s not even a proper closing number), and narrative- and comedy-wise the film ends up being middling at best.

Springtime in the Rockies (1942). [6/21] Grable and John Payne are teamed up again (he sings a few times – her dancing partner here is Cesar Romero), in another backstager of sorts. They’re Broadway partners and lovers who split and he travels to Lake Louise, Alberta, where she’s now performing, to get her back. The seemingly bigger production values (including a return to Technicolor, of course) result in a better film – lots of music, a strong set of side players – including Edward Everett Horton, Carmen Miranda (who had a bit role in the first movie but is much more prominent here, although I’m not sure that’s a plus) and Charlotte Greenwood (her third appearance in the Grable films I’ve seen such far, and for as many times she’s doing her feet-to-the-head dancing routine). Probably one of the better Grable films, I’d wager, but still somewhat of a lackluster movie: a screenplay that could have been funnier and more engaging, musical numbers that are a little too nondescript and that lack that “wow” factor that you find in the best of the genre. So far, Grable seems to get prettier every time out, though.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2016 11:45 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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You inspired me to finally watch Fox's Grable box, and I was eventually glad I did as it contains one full-out classic! But first, the dross: Yep, Down Argentine Way is utterly forgettable. Moon Over Miami, perhaps owing to its eventual pedigree as the inspiration for a Dennys dish, is hammy fun but pretty slight, and the overall plot mechanations are screwball-level idiotic (never before have so many people on screen been only too glad to be lied to over and over for horrible reasons).

The Dolly Sisters is a flawed attempt at making a prestige musical, with truly horrendous songs and one regrettable, though stylish, number with Grable and June Haver in blackface singing about attending the "Darktown Strutter's Ball" that achieves "Goin' to Heaven on a Mule"-level minstrelsy (yes one of the showgirls is dressed in watermelon, and another poses in front of a fried chicken shack). I’m guessing Grable in greasepaint and sporting short ribboned dreads didn’t quite make it into the pin-ups for the boys. But that's not even the weirdest musical number, as that distinction goes to the bizarre number that features various showgirls dressed as make-up items. Miss Rouge fares fine:

Image

But poor Miss Powder looks like she’s on her way to HonFest:

Image

The Dolly Sisters is too long and I cannot stress enough that the songs suck, but it does give SZ “Cuddles” Sakall his greatest line ever: “Don’t forget the Hungarian accents you vere born vith. I vish I could show you vhat I mean.”

HOWEVER, My Blue Heaven is a full-stop masterpiece, for several reasons. Sure, the numbers are smart and cleverly executed, but the film itself is wonderfully unsentimental yet uncynical in how it completely avoids all of the melodrama inherent in the material (how many light and funny musicals begin with a miscarriage?!). The film also undercuts potential hackeneyed plot elements by baldly acknowledging and mocking them, as seen in Mitzi Gaynor’s “seduction” of Grable’s husband Dan Dailey. The confrontation between Gaynor, Dailey, and Grable feels startlingly fresh and modern due to the script’s arch and knowing treatment (Lots of great lines to choose from this scene alone, but I thought this exchange was particularly inspired: “Hey, I’m only human.” “Stop bragging.”). The picture also features a rare pro-television attitude (boy, that wouldn’t last) in its portrayal of the stars’ successful TV program, which is just an excuse to fit in many great numbers, including a gently mocking parody of the then-Broadway hit South Pacific (which would eventually get a sincere film adaptation starring… Mitzi Gaynor) with dancing lions!

My Blue Heaven is smartly written, directed, and acted (especially Dailey, who also shined brightly in Fox’s greatest B-musical, the Girl Next Door) and is just an all-around top shelf musical. I’m not sure how many more unseen musicals of this caliber there even are left for me, as I'm pretty deep into the crevices of this genre, so I doubly appreciate encountering it at this late juncture in my viewings!


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2016 12:25 am 
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Good reviews!
domino harvey wrote:
The Dolly Sisters is a flawed attempt at making a prestige musical, with truly horrendous songs and one regrettable, though stylish, number with Grable and June Haver in blackface singing about attending the "Darktown Strutter's Ball" that achieves "Goin' to Heaven on a Mule"-level minstrelsy (yes one of the showgirls is dressed in watermelon, and another poses in front of a fried chicken shack). I’m guessing Grable in greasepaint and sporting short ribboned dreads didn’t quite make it into the pin-ups for the boys.
Ha! I've just seen this and largely agree with your review but am waiting to get another in to post my next batch. FYI, there's also a blackface number with Grable (incredibly light-skinned blackface) in the 1943 Coney Island.

Good to know I can look forward to My Blue Heaven!


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2016 1:53 pm 
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Coney Island (1943). [7/21] A good film! George Montgomery moves in on Cesar Romero’s turn-of-the-century Coney Island fair & saloon operation, and also attempts to steel his showcase singer (Grable). This is a strong and engaging screenplay directed with vitality. Grable sings and dances throughout, and though they’re all stage numbers, the songs are better than usual and, better yet, they’re arranged and performed with panache and style. (You’ll have to withstand Grable doing, as I pointed out already, an – extremely light-skinned - blackface number, though.) I don’t remember ever seeing actor George Montgomery before, but he’s Grable’s best (non-performing) co-lead thus far, and Phil Silver and Charles Winninger are strong comic side players. Not a great film by any means, but best film of the lot I’ve seen so far, by a fair margin.

Sweet Rosie O’Grady (1943). [8/21] Another period setting. It’s the 1880s and Robert Young plays a journalist who exposes music-hall singer Betty Grable’s Irish Brooklyn origins, and she gets back at him by planting the story that they’re engaged. It’s a shorter (75 min) movie that's competently executed and pleasant enough in a very minor way, but also quite forgettable. The story is very slight, the comedy now and then enjoyable, musical numbers plenty but largely undistinguished and lacking sufficient charm.

The Dolly Sisters (1945). [11/21] Equal parts comedy and drama in this biopic about the WWI-era Hungarian-born performing act, played by Grable and June Haver. The meat of the story focuses on love and ambition colliding, with Grable and John Payne playing her Tin Pan Alley composer on again/off again lover. A definite A-picture, with strong production values, and standing out from Grable’s previous outings because of the dramatic dimension. Those elements, though, are more than a little hackneyed and probably played better at the time. The film surely belongs in the better half of Grable’s Fox musicals, but it’s decent at best. As in the majority of her films thus far, once again, as Domino pointed out, the musical numbers are unexceptional (OK, they suck), and they mostly take place onstage and aren’t strongly integrated with the narrative.

On a sidenote, the film ends
[Reveal] Spoiler:
happily with Jenny Dolly (Grable) reunited with her lover, Harry Fox (Payne), after a debilitating car crash in 1933. Hollywood leaves out that she then became very depressed, got married to someone else, continued getting more depressed, and committed suicide in 1941. See the Wiki article.

The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947). [12/21] Yet another period musical. (Grable made musicals in the preceding years that I happen to not be viewing – Pin Up Girl, Diamond Horseshoe - that were set in contemporary times.) Here Grable is an 1870s suffragette, the first female typist in Boston, and Dick Haymes is her non-progressive employer and, of course, future love interest. It’s refreshing to have (all the) songs performed in non-stage settings, and the tunes, provided by the Gershwins, are smarter than what usually accompanies the Grable musicals. However they’re ill-served in a film that, though it’s capably performed and directed, is built on a dull screenplay that just gets more and more uninteresting as it goes along.


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