Imagine a world where you commute to work by hoverplane, consume all your food and drink via a digestible tablet, and use a sequence of letters and numbers…
Majorly adult themes like regret and loss take a teenage turn in Robert Z. Leonard’s 1947 film Cynthia, based on the play The Rich, Full Life by Viña Delmar. Mary Astor and George Murphy star as a set of parents who sacrificed their own young-adult ambitions for the sake of raising their sickly infant daughter, who, now at the cusp of adulthood herself (and played by Elizabeth Taylor), is beginning to bend after shouldering the weight of these sacrifices her entire life. This film is an interesting examination of the American teenager, which was a relatively new designation at this point in history, yet a natural story to be told.
When you settle in to watch a film called “Honolulu,” you might expect to see a lush, expansive musical with plenty of opulent sets and numbers, perhaps a sequence or two in Technicolor to highlight the natural beauty of the island and to wow the viewer’s imagination. But, lest you start to think that all of 1939’s films were big epics, that’s really not the case for MGM’s 1939 Honolulu—it’s a very small-scale movie, set mostly in the interiors of passenger ships and homes instead of tropical jungles and pristine beaches. Instead, we’re treated to some fun trick photography and several Eleanor Powell dance numbers, which may be a fair enough trade for some people.
Before Vertigo, before The Philadelphia Story, and before Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, James Stewart was, like so many actors of the time, an MGM contract player, toiling away in quickly churned-out comedies and romances for $350 a week. Though he’d ultimately garner more acclaim for his later dramatic roles, Stewart also appeared in a handful of musicals in these early days—sometimes in smaller supporting roles, like as the fugitive brother in Rose Marie—but MGM was also testing him out as a leading man, harnessing his talents in musical features like Born to Dance. It’s a bit of a strange situation seeing Stewart hoofing it and belting out Cole Porter tunes, but with a cast that also includes Eleanor Powell, Una Merkel, and Buddy Ebsen, it’s a fun flick—albeit, perhaps, indicative of why Stewart didn’t ultimately pan out as a musical star.
Baseball’s back in full swing, and as part of Forgotten Films‘ baseball blogathon, I’ve chosen to cover a very fun baseball movie that, admittedly, is perhaps not the most stellar example of actual gameplay: 1949’s Take Me Out to the Ball Game. It’s a fun, somewhat historical counterpoint to many baseball movies that choose to focus on real ball players or, you know, real ball games. But no matter, because what this one may lack in authenticity of sport, it more than makes up for in movie musical cred: it’s directed by Busby Berkeley, produced by Arthur Freed, with a story by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, and choreography by Gene himself. It’s also one of three glorious instances where we see Gene teamed up with Frank Sinatra, so, really, there’s not too much to complain about.
There’s something so inherently charming about the classic, sailor musical. For the American public, World War 2 had become such a part of their daily lives that it even began to infiltrate the typically happy world of musicals. It’s a subgenre that’s essentially impossible to recreate at any other moment in history—they’re inherently of their time, and I love the sweet kind of optimism and escapism that typically exist, despite the aspects of reality encroaching in. TCM focused on a specific subset of “sailors on leave” pictures a few nights ago, and I caught one that I had never seen: The Fleet’s In, starring Dorothy Lamour and William Holden.