Comedy · Musical

The Big-Screen Success of a Broadway Flop

The 1935 Broadway comedy, Sweet Mystery of Life, closed after 11 performances. You’d think this play was ideally suited to Depression-era audiences: Greedy associates of a hypochondriac businessman convince him to purchase a $5 million life insurance policy, naming them as beneficiaries. Then they try to cause the businessman’s demise by encouraging him to indulge… Continue reading The Big-Screen Success of a Broadway Flop

Comedy · Musical

A Superficial Hollywood Musical? Say it Ain’t So!

You might as well know. We (as in, yours truly) are a sucker for Technicolor comedies about New York City. We can’t help it. We love a bright, busy city full of smart, witty people, a place where Dreams Come True. For example, look at the 1949 confection, On the Town. Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin… Continue reading A Superficial Hollywood Musical? Say it Ain’t So!

Comedy · Musical

The Grumpy 1930s Musical

Did you ever watch a movie that seems, well, irritable – like it woke up on the wrong side of the bed? That’s how we feel about Dames, a musical comedy from 1934. This film is about a rich industrialist (Hugh Herbert) who wants to give $10 million to his extended family, but! He thinks theatre… Continue reading The Grumpy 1930s Musical

Comedy · Musical

How Fred Astaire Sells Musical Comedy

Naturally, we love Fred Astaire‘s dancing. He’s Fred Astaire, for pete sake. Yet, when we recently watched the musical comedy Shall We Dance (1937), we realized Astaire is also a gifted salesman. First, a little about the film, a madcap look at celebrity gossip and the media. Astaire plays an American ballet star saddled with… Continue reading How Fred Astaire Sells Musical Comedy

Drama · Musical

The Great Gabbo: Mad Ventriloquist Skills

The next time you’re in the mood for a truly strange film, give this one a try. Now, we don’t mean strange as in occultist or supernatural; we mean strange as in, What kind of movie is this? We’ve recently glommed onto The Great Gabbo (1929), an early “talking picture”. It stars Erich von Stroheim as… Continue reading The Great Gabbo: Mad Ventriloquist Skills


The All-Black Musical and Vincente Minnelli

Cabin in the Sky (1943) has always been a controversial musical. Because it features an entirely African-American cast, it was banned in several U.S. cities when it was first released. It remains controversial today because of its use of black stereotypes. Having said that, our goal is to look at individual aspects of this film, as part… Continue reading The All-Black Musical and Vincente Minnelli

Comedy · Musical

The Doris Day Guide to Making Movies

Have you ever wanted to be in the movies? Once upon a time, we (as in, yours truly) wondered if we could be an actress. Sadly, our acting career went no further than the role of Concerned Citizen in a public service announcement. But in the comedy It’s a Great Feeling (1949), Doris Day plays… Continue reading The Doris Day Guide to Making Movies

Comedy · Musical

Guilty Pleasure: Elvis in Spinout

One of our newest guilty pleasures is the 1966 Elvis Presley comedy, Spinout. Now, as is usually the case with guilty pleasures, there are several reasons why you should not watch this film, namely: A non-progressive view of women A flimsy plot Presley’s, uh, “minimalist” acting style In Spinout, Presley plays a race-car-driving musician who is… Continue reading Guilty Pleasure: Elvis in Spinout

Comedy · Musical

James Cagney’s Mass-Produced Theatre

Modern movie audiences are getting ripped off. Get this: In cinema’s earlier days, audiences were presented with live musical performances, known as prologues, before the feature film. So, instead of the in-theatre advertising we endure today, audiences enjoyed genuine musical theatre that introduced the film. According to Vaudeville Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America, Vol. I, prologues were meant to… Continue reading James Cagney’s Mass-Produced Theatre

Comedy · Musical

The Rococo Lucille Ball in Louis XV’s Court

Confession: We (as in, yours truly) have a biased view of movies set in France. In our eyes, these movies can do no wrong. This is because we went to Paris in our impressionable youth and came home all très sophistiqué. We wore a bemused expression to match our jaunty silk scarf, and we took to drinking lattés from a bowl.… Continue reading The Rococo Lucille Ball in Louis XV’s Court