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Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

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Recently Watched Musicals


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#1 LawrenceA

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Posted 19 September 2017 - 12:19 PM

Reaching for the Moon (1930) - Lots of racy dialogue in this Pre-Code musical comedy from Irving Berlin and Edmund Goulding, released by United Artists. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. stars as financial wiz Larry Day, a devil-may-care bon vivant with a love of life but inexperienced in the ways of women. His worldly valet Roger (Edward Everett Horton) decides to teach Larry how to win the girl of his dreams, and when Larry finds her in the person of aviatrix Vivien Benton (Bebe Daniels), he follows her on an ocean cruise. But will the fluctuations in the stock market put an end to Larry's wealth and appeal? Also featuring Claud Allister, Jack Mulhall, Walter Walker, June MacCloy, Helen Jerome Eddy, Dennis O'Keefe, and Bing Crosby.

 

This was a troubled production, with Berlin walking out on the film before completion and later disowning it in interviews. A preview screening proved disastrous, and many of the songs were cut, including one sung by Fairbanks. That being said, there are still things to like here, such as Fairbanks's manic performance. He was 47 at the time, but was still in amazing physical condition, playing one scene with his shirt off, and doing a lot of acrobatic climbing and swinging around on the sets. The idea of Fairbanks needing instruction on loving women from Edward Everett Horton is a real howler. I also liked seeing the 27-year-old Bing Crosby making his solo film debut (he had earlier appeared in 2 other films as part of the Rhythm Boys).   6/10

 

Source: Mill Creek Classic Musicals box set.

 

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#2 TopBilled

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Posted 18 September 2017 - 10:47 PM

Nice job on these write-ups, Larry. Some of these are new to me and seem rather interesting.


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#3 LawrenceA

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Posted 16 September 2017 - 10:25 PM

Just Imagine (1930) - One-of-a-kind science fiction musical comedy from Fox and director David Butler. In the far-flung future of 1980, society has developed flying cars and other technological wonders, but the government has become overly intrusive into people's private lives, even dictating who can marry whom. That causes trouble for J-21 (John Garrick), who is in love with LN-18 (Maureen O'Sullivan), but can't marry her since the government has decreed she must marry another. Meanwhile, a man who has been dead since 1930 is brought back to life during an experiment. Rechristened Single O (El Brendel), the fish-out-of-water must try and acclimate himself to the world 50 years from his experiences. Somehow, this all leads to Single O, J-21, and their friend RT-42 (Frank Albertson) traveling to Mars via rocket and meeting the bizarre inhabitants there. Also featuring Marjorie White, Mischa Auer, Kenneth Thomson, Joyzelle Joyner, Ivan Linow, and Hobart Bosworth.

 

This incredible wonder is a mind-boggling mash-up of art-deco production design, corny musical numbers, sociological futurism, and creaky vaudeville humor. The star El Brendel was a vaudeville star of the "Swedish Immigrant" variety, and he plays the same here, a good-natured yokel with a thick accent. The sets and costumes are outstanding, and the cityscapes would be reused in later sci-fi projects such as Flash Gordon. This was an expensive flop at the time, blamed on a glut of musicals after the advent of sound, although the Hollywood execs pointed the finger at the science fiction elements, and no big budget SF movies would be made by a major studio for two decades. However, on a more positive genre note, this became the first Oscar-nominated science fiction movie when it received a nod for Best Interior Decoration (the precursor to the Best Art Direction/Production Design awards). It lost to Cimarron.   7/10

 

Source: YouTube, and I really hope someone remasters this and puts out a nice disc of it.

 

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#4 LawrenceA

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Posted 15 September 2017 - 11:36 PM

Elstree Calling (1930) - The British film industry's version of the Hollywood studio revue musical, from a variety of directors, including Andre Charlot, Jack Hulbert, Paul Murray, and Alfred Hitchcock. The film is comprised of short segments, usually stagebound, with singers, dancers, comedians, and assorted musicians, hosted by MC Tommy Handley, and also using a wraparound segment involving some people trying to watch the program on a primitive television, the development of which was in the news in the UK at the time. The performers include Donald Calthrop, Teddy Brown, The Three Eddies, Helen Burnell, Bobby Comber, Will Fyfe, and Anna May Wong, among many others.

 

This works best as a snapshot of the vaudeville-style entertainment of the time, often corny and grating, and occasionally inspired. Some segments are in Pathecolor, a technique wherein the frames were hand-colored. I enjoyed Calthrop's recurring gag as a would-be Shakespearean actor struggling to perform some of the Bard's works but always being interrupted. Hitchcock, whose participation has kept this from disappearing into obscurity, reportedly directed the interstitial bits with the people trying to watch TV. Not among the highlights of his career, to be sure.   5/10

 

Source: DVD.

 

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#5 LawrenceA

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Posted 15 September 2017 - 05:57 PM

Dixiana (1930) - Lavish antebellum-themed musical comedy from RKO and director Luther Reed. The middling story concerns Carl Van Horn (Everett Marshall), the son of wealthy plantation owner Cornelius Van Horn (Joseph Cawthorn). Carl is in love with New Orleans showgirl Dixiana Caldwell (Bebe Daniels), although her status as a stage performer makes her a target for derision among some of the snobby elite that run in the Van Horn circle. Dixiana is followed around by a pair of fellow performers (Wheeler & Woolsey) who provide comic relief, and she is also chased by crooked casino operator Royal Montague (Ralf Harolde). Also featuring Jobyna Howland, Dorothy Lee, and Bill Robinson.

 

This is an awkward combination of light romantic musical and Wheeler & Woolsey farce, with the two halves failing to congeal as a satisfying whole. I liked some of each part, although the performances by Marshall and Daniels were dreadful, to put it kindly. Another issue I had with the movie was the copy that I watched. Like several musicals of this period, the last section was filmed in early Technicolor, but the version I saw was in all black and white. The picture quality was also poor, with some very grainy footage and scenes being poorly cropped, too. The running time according to IMDb is 100 minutes, but the version I saw was only 84, and much was noticeably missing from the ending. I also did not see Robinson's dance number, the supposed highlight of the film. So be warned what copy you are watching if you happen to see this. I did like Daniels's entrance in the film, encased in a giant egg sitting on a chariot being drawn by two people in ostrich outfits!   5/10

 

Source: Mill Creek Classic Musicals box set.

 

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#6 LawrenceA

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Posted 08 September 2017 - 08:49 PM

The Broadway Melody (1929) - Oscar-winning musical from MGM and director Harry Beaumont. Sisters Harriet (Bessie Love) and Queenie (Anita Page) are struggling showgirls trying to make their mark on the Great White Way. With the help of Harriet's singer-songwriter boyfriend Eddie (Charles King), they get a job in Zanfield's Revue, a hit musical stage extravaganza. But their slot on the bill was only secured by Queenie's pleading with the producer, and she also starts dating rich playboy Jock Warriner (Kenneth Thomson). Things get even more complicated when Queenie and Eddie start to fall for each other, while neither wants to hurt Harriet. Also featuring Jed Prouty, Edward Dillon, Mary Doran, Eddie Kane, and J. Emmett Beck.

 

This was a rewatch for me, as part of my revue of all of the Best Picture winners. I used to regard this among the least of those titles, but it's grown on me over the years upon repeat viewings. The goofy Pre-Code naughtiness is on display with the showgirl outfits and the requisite scene of conversing women in their underwear. The three leads never became major stars but they are all enjoyable enough, although strictly of their era, in their looks, voice and demeanor. The songs are decent, and the stage numbers adequate, although not nearly as ostentatious as those of the later Berkeley features. On a fun sidenote, character actor James Gleason gets a credit for dialogue writing, and he also appears as the boss of a song writing and recording office named "Gleason's". Along with winning the Best Picture Oscar, this was also nominated for Best Actress (Love) and Best Director (Beaumont).   7/10

 

Source: Warner Brothers DVD.

 

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#7 LawrenceA

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 07:08 PM

The Show of Shows (1929) - Studio revue musical, this one from Warner Brothers, much like Paramount on Parade from Paramount or The Hollywood Revue of 1929 from MGM. The film is composed of a series of skits performed on stage, MC'd by Frank Fay, and the segments include comedy routines and musical numbers, duets and elaborately choreographed and costumed group numbers as well, featuring the top stars of the studio at the time, including, but not limited to, Mary Astor, John Barrymore, Richard Barthelmess, Chester Morris, Myrna Loy, Loretta Young, Dolores Costello, Noah Beery, Monte Blue, Betty Compson, Marceline Day, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Lila Lee, Patsy Ruth Miller, Sid Silvers, Ben Turpin, H.B. Warner, and Rin Tin Tin.

 

I couldn't help but wonder what this would have looked like if it had been made a few years later, when the likes of Cagney, Robinson, Davis, and Bogart were under contract. As it is, the star quotient is actually kind of slim for all but the most knowledgeable of classic film fans, as many of the performers here will be unrecognizable. I enjoyed Fay's humor as the MC, and Barrymore's hammy Richard III scene, but most of the musical numbers failed to make an impression. This is yet another early musical that was originally filmed, at least partially, in color, but many of those scenes were lost for decades. This is worth seeing from a historical perspective, but I'm not sure how much entertainment one will derive from it.  5/10

 

Source: TCM.

 

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#8 TopBilled

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 07:19 PM

I'm glad you liked MARIANNE. She's wonderful and you'll enjoy her other sound films. 

 

MARIANNE had already been completed as a silent film. But then Hearst decided to re-do it with sound. If I'm not mistaken, it was released in both versions, since not all theaters were yet equipped to exhibit "talkies" in 1929.


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#9 LawrenceA

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 03:23 PM

Marianne (1929) - Musical romance set in France during WW1, from director Robert Z. Leonard. Marion Davies stars as Marianne,  whose beloved Andre (George Baxter) has shipped out to the front. Sometime later, a company of American G.I.s are stationed in town, and one of them, Stagg (Lawrence Gray) falls hard for Marianne. Stagg, along with his buddies Soapy (Cliff Edwards) and Sam (Benny Rubin), make life miserable for the poor French girl with their incessant jokes and songs, although she eventually warms to them all. Also featuring Scott Kolk, Robert Edeson, and Emile Chautard.

 

This was Davies first sound film, and also my first Davies film that I've seen. I found her charming, funny and with a good voice, even with her thick and phony French accent. The scenes where she dresses as a French soldier are a highlight. My favorite song was one by comic relief Rubin, a cantor-esque number called "The Girl from Noochateau". The movie is overall is harmless fluff, a bit overlong at 111 minutes, but a promising sign in the development of the musical in the new sound medium.   7/10

 

Source: TCM.

 

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#10 ChristineHoard

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 01:04 AM

I love Parmount.  It's probably the most "daring" Hollywood studio, especially in pre-code.  Like early RKO they had so many talented actors, several whom they lost to powerhouse MGM.



#11 LawrenceA

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 02:58 PM

The Great Gabbo (1929) - Very strange musical/psychological study/romance/backstage drama from director James Cruze and writer Ben Hecht. The Great Gabbo (Erich von Stroheim) is a famous ventriloquist who is an insufferable jerk offstage, especially to his girlfriend Mary (Betty Compson). His abuse gets to be too much, and she leaves him, but while Gabbo's act is successful, his mental state is deteriorating, and he treats his dummy more and more like a real person. Also featuring Donald Douglas and Marjorie Kane.

 

This was the first of the "crazy ventriloquist" movies, a particular sub-genre that has had several entries since this. Von Stroheim looks miserable and embarrassed throughout, turning in a half-***ed performance that ironically adds to the film's unique charms. Compson, an Oscar nominee next year for a film she made the previous year (?!?), is good as the girlfriend/assistant that goes on to stardom. The musical numbers are often just as odd as the main storyline, with my particular favorite being one where the performers were suspended in a giant spider's web. Like the previous musical I watched, this one also had sequences originally shot in Technicolor, but reportedly all copies of the color footage are lost. Von Stroheim hated this film intensely, and several years later he attempted to buy the rights and the negatives in order to destroy them. However, he was too late, as he learned that someone else had already purchased the rights: Edgar Bergen! Recommended for fans of the strange.   8/10

 

Source: Mill Creek Classic Musicals box set.

 

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#12 TopBilled

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 12:25 PM

Larry, 

 

I liked your write-up on GLORIFYING THE AMERICAN GIRL. I haven't seen it all the way through. There used to be a very sharp looking print on Amazon Prime. So better copies do exist.


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"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#13 LawrenceA

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 06:55 PM

Glorifying the American Girl (1929) - The only musical produced by Florenz Ziegfeld was this early talkie from Paramount. The threadbare plot concerns Gloria (Mary Eaton), a singer with hopes of stardom who currently works in a music store with pals Buddy (Edward Crandall) and Barbara (Gloria Shea). After a chance meeting, Gloria gets a touring gig with sleazy song-and-dance man Miller (Dan Healy), which in turn leads to a chance to appear in Ziegfeld's latest revue. Also featuring Kaye Renard and Sarah Edwards, as well as a lot of cameos by the likes of Rudy Vallee, Helen Morgan, Eddie Cantor, Irving Berlin, and many more.

 

This is rather simple stuff, but there are a lot of songs, most of which were popular in the day, like "No Foolin'" and "Baby Face". The last quarter of the film is basically a filmed version of Ziegfeld's Follies. Unfortunately, the copy I saw was in all B & W, when much of the end sequence was shot in Technicolor. Those sequences also apparently contain some nudity (I didn't notice any), and there are a lot of Pre-Code skimpy outfits worn by the chorus girls. A protracted Eddie Cantor comedy routine holds the distinction of being the first use of the word "damn" in a sound film. Star Eaton tragically drank herself into an early grave. I enjoyed this musical snapshot of the times, but its general appeal may be limited by its primitiveness.   7/10

 

Source: Mill Creek Classic Musicals box set.

 

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#14 LawrenceA

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Posted 23 August 2017 - 10:19 PM

Applause (1929) - Creaky pre-code musical featuring fantastic direction by Rouben Mamoulian. Kitty Darling (Helen Morgan) is an aging burlesque queen whose grown daughter April (Joan Peters) has just returned home after years in a convent school. April reluctantly agrees to join the show, but she's embarrassed for herself and her mother. Kitty's sleazeball husband Hitch (Fuller Mellish Jr.) sees big bucks in April's stage future, and he also can't keep his hands to himself. April meets nice-guy sailor Tony (Henry Wadsworth) who wants to take her away from the sordid life of the stage, and her mother's all for it, but where does that leave Kitty? Also featuring Jack Cameron, and David Holt.

 

Mamoulian stages his performers as if for the stage, and that's how they pitch their performances, too. But the director's camera is all over the place, up above, down below, moving about, indoors and out. He frames many of his shots in interesting ways, too, such as a shady producer being framed by the bouncing legs of showgirls on either side of the foreground. The story is very basic, and the songs are too, and only occurring as part of the stage show. The love story between the two young leads was very well done, organic and believable.   7/10

 

Source: YouTube.

 

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#15 TopBilled

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Posted 10 August 2017 - 08:49 AM

Interesting film to start with Larry. I like how you're listing the source(s) and hope you continue providing this information.

 

If I'm not mistaken Powell had already played Philo Vance in three talkie mysteries for Paramount, so he was very identified with the character. He reprised the sleuth when he moved over to Warners (in THE KENNEL MURDER CASE).


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"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#16 LawrenceA

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Posted 09 August 2017 - 11:28 PM

Paramount on Parade (1930) - All-star revue the type of which was popular in the early days of sound, the film consists of various short sketches, including musical numbers, comedy bits, and even a dramatic scene. The stars include Maurice Chevalier, Clara Bow, Ruth Chatterton, Fredric March, Gary Cooper, George Bancroft, Jack Oakie, Skeets Gallagher, Buddy Rogers, Kay Francis, Jean Arthur, Mary Brian, Fay Wray, Evelyn Brent, Leon Errol, William Powell, Warner Oland, Clive Brook, Eugene Pallette, Lillian Roth, Stu Erwin, Helen Kane, Nancy Carroll, and Mitzi Green.

 

Paramount also enlisted a posse of directors, including Edmund Goulding, Dorothy Arzner, Ernst Lubitsch, Rowland V. Lee, Victor Scherzinger, and more. Several of the film's segments, including a few in early Technicolor, were missing from the copy that I watched. In fact, the segment featuring Cooper, Brian, Arthur and Wray only consisted of the intro. My favorite segments include the very silly detective bit with Brook as Sherlock Holmes, Powell as Philo Vance, and Oland as Fu Manchu; Chevalier and Brent in a lover's quarrel; Ruth Chatterton as a sad French prostitute who sings a song to American G.I.s (including March) about to return home from WWI; and a comedy piece with Chevalier as a gendarme patrolling a park popular with lovers. Most of the song and dance numbers were largely forgettable, though. Still, it was nice to see for a different look at the various stars.   7/10

 

Source: archive.org

 

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