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Centennial Summer (1946)


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"Centennial Summer"'s one of my favorites too - and criminally under-rated. Set against the backdrop of the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876, it stars Jeanne Crain and Linda Darnell as sisters - and both actresses are brimming with youthful charisma and beauty. I seem to recall that it was initially planned as a non-musical. But the success of MGM's "Meet Me in St.Louis" made Fox decide to add songs. Jerome Kern supplied the score - his last, I think. And it's a beauty. "All Through the Day" and "In Love in Vain" were hits in their day, I believe. And the "Cinderella Sue" number (with Avon Long) is a real charmer - echoes of "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" in the melody. But my favorite tune from the score would have to be the lilting "Up with the Lark", which ranks with "Can't Help Singing" "It's a Most Unusual Day", and "It's a Grand Night for Singing" as one of the 40's great waltz songs. Production values for the film are terrific - and unlike Fox's usual period musicals, which tend to rely on a procession of what amount to stage-bound vaudeville turns - this one has a wonderful open-air feel, with many numbers nicely integrated into the action. I believe director Otto Preminger once indicated he barely remembered making it. But it certainly lingers fondly in the memories of those of us who saw and loved it.

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