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Monday, 31 December 2012

An Evening with Gene Kelly (1977) - Star of the month... Frank Sinatra

'An Evening with Gene Kelly' is a 1977 documentary interview film with Gene Kelly, interviewed by Gavin Millar.

The film begins with a short montage of Gene Kelly's signature songs including:

  • "Singin' in the Rain" from 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952)
  • "Broadway Rhythm" from 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952)
  • "Mop Dance" from 'Thousands Cheer' (1943)
  • "On the Town" from 'On the Town' (1949)
  • "Newspaper Dance" from 'Summer Stock' (1950)
  • "The Worry Song" from 'Anchors Aweigh' (1945)
Gene tells us about his early life, how he started dancing, the MGM studio, Frank Sinatra, his experimention with dance in film and much more.

As it only runs for 50 minutes, I think "An Hour with Gene Kelly" would have been a more appropriate title than "An Evening with Gene Kelly".

Overall, an enjoyable and insightful interview. 

That's Entertainment III (1994) - Star of the month... Frank Sinatra

"The song has ended but the melody lingers on..." - Gene Kelly (in 'That's Entertainment III')

'That's Entertainment III' is a 1995 documentary reuniting 9 legendary MGM stars, Ann Miller, Cyd Charisse, Debbie Reynolds, Esther Williams, Gene Kelly, Howard Keel, June Allyson, Lena Horne and Mickey Rooney.

Released 18 years after 'That's Entertainment, Part II' (1976), and to celebrate the 70th anniversary of MGM, 'That's Entertainment III' explores the MGM musical a little further than the previous films, by not showing clips from nearly 100 MGM musicals, but also a selection of unused musical numbers for the first time. 

Highlights from 'That's Entertainment, Part II'

  • Overture - As with the two previous films, an overture welcomes us to this theatrical experience
  • 'That's Entertainment III' opens with Fred Astaire singing "Here's to the Girls" from 'Ziegfeld Follies' (1945)
  • First up is Gene Kelly, who provides us with the origins of the MGM musicals, with popular vaudeville acts being filmed in 'The Hollywood Revue' (1929), and the introduction of the Hays Production Code, which led to the casting of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy is a series of family-friendly and compliant musicals
  • Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney with their lively rendition of "Good Morning", from 'Babes in Arms' (1939)
  • We are shown behind the scenes footage into how Eleanor Powell's "Fascinating Rhythm" number from 'Lady Be Good' (1941) was filmed
  • Esther Williams introduces us to her giant swimming pool tank, and gives some background as to how her extravagant ballet sequences were filmed, treating us to her personal favourite clips from her wonderful films
  • June Allyson talks to us about the screen test process, and we see June in action singing "The Three B's" in 'Best Foot Forward' with Nancy Walker and Gloria De Haven
  • Cyd Charisse performing "Baby You Knock Me Out" in 'It's Always Fair Weather' (1955)
  • Cyd Charisse shows us the scenic background building at MGM, and presents a loving tribute to the films of Gene Kelly
  • Gene Kelly & Cyd Charisse's pas de deux "The Heather on the Hill" from 'Brigadoon' (1954), revealed to be Charisse's favourite dance with Gene
  • Debbie Reynolds talks to us about classic leading ladies and gowns by the famed designer Adrian, through clips of Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly, Jean Harlow, Angela Lansbury, Elizabeth Taylor and Marion Davies
  • A special montage is presented showcasing the best of latin/tropical talent, including Xavier Cugat, Ricardo Montalban and Carmen Miranda (with a memorable clip of Mickey Rooney impersonating Miranda in drag)
  • Lena Horne shares her emotional struggle as an African American performer during the 1940s, which led to her usually making a brief walk-on singing performance, before exiting immediately after her number - she also reveals she was not permitted to play the role of Julie LaVerne in 'Showboat' (1951), due to the Hays Production Code not permitting interracial relationships
  • Lena Horne singing "Just One of Those Things" from 'Panama Hattie' (1941)
  • We are shown a deleted Lena Horne song from the film 'Cabin in the Sky' called "Ain't It The Truth" - cut because MGM felt it would be too risque showing an African American woman taking a bubble bath
  • Ava Gardner's vocals for "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" in 'Show Boat' (1952) - in the film her vocals were dubbed
  • The tragic story of Judy Garland's brief stint in 'Annie, Get Your Gun' in 1950, before she was fired - we see two filmed numbers "I'm An Indian Too" and "Doin' What Comes Naturally" for the first time
  • Mickey Rooney appears to give an inspiring tribute to his good friend Judy Garland
  • Judy Garland singing "Who?" in 'Till the Clouds Roll By' (1946)
  • An unreleased Judy Garland song from 'Easter Parade' (1948) called "Mr. Monotony" - in my opinion, the best number filmed and I am baffled as to why it was cut
  • An unreleased Judy Garland song from 'The Harvey Girls' (1946) called "March of the Doagies"
  • Ann Miller (My personal favourite MGM star) gives a tribute to dancing legend Fred Astaire, who by now had passed away
  • Ann Miller singing "Shakin' the Blues Away" in 'Easter Parade' (1948)
  • Howard Keel takes us on a brief tour of the MGM film vault, and talks to us about new technology such as CinemaScope and Stereophonic Sound, designed to combat the threat of television... we are appropriately shown footage of the song "Stereophonic Sound" from 'Silk Stockings' (1957)
  • Howard Keel & Betty Hutton singing "Anything You Can Do I Can Better" in 'Annie, Get Your Gun' (1950)
  • The demise of the MGM musical is discused, including some memorable clips from some of the last big MGM hits, Elvis Presley singing the title song from 'Jailhouse Rock' (1957), Doris Day singing "Shakin' the Blues Away" from 'Love Me or Leave Me' (1955), and the title track from the Oscar winning 'Gigi' (1958)
  • What better way to close the film than with a brief conclusion from Mr. Entertainment himself, Gene Kelly, in what is among the last bits of footage filmed of him
  • And the finale... "That's Entertainment!" from 'The Bandwagon' (1955)

Featured performers (in alphabetical order):

Adrian, George K. Arthur, Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Ingrid Bergman, Ray Bolger, Joseph Breen, Lucille Bremer, Jack Buchanan, Billie Burke, Leslie Caron, Cyd Charisse, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Xavier Cugat, Arlene Dahl, Marion Davies, Doris Day, Gloria DeHaven, Marlene Dietrich, Beth Dodge, Betty Dodge, Marie Dressler, Rosetta Duncan, Vivian Duncan, Jimmy Durante, Buddy Ebsen, Nelson Eddy, Cliff Edwards, Nanette Fabray, The Five Locust Sisters, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, Betty Garrett, Greer Garson, Paulette Goddard, Dolores Gray, Kathryn Grayson, Oliver Hardy, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Lena Horne, Betty Hutton, Harry James, Betty Jaynes, Louis Jourdan, Buster Keaton, Howard Keel, Grace Kelly, The King's Men, Hedy Lamarr, Angela Lansbury, Stan Laurel, Vivien Leigh, Oscar Levant, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, Jeanette MacDonald, Tony Martin, Joan McCracken, Ray McDonald, Douglas McPhail, Una Merkel, Ann Miller, Carmen Miranda, Marilyn Monroe, Ricardo Montalban, Polly Moran, Jules Munshin, George Murphy, J. Carrol Naish, Donald O'Connor, Janis Paige, Jack Pearl, Eleanor Powell, Jane Powell, William Powell, Elvis Presley, Luise Rainer, Debbie Reynolds, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Aggie Ross, Elmira Ross, Maggie Ross, Rosaline Russell, Norma Shearer, Frank Sinatra, Ann Sothern, Clinton Sundberg, Don Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Lupe Velez, Vera-Ellen, Nancy Walker, Esther Williams, Francis Williams, Chill Wills, Harry Wilson, Robert Young, Roland Young

Did you know...

  • This was Gene Kelly's final screen appearance
  • Gene Kelly is the only star to host all three 'That's Entertainment' films
  • This was Debbie Reynolds' and Mickey Rooney's second time hosting a 'That's Entertainment' film

Closing remarks

Gene Kelly on the set of 'That's Entertainment III'
My favourite of all the 'That's Entertainment' films. What I like most about Part III is the presenters are all MGM musical stars, whereas Part I featured some stars who didn't make many MGM films (Bing Crosby, Donald O'Connor) or stars who didn't make many musicals (Elizabeth Taylor, James Stewart). 

Who better to present the best of MGM musicals than Ann Miller (my favourite MGM star), Esther Williams, June Allyson, Lena Horne and of course Gene Kelly!

The only bad thing about 'That's Entertainment Part III' is we are yet to see a part 4.

As of June 2012, there are a small number of MGM stars who could feature in a Part 4: Leslie Caron, Doris Day, Liza Minnelli, Marge Champion, Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell, Esther Williams, Carleton Carpenter, Nanette Fabray, Mickey Rooney, Russ Tamblyn and Tommy Rall. That said, time is running out and sadly there may no more "That's Entertainment!"

That's Entertainment Part II (1976) - Star of the month... Frank Sinatra

Due to popular demand, and the success of 'That's Entertainment' (1974), we are presented with 'That's Entertainment, Part II' (1976), with even more music and even more entertainment.

In a slightly different format to the first film, 'That's Entertainment, Part II' is hosted solely by Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, and includes newly filmed musical numbers of the duo. This film also extends beyond the MGM musical, and presents clips from MGM comedies and dramas.

Designed by Saul Bass, the opening title sequence pays homage to the range and style of title sequences from films from the 1930s and early 1950s.

Highlights from 'That's Entertainment, Part II'

  • Overture - As with the first film, an overture plays
  • That's Entertainment - Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly perform a newly filmes version of 'That's Entertaiment' with new lyrics
  • The Stateroom Scene from 'a Night in the Ioera'
  • Tributes to Cyd Charisse, Lena Horne, Leslie Caron and Marge/Gower Champion
  • From This Moment On - from 'Kiss Me Kate' (1953)
  • Black and White Montage -  clips from black and white musicals such as Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy and Jimmu Durante
  • Slapstick comedy montage of Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello and Jack BEnny
  • Good Morning from 'Singin in the Rain'
  • Triplets from 'The Bandwagon'
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas from 'Meet Me in St. Louis' (1944)
  • 10 Cents a Dance - Doris Day's first appearance in a 'That's Entertainment' film
  • Special tribute to Frank Sinatra
  • Immortal stars and lines, featuring Greta Garbo "I vant to be alone", WC Fields in 'David Copperfield', Jean Harlow and Marie Dressler in 'Dinner at Eight' and Clark Gable in 'Gone With the Wind'
  • Travel Talks montage
  • France montage - Maurice Chevalier, Dinah Shore singing 'The Last Time I Saw Paris;' in 'Till The Clouds Roll By' (1943), 'I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise' and Gwen Verdon's can can
  • There's No Business Like Show Business from 'Annie, Get Your Gun' (1952)
  • Tribute to Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy - both on their own and together
  • Cypress Gardens Waterski Spectacular - what better way to close the film than with Esther Williams
  • That's Entertainment (finale) - from 'The Bandwagon' (1953)
  • Exit Music 

Featured performers (in alphabetical order):

Bud Abbott, Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Mary Astor, Lew Ayres, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Freddie Batholomew, Wallace Beery, Robert Benchley, Constance Bennett, Jack Benny, Nacio Herb Brown, Jack Buchanan, Billie Burke, James Cagney, Sammy Cahn, Louis Calhern, Leslie Caron, Gower Champion, Marge Champion, Cyd Charisse, Maurice Chevalier, Ronald Colman, Gino Corrado, Lou Costello, Jeanne Coyne, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Dan Dailey, Doris Day, Robert Donat, Fifi D'Orsay, Tommy Dorsey, Melvyn Douglas, Tom Drake, Marie Dressler, Margaret Dumont, Jimmy Durante, Nelson Eddy, Cliff Edwards, Nanette Fabray, W.C. Fields, James A. Fitzpatrick, Bob Fosse, Arthur Freed, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Betty Garrett, Greer Garson, Hermione Gingold, Cary Grant, Charley Grapewin, Fernand Gravey, Kathryn Grayson, Carol Haney, Oliver Hardy, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday, Sterling Holloway, Lena Horne, Betty Hutton, Harry James, Allan Jones, Buster Keaton, Howard Keel, Grace Kelly, June Knight, Miliza Korjus, Hedy Lamarr, Lassie, Stan Laurel, Vivien Leigh, Oscar Levant, Myrna Loy, Jeanette MacDonald, The Marx Brothers, Chico Marx, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Roddy McDowall, Ann Miller, Robert Montgomery, Esther Muir, Dave O'Brien, Donald O'Connor, Maureen O'Sullivan, Walter Pidgeon, Eleanor Powell, William Powell, Tommy Rall, Debbie Reynolds, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Christian Rub, Al Shean, Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, Ann Sothern, James Stewart, Lewis Stone, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Taylor, Marshall Thompson, Franchot Tone, Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner, USC Trojan Marching Band, Bobby Van, Gwen Verdon, Ethel Waters, David Wayne, Johnny Weissmuller, Esther Williams, Ed Wynn, Keenan Wynn, Robert Young

Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly in their second
and last appearance together

Did you know...

  • This was Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire's first appearance together in over 30 years - they last appeared together in 'Ziegfeld Follies' (1945)
  • In this film, Gene Kelly is 63 and Fred Astaire is 76 - the level of stamina they still have is impressive
  • This was Gene Kelly's last directing credit
  • This was the last time Fred Astaire danced on film
  • 18 years later, this was followed by 'That's Entertainment III' (1994), which also featured Gene Kelly
  • During the clip of 'From This Moment On' from 'Kiss Me Kate' (1948), Gene Kelly identifies Ann Miller, Tommy Rall, Bob Fosse, Carol Haney and Bobby Van, but does not identify Jeanne Coyne - Coyne was Kelly's second wife and had died from leukaemia three years earlier
  • The song "Good Morning" from 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952), was originally to appear in the first 'That's Entertainment' (1974), but cut before release 

Closing remarks

'That's Entertainment, Part II' is an entertaining compilation of film clips. I personally find this to be the least enjoyable of the three films. Sadly Part 2 does not feature any clips of MGM greats June Allyson and Mario Lanza. A notable musical number which would have been ideal for inclusion is Ann Miller's show stopping 'Too Darn Hot' from 'Kiss Me Kate' (1953).

That's Entertainment (1974) - Star of the month... Frank Sinatra

"You can wait around and hope, but I tell you, you'll never see the likes of this again." - Frank Sinatra (as himself in 'That's Entertainment')

Gene Kelly presents a tribute to Fred Astaire
It's time to relive the music, the movies, the memories, the magic and the stars as some of MGM's greatest Hollywood stars reunite at the MGM studio to celebrate the 50th anniversary of MGM in 'That's Entertainment' (1974).

Produced, written and directed by Jack Haley Jr. (son Jack Haley, who played the Tin Man in 'The Wizard of Oz'), 'That's Entertainment' presents one of the greatest movie documentaries of all time paying tribute to the MGM musical.

Fred Astaire at the deteriorated set of 'The Bandwagon' 
'That's Entertainment' featuring special appearances from Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, James Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Mickey Rooney, Bing Crosby and Peter Lawford

Considered to be big risk at the time of it's release, the film turned out to be an enormous success, and became one of the highest grossing films of 1974.

Watch the film trailer:


Liza Minnelli pays tribute to her mother Judy Garland
I won't list every film and musical clip featured in 'That's Entertainment', as there are literally hundreds, but I will list and provide commentary on the highlights within the film - by the way, as you'll see there are many highlights.

  • Overture - Keeping with the tradition of the great Broadway musicals, 'That's Entertainment' commences with red velvet curtains as the overture plays a medley of MGM songs including: 'The Trolley Song', 'Over the Rainbow', 'It's a Most Unusual Day', 'Singin in the Rain' and of course the title track
  • Singin' in the Rain Montage - Following the overture, the film opens with a montage of MGMs greatest anthem 'Singin' in the Rain', from the first time it was performed by Cliff Edwards in 'The Hollywood Revue' (1929), through to Judy Garland's version in 'Little Nellie Kelly' and finally Gene Kelly (1940), Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor singing the film in 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952)
  • Frank Sinatra is the first star to make an appearance tracing the origins of the MGM musical, including clips from the first ever movie musical, 'The Broadway Melody' (1929)
  • Glamourous Elizabeth Taylor is next, sharing her musical debut as a child in the film 'Cynthia' (1947)
  • Peter Lawford provides some insights into the style and form of the MGM musical
  • James Stewart continues with the transition of silent film into talking films, and shows footage of dramatic actors (including himself) who although not singers were forced into appearing in musicals - other actors featured include Robert Montgomery, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford and Cary Grant... the segment concludes with a special tribute to Clark Gable
  • Mickey Rooney appears outside the house where the 'Andy Hardy' series of films were made, and pays tribute to the low budget backyard musicals he made in the 1930s and 1940s with Judy Garland, and directed by Busby Berkeley
  • Gene Kelly reveals the greatest dancing partner he has ever danced with to be Fred Astaire, before going into an Astaire tribute
  • Donald O'Connor continues with a special tribute to the million dollar mermaid, Esther Williams
  • Debbie Reynolds takes us into the MGM 25th anniversary dinner, where we see footage of some great stars such as Errol Flynn, Angela Lansbury, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Claude Jarmin Jr. and Greer Garson, before paying tribute to two of my favourite stars Ann Miller and Mario Lanza
  • Showboat montage - A montage of songs from the first great musical epic 'Showboat' starring Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Marge & Gower Champion, Joe E. Brown and Ava Gardner... featured songs include 'Cotton Blossom', 'Make Believe' and the immortal 'Ol Man River'
  • Fred Astaire appears next on the deteriorated train station set from 'The Bandwagon' (1953), and reciprocates Gene Kelly's gesture with a special tribute to the great Gene Kelly
  • Liza Minnelli, labelled MGM's "crown princess", presents a special tribute to her mother, Judy Garland
  • Bing Crosby presents footage from his two MGM movies 'Going Hollywood' (1933) and 'High Society' (1956), and a special montage from the Oscar winning film 'Gigi' (1958)
  • Frank Sinatra returns and concludes with introducing an abridged version of the 'American in Paris Ballet' from 'An American in Paris' (1951)
  • Glamourous Elizabeth Taylor
    in 'That's Entertainment'
  • The theatrical experience ends with the red velvet curtains once again and exit music to entertain the audience as they leave the cinema

Debbie Reynolds in 'That's Entertainment'

Featured performers (in alphabetical order):

June Allyson, Leon Ames, Kay Armen, Edward Arnold, Fred Astaire, Ethel Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Scotty Beckett, Wallace Beery, Ray Bolger, Joe E. Brown, Virginia Bruce, Jack Buchanan, Billie Burke, Leslie Caron, Carleton Carpenter, Cyd Charisse, George Cleveland, Maurice Chevalier, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, Xavier Cugat, Arlene Dahl, Virginia Dale, Jacques d'Amboise, Lili Damita, Vic Damone, Gloria DeHaven, Tom Drake, Jimmy Durante, Deanna Durbin, Buddy Ebsen, Nelson Eddy, Cliff Edwards, Vera-Ellen, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, Betty Garrett, Greer Garson, Hermione Gingold, Cary Grant, Kathryn Grayson, Virginia Grey, Jack Haley, Jean Harlow, Bernadene Hayes, Van Heflin, Katharine Hepburn, Lena Horne, Lottice Howell, Claude Jarman Jr., Betty Jaynes, Van Johnson, Allan Jones, Jennifer Jones, Louis Jourdan, Buster Keaton, Howard Keel, Grace Kelly, Charles King, Lorraine Krueger, Burt Lahr, Fernando Lamas, Angela Lansbury, Mario Lanza, Peter Lawford, Ruta Lee, Jeanette MacDonald, Marjorie Main, Joan Marsh, Tony Martin, Douglas McPhail, Ann Miller, Sidney Miller, Carmen Miranda, Ricardo Montalban, Robert Montgomery, Agnes Moorehead, Natalie Moorhead, Dennis Morgan, Frank Morgan, Jules Munshin, George Murphy, Conrad Nagel, J. Carrol Naish, Julie Newmar, The Nicholas Brothers, Fayard Nicholas, Harold Nicholas, Margaret O'Brien, Virginia O'Brien, Donald O'Connor, Reginald Owen, Walter Pidgeon, Marc Platt, Paul Porcasi, Eleanor Powell, Jane Powell, June Preisser, Richard Quine, Tommy Rall, Debbie Reynolds, Jeff Richards, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Selena Royle, Norma Shearer, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, James Stewart, Paula Stone, Russ Tamblyn, Elizabeth Taylor, Sidney Toler, Audrey Totter, Spencer Tracy, William Warfield, Virginia Weidler, Esther Williams, Robert Young

Did you know...

Frank Sinatra in 'That's Entertainment'
  • 'That's Entertainment' was originally intended to be a TV special, however the concept was expanded into a feature film 
  • The success of 'That's Entertainment' was followed by two sequels
  • Gene Kelly was the first star who agreed to appear in the film and was responsible in recruiting many of the others
  • This was the last feature film to be shot at MGM studios - the studio was bulldozed and demolished for property development shortly after the film was released
  • The song "Good Morning" from 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952), was originally to appear in Debbie Reynolds section, but cut before releases - the song was later included in 'That's Entertainment, Part II' (1976), and the song with Reynolds' narration was included in the promotional short film 'Just One More Time' (1974)

Closing remarks

'That's Entertainment' is still my favourite documentary film of all time. That may be because I am such a big fan of MGM musicals, and the stars of MGM - but even without this bias, the film is entertaining and insightful to even classic film novice.

The stars are all great, however I don't feel Bing Crosby and Donald O'Connor should have appeared in this film, as they did not appear in many MGM films. I would have preferred to have seen more regular MGM stars instead, such as Ann Miller, Esther Williams or Angela Lansbury.

The only disappointment I have with 'That's Entertainment' is the complete absence of Doris Day musicals - fortunately footage of Doris Day would appear in 'That's Entertainment II' and 'That's Entertainment III'.

The tagline on the original movie poster read "That's Entertainment! Boy, do we need it now!" - we needed it then, and almost 40 years later we still need it now!

Just One More Time (1974) - Star of the month... Frank Sinatra

'Just One More Time' is a 1974 short documentary film promoting the release of the feature film 'That's Entertainment!' (1974).

The short film is primarily made of footage of the hosts of 'That's Entertainment' including Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, James Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Mickey Rooney, Bing Crosby and Peter Lawford.

With some insightful narration and clips from some of MGM's most memorable musicals, this is a rather entertaining short film.

Did you know...

  • The song "Good Morning" from 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952) as it appears in this short with Debbie Reynolds' narration was originally to appear in 'That's Entertainment' (1974), but cut before release

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Sinatra Singing at His Best (2004) - Star of the month... Frank Sinatra

'Sinatra Singing at His Best' is a 2004 DVD release featuring some of Sinatra's best performances with a linking narration by Henry Stephens providing some context to the songs.

The release features the following songs:

  • "I've Got the World on a String"
  • "Stardust"
  • "I've Got my Love to Keep Me Warm"
  • "Ol' Man River" (footage from the film 'Till the Clouds Roll By')
  • "Fly Me to the Moon" (with Count Basie)
  • "Last Night When We Were Young"
  • "I'll Never Smile Again" (with The High-Lows)
  • "When You're Smiling the Whole World Smiles With You"
  • "My Romance" (with June Hutton)
  • "Hello, Young Lovers"
  • "Oh, Look at me Now" (with Eileen Barton)
  • "That Old Black Magic"
  • "Talk To Me" (with Mitzi Gaynor)
  • "It Had to be You" (featuring montage footage of Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Shirley MacLaine, Gina Lollobrigida, Kim Novak, Eleanor Parker & other screen sirens)
  • "Luck Be A Lady" (with Count Basie)
  • "High Hopes" (begins with a brief clip from the film 'A Hole in the Head', followed by a performance with a children's choir)
  • "Angel Eyes"
  • A montage of images from his many films to close

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Not As A Stranger (1954) - Star of the month... Frank Sinatra

"Gentlemen, this is a corpse. " - Charles Bickford (as Dr. Dave Runkelman in 'Not as a Stranger')

'Not as a Stranger' is a 1954 medical drama starring Olivia de Havilland, Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, Gloria Grahame, Broderick Crawford and Charles Bickford with Lon Chaney Jr., Lee Marvin, Harry Morgan and Mae Clarke. The melodrama was directed and produced by Stanley Kramer, with it's screenplay written by Edna and Edward Anhalt based on the novel by Morton Thompson.

'Not as a Stranger' follows a group of medical students throughout their career from their medical studies, hospital internships and eventually as physicians. Lucas Marsh (played by Mitchum) is obsessed with becoming a doctor. His medical career is put into jeopardy after his father (played by Chaney) gambles the money Lucas was left by his mother. To sponsor his medical career Lucas married wealthy older woman Kristina Hadvigson (played by de Havilland).  Throughout the film, Lucas' obsession for perfection and success causes pain and and happiness for those around him.

An outdated film with relevant themes

'Not as a Stranger' is a product of it's time with some very obvious references to the 1950s including:
  • An all-male medical class, with no female students
  • All doctors in the film are male, and all nurses in the film are female
  • Doctors and nurses openly smoking inside the hospital

Despite these outdated events, many of the central themes to the film are still relevant today, including loveless marriage into wealth for material gain, marital infidelity, father-son conflict due to alcoholism, internal drive for perfectionism and success.

Did you know...

  • This was one of the first times a real human heart was shown in a film during an open-heart surgery scene
  • This was Stanley Kramer's directorial debut
  • In preparation for their roles, Olivia de Havilland and Robert Mitchum attended a number of operations - Broderick Crawford even attended an autopsy

Award nominations

  • Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Recording
  • BAFTA Award nomination for Best Foreign Actor (Frank Sinatra)
  • National Board of Review Award winner for Best Supporting Actor (Charles Bickford)

Closing remarks

A very made and entertaining drama, albeit very long. 'Not as a Stranger' features fine dramatic performances by Mitcham, de Havilland and Sinatra. What I like about this film is unlike many other medical dramas, 'Not as a Stranger' is essentially a character study focusing primarily on the lives and relationships of the principle characters. The hospital and medical subplot as a backdrop to complete the story.

 You can watch the complete film on YouTube here: 

Anything Goes (1954) - Star of the month... Frank Sinatra

'Anything Goes' is a 1954 episode of the Colgatte Comedy Hour, starring Ethel Merman, Frank Sinatra, Bert Lahr and Sheree North with Arthur Gould-Porter. Produced by Jule Styne, the TV special is an abridged version of Cole Porter's classic musical comedy.

Reno Sweeney (played by Merman) is on her way from America to England to marry Sir. Evelyn Oakleigh (played by Gould-Porter). Reno's ex-boyfriend Harry Dane (played by Sinatra) follows her on the boat. Also on the boat is public enemy #1, Moonface Martin (played by Lahr) and his friend Bonnie LeTour (played by North).

Musical program

  • "Anything Goes" - Ethel Merman
  • "You Do Something To Me" - Frank Sinatra & Ethel Merman
  • "Anything Goes (Reprise)" - Ethel Merman
  • "I Get A Kick Out of You" - Ethel Merman
  • "I Get A Kick Out of You (Reprise)" - Frank Sinatra
  • "Just One of Those Things" - Frank Sinatra & Ethel Merman
  • "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" - Ethel Merman
  • "All Through the Night" - Frank Sinatra
  • "Friendship" - Ethel Merman & Bert Lahr
  • "I Get A Kick Out Of You (Reprise #2) - Ethel Merman & Frank Sinatra
  • "Anything Goes (Reprise #2)" - Cast
  • Encore: "Anything Goes" - Ethel Merman, Frank Sinatra & Bert Lahr

Did you know...

  • Ethel Merman originated the role of Reno Sweeney on Broadway more than 20 years earlier

Watch the full TV special:

Closing remarks

'Anything Goes' is a good TV special with memorable and well-known Cole Porter songs, designed to showcase the talents of Ethel Merman and Frank Sinatra. The plot is very thin, and a little different to the Broadway show. Some of the character names are different, and many of the songs are removed.

The musical 'Anything Goes' is very special to me, as I played Lord Evelyn Oakleigh in a production when I was in high school.

Not as enjoyable and showstopping as the Broadway show but still worth watching.

The All-Star Bond Rally (1945) - Star of the month... Frank Sinatra

'The All-Star Bond Rally' is a 1945 propaganda short film intended to encourage the public to purchase additional war bonds in aid of World War II.

The film opens with an introduction from Darryl F. Zanuck and features Marian Jordan and Jim Jordan as Fibber & Molly McGee, a married couple attending the rally.

Hosted by Bob Hope, the film features...

  • "I'll Be Marching to a Love Song" - Betty Grable and her Bombardiers
  • "Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week" - Frank Sinatra with Harry James and his Orchestra
  • "Guardian Angels" - played on the harp by Harpo Marx 
  • "Thanks for the Memory" (short snippet) - Bob Hope
  • A tribute to popular war time pin-up girls including Linda Darnell, Faye Marlowe, Jeanne Crain, June Haver, Vivian Blaine and Carmen Miranda
  • "Bond Rally Song" - Bing Crosby with Harry James and his Orchstra

Watch the complete short film:

Show-Business at War (1943) - Star of the month... Frank Sinatra

'Show-Business at War' (March of Time, Volume 9, Number 10) is a 1943 short film newsreel chronicling the many ways in which the American entertainment industry was assisting during World War II. 

Watch the film:

From the publication of the "Show Business at War" edition of Variety newspaper, to the many stars dedicating their time to raise money on war bonds, to the volunteering at the Hollywood Canteen. I found it interesting to see Hollywood cameraman up-skilling army officers in how to use film cameras  to enable them to film their combats.

Hollywood studios had an important role to play during the war, by not only  providing entertainment to those risking their lives, but to also produce propaganda films to discredit the enemy.

The newsreel features the following personalities:
  • Al Jolson (actor, who entertained troops)
  • Alfred Hitchcock (director)
  • Alfred Lunt (stage actor, who cooked for soldiers)
  • Anatole Litvak (director)
  • Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (ballet company, who entertained troops)
  • Bette Davis (actress)
  • Bing Crosby (singer)
  • Bob Hope (actor)
  • Carole Lombarde (actress, who was tragically killed in a plane crash returning from a war bond rally)
  • Clark Gable (actor, who enlisted)
  • Daryl Zanuck (film producer)
  • Deanna Durbin (actress, who danced with soldiers at the Hollywood Canteen)
  • Dorothy Lamour (actress)
  • Edgar Bergen (ventriloquist, who entertained troops with his doll Charlie McCarthy)
  • Errol Flynn (actor)
  • Ethel Barrymore (actress)
  • Frank Sinatra (actor)
  • Fred MacMurray (actor)
  • Gertrude Lawrence (actress)
  • Ginger Rogers (actress)
  • Glenn Ford (actor)
  • Hal B. Wallis (producer)
  • Hedy Lamarr (actress, who danced with soldiers at the Hollywood Canteen)
  • Irene Dunne (actress)
  • Irving Berlin (composer, who wrote the songs in the wartime musical 'This is the Army', which featured an all-soldier cast)
  • Jack Benny (radio comedian, who entertained troops)
  • Jack L. Warner (head of Warner Bros.)
  • James Cagney (actor)
  • Joe E. Brown (comedian, who entertained troops)
  • John Ford (film director, who headed the film producing unit of the Office of Strategic Services)
  • John Garfield (actor, who co-founded the Hollywood Canteen)
  • Kay Francis (actress)
  • Lana Turner (actress)
  • Linda Darnell (actress)
  • Loretta Young (actress)
  • Louis Armstrong (entertainer, who entertained troops)
  • Marlene Dietrich (actress, who danced with soldiers at the Hollywood Canteen)
  • Michael Curtiz (director)
  • Mickey Rooney (actor)
  • Myrna Loy (actress)
  • Olivia de Havilland (actress, who danced with soldiers at the Hollywood Canteen)
  • Orson Welles (actor/director)
  • Rita Hayworth (actress)
  • Robert Benchley (comedian, who volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen)
  • Tyrone Power (actor, who enlisted)
  • Walt Disney (who provided Disney studio resources to aid the production of instructional films for the armed forces)
  • W.C. Fields (actor)
The musical highlight in the film is Al Jolson singing his signature tune "Mammy".

Suddenly (1954) - Star of the month... Frank Sinatra

John Baron (played by Sinatra) berates one of his hostages
'Suddenly' is a 1954 dramatic film noir thriller directed by Lewis Allen and starring Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason and Nancy Gates. The film's screenplay was written by Richard Sale.

The film is set in the tranquil town of Suddenly. When the American President is scheduled to make a visit to the town while passing through on a train, three gangsters, led by John Baron (Sinatra) hold a family hostage in their home as part of an assassination attempt on the president.

Ironically at the start of a film, a police officer says: "Things happen so slow now, the town councillor is thinking of changing the name to Gradually". Little do they know what is about to happen in this small town.

Use of guns

Sterling Hayden as Todd
A key theme in the film is the use of guns. At the start of the film, Ellen (played the Gates) does not like guns as her husband was recently shot in the war. When Todd (played by Hayden) buys Ellen's son a cap gun, Ellen is not happy. Todd tells Ellen, "The boys gotta learn sometime that guns aren't necessarily bad... It depends on who uses them." It is ironic later in the film Ellen must make consider this statement when making a choice as to whether or not to pick up a gun in order to save her family.

Home invasion

Another key theme in the film is home invasion. The home is the one place where we expect to feel and be safe.  Being held captive removes the barrier between personal and public space, and bring the dangerous realities of the outside world inside our front door. The claustrophobia you would feel when being held hostage in your home I imagine would be one of the most terrifying ordeals a person could experience.

Did you know...

  • This film was shot in 4 weeks
  • Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly watched this film a few days before assassinating President Kennedy - one could consider if this film was a catalyst for the assassination, or whether the event may not have taken place had Oswald not seen this film
  • When 'Suddenly' was colorised for home video in 1986 by Hal Roach Studio, they coloured Frank Sinatra's famous blue eyes brown, causing much controversy. A second colourised version from 2009 by Legend Films, restores his eyes to it's natural blue color.
  • The film's copyright was not renewed and the film is now in the public domain - hence the myriad of budget home video releases and availability online