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Thursday, 2 August 2012

Thousand's Cheer - Star of the month... Gene Kelly

"You're confection, goodness knows... You're my honeysuckle rose.." - Lena Horne (as herself in 'Thousands Cheer')

The beautiful Lena Horne sings "Honeysuckle Rose"
'Thousands Cheer' is a 1943 MGM musical directed by George Sidney and starring Kathryn Grayson, Gene Kelly, Mary Astor, John Boles and Jose Iturbi.  Many MGM stars make guest appearances in the film including: Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Lucille Ball, June Allyson, Mickey Rooney, Ann Sothern, Red Skelton, Eleanor Powell, Frank Morgan, Virginia O'Brien, Gloria deHaven, Donna Reed, Margaret O'Brien, Marsha Hunt, Marilyn Maxwell and many more.

The film was produced as a morale booster for World War II soldiers and their families. It was the perfect opportunity for MGM to showcase two of it's newest stars Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson in a big budget musical featuring guest appearances by many established stars.

'Thousands Cheer' begins as Kathryn Jones (played by Grayson) leaves Jose Iturbi's orchestra due to her military father, Colonel Bill Jones (played by Boles) being transferred. Whilst on the train, she meets Private Eddie Marsh (played by Kelly), a former trapeze artist drafted into the US Army. An attempt to reunite her separated parents backfires when her mother, Hyllary Jones (played by Astor) does not approve of Kathryn courting a soldier.  The second storyline is the film is the preparation of a live variety show for soldiers to feature a cavalcade of MGM stars.

Hosted by Mickey Rooney, the variety show features the following program:

  • "Boogie Woogie" - Eleanor Powell
  • "In a Little Spanish Town" - Virginia O'Brien with June Allyson and Gloria deHaven
  • Comedy sketch with Frank Morgan, Lucille Ball, Ann Sothern and Sara Haden
  • "I Dug a Ditch in Wichita/Should I?" - Kay Kyser Orchestra
  • "Tico Tico" - Maxine Barrat and Don Loper
  • "Honeysuckle Rose" - Lena Horne
  • Comedy sketch with Red Skelton, Marilyn Maxwell, Donna Reed and Margaret O'Brien
  • "The Joint is Really Jumping Down at Carnegie Hall" - Judy Garland (with Jose Iturbi)

Musical highlights

Song: "The Joint is Really Jumpin' Down at Carnegie Hall" - Judy Garland

Song: "Honeysuckle Rose" - Lena Horne

Song: "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" - Gene Kelly (dancing with a mop)

Song: "Boogie Woogie" - Eleanor Powell

Song: "A Little Spanish Town" - Virginia O'Brien, June Allyson and Gloria deHaven

Did you know...

  • This was bandleader Jose Iturbi's first film appearance
  • This was both Gene Kelly and Eleanor Powell's first colour film
  • Cyd Charisse is featured as a dancer in the "Tico Tico" number
  • Eleanor Powell's "Boogie Woogie" number was originally filmed for 'Broadway Melody of 1943', which was abandoned before it was completed - the film was to costar Gene Kelly
  • The sequence where Gene Kelly dances with a map was the first time he choreographed a dance number in one of his films

Award nominations

  • Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Score
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction

Closing remarks

Overall, a weak musical with a thin plot and forgettable musical numbers. The first 70 minutes are slow, with the film picking up during the variety show segment. The most memorable part of the film is seeing Gene Kelly dance with a mop (literally). That said, there are a few musical highlight's including Lena Horne's "Honeysuckle Rose", Judy Garland's "The Joint is Really Jumping Down in Carnegie Hall" and Kathryn Grayson's rendition of "Sempre Libera" from 'La Traviata'.

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