Take 3: In The Good Old Summertime Review

Earlier this month, I said I would review In The Good Old Summertime for the Van Johnson Blogathon. Now, with the arrival of the aforementioned event, it’s time to talk about this film! There are two reasons why I selected the 1949 movie. The first is it was recommended to me by Becky, the same reader who suggested Easy to Wed. The second was how the summer season is winding down. Because the movie is titled, In The Good Old Summertime, I figured it would serve as a sort of last hurrah. As of 2022, the 1949 title is the fourth one of Van Johnson’s I’ve seen. While I found both Plymouth Adventure and Easy to Wed just ok, I was not a fan of Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows. Therefore, it’ll be interesting to see what I thought of In The Good Old Summertime!

In The Good Old Summertime poster created by
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, In The Good Old Summertime is the fourth film of Van Johnson’s I have seen. Therefore, I knew what to expect from Van, talent wise. While portraying Andrew, Van utilized emotions well. A great example is when Andrew and Veronica are attempting to sell some sheet music to a customer. The sheet music in question was “Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey”. During this song, Andrew looks threatened, like he knows Veronica is doing a better job at selling the music than he would have. Because of the quality of his acting talents, Van was able to make scenes like this one feel believable.

In The Good Old Summertime is the fifth movie of Judy Garland’s I have watched. Looking back on those films, I have noticed how Judy is a more versatile actress than I feel she gets credit for. While waiting for her secret admirer, Veronica, Judy’s character, appears visibly nervous. She’s glancing around the restaurant and constantly readjusting her flower and poetry book. When Andrew arrives, Veronica’s unpleasant feelings toward her co-worker grow stronger. Her face appears troubled, frustrated over the fact he won’t leave. At some points during this interaction, Veronica raises her voice. When she eventually returns home, Veronica appears deflated, her night not going as she expected.

I am not familiar with Spring Byington as an actress. Despite this, I enjoyed her portrayal of Nellie Burke! Her on-screen personality was so pleasant. Even when she was upset at Otto Oberkugen, she was still a character worth rooting for. Spring and S.Z. Sakall had good on-screen chemistry. One good example is when Nellie is trying to explain a misunderstanding. During this conversation, Otto reveals his insecurities as a musician. This explanation comes across as genuine, as a businessman trying to save face. Meanwhile, through gentleness and kind words, Nellie reassures Otto he is the only man she cares about. It was nice to see two older characters fall in love, especially since this type of romance story doesn’t seem as common as those featuring younger couples. Through the acting performances and screenwriting, Spring and S.Z. brought forth a couple that was interesting to watch!

The musical numbers: At Otto’s music store, a harp is introduced among the instrumental stock. In order to sell the harp to a potential customer, Veronica plays the harp to a song called “Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland”. With the combination of Judy’s vocals and the harp instrumental sound, the song exuded the dreamlike tone the film’s creative team was striving for. Even with the inclusion of a piano, these sounds complimented one another. The aforementioned song, “Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey”, was performed in two tempos. At Veronica’s suggestion, the first tempo is slower, providing a romantic tone. But with the second, faster tempo, a jollier tone is presented. Because of this musical, creative decision, it was interesting to hear how one change can make a song sound so different.

The historical accuracy: In The Good Old Summertime takes place around the late 1800s to early 1900s. With that said, there are many aspects of this movie that appeared historically accurate! One of these areas was the wardrobe. Louise Parkson, portrayed by Marcia Van Dyke, is Andrew’s friend. She is attempting to win a prestigious audition. When this audition arrives, Louise wore a white dress with a full, floor length skirt. The sleeves are medium length, covering Louise’s upper arms. The dress also had a higher neckline. These design choices represented modesty in women’s fashion from that time.

The Sixth Van Johnson Blogathon banner created by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood

What I didn’t like about the film:

The underutilization of Buster Keaton: I haven’t seen many of Buster Keaton’s films. But based on what I know about his filmography, he seems like he’s a comedic actor who utilizes physical comedy. In In The Good Old Summertime, however, Buster wasn’t given much material to work with. There were two scenes where Buster’s character, Hickey, trips and falls. But these felt like weak attempts at giving Buster something to do. If anything, it seems like Buster was cast in the film just for the sake of it.

A drawn-out plot: The story of In The Good Old Summertime revolves around Veronica’s and Andrew’s search for their respective pen-pals. While this plot can lend itself to a good story, it was drawn-out throughout the entire movie. It got to the point where, after Veronica’s secret admirer was revealed, she was being manipulated into believing the secret admirer is someone else. This was likely done to keep the plot going. But it just felt too cruel for my liking.

No strong subplots: So much time was given to the aforementioned main plot in In The Good Old Summertime. As a result, there were no strong subplots. Some aspects of the narrative could have lent themselves to good side stories. But because the script focused so much on the main plot, these ideas weren’t able to reach their full potential. For example, Otto is experiencing difficulty selling some harps. This felt like a running joke that didn’t lead anywhere. An interesting story idea would have been if a wealthy customer was looking for a specific harp. Otto would then spend the rest of the movie trying to locate this instrument.

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My overall impression:

This is the third time I have participated in the Van Johnson Blogathon. While I reviewed Van’s episodes of Murder, She Wrote the first time around, I wrote about Plymouth Adventure last year. Both Plymouth Adventure and In The Good Old Summertime have one thing in common: there were ok. With the 1949 film, I enjoyed the musical numbers. They were not only entertaining, but creative as well. But there were times where I felt more effort was placed in the musical numbers than the script. This movie adopted the “enemies to lovers” trope, which could work in a story. Unfortunately, this part of the script was drawn-out. While watching In The Good Old Summertime, I kept thinking back to Meet Me in St. Louis. The 1944 musical not only takes place in the early 1900s, but also stars Judy Garland. Personally, I think In The Good Old Summertime is a weaker version of Meet Me in St. Louis.

Overall score: 6.9 out of 10

Have you seen any of Van Johnson’s films? If so, which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Easy to Wed Review

As the dawn of August arrives, so does the Esther Williams blogathon! Like last year, I have decided to review another movie from Esther’s filmography. But this time, I selected the 1946 title, Easy to Wed! Similar to the previous year, Easy to Wed was recommended to me. However, this film was suggested by a reader named Becky. That’s not the only reason why I’m reviewing the movie. I’m also participating in The Sixth Van Johnson Blogathon. Since Van happens to star in Easy to Wed, this is a good segue to that event. In the 1946 film, the characters’ trip to Mexico contained the “summer vibes” one would expect from the season. This is an interesting coincidence, as the movie I’m reviewing for the Van Johnson Blogathon is In The Good Old Summertime! My readers will have to wait a little while for that review. For now, though, it’s time to talk about Easy to Wed!

Easy to Wed poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In Easy to Wed, Esther portrayed Connie, a socialite who is wrongly accused of stealing another woman’s husband. Before she meets Van’s character, Bill, the employees at the New York newspaper that accused Connie label her as “spoiled” and “arrogant”. But when Bill meets Connie, he, and the audience, sees she is the complete opposite. In fact, Esther’s on-screen personality was very sweet! I enjoyed watching Connie and Bill’s interactions. The gentle sweetness of Connie’s personality and the charming yet cunning personality of Bill worked, as opposites attracted. Connie’s wittiness also helped this relationship’s favor. One of my favorite scenes is when Bill is riding on an inflatable raft in Connie’s pool. In an attempt to get him to join her in the pool, Connie tries to deflate the raft. Since she wants to catch Bill off guard, she deflates the raft with her foot during their conversation. Not only do Esther’s and Van’s acting abilities add to this on-screen relationship, so does their on-screen chemistry!

When it comes to Lucille Ball’s filmography, I’ve, so far, stuck with I Love Lucy. Therefore, I had an idea of what to expect in her portrayal of Gladys, the fiancé of Warren. Expectations aside, Lucille’s performance was enjoyable to watch! Not only did she work well with the other cast members, she used comedy to her advantage. During Bill’s stay in Mexico, he learns how to use a duck call whistle. While attempting to make a duck call, Gladys opens the door to Bill’s main sitting room and loudly yells “Happy New Year”. Personally, I found this scene hilarious, as the moment itself was unexpected. Speaking of Warren, let’s talk about Keenan Wynn’s performance. His portrayal reminded me of a more dramatic version of “Rooster” from the 1982 adaptation of Annie. What I mean by that is Warren was a cunning man who had a way with words. Another scene I liked was when Warren visited Bill about the newspaper’s libel suit. Because of how cunning both Warren and Bill are, they went toe-to-toe with each other, never missing a beat. What also helped was the quality of both Van’s and Keenan’s talents!

Lucille’s and Esther’s wardrobe: I loved Lucille’s and Esther’s wardrobe in Easy to Wed! However, there were three outfits that absolutely stole the show! Lucille wore the first outfit in the aforementioned duck call scene. A shiny gold top was covered by a velvety blue suit jacket. Deep blue slacks match the jacket, with the outfit complimented by shiny gold shoes. The blue and gold color palette paired beautifully with Lucille’s red hair and blue eyes! During a hunting trip, Connie wore fishing boots over a pair of black pants. A gray turtleneck shirt is under a red and orange plaid jacket. Finished with a maroon cap, the outfit is a classy ensemble that reminded me of the fall season. A few scenes later, Esther wore a light green sweater with cattails on them. A medium length black skirt compliments the cattails on the sweater, as well as Esther’s headband. A pair of brown boots helps pull off a look that would look great during fall or winter.

The “Boneca de Pixe” musical number: Toward the end of Easy to Wed, Connie and Bill perform in a musical number at a party. This number reflected their time together in Mexico. Both Esther and Van sung in Portuguese, dancing alongside each other and a large ensemble of dancers. The dancers’ costumes are so vibrant and colorful, boasting shades of red, yellow, and green. A small orchestra provided the sound, teaming up with Ethel Smith on the organ. Leading into this musical number, Ethel performed an organ solo that was fun to watch! This solo added the energy and excitement this piece needed. Overall, this number made me wish Easy to Wed was a musical.

The Third Esther Williams Blogathon banner created by by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood

What I didn’t like about the film:

A drawn-out conflict: Easy to Wed’s conflict revolves around Warren and Bill’s plan to prevent the libel suit from going to court. While it was interesting to see this plan unfold, it was drawn out for most of the story. In fact, this conflict was drawn out for so long, its resolution was delivered in a rapid-fire style within the last ten minutes of the movie. Had this script been a little bit tighter, the resolution’s delivery could have been more satisfying.

An inconsistent use of music: As I’ve said before, music can elevate the mood or tone of a given scene. It can also help make a scene more memorable. The film’s first half featured less music than its second half. Because of this, the memorability of some scenes was weaker. One example is when Bill is hosting a dinner party in his hotel’s sitting room. If music had been playing in the background, it would have heightened the anticipation of Connie’s arrival. The accompanying melody would highlight the growing feelings Bill and Connie have for one another as well. Instead, the scene felt mundane, slogging along to the next part in the story.

No subplots: Like I already mentioned, the conflict in Easy to Wed was drawn out for most of the movie. There are no subplots in this film, as the script focuses on the aforementioned conflict. Personally, I wish the story received a subplot. It would have given the audience additional intrigue to carry them through the film. The newspaper’s photographer could have formed a romantic relationship with the female organist. Maybe his camera goes missing and he has to find it. To me, the lack of subplots felt like a missed opportunity.

Since I loved the outfits described in this review, I decided to share screenshots of them, so my readers could see how great these outfits are! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

In my opinion, Easy to Wed is a mixed bag. On the one hand, there are things about the movie I liked. The acting was strong, the “Boneca de Pixe” musical number was great, and I loved Lucille’s and Esther’s wardrobe. On the other hand, the script could have been stronger. Tighter writing might have helped the conflict reach a satisfying resolution. The conflict could have also been paired with at least one subplot. As I watched Easy to Wed, I was reminded of another movie with a drawn-out conflict: Anchors Aweigh. Because that movie’s musical numbers were more consistent, the audience had something to occupy their time until the conflict could be resolved. As I mentioned in this review, the music was inconsistent in Easy to Wed. Therefore, parts of the story felt longer than necessary. So far, I’ve seen three of Esther Williams’ films. Out of those titles, Easy to Wed is my least favorite. Hopefully, the next picture of Esther’s I watch will be better.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Have you seen any of the Esther Williams’ films? Are you looking forward to my review of In The Good Old Summertime? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Watching ‘Singin in the Rain’ for the First Time

Throughout my years of movie viewing (and blogging), I have received the opportunity to check out films boasting a “classic” status. This status has, in my opinion, been earned on some occasions, as I gained an understanding for why a particular movie was granted its praise. However, there were certain titles I found myself unable to figure out why it is considered a “classic”. Out of all these “classic” films, I have been meaning to see one specific picture. That title is Singin in the Rain. The 1952 production needs no introduction. From the song, “Good Morning”, being featured in an orange juice commercial to a replica of Gene Kelly’s umbrella in Disney MGM/Hollywood Studios, Singin in the Rain has carved out a slice in America’s pop culture pie. But for someone, like me, who hasn’t seen this iconic film before, these references are going to seem like a company, individual, or creative team is, simply, taking advantage of the movie’s 50+ year popularity. That replica is just used for tourists to have their photo taken. That song was just an appropriate selection to promote a beverage primarily found at breakfast-time. With the arrival and fruition of the Singin in the Rain Blogathon, I finally have a wonderful excuse to watch Singin in the Rain. It also gives me an opportunity to gain more context of the film’s respective songs, images, and quotes.

Singin in the Rain poster created by
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc.

Creative Musical Numbers

Singin in the Rain is not just one of the most iconic movies of all time, it’s one of the most iconic musicals of all time! A musical with a “classic” status will bring something unique and creative to the table. The Wizard of Oz took on the power of Technicolor, in a time when that specific technology was more of a luxury. Xanadu showed the world roller skating can be magical. When it comes to Singin in the Rain, the creativity lies in the musical numbers themselves, presenting performances that hadn’t really been seen before 1952. Toward the beginning of the film, Gene and Donald perform a duet, “Fit as a Fiddle (And Ready for Love)”, at a vaudeville show. Throughout this musical number, Donald and Gene not only tap danced, but played the fiddle as well. For the 21t century viewer, dancing and playing an instrument at the same time doesn’t seem like a new concept, as Lindsey Stirling has capitalized on those talents. Within the realm of cinematic musicals, however, a routine like Gene and Donald’s isn’t often included.

Gene Kelly’s famous solo isn’t the first musical number featuring rain. Two decades prior, in Just Around the Corner, Shirley Temple performed “I Love to Walk in the Rain”, her film’s big musical number that represented the spirit of the movie. Looking back on “Singin in the Rain”, I, personally, feel Shirley’s number walked (no pun intended) so Gene’s solo could soar! The solo from the 1952 production takes place after Gene’s character, Don, takes Kathy home. Despite it raining outdoors, Don is head-over-heels in love with Kathy. Gene tap danced in his solo. But unlike “I Love to Walk in the Rain”, “Singin in the Rain” felt more immersive, as it wasn’t just a performative routine. Because the number takes place within the story’s context, it feels grounded in reality, a downtown street replacing a glamourized stage. Watching Gene jumping and splashing in puddles added uniqueness to the routine. Even though “Singin in the Rain” wasn’t the big musical number for its respective movie, it represents the film’s spirit, reminding the audience to see the good in a not-so-good situation.

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Strong Camaraderie

In most of my reviews, I talk about the acting. I will choose a few performances to discuss and write about what I liked about them. For this review, I want to talk about a different acting component. While the overall acting in Singin in the Rain was strong, what stood out to me more was the on-screen camaraderie between Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor! One of my favorite scenes is when Don, Kathy, and Cosmo are concocting a plan to save Don’s film. Each character’s personality shines through during this brainstorming session. Cosmo encourages Don to turn the film into a musical, as he spontaneously breaks out into song. Meanwhile, Kathy attempts to keep the group’s good spirits lifted, her kind demeanor certainly helping the situation. After hearing Cosmo’s idea, Don is open-minded about it, joyously realizing he can use his talents to his advantage. This scene, as well as the “Good Morning” musical number, is just one example of Gene, Debbie, and Donald’s on-screen camaraderie. Through their interactions, it felt like Don, Kathy, and Cosmo had been friends all along. This on-screen bond was so pleasant, I looked forward to each time these characters crossed paths!

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Learning about Cinema’s Early Years

Singin in the Rain takes place in the 1920s, during the transitional period between silent films and “talkies” (movies with sound). Even though the 1952 film is a musical that takes time to focus on its numbers, it lifts the figurative curtain enough to educate the audience on how film-making was executed in that time period. Don’s respective studio, Monumental Pictures, adopted sound after Warner Bros. took a chance with their film, The Jazz Singer, a high risk that was met with high rewards. Because of that one creative decision, it forever changed the cinematic landscape. As emphasized in the musical number, “Moses Supposes”, actors had to not only memorize their lines, they also had to remember to annunciate those lines. Singin in the Rain also shows the audience how dialogue is incorporated into a movie. As someone who appreciates the film-making process, it was nice to see this part of movie-making shown in steps. This step-to-step process was a good introduction to some of the work that goes on behind the camera.

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The Context of “Broadway Melody” in Don’s Film

While working to adapt his film, The Dancing Cavalier, into a musical, Don proposes the movie’s new opening scene. This scene is presented as the musical number “Broadway Melody”. As a musical number in Singin in the Rain, I liked this performance! It had colorful set and costume design, as well as strong choreography. But as an opening scene in The Dancing Cavalier, the musical number, in my opinion, doesn’t work. “Broadway Melody” is too long, my guess is ten minutes. The number itself kind of feels like an extension of Don’s past, as his journey to Hollywood came from simpler beginnings. Based on what the characters said about The Dancing Cavalier, Don’s proposed opening scene seems to have little connection to that film’s story. If Don’s movie were a real picture, some audience members might become bored with the film before the story began.

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No Subplot for Cosmo

As I mentioned earlier in this review, I liked the on-screen camaraderie of Gene, Debbie, and Donald. In fact, I liked Donald’s character, Cosmo! Not only was he hilarious and charming, but he was talented as well! The story of Singin in the Rain primarily revolved around the main plot; Monumental Pictures attempting to save their latest film. There is a subplot in the movie, but it mostly focuses on Lina, Don’s co-star. I would have loved to see Cosmo receive his own subplot. Since his contribution to the studio is musical, Cosmo’s part of the story would have pulled back that figurative curtain a little further to show the audience cinematic work behind the camera. I’ve said in previous reviews how important music is in film. Without it, there isn’t an opportunity for viewers to become emotionally affected by a given scene. Because Cosmo is a musician, that aspect of film-making could have been explored.

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A Love Interest That Wasn’t Meant to be

In my point about Cosmo not receiving a subplot, I mentioned how Singin in the Rain’s subplot mostly focused on Don’s co-star, Lina. Personally, I think more of that time should have been given to Cosmo. I know Lina is meant to be the film’s antagonist. I also know her actions and choices are intended to fuel the movie’s conflict. But why would Lina receive so much time when she and Don were never meant to be? Before and after the premiere of The Royal Rascal, people speculate about Lina and Don’s relationship. Even Lina carries the assumption she and Don are romantically involved with one another. But Don makes it pretty clear he is not romantically interested in Lina. This part of the story reminded me of a Hallmark movie cliché I’ve talked about in the past: the “protagonist’s ex showing up unannounced” cliché.

The Singin in the Rain Blogathon banner created by Ari from The Classic Movie Muse

In Conclusion

Before the Singin in the Rain Blogathon, I had never seen the event’s namesake. That means if someone were to tell me one of the movie’s quotes or if I heard one of the film’s songs, I wouldn’t have thought much of it. Now that I have finally seen Singin in the Rain, I have gained an understanding and appreciation for it! When Kathy first meets Don, she claims, when referring to films, that “when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”. However, I’d argue the 1952 musical built a solid identity that affords it a distinction from other musical movies. Even though Singin in the Rain was released within the Breen Code era, I was pleasantly surprised by the good messages and themes in the story. When I talked about the movie’s on-screen camaraderie, I shared one of my favorite scenes; where Kathy, Don, and Cosmo were figuring out how to save Don’s film. Through this interaction, the message of being one’s self is stressed. This message also allowed Don to use his talents in his favor. When I reviewed The Bridge on the River Kwai, I wondered what the criteria was for lists such as AFI’s 100 Greatest  American  Movies of All Time. One of my speculations was titles that brought something new to the cinematic table. It should be noted that Singin in the Rain is on AFI’s list. While I don’t know for certain how it got there, I think I have a pretty good idea why it’s there.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) Review

Whenever I think of Dorian Gray as a character, Stuart Townsend’s portrayal in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comes to mind. While I’ve never seen that film, I did watch a video review of it years ago. However, I know that, sometimes, no singular portrayal of a given character is the “end all, be all” when it comes to story-telling. This is one of the reasons why I chose to review the 1945 adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray. The other reason is Peter Lawford’s involvement in the project. Once again, I am participating in the Peter Lawford Blogathon, hosted by Kristen from Hoofers and Honeys of the Classic Movie Era/KN Winiarski Writes. Last year, I wrote about 1960’s Ocean’s Eleven. At the time, I was not familiar with Peter’s filmography. Now that I have seen at least one of his movies, I had a starting point for which film to choose next! Before Dorian’s portrait transforms on us, let’s get this review started!

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I haven’t seen many of Peter Lawford’s films. But based on 1960’s Ocean’s Eleven and 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, it seems like he can be found in movies with larger ensembles. When it comes to the 1945 title, I was disappointed by this, as I was hoping to see more of his performance. Nevertheless, Peter did do a good job with the material he was given! Portraying David Stone, a man interested in courting Gladys Hallward, he resembled the youth Dorian himself desperately sought after. Despite appearing in a handful of scenes, David’s concern of Gladys felt genuine. You can hear it in the inflection of Peter’s voice and the expressions on his face. In a way, these things made David seem like a “voice of reason”.

During the film’s opening credits, I was surprised to discover Angela Lansbury also starred in The Picture of Dorian Gray. But similar to Peter Lawford, she also appeared in a handful of scenes. Despite this, I enjoyed seeing her portrayal of Sibyl Vane! Within this film, she sang a song called “The Little Yellow Bird”. It was nice to hear a musical performance from Angela, as I feel her singing abilities are underrated. When it came to her acting performance, Angela carried her character with a youthfulness I haven’t noticed in her other roles I’ve seen. Her expressions were more subtle, but worked for her character. Another actor who had subtle expressions was Hurd Hatfield. I’m not familiar with his acting work. But based on his portrayal of the titular character, he carried himself with a sense of professionalism. Hurd did, however, have very expressive eyes. At one point during the story, Dorian makes a mistake. When he realizes what he did, his eyes grow wide with alarm. Meanwhile, Hurd still shows a composure that he partly gave to Dorian, which maintains consistency.

The lessons and morals: Since this film premiered in 1945, that means it had to follow the Breen Code guidelines. The Picture of Dorian Gray certainly obeys those guidelines, but it also serves up some good lessons and morals. Toward the beginning of the story, Lord Henry tells Dorian how lucky he is to be young and attractive. He also tells Dorian to not squander his youth. These pieces of conversation can be used as lessons to appreciate the things you have and to not take anything for granted. Certain events in Dorian’s life highlight these lessons well. Another idea that is addressed in this script is actions speaking louder than words. This can be seen throughout Dorian’s relationship with Sibyl. While I won’t spoil what happens, I will say something comes up that relates to the aforementioned idea.

The cinematography: A surprising element in The Picture of Dorian Gray was the cinematography. This is because of how creative and well filmed it was! My favorite use of cinematography was when Sibyl visits Dorian’s house. As Dorian is playing the piano, Sibyl enters his study. But before she walks through the doorway, you can only see Sibyl’s shadow. Even when she does appear in the doorway, Sibyl’s face isn’t shown until she reaches Dorian’s piano. That was a good way of building anticipation for Sibyl’s appearance. A filming technique that appeared in several moments of the film was framing a scene as if the camera was following a character or hiding from them. A great example is when Dorian was placing a letter in his fireplace. The camera is positioned inside the fireplace while he is burning the letter. It provides the illusion of the audience watching from the outside looking in.

The 2nd Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon banner created by Kristen from Hoofers and Honeys of the Classic Movie Era/KN Winiarski Writes

What I didn’t like about the film:

Limited use of Technicolor: In the movie’s opening credits, it was mentioned that Technicolor was used in the movie. This made me excited to see how Technicolor would be utilized in the story. While I wasn’t expecting as much Technicolor as in The Wizard of Oz, I was hoping it would be consistently featured throughout the film. Unfortunately, that is not the case for The Picture of Dorian Gray. The Technicolor was applied to Dorian’s painting. But it was only used three times during the whole movie. I think if Dorian’s painting had been consistently presented in Technicolor, it would have highlighted the importance of the painting within the story.

The painting is kind of an afterthought: For those who don’t know, a MacGuffin can be an object that progresses a story forward. In the case of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian’s painting is that story’s MacGuffin. However, its presence wasn’t as significant as I expected. In the script, the state of Dorian’s relationships is given more focus than the painting. In fact, the painting is sometimes not shown on-screen. This made the painting itself kind of seem like an afterthought.

Dorian’s confusing choices: There were times when Dorian made choices that left me confused. One of these choices took place during his relationship with Sibyl. Throughout that relationship, Dorian appears to truly love her. He even seriously considers marrying Sibyl. But, out of the blue, Dorian changes his mind. Even the build-up toward that moment was confusing, making it difficult to interpret what happened. I realize all of that connects with the lessons I mentioned earlier. However, Dorian’s sudden change in attitude and choices was, to me, confusing.

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My overall impression:

There are movies that have fallen short of my expectations. Not all of these films have been bad. However, I was left desiring more from them. The Picture of Dorian Gray has now become one of those movies. Before watching this adaptation, I was familiar with the premise of this story. But that premise led me to believe the film would be more profound and thought-provoking than it was. The script did provide good lessons and morals. But I’m not left contemplating any deeper meaning on any particular theme. I was also disappointed by Peter Lawford’s limited appearance in the movie. Peter’s involvement in the project is one of the reasons why I chose to review it in the first place. Even though I liked his portrayal of David, I was expecting to see him receive a larger spotlight than in Ocean’s Eleven. If the Peter Lawford Blogathon returns for a third year, I’ll try to find a film where Peter was a leading actor.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray? Would you like for me to read the book? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Plymouth Adventure Review

When I participated in the Fourth Van Johnson Blogathon last year, I reviewed the three episodes of Murder, She Wrote Van appeared in. For this year’s blogathon, I wanted to do something different by writing about one of his films. While looking through my Pinterest board of movie recommendations, I was reminded of the 1952 movie, Plymouth Adventure. This film was introduced to me by the Brannan sisters from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, when they reviewed the movie during my blogathon, ‘A Blogathon to be Thankful For’. The Mayflower journey is one of the most important events in U.S. history. However, it is rarely covered in cinema. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to check this film out! I also liked reading what the Brannan sisters had to say about Plymouth Adventure. Therefore, I was curious to see if my opinion was similar to theirs.

Plymouth Adventure poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The blogathon I am participating in celebrates the filmography of Van Johnson. So, talking about his performance first makes sense. What I liked about Van’s portrayal of a carpenter named John Alden was how his emotions represented the audience, expressing the thoughts and feelings we might experience if we were in his shoes. The moment John boards the Mayflower provides a perfect example. As he is walking around the deck, he is in awe of the ship’s magnitude. When he crosses paths with Spencer Tracy’s character, Captain Christopher Jones, John distinguishes himself from the other passengers as a carpenter, wanting to stand out for his skills and talents. Van’s on-screen personality highlights this distinction among the film’s ensemble!

My favorite character in Plymouth Adventure is Gilbert Winslow, portrayed by John Dehner. John carried his character with class and wisdom, like a true sophisticated gentleman. These characteristics are highlighted well in a scene between Gilbert and Christopher. In this scene, they are discussing the settlers’ reasons for partaking in the journey. Christopher feels they are foolish for throwing their lives away for the unknown. But Gilbert respectfully rebuts that argument by saying the settlers are brave because they sacrificed so much in order to achieve a better, more free life. Dawn Addams portrayed one of these settlers, a woman named Priscilla Mullins. While she was only in the movie for a limited amount of time, Priscilla brought a kind gentleness to the story. This presented a good counterpart to the harshness of the journey itself. I also liked seeing Dawn and Van perform together! They had nice on-screen chemistry and I was interested in seeing where Priscilla and John’s relationship would go. I was not expecting a romance in this film, so that was a pleasant surprise!

The use of color in the costumes: When I think about the 1600s, I think of articles of clothing that look plain and unimpressive. Outfits made for royal family members are an exception, as they were meant to stand-out among a sea of commoners. In Plymouth Adventure, I was happy to see pops of color in the film’s costumes! It was also interesting to see which colors were used. As I mentioned before, Gilbert Winslow is my favorite character in this movie. Throughout the story, he wore an outfit that was covered in an emerald green material. That creative decision not only helped John stand out among the ensemble cast, but the costume itself also complimented his dark hair. Noel Drayton’s costume also complimented his hair! Because his hair is a lighter hue, his costume was a nice burnt orange. Because of this creative choice, I can remember who Miles Standish, Noel Drayton’s character, was, as I am able to pick him out from the crowd. During the Mayflower journey, Priscilla can be seen wearing a simple, yet modest dress. This dress was pink and light yellow, a color combination I liked seeing. Dawn’s costume contrasted nicely against the dark waters from the ocean. It also highlights the character’s kind gentleness.

Showing the journey’s reality: When a movie portrays a historical event or period in time, the serious parts of that story can sometimes get glossed over or even omitted. With Plymouth Adventure, the creative team didn’t shy away from bringing up the harsher, sadder realities of that titular trip. During the journey, the Mayflower is caught in the middle of a storm. One of the settlers fears her son might have gone onto the deck. In an attempt to rescue him, William Bradford makes the selfless choice to find the settler’s son. I won’t spoil the movie, but I will say, at one point, I didn’t think William was going to survive his mission. That scene did a good job highlighting the fear that was constantly present on the Mayflower. History will tell you that the Mayflower journey was a harsh one, with sickness, hunger, and even death boarding the famous ship. So, I appreciate the creative team’s attempts at making the story feel as accurate as possible.

The Fifth Annual Van Johnson Blogathon banner created by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood

What I didn’t like about the film:

Not enough character development: When a movie’s creative team contains an ensemble cast, it can be a challenge to give each actor or actress involved the recognition they deserve. But with Plymouth Adventure, the screen time each actor received felt inconsistent. This caused the story’s character development to be limited. When Gilbert was first introduced, I was excited to see what his role on the Mayflower would be. Even during his conversation with Christopher about the settlers, I knew Gilbert was important in some way. But as the film went on, he was reduced to being the story’s narrator. These narrations were presented as journal entries, as if he were recording the journey’s history. I’m not denying the importance of keeping historical records. However, I was expecting more for Gilbert Winslow.

How the settlers were referenced: At the beginning of the film, there was an on-screen message which stated Plymouth Adventure was dedicated to the adventurous settlers. As I was watching the movie, I questioned how honest that message was. The settlers in the story were referenced as “fools”. Their motives for taking the trip were constantly in question, even by the ship’s captain. Despite having supporters on their side, like Gilbert Winslow and William Brewster, the settlers faced more disrespect than I expected. Even Christopher Jones accused the settlers of running away in fear from their government, when, from what I remember, they were running to a place where they felt they could create a better government. I’m aware that the settlers probably did face criticism back when the Mayflower journey actually took place. But in the context of the movie and how the Mayflower journey actually played out, that aforementioned message kind of feels disingenuous.

Christopher and Dorothy’s relationship: Because the Mayflower journey was long and grueling, it makes sense for the film’s creative team to create subplots within the script. But out of everything that happened in this movie, Christopher and Dorothy’s relationship is my least favorite. There was one scene where, after a drunken escapade, Christopher approaches Dorothy in the middle of the night. I’m not going to lie, this exchange made me feel uncomfortable. As the story progresses, we learn that Christopher has fallen in love with Dorothy. However, Dorothy is married to William Bradford. Once again, I won’t spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. But, honestly, that subplot was scandalous for a Breen Code era film. I also wish some of that story time had been given to Priscilla and John, a couple who actually had potential to form a lasting, romantic relationship.

Paper Boats in the Sea image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/background-of-paper-boats-with-hand-drawn-waves_1189898.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Blogathons can be a great way to discover new films and share the ones you love. From my event, ‘A Blogathon to be Thankful For’, I discovered a movie that I had, honestly, never heard of before. With that same title being chosen for the Fifth Annual Van Johnshon Blogathon, it seems like things are coming full circle. When it comes to that title, Plymouth Adventure, I thought it was just ok. For the most part, it appears the movie’s creative team had good intentions for the project. However, I can think of period/historical films that are stronger than this one. I appreciate the creative team’s decision to show the harsher parts of this story, as it illustrates just how difficult the journey was. But there are areas of the script that could have been improved, such as giving Christopher and Dorothy a different subplot. As I finish writing this review, I now realize I need to search for another film to write about for Thanksgiving.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Take 3: Bathing Beauty Review

Since I participated in last year’s Esther Williams Blogathon, it made sense for me to join the 100 Years of Esther Williams Blogathon. Hosted again by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood, I wanted to review one of Esther’s films this time. I try to watch and write about as many movie recommendations as I can. Because Rebecca from Taking Up Room suggested I check out Bathing Beauty, that’s the film I chose to review! In 2020, for a different blogathon, I saw my first film of Esther’s; 1949’s Take Me Out to the Ball Game. That film gave Esther only one swimming scene, with the majority of her scenes taking place on land. With a movie titled Bathing Beauty, I was excited to see more of Esther’s swimming routines! Also, in 2020, I saw my first movie of Red Skelton’s; 1953’s The Clown. So, I was looking forward to talking about one of his earlier films! Now, let’s dive into this review of Bathing Beauty!

Bathing Beauty poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Things I liked about the film:

The costume designs: One thing I noticed while watching Bathing Beauty was the use of vibrant colors. This can definitely be seen within the film’s costume designs! At the very beginning of the film, Esther wore a hot pink swimsuit with a matching bow. The show-stopping piece, however, was her over-the-shoulder cape! This cream-colored piece was adorned in colorful flower appliques, adding touches of bright green, yellow, and pink. Besides pink, red was a common color found among the costumes. The students at Victoria College wore a uniform that consisted of a khaki dress. Red berets and neck ties provided a pop of color, not only pairing nicely with the khaki material, but also complimenting light and dark hair colors. During the performance of “I Cried for You”, Helen Forrest wore a rusty red colored dress. While the shape and style of the dress itself was simple, there was a sparkly belt and neckline. This small detail helped Helen’s dress appear elegant and appealing to the eye.

Red Skelton’s comedy: As I mentioned in my review of The Clown, I am familiar with Red Skelton as an entertainer. This knowledge caused me to be disappointed by the limited use of comedy in that film. Because Bathing Beauty is a romantic comedy, the material gave Red Skelton more opportunities to showcase his comedic talents. The ballet lesson from The Clown also appeared in Bathing Beauty. This time, Red’s character, Steve, took the lesson because it was a part of the college curriculum. Even after a year of first seeing it, this scene is still hilarious! The slapstick nature of Red’s comedy and the graceful reputation of ballet creates a funny oxymoron. Sometimes, Red’s comedy could be heard within the script. While at a local bar, Steve and a fellow patron explain their problems using nearby fruit. When Steve chooses to represent himself through a pineapple, he makes a comment about how he needs a haircut. Little comments like that one help include comedy into conversations among the characters!

The cinematography: An element within Bathing Beauty that stood out was the cinematography! It surprised me how good it was, especially for a film released in 1944! Anytime Esther swam underwater, those scenes were captured very well, presenting a clear view of what was happening under the surface. This added to the appeal of the swimming/water related scenes within the movie. In one scene, Esther’s character, Caroline, kisses Steve by the poolside. As she slowly dips under the water, Steve’s face follows her, with a close-up shot of his face shown under the water as well. Keeping in mind the limited technology of the ‘40s, these scenes were, to an extent, ahead of their time. A few scenes featured Harry James and His Music Makers. During these scenes, Harry was captured in close-up and medium shots. The camera also moved with him, presenting the illusion that Harry was floating among the orchestra. Because he was the star of those performances, this was a interesting way of highlighting Harry’s importance in those scenes!

100 Years of Esther Williams blogathon banner created by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A somewhat misleading title: This movie is not only called Bathing Beauty, but it also stars Esther Williams. Therefore, certain expectations are placed on the film for those reasons. While we do see Esther in the pool, this was shown for two scenes: toward the beginning and end of the movie. The rest of the film shows Esther spending more time on land. Even when Basil Rathbone’s character, George, mentions a water pageant on several occasions, this was not the main focus of the overall story. After having Take Me Out to the Ball Game as my introduction to Esther’s filmography, I was left a little disappointed.

Red and Esther’s on-screen chemistry: While I have seen at least one film of Esther’s and Red’s, this was my first time seeing a movie starring both of them. Throughout the movie, they had nice on-chemistry. However, I thought Red had stronger on-screen chemistry with Jean Porter. Portraying one of the students at Victoria College, Jean displayed an on-screen personality that was similar to Red’s, coming across as easy-going and spunky. During the musical number, “I’ll Take the High Note”, Red and Jean performed so well together. I wanted Steve and Caroline to work out their relationship issues. But because of “I’ll Take the High Note”, I wish Jean and Red had led a film together.

A weak connection between the story and musical numbers: Musicals can be an enjoyable experience. Songs and instrumentals can progress a story forward, as well as help the audience get to know the story’s characters. With Bathing Beauty, there were several musical numbers sprinkled throughout the film. But anytime a musical number took place, it caused the story to pause. Even though these musical numbers were entertaining, the only one that directly connected to the film’s narrative was “I’ll Take the High Note”. This is because the number was a part of an assignment Steve had to complete in order to pass his music class. As I mentioned earlier, a water pageant is brought up on multiple occasions. However, this was the only water related spectacle in the movie. Because Esther was one of the stars of the film and because the story takes place in two states surrounding water (California and New Jersey), this feels, to an extent, like a missed opportunity for more water related numbers.

String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

The end of any Olympics is an exciting time. A closing ceremony filled with spectacle and awe give athletes, fans, and people from that host country something to look forward to. As this year’s Tokyo Olympics come to a close, I can’t help but think of blogathons being similar to the Olympics. Think of it like this: the athletes that represent a particular country share one common goal. That goal is to bring home as many medals as realistically possible. The Olympics themselves have a start and end date, taking place in a different location. While there are typically no prizes involved in blogathons, participants share a common goal: talk about and celebrate the chosen subject. In this case, that subject is Esther Williams. Like the Olympics, Michaela’s event is an annual one that has a clear start and end date. Yes, it is known that Esther never went to the Olympics as planned. But I’d like to think she became a champion in her own right. An Olympic podium turned into an aqua-musical stage. Gold medals became a thirty-three project filmography. Instead of hearing the National Anthem after an Olympic win, show tunes are the chosen sound within Esther’s performances. I’d also like to think Esther paved the way for swimmers that came after her. Maybe aquamusicals haven’t made a comeback, but swimmers have been able to find own their success, almost like Esther did.

Overall score: 7.6 out of 10

Have you seen any of Esther Williams’ films? If so, which one would you want me to review next? Tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Another Man, Another Chance Review

When it comes to blog events taking place on or around Valentine’s Day, romantic stories or favorite couples are usually the chosen topic. But for Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Unhappy Valentines Blogathon, there was an interesting twist placed on their event. For this blogathon, the theme was love stories that were “unhappily ever after”. After reading the requirements, I knew exactly which film I wanted to write about! For about a year, I have had the 1977 movie Another Man, Another Chance on my DVR. In this film, a man and woman who have each lost their spouses fall in love with one another. For some people, Valentine’s Day may not be a happy time. This can be the case for a variety of reasons. Whenever I’ve reviewed a Valentine’s Day themed film in honor of this holiday, the tone of those stories were lighthearted. So, it was nice to be given the opportunity to select a change of pace!

Because the poster for Another Man, Another Chance was featured on my television, I decided to take a screenshot of it with my phone. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: This isn’t the first western of James Caan’s I’ve seen. Prior to reviewing Another Man, Another Chance, I have seen JL Family Ranch and JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift (with the latter film receiving a review on this blog). In those films, James’ character was more reserved, his character, Tap, learning from his mistakes and defending his family. With his character in Another Man, Another Chance, David, he appeared surer of himself. However, he wasn’t afraid to express emotions. When he was looking for his wife, David expresses genuine concern throughout his search. As he discovers his wife has died, his eyes tear up as he physically turns away from the sight of his wife’s dead body. Within the movie, the relationship of Francis and Jeanne stole the show! Portrayed by Francis Huster and Geneviève Bujold, both actors had good on-screen chemistry, giving the impression their characters truly loved each other. Geneviève brought a gentleness to her role that is sometimes seen in female protagonists in westerns. This presented a contrast to the harsh environment Jeanne experienced in France and the United States. Francis had a way with words and thought outside the box. When Francis invites Jeanne to come to the United States with him, she reminds him how he barely knows her. Without skipping a beat, Francis tells her how he barely knows America. In order to earn extra money for his family, Francis tries to apply for a part time job at a newspaper by offering to be the Gazette’s photographer. These two examples show the intelligence and wisdom Francis was able to bring to his character!

Showcasing photography: It was interesting to see what the art and business of photography was like in the 1800s! Not only did the equipment look different, but the techniques were different as well. When a customer visits the studio, Jeanne makes him sit in a special chair. This chair features a vertical metal bar with a smaller, curved metal piece at the top. It helped customers sit up straight and keep their head in place as they had their picture taken. While in France, Francis says he can only take pictures for a certain amount of time and on certain days due to needing sunlight. His solution to this problem is moving to the United States and settling in the West, where he feels there will be more natural light.

An immigrant’s perspective: When it comes to stories in the western genre, most of them revolve around characters that were either born or raised in the United States. By devoting a large piece of the story to Francis and Jeanne, the audience is able to see a perspective that is rarely explored in this area of cinema. It also allowed the audience to witness these characters’ contributions to their environment. As I mentioned in this review, Francis tries to apply for a part time job at a newspaper by offering to be the Gazette’s photographer. In the 1800s, photographs were not included in newspapers. However, the editor in chief of the Gazette solved this dilemma by agreeing to create stencils of Francis’ photos and adding them to the paper. If it weren’t for Francis’ talent and profession, the Gazette would never have been ahead of their time!

The Unhappy Valentines Blogathon banner created by the Brannan sisters from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Limited time spent with Jeanne and David’s relationship: One of the biggest plot points (and one of the reasons why I watched this film) is Jeanne and David learning to fall in love again. However, they don’t officially meet until an hour and twenty-eight minutes into the movie. Most of the film revolves around David’s and Jeanne’s life prior to their relationship. I know that context and build-up are important to any story. But for Another Man, Another Chance, there was too much build-up to Jeanne and David’s romance.

The run-time: Another Man, Another Chance is a two hour and sixteen-minute film. Personally, I think this run-time was unnecessary. Several scenes lasted longer than they needed to because of the creative team’s desire to satisfy this length in time. One example is when Francis and Jeanne open their photography studio. The scene itself is somewhere between two to five minutes. Because there are no major conflicts or significant moments happening, that scene could have reduced to either a few seconds or a minute. The film’s run-time might have been an hour and twenty or thirty minutes if scenes like that one had been shorter.

Too many unanswered questions: In the story of Another Man, Another Chance, there is a lot going on within the overall plot. This resulted in many questions remaining unanswered. At the beginning of the film, a wealthy woman named Alice is interested in opening a boarding school in France. She shares how she is unable to have children of her own and mentions her sympathy toward the French people. Later in the movie, Alice ends up starting a partial boarding school in her neighborhood. What caused her to change her mind about that boarding school in France? Where did her sympathy for the French people go? These questions were ignored throughout the story.

Small, western town image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Every so often, I come across a film that, intentionally or not, made a significant contribution to the world of film. In the case of Another Man, Another Chance, this was done by telling a type of story that isn’t often seen in westerns. The creativity found in this movie is something I can appreciate. It should also be noted how this is one of the few bilingual westerns. But, to me, the overall project could have been much stronger. Another Man, Another Chance did not need to be over two hours. While watching the film, I noticed several scenes that could have easily been cut shorter. It also doesn’t help that Jeanne and David’s relationship was not featured in the story as much as the synopsis advertised. Even though this blogathon highlights romance gone wrong, I feel there are better stories of this nature to watch on Valentine’s Day. My personal choice is the PixL film, Same Time Next Week. Similar to Another Man, Another Chance, the protagonists learn to fall in love again. But in the 2017 film, the overall story is a lot stronger.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Have you watched a western on Valentine’s Day? If so, which one was it? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun on Valentine’s Day!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Royal Wedding Review (Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire Double Feature Part 2)

As I said in my review of Teenage Rebel, I haven’t seen many films from Fred Astaire’s filmography. In fact, the only two movies of Fred’s I’ve seen so far are The Sky’s the Limit and Funny Face. When I joined Crystal and Michaela’s blogathon, I knew which Fred Astaire picture I wanted to write about. Last month, I was recommended the 1951 film, Royal Wedding, by Heidi from Along the Brandywine. She suggested this film because of its use of split screens. Since I don’t have many Fred Astaire titles on my movie recommendation board on Pinterest, this was my first choice for this double feature! It is interesting that Royal Wedding is the last movie I’m reviewing in 2020. Musicals from the Breen Code era are usually seen as happy, up-beat productions. This is a contrast to the type of year 2020 ended up becoming.

Royal Wedding poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: A similarity I’ve noticed among Fred Astaire’s roles in The Sky’s the Limit, Funny Face, and Royal Wedding is how confident he comes across in each film! Speaking specifically about Royal Wedding, his character, Tom Bowen, had the showmanship you’d expect from a stage performer. Even though he was performing a duet in the movie’s opening number, “Ev’ry Night At Seven”, he had a stage presence that demanded the audience’s attention. This is because he had complete control over his part of the performance as well as experience leading other musicals. Fred also appeared comfortable as one of the leads in this film. Jane Powell’s on-screen personality in Royal Wedding was very sweet! Her character, Ellen Bowen, was also flirty without overdoing it. What worked in Jane’s favor was how she was able to keep up with Fred in their musical duets as well as hold her own in her solos. It definitely showed how strong of a performer she is! Because I’m not familiar with Sarah Churchill as an actress, I wasn’t sure how a Fred Astaire and Sarah Churchill on-screen pairing would work when I first saw them together. But as the film went on, I realized they had better on-screen chemistry than I expected! As an individual performer, Sarah gave her character, Anne, a sophisticated independence that never made her seem snobby or self-centered. In one scene, as she’s recalling to Tom how she came to be a dancer, Anne is so sure of herself when she talks about it. In scenes like this, you can tell that Anne has a healthy amount of self-confidence, partly because of Sarah’s captivating performance!

The musical numbers: When I watch musicals from the Breen Code era, I can’t help but notice the creativity that comes from some of the musical numbers! One example is Fred’s solo, “Sunday Jumps”. On paper, the idea of Fred dancing with a hatrack and exercise equipment might sound silly to some audience members. But because of the choreography and Fred’s dancing talents, that idea becomes a thoroughly entertaining one! Another solo of Fred’s, “You’re All the World to Me”, also showcases creativity well. In this musical number, Tom Bowen can be seen literally dancing on the walls and ceiling, as to visually represent what his heart is feeling for Anne. The number itself is also ahead of its time, as this particular idea wasn’t common in films from this era. I loved how a bright color palette was used in “I Left My Hat in Haiti”! It provided the musical number with an energy and personality that nicely contrasted the toned-down atmosphere of London. The musical number also did a good job at utilizing its ensemble.

The dialogue: Because of the Breen Code, screenwriters had to think and write cleverly when it came to expressing ideas that wouldn’t be allowed on film. That mentality can certainly be found in Royal Wedding’s script! After their performance, “Ev’ry Night At Seven”, Ellen complains about the theater’s lack of air conditioning due to the theater manager wanting to save money. Frustrated by that decision, Tom tells his sister how the theater manager will need a fan for one specific place. Subtle references like this one respect the audience’s intelligence and gave the screenwriters a chance to think outside the box when it comes to language. There were also memorable quotes within the script. During Anne and Tom’s conversation, Anne told him that dancing made her happy. She also said that she wanted to dance when she was happy.

The Third Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Blogathon banner created by Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

What I didn’t like about the film:

No major conflicts: In Anchors Aweigh, Clarence “Brooklyn” Doolittle and Joseph “Joe” Brady help their new friend, Susan, get an audition with a well-known composer at a movie studio. This served as the main conflict for the film. With Royal Wedding, there was no main conflict to be found. Instead, the story focuses on the two relationships between Ellen and John and Tom and Anne. Even when sub-conflicts were introduced in the movie, they are resolved rather quickly. Having one overarching conflict would have added some intrigue to this story.

Too many boyfriends: At the beginning of the movie, Ellen is shown having multiple boyfriends. This was to highlight the point of Ellen having difficulty ending these relationships. When Ellen’s boyfriends are interacting with one another, I had trouble keeping track of who was who. I understand this creative decision was made on purpose, to emphasize the aforementioned point. But this gave the audience unnecessary confusion.

The titular royal wedding as an afterthought: When a film is titled Royal Wedding, most audience members would expect the wedding itself to play a significant role within the plot. Because the story focuses on the relationships of Tom and Anne and Ellen and John, the royal wedding is treated as an afterthought. Sure, the characters casually bring it up from time to time. But there is little to no excitement in London just days before such a historic event. When a pre-wedding parade is passing by Tom and Ellen’s hotel suite, the scene places more emphasis on John and Ellen’s conversation, preventing the parade from being shown on-screen. The day of the wedding appears in the last twenty minutes of the film, but even that part of the story is overshadowed by the previously mentioned relationships.

Princess tiara image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/ornamental-princess-crowns_1109199.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/gold”>Gold vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Royal Wedding is the type of movie where the acting performances and musical numbers make up for the weaker story. While the plot isn’t bad, it could have benefited from having a major conflict. If the creative team behind this movie wanted their story to be more interesting, it would have contained a mistaken identity. Ellen Bowen would switch places with the princess and fall in love with the prince, while the princess is mistaken for Ellen and eventually forms a romantic relationship with Tom. With this conflict, the wedding itself would have a greater presence in the whole story. It would also create a series of hilarious hijinks. Personally, I’d recommend Anchors Aweigh over Royal Wedding. The former has a stronger story and, in my opinion, is a more enjoyable film overall.

Overall score: 6.2 out of 10

What are your thoughts on Royal Wedding? Which movie is your favorite out of the ones I’ve reviewed this year? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Take Me Out to the Ball Game (Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly Blogathon Part 1)

Because Heidi’s new blogathon celebrates two classic film stars, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, I decided to write a double feature in their honor. I’m starting with one of Gene Kelly’s movies first, as my movie selection had a shorter run-time. On 18 Cinema Lane’s Pinterest account, there is a recommendation board where people who visit the blog can make a suggestion for future reviews. That board hosts some Gene Kelly titles, so I had plenty of options to choose from. In the end, I picked the 1949 film, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, which was recommended by Kristen from KN Winiarski Writes! The idea of a musical surrounding an athletic sport was a fascinating concept. It also gave me an excuse to finally watch one of Esther Williams’ films, as I had not seen one up until this point. 2020 has become the year of Frank Sinatra films on this blog, as Take Me Out to the Ball Game is now the fifth film from Frank’s filmography I’ve reviewed. An interesting coincidence I just noticed is how most of these movies have had a musical element included.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, I reviewed Anchors Aweigh back in September. In that review, I said that Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly were one of the best on-screen duos I’ve ever seen because of how different their characters were from each other. Because of Frank and Gene’s experience working together, it allowed them to be familiar with the other performer and know what to expect from them in Take Me Out to the Ball Game! Like Anchors Aweigh, their characters in the 1949 film, Dennis and Eddie, were opposites of one another. This time, however, it was for different reasons. While Eddie was interested in the night life of his world, Dennis has a quieter soul that seems to notice the finer details within his surroundings. While I wrote a list article about the travels of Esther Williams, this was my first time watching one of her films. Even though Esther spent more time on land than in the water, she appeared at ease in her role as K.C. Higgins! When people tried to stand in her way, K.C. always stood her ground. At the same time, she tried to instill fairness into the situation. One great example is when she insists on a curfew penalty for every member of the Chicago Wolves. On the surface, it seems like K.C. is being unfair toward the team. In reality, she is looking out for their best interests by making sure they get a good night’s sleep so the team can perform better on in their baseball games.

The set design: Because a significant amount of time in Take Me Out to the Ball Game takes place in Florida, the sets surrounding the characters are going to reflect the Sunshine State. This is done through a variety of design choices. What made me like these sets so much was how appealing they were! When Dennis and Eddie arrive in Florida for Spring Training, the audience is introduced to the stadium, located right on the beach. With fair weather in the scene and the sandy shore taking center stage, the beach looked inviting! At night, when K.C. is interacting with both Dennis and Eddie near the pool area, lights illuminated this location to show off its exterior design. The white balcony of K.C.’s hotel room complimented the dark sky shown in the background. Light colored outdoor furniture consistently carried the color scheme this set was striving for! In an outdoor sitting area occupied by K.C. and Eddie, tan wicker chairs were paired well with green plants placed in various spots. This design choice showcased a good color combination!

The majority of the musical numbers: For the most part, I liked seeing the musical numbers in Take Me Out to the Ball Game! They were well choreographed and each performer looked like they truly enjoyed what they were doing. Like I said earlier, Frank and Gene’s experience working together helped them become familiar with the acting/performance style of the other actor. This certainly worked in their favor when it came to the musical numbers! In the opening number, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, both actors wonderfully pull off a tap-dance duet! Even though tap was out of Frank’s creative comfort zone, he was able to hold his own throughout the routine. Like I also said in this review, Esther spends more time on land than water. However, she was given one scene where she swam and sang the song from the movie’s opening number. Because of Esther’s experience with musicals, she was able play her own unique role in the film’s musical department that allowed her to stand out. Esther also appeared comfortable with the performance material given.

With Glamour & Panache: A Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly Musicals Blogathon banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Two songs that didn’t age well: In Take Me Out to the Ball Game, there are two songs that have aged poorly. The first song, “Yes, Indeedy”, is performed by Frank and Gene when their characters are telling the Chicago Wolves about the females they met during their traveling talent tour. The lyrics reveal how one woman committed suicide and another female was 11 years old. Because the song itself is faster paced and upbeat, it almost sounds like Dennis and Eddie make light of the woman’s passing. Even though they say they didn’t interact with the 11-year-old for long, it makes me wonder why this child would have anything to do with Dennis and Eddie in the first place? The second song, “It’s Fate Baby, It’s Fate”, is performed by Frank Sinatra and Betty Garrett. The purpose of this song is for Betty’s character, Shirley, to share her feelings for Dennis. How she does it is very forceful, with the musical number showing Shirley blocking Dennis’ path, chasing him through the stadium, and picking him up against his will. Because of her aggression in the situation and her lack of accepting rejection, it feels like a unhealthy relationship in the works.

The character of Shirley: While Betty Garrett did a good job with the acting material she was given, I was not a fan of her character. Personally, I found Shirley to be a selfish individual who didn’t seem to care about the feelings of others. As I just mentioned, Shirley is very forceful when it comes to expressing her feelings for Dennis. If her musical number, “It’s Fate Baby, It’s Fate”, wasn’t bad enough, she wants to treat Dennis like she’s his mother. The way she talks to him in a scene where she blocks Dennis’ path with her horse and buggy shows Shirley talking to Dennis like she has more authority than him. More often than not, Dennis expresses how he doesn’t like Shirley in a romantic sense. He goes out of his way to avoid her and shows displeasure when she’s nearby. However, everyone surrounding him overlooks Shirley’s actions and encourages Dennis to spend more time with her.

An unclear time period: According to Wikipedia, Take Me Out to the Ball Game takes place in 1908. Certain aspects of the movie reflect this, with the various modes of transportation being one example. But there were some outfit choices that appeared to belong in a different decade. Whenever the Chicago Wolves are spending time in the hotel, all the team members wear team sweaters featuring their team logo. This style of sweater looked like it came from somewhere between the ‘30s and ‘50s. Like previously said, Esther has a swimming scene in this film. Her swimsuit resembles the style she wore in her “aqua musicals” of the ‘40s and ‘50s. These costume choices prevented me from getting fully immersed in the movie’s world.

Baseball game image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/baseball-game-illustration_2871359.htm’>Designed by Macrovector</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/man”>Man vector created by Macrovector – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:  

Even though Take Me Out to the Ball Game is the second Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly collaboration I’ve seen, I’d still prefer Anchors Aweigh over the aforementioned film. While Take Me Out to the Ball Game is a fine movie, I feel the 1945 film was a stronger picture overall. However, I’m not going to dismiss the movie completely. One of the strengths of the 1949 project is the acting performances! Musical experience from Frank, Esther, and Gene definitely worked in this movie’s favor, with each actor appearing comfortable in their roles! I also enjoyed most of the musical numbers! They were certainly entertaining and fun to watch! Even though I didn’t mention it in my review, I feel the film’s conflict was underutilized. Within the last thirty minutes, Eddie tries to juggle baseball and performing in a café. Eventually, he learns that he can’t have everything he wants. Story wise, I think the film’s main conflict should have been Eddie’s struggle to fit his love of performing and baseball into his life. I actually found this part of the story more interesting than the Chicago Wolves dealing with a new team owner.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen Take Me Out to the Ball Game? Which Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly collaboration is your favorite? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Sea of Grass Review

When I participated in last year’s Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, I reviewed It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World and One Christmas. The first movie was not my cup of tea, but I found the second movie to be just ok. This time around, I decided to write about one movie starring both Spencer and Katharine. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t watch films from the Western genre often. This is the reason why I chose to review The Sea of Grass. Looking back on the movies I’ve seen from Spencer and Katharine’s filmographies, this is the first time I’ve seen one of their titles where both actors were the leads. Spencer and Katharine are talented actors individually, so it was interesting to see them acting alongside one another!

The Sea of Grass poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In The Sea of Grass, Katharine Hepburn portrays Lutie Cameron, a St. Louis native who moves to the country in order to marry Colonel Jim Brewton. Toward the beginning of the film, Lutie comes across as naïve, as she is a romantic at heart. As she stays in the country, Lutie gains a sense of maturity and grows as a person. Throughout her character’s journey, Katharine was able to show this transition in her acting performance by adopting a variety of emotions. The “sea of grass” this film is named after is Colonel Jim Brewton’s favorite spot. While talking about it with Lutie, Jim describes the fields like a convincing salesman. His face contains a look of longing; reflecting on the past, present, and future of his prized field of grass. The way he talks about it shows how much he cares for this patch of earth. The facial expressions and tone of voice Spencer adopts persuade the audience of this location’s importance. Spencer’s expressions and vocal inflections also reveal the cracks in Jim’s foundation as the story continues. Brice Chamberlain, a local lawyer, is portrayed by Melvyn Douglas. Whenever his character interacted with Lutie, Melvyn was able to, talent-wise, go toe-to-toe with Katharine. He delivered thought-out remarks with a serious calm that one might expect from a respected lawyer. A professional composure was also present in Melvyn’s performance. Because his on-screen personality was different from Katharine’s, it created an interesting dynamic.

The scenery: The majority of The Sea of Grass takes place in the country. Because of this, the natural landscape of this environment is shown in several scenes! When characters travel through the desert, huge mountainous rocks illustrate just how small humans are compared to the large scope of nature. Long and medium shots are used to emphasis this idea. Even the “sea of grass” is featured in a few scenes, its beauty captured well on screen! Sweeping shots showed the vast size of this field. As the wind blew, the movements of the grass looked like the rippling of water. All of these components came together to create a calming space!

Katharine’s wardrobe: Throughout the movie, Katharine showcased an impressive wardrobe that complimented her well! This is because all of her outfits were simple, but elegant. When Lutie and Jim are sharing their first dinner after their wedding, she wears a white long-sleeved dress with a small set of flowers in the front of the dress’s top. Later in the movie, Katharine wears a black-and-white, over-the shoulder dress. This outfit was paired nicely with a dainty black choker and ponytail hair-do. What’s also worth pointing out is how Katharine’s wardrobe in The Sea of Grass appeared historically accurate with the film’s time period.

The Third Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon created by Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

What I didn’t like about the film:

More emphasis on telling: At the beginning of the movie, several people in Salt Fork inform Lutie about how awful of a person Jim is. He is, apparently, such a bad person, some compare him to a tyrant. While the audience can hear Jim say harmful things, they never get to see him do harmful actions. This creative decision gives the viewers only part of a bigger picture when it comes to Jim Brewton. Whenever the subject of people using the “sea of grass” is brought up, Jim is very specific about how the land should be used. If someone objects to these ideas, Jim tells others what he’s going to do instead of carrying out the deed.

No major conflict: Since the film is called The Sea of Grass, you’d think most of the story would revolve around the “sea of grass” itself. Instead, the film prioritizes the personal events of the characters. Stories that are character driven can work. But when you have an interesting conflict like how to utilize a field of grass, the character’s stories don’t seem as interesting. While the triumphs and tragedies of Lutie and company are highlighted, the “sea of grass” is relegated to a subplot.

Times moves too fast: In a movie where time progresses, there is usually some indicator that a jump in time has occurred. This is done through on-screen text or a voice-over. The Sea of Grass, unfortunately, doesn’t utilize any techniques to inform their audience that time has moved forward, causing changes to appear abruptly. A perfect example are the lives of Sara Beth and Brock. In one scene, Sara Beth is shown as a little girl, while Brock is a toddler. The very next scene shows Sara Beth and Brock as older children, appearing to be ten and eight.

Small, western town image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When I chose to review The Sea of Grass, I wanted to expand my Western genre horizons. This decision taught me that Western tragedies do exist. Despite seeing a handful of Westerns, the movie was quite different from other films I’ve seen in this genre. Even though I knew that this movie was about a rocky relationship, it was sadder than I expected. The Sea of Grass is a fine film with strong components, like the acting and scenery. However, it does have its flaws that shouldn’t be ignored. While the “sea of grass” is shown on screen, it isn’t as significant as the title would suggest. In fact, this location feels more like a glorified backdrop. I will say that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy do work well together as actors. As the years go by, I would like to see more of their films where they both star as the leads.

Overall score: 7.3 out of 10

Do you like watching Western films? Are there any Westerns you’d like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen