The First Annual Valentine’s Day “Meet-Cute” Blogathon- “That Funny Feeling” (1965)

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One of my favorite eras of film is the early to mid-1960s.  The Production Code was on  its way out and filmmakers were allowed to get away with racier content than they would have, had the film been made ten years prior.  However, films made between 1960-1968ish were not yet allowed to go whole-hog and usually did not feature expletives or nudity.  The early to mid 1960s seemed to be the era of the lighthearted, goofy comedy.  Many of these films aren’t smart comedy, but they’re fun.  And at the end of the day, after a rough day in the warehouse (maybe that’s just me), a fluffy, fun comedy is all you need–it isn’t in you at that moment to watch Marlon Brando give the performance of his life in On the Waterfront.

 thatfunnyOne of my favorite stars of the 1950s and 1960s is Sandra Dee.  Sure, she’s no Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn, but not everyone needs to be either.  She’s fun, charismatic, and a natural comedienne.  One of my favorite qualities about Dee are her eyes.  No matter the circumstance, whether she’s fawning over Moondoggie in Gidget or trying to train Bobby Darin using a dog training manual (If a Man Answers), she’s always got an underlying vulnerability.  One of my favorite Sandra Dee films is That Funny Feeling, co-starring real life husband, Bobby Darin.  I love Bobby Darin’s singing.  Sandra Dee + Bobby Darin = winning movie in my book.

That Funny Feeling tells the story of Joan Howell (Sandra Dee), an aspiring actress who works as a maid to make ends meet.  She is not a live-in maid, but rather she visits her clients while they’re out and cleans their homes.  One of her clients is Tom Milford (Bobby Darin), a wealthy, playboy businessman.  Tom leaves a note for Joan on his door stating that he will be in California for two weeks.  His trip falls through, but Joan is unaware of the change in plans.  Joan and Tom’s “meet-cute” moment occurs three times in the beginning of the film.  The first time, Joan is bent down fixing a run in her stocking and Tom trips over her cleaning equipment (encased in a small round suitcase) and consequently over her as well.  The second time, Joan is stopped at the same newsstand and Tom again trips over her suitcase and onto her.  The third and final time, Joan and Tom’s respective cabs hit each other.  They decide that this must be fate trying to tell them to meet and get together so they opt to have drinks together at a neighborhood bar.  What Joan doesn’t know is that Tom is one of her clients whose apartment she cleans.  Tom doesn’t know that Joan is his maid.

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Bobby Darin puts the moves on Sandra Dee in “That Funny Feeling.”

After they finish their drinks, Tom insists on bringing Joan home.  Joan is embarrassed by the small, derelict hovel that she shares with her roommate, Audrey.  The girls live in a tiny apartment, complete with beds that they have to shift out of the way to get into the bathroom, the neighbor’s alarm clock that they use for their own, an elaborate routine of moving stuff out of the way just to open the front door, and having to share their water pressure with the neighbor and his shower.  They also have insect and noise issues.  To keep Tom from seeing her real apartment, she has him take her to his apartment that she’s pretending is hers.

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Sandra Dee and Nita Talbot sleep in their tiny apartment in “That Funny Feeling.”

Amused (and confused) at the scheme that Joan is pulling over on him, Tom decides to play along.  Tom enlists his boss Harvey (Donald O’Connor) to allow him to use his swingin’ bachelor pad to masquerade as his apartment.  In exchange, Tom promises Harvey that he’ll help him hide his expensive art collection from his estranged wife who is looking to take all of his assets in their divorce settlement.

As Joan’s scheme continues, her deception gets more and more elaborate.  She and her roommate, not wanting to return to their crummy apartment, and thinking that the owner will be out of town for two weeks, essentially move in.  They even go as far as to bring all their clothes with them and re-decorate Tom’s apartment to feminize it.  Joan takes to pawning Tom’s clothing to get money for the decor.  When Tom picks Joan up for their date, he is shocked to see what has become of his home.

Of course, like how all these movies featuring deception go, Joan and Tom eventually find out each other’s true identities.  Misunderstandings ensue and some hilarious scene will take place.  In this instance, Joan ends up inviting all of Tom’s ex-flames to the same party, under the guise that it’s a costume party, where the theme is essentially Parisian courtesans.  All the ladies come dressed as streetwalkers.  The party is eventually raided and everyone in the movie is picked up as part of a suspected prostitution ring. And as all these movies go, they will eventually work everything out and live happily ever after.

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The ladies dressed as their “favorite women from the boulevard” arrive at Tom Milford’s party in “That Funny Feeling.”

I really enjoy this film.  Sandra Dee, more confident and grown-up than her 17-year old self in Gidget is adorable.  Bobby Darin has such swagger and I love his voice.  Like Frank, Dean and Sammy, he’s just so cool.  He sings the title song over imagery of the universe.  The opening doesn’t really make any sense, but it’s fun in a retro way.  I love Nita Talbot, who plays roommate Audrey is funny as Dee’s sarcastic, get a grip friend–who inevitably follows along with the scheme.  She is the Ethel to Dee’s Lucy.  I love Donald O’Connor, so his appearance in any film is always welcome.  Too bad he wasn’t able to perform a tap dance number or something.  He could dance while Darin sings.

That Funny Feeling, not groundbreaking cinema by any means, is a fun diversion.  It serves as a portal into life in 1965 and features a great cast of performers.  There is a funny scene where Talbot ruins Dee’s Duck a l’Orange by pouring tons of Cointreau on it and lighting it on fire while lighting a cigarette.  Dee and Darin are adorable together.  This film would be a great one to watch with your Valentine, or in my case, a parrot*.

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Nita Talbot and Sandra Dee ruin Duck a’l Orange in “That Funny Feeling.”

*-My Valentine is a chef and consequently is spending Valentine’s Day cooking for other Valentines.

 

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Favorite 50’s-60’s Teen Beach Movies

I love a good fluff film.  And you can’t get much fluffier than 1950s-1960s teen beach movies.  These films are never going to rank on the top of any “Greatest Movie of All Time” list (except for mine probably), but they’re a fun insight into a nicer, gentler time.  A time when teenagers weren’t grinding each other in clubs or at school dances, or doing stupid “challenges” like eating detergent (I’m sorry that’s NOT a challenge, that’s just dumb) but rather are doing “The swim” and goofy dances at beach luaus.  These are films where the biggest worry is whether the surf is good, or whether someone has a date to a luau.  There’s usually a romantic element.  These films have so much charm (and usually a little eye candy), I love them.  The music, the silliness, the dancing, everything that I want in a film.  Not everything needs to be Citizen Kane.

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Gidget and Moondoggie embrace on the beach in 1959’s “Gidget.”

My favorites:

Gidget (1959).  I covered this film earlier when I participated in the “Reel Infatuation” blogathon last summer.  I covered the object of Gidget’s affection–Moondoggie.  To give a short recap, Gidget is the coming of age story of 17-year old Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, portrayed by 50s-60s teen queen, Sandra Dee.  Gidget is at an age where her friends are boy-crazy and want to find boyfriends.  The beginning of the film finds Gidget being coerced into going to the beach to go “man-hunting.”  Gidget is self-conscious (she isn’t as well developed as her friends) and doesn’t feel that urge to partner off with a boy.  At the beach, she befriends a group of surfers and quickly discovers how much she loves surfing.  The surfers, all boys, quickly take Gidget under their wing.

While surfing with the boys, Gidget meets super-hot college student Moondoggie, played by teen idol James Darren.  At first, Moondoggie is indifferent to Gidget and gives her the cold shoulder.  Moondoggie it seems is determined to strike out on his own and get out from under his father’s thumb (and wallet), and decides that he wants to shirk the responsibility of college and take up the occupation of beach bum.  Under the tutelage of older friend Kahuna aka Burt Vail, played by Cliff Robertson, Moondoggie is determined to live life on his own terms.  To him, Gidget seems like some kid who is perpetually in the way.

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James Darren (Moondoggie) and Sandra Dee (Gidget) in “Gidget” (1959).

However, it soon becomes apparent that Moondoggie is putting up a big facade.  He doesn’t really want to be a beach bum (neither does Kahuna either, it turns out).  He also displays a protectiveness toward Gidget (as evidenced by him intervening in Gidget’s “surf lesson” with the handsy surfer “Loverboy”).  Later, he finds himself enamored of her and they have their first kiss at the luau.  At the end of the film, “the Gidg” and “Moondoggie” are going steady, he’s given her his pin!  As Gidget would say, “this [film] is the ultimate!”

Where the Boys Are (1960) This film, while it takes place at the beach and features teenagers, has a different vibe and feel than the typical teen beach movies of the era.  While it has some silly scenes and characters, the film overall has a more serious tone.  Where the Boys Are is the coming of age story for four teenage girls, Merritt (Dolores Hart), Tuttle (Paula Prentiss), Melanie (Yvette Mimieux) and Angie (Connie Francis).

The four girls decide to escape their snowy college campus in the midwest (don’t blame them there) and head to spring break in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  While in Florida, each girl meets a man who indirectly teaches them something about themselves.  Merritt puts up a facade as being sexually progressive, an attitude which she expresses in her relationships class (much to the chagrin of the prudish teacher).  Melanie, inspired by her best friend’s attitude towards sex decides to jump headfirst into dating boys when she gets to Florida.  Tuggle is more traditional and wants marriage and children, in that order.  She’s looking for a man who not only shares her values, but is also taller than her.  She’s 5’10.5″ tall.  Angie is the “plain one” of the group (every teen movie seems to have one) and she’d just be happy to have someone be interested in her.  She is the most down to earth member of the group.

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The ladies in “Where the Boys Are” (1960) from left to right: Dolores Hart (Merritt), Connie Francis (Angie), Yvette Mimieux (Melanie) and Paula Prentiss (Tuggle)

Merritt ends up meeting Ryder Smith (George Hamilton), an older, rich college student who is experienced.  He tries to ply her with alcohol and tries to get her to spend the night, but she refuses.  Ryder soon discovers that Merritt talks a good game, but she’s really a virgin who isn’t ready for sex.  Tuggle meets tall “TV” Thompson (Jim Hutton).  He is goofy, but Tuggle finds that she likes him.  He doesn’t drop her instantly when she tells him that she won’t have sex before marriage.  However, he seems to have a roving eye which casts doubt on him being a suitable, long term partner.  Angie meets the goofy musician, Basil (Frank Gorshin), who she loves.  She’s able to show off her singing abilities in his “dialectic jazz” band.  Finally, Melanie has the worst wake-up call when she meets some Ivy leaguers, namely Franklin and Dill.  She genuinely feels something for Franklin but is taken advantage of by Dill after Franklin gives him the scoop that Melanie will be an easy score.

This film has a great theme song (sung by Connie Francis) and features a great cast.  I love the more realistic storylines and the vibe of the film.  Melanie’s storyline is a bummer, but I think it was needed to balance out the other characters’ storylines.  Unfortunately, Melanie’s situation is all too relatable.  Each girl features a different facet of relationships and I felt that all were portrayed very realistically.

Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961).  I’m not going to lie, this film isn’t nearly as good as Gidget (1959).  In this film, Gidget is portrayed by Deborah Walley.  Sandra Dee unfortunately was under contract to Universal and they wouldn’t release her to reprise her role in this Columbia film.  Gidget’s parents are recast as well.  Carl Reiner and Jeff Donnell portray Gidget’s parents Russell and Dorothy Lawrence.  James Darren, thankfully, reprises his role as Jeffrey “Moondoggie” Matthews.

I’ll admit that when I first saw this film, I didn’t like it.  Deborah Walley got on my nerves.  However, I rewatched it, and now it has kind of grown on me.  While Walley’s Gidget is different than Dee’s, I find her entertaining and it’s a fun take on the Gidget character.  I did like Reiner and Donnell’s portrayal of Gidget’s parents more than Arthur O’Connell and Mary LaRoche’s in the original film.  My criticism with this film is that I wish the costume designers had done service to Walley’s figure.  While Dee was very petite (not necessarily short though, she seems to be of average height), her costumes were flattering and chic.  Walley, while a little more curvy than Dee, but not fat by any means, was outfitted in some very twee looking costumes.  Assuming that the Gidget character is supposed to be at least 18, she’s dressed like she’s 12.  Unfortunately, these costumes gave Walley a short, squatty appearance.

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James Darren (Moondoggie) and Deborah Walley (Gidget) dancing in “Gidget Goes Hawaiian” (1961).

Gidget Goes Hawaiian is meant to be a sequel to the original Gidget.  We’ll forget about the fact that every character is portrayed by a different actor except for Moondoggie.  The film even goes as far as to present “flashbacks” from the original film with Walley outfitted in Dee’s costumes and re-creating scenes from the original film.  One error I found however, is that Moondoggie gives Gidget his pin at the beginning of the film.  He gave his pin to Gidget at the end of the first film.  In the second film however, Gidget treats him giving her his pin as an engagement ring, or an “engaged to be engaged” type symbol.

In this film, Moondoggie is home from college for summer vacation. Continuing with the timeline established in the first film, we can assume that Moondoggie has probably just completed his sophomore (maybe junior) year of college and Gidget has graduated high school.  He and Gidget are inseparable.  Their love for one another is continuing to grow, we see a montage of them at the beach, on a date, and dancing closely.  There is a funny scene toward the end of the film where Gidget basically hints at sex, or at least asking Moondoggie if he’s experienced, to which he refuses to supply an answer.  I will presume that Moondoggie has some experience with the ladies prior to Gidget, and why wouldn’t he? He’s a fox!

Russell surprises his wife and daughter with a two week trip to Hawaii.  Dorothy is overjoyed (of course) and Gidget is less so.  Moondoggie will be home from school for only two more weeks.  Gidget refuses to go because she doesn’t want to lose their last two weeks together.  At first Russell is upset, but then he and Dorothy make peace with the idea of a two week romantic Hawaiian vacation sans Gidget.  Gidget tells Moondoggie of this injustice of having to go to Hawaii and he tells her to go, saying that it’s a great opportunity (because duh! it is).  Gidget ridiculously assumes that Moondoggie doesn’t love her anymore.

The remainder of this film involves the Lawrence’s trip to Hawaii, friends that Gidget meets along the way, including a new boy, and a misunderstanding between Gidget and her parents.  It’s ridiculous, dumb at times and doesn’t make any sense.  But I really enjoy this film.  I think it deserves its own post.

For Those Who Think Young (1964).  This film (based on a 1960s Pepsi ad campaign slogan) also features James “Moondoggie” Darren.  In this film, he plays Gardner “Ding” Pruitt III, a rich college boy who is constantly on the prowl for a new flavor of the week.  He keeps a fancy rolodex of his dates with comments about each.  His car has two (!) phones in it.  Bob Denver plays his sidekick, “Kelp.”  Another thing to love about these surfer movies, the absurd nicknames! Anyway, Ding has his sights set on Sandy Palmer, played by Pamela Tiffin. Sandy is the niece of Woody Woodbury, a comic who works at the dive bar, the Silver Palms.  The Silver Palms is located next to the college campus and is well known as an establishment that serves alcohol to minors.  This club also features a burlesque dancer named Topaz McQueen (Tina Louise).

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Pamela Tiffin (Sandy) and James Darren (Ding) in the 1964 COLOR film, “For Those Who Think Young.”

One day, Woody and his comic partner, Sid Hoyt (Paul Lynde) find themselves out of work.  It seems that their act at the Silver Palms is not that great.  Woody, performing the last show, decides to just perform a stand-up routine instead of the usual song.  His stand-up act is a massive success and soon the Silver Palms is rebranded into “Surf’s Up,” a brand-new college hangout that actually cards the patrons and brands them with a black-light stamp that says “No booze for youse” if you’re under 21.

Of course, the neighboring university thinks that nothing but debauchery happens at this club and want it shut down.  The main ringleader behind this movement is Burford Cronin (Robert Middleton) who just happens to be Ding’s grandfather.  The university even goes as far as to send their Professor of Sociology (Ellen Burstyn, billed in this film as “Ellen McRae”) to observe.  She gets drunk on two spiked “fruit juices” but ends up giving her seal of approval to the establishment anyway.

Aside from Surf’s Up, the main conflict in this film is the relationship between Ding and Sandy.  Ding actually finds himself genuinely liking Sandy and Sandy feels the same for him.  However, Ding’s grandfather, Burford, thinks that Sandy is too “low class” for his family.  It seems that his daughter, Ding’s mother, married a man whom Burford thought brought some “bad blood” into the family.  To further anger him, Ding announces that he and Sandy intend to marry when they graduate college.  Of course, Grandpa Cronin is upset, but like how these movies always turn out, his viewpoint does a 180 in 5 minutes and he’s welcoming Sandy into his family and embracing Surf’s Up, the club he wanted to close down 10 minutes ago.

Nancy Sinatra (Frank’s daughter) and Claudia Martin (Dean’s daughter) provide additional support in this film.  There is a bizarre musical number in this film that features Bob Denver’s chin.

Beach Party (1963). I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one of the Frankie and Annette “Beach Party” films.  I’ll admit that I haven’t seen all of them, but I do own the box set.  I’m going to go with the first film in the series.  What I love about these films is that they have the most random co-stars.  Aside from Frankie and Annette, these films often have old Hollywood stars like Robert Cummings, Dorothy Malone, Keenan Wynn, Boris Karloff, Buster Keaton, Mickey Rooney or people like Paul Lynde, Don Rickles, and Stevie Wonder, everyone whom you wouldn’t expect to pop-up in a teen beach movie. These movies usually have a common theme, the main one being that Annette is mad at Frankie and Frankie being too clueless to know what he did.  In Frankie’s defense, sometimes Annette is being ridiculous.

In Beach Party, Robert Cummings stars as an anthropologist who, along with his secretary Dorothy Malone, is studying the sex habits of teenagers.  He comes across a clan of surfer kids, led by Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Frankie and Annette aren’t “Frankie and Annette” in this movie, they’re “Frankie and Dolores.”  In most of the films, Frankie is “Frankie.”  Annette usually plays “Dee Dee,” but in Beach Party, she’s Dolores.  In the Beach Party series, Frankie always seems to be frustrated by Annette’s tendency towards being a cold fish.  This film is no different.  Frankie invites Annette aka Dolores, to a beach house for some alone time.  Annette, not trusting herself (or Frankie) with Frankie, has invited everyone to the beach house to chaperone.  Because this is a “Beach Party” movie, Frankie is mad at Annette and she’s mad at him.

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Annette Funicello (Dolores) and Frankie Avalon (Frankie) in “Beach Party” (1963).

In true Frankie and Annette fashion, they spend a bulk of the film jealous of one another.  Annette decides to flirt with Cummings, who is too dense to see what’s going on.  His secretary, Malone, who is in love with him (and closer to his own age), sees exactly what is happening.  Frankie hooks up with some floozy that he meets in an effort to retaliate against Annette.  There’s also a motorcycle gang, led by Eric Von Zipper who terrorizes the gang.

I enjoy these movies because, while they’re pretty dumb at times, the teenagers are cool.  They sing fun songs, wear cool bathing suits and hang out in some pretty neat looking clubs.

I’m back!

I’m back after a much too long hiatus.  Things got busy, and I’ll admit, I probably got a little lazy.  I signed up for too many blogathons as well (can’t help it, they all sound so wonderful!), and I think I overwhelmed myself.  I feel bad when I don’t complete my blogathon entries, it’s akin to not doing my homework.  Anyway, I need to scale back and not overcommit myself.  Since my last entry back in July, I have since traveled to the Oregon Coast and Austin, Texas.  Work has been busy.  We had an alleged major snowstorm (I hate snow, blech!) which fortunately turned out to be nothing.

I want to work on my blog. I’ve been trying to figure out its place in the internet world. I need a niche. Or something to stand out. I don’t know. All I know is that I love classic movies and television and watch both frequently.  I also want to work on my banner graphic.

The Astaire & Rogers Blogathon–“Post Astaire and Rogers”


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By 1939, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had made nine films together at RKO studios.  Their first film together, Flying Down to Rio (1933), featured the duo in supporting roles.  This wasn’t even supposed to be a vehicle for Fred and Ginger, the film starred Dolores Del Rio and Gene Raymond.  However, they excited audiences so much in “The Carioca,” that RKO was quick to re-team the duo in their second vehicle, The Gay Divorcee.  When ‘Rio’ was made, Ginger was the bigger star.  She had already appeared in almost two dozen films, including: 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933.  Fred on the other hand, was primarily a Broadway performer and had only appeared in one other film (Dancing Lady, where we’re treated to Joan Crawford’s awful dancing), where he played a fictionalized version of himself.

The Gay Divorcee was a huge hit and RKO was quick to keep teaming Fred and Ginger up in picture after picture.  Between 1933 and 1939, the duo had appeared in nine films: The Gay Divorcee (1934), Roberta (1935), Top Hat (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), Swing Time (1936), Shall We Dance (1937), Carefree (1938), and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939).  By this point, both Fred and Ginger were ready to move onto other projects.  Ginger, especially, was ready to prove herself as more than just a dancer in fluffy romantic films.  She had achieved some success in the ensemble dramatic film, Stage Door (1937), and wanted to do more in this realm.

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Fred and Ginger in “Swing Time.”

Fred, I don’t believe had acting aspirations as lofty as Ginger, but I believe he did want to try some more inventive dance routines.  Not that Ginger held him back, but seeing his performances where he dances solo, Fred seems to have more fun dancing–perhaps because he can do a more technical routine. After his initial partnership with Ginger ended, Fred appeared in a few more musicals with a variety of dancers: Broadway Melody of 1940 (w/ Eleanor Powell), You’ll Never Get Rich (w/ Rita Hayworth), You Were Never Lovelier (also w/ Rita Hayworth), and Yolanda and the Thief (with Lucille Bremer).  By 1946, Fred was tired of making films and retired.

Meanwhile, Ginger’s career was only getting bigger and bigger.  In 1940, Ginger appeared in one of her first major dramatic roles, Primrose Path with Joel McCrea.  I really like this film.  In this film, Ginger plays a woman who hails from a family whose tradition is prostitution.  Both Ginger’s grandmother and mother are prostitutes.  Ginger, understandably, does not want to follow in the family business.  She ends up meeting and marrying McCrea who is unaware of her family’s history.  Later in 1940, Ginger gets the role of a lifetime, the title role in Kitty Foyle.

When Ginger was first given the book for Kitty Foyle (for which RKO had just purchased the film rights), she was not impressed.  As she says in her 1991 autobiography, Ginger: My Story:

“As Howard [Hughes] and I were driving toward his residence, I glanced at my copy of Kitty Foyle.  There were explicit love scenes in it that were quite disturbing to me.  As I read these passages, I found myself passing judgement on them.  “That could never pass the censor board.  So what good is it for me to spend time reading it?” I was really embarrassed that RKO would send me something like this.  I snapped the book shut and quite deliberately, through it in the corner of Howard’s car.”

Ginger spoke to her mother, Lela, about the trashy book.  Lela very matter of factly, told Ginger that the studio would obviously have to tone down the sexual content as it would be impossible to film it.  The entire story would essentially have to be re-written.  After speaking with Lela, the producer and writer Dalton Trumbo (who was hired to write the script), Ginger’s qualms about accepting the part had been squashed.  Kitty Foyle ended up being a major hit, winning Ginger the Best Actress Oscar.

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Dennis Morgan and Ginger Rogers in “Kitty Foyle.”

After Kitty Foyle, Ginger continued to act in dramatic films but also dabbled in comedic and noir roles as well.  Ginger even went back to her roots and appeared in more musicals.  One of my personal favorites of Ginger’s 1940s career is her turn in Billy Wilder’s directorial debut–The Major and the Minor.  This film is hilarious.  However, you really have to suspend your disbelief when it comes to the premise.  If you can accept co-star Ray Milland believing that Ginger’s character is “eleven, twelve next week” then you will enjoy this film.

The Major and the Minor gave Ginger the opportunity to show off her broad comedy skills.  The premise of this film is that Ginger has been trying to make a-go in New York City for a year but to no avail.  She decides to return home (to Stevenson, Iowa) via train.  However, she finds out that she doesn’t have enough money to pay an adult fare.  She does however have enough money to purchase a children’s ticket.  She gives herself a “makeunder” by removing her makeup and putting her hair in pigtails.  She modifies her clothing to make it look like something a child would wear.  She purchases her ticket.

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Ray Milland and “12 year old” Ginger Rogers in “The Major and the Minor.”

On the train ride, Ginger attracts much attention from the conductor and train staff who are not buying her story that she’s “eleven, twelve next week” and that she’s tall because she’s “from Swedish stock.” Ginger has some very funny scenes trying to rationalize her grown-up appearance to the adults.  Ginger does take her child shtick a little far as she’s supposed to be 12 but she acts 5.  On the train, Ginger meets Ray Milland, a major who teaches at an all boys’ military school.  Milland can not see out of one eye.  With his blurred vision, he buys Ginger’s story that she’s 12.  Ginger ends up staying with Milland, Milland’s fiance and her sister for a few days.  Complications ensue when Ginger attracts the attention of the male cadets at the military academy and Milland’s fiance who is just not buying Ginger’s story.

I gave The Major and the Minor a lot of space in my article about Fred and Ginger, because it is probably my favorite of all of Ginger’s post-Fred films.  She also made one of my favorite Christmas-time films, I’ll Be Seeing You, where she plays a woman convicted of involuntary manslaughter and is serving time in prison.  She is given an eight-day furlough so that she can spend Christmas with her family.  During this furlough, she meets and falls in love with Joseph Cotten who is on a 10-day leave from the military hospital he’s been staying at.  I’ll Be Seeing You is a sweet, romantic film and is perfect for the holiday season.

In 1948, Gene Kelly was all set to appear opposite Judy Garland in Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade. However, right before filming was to begin, Gene broke his ankle playing volleyball.  Feeling bad, Gene coaxed Fred into coming out of retirement and replacing him in Easter Parade.   Fred agreed and this began a renaissance of some sorts of Fred’s career.  Easter Parade is one of my favorite films and as much as I love Gene, I cannot picture anyone else in this film other than Fred.

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Judy Garland and Fred Astaire in “Easter Parade.”

Easter Parade takes place in 1912-1913 New York City.  Fred plays a dancer who is part of a popular dance team.  His partner, Ann Miller, casually drops a bombshell on Fred: she’s been offered a solo show and has accepted.  Ann it seems, wants to be thought of as more than just Fred’s dance partner (Sound familiar?).  Upset, Fred goes down to a restaurant/bar to figure out a game-plan for his career.  While at the restaurant, Fred spots Judy, a singing waitress.  He makes a “My Fair Lady” type bet with the bartender.  He will pick Judy out of the lineup and turn her into his next dance partner.  The problem is Judy can’t dance.

Fred tries to teach Judy how to dance and she does okay, but is struggling.  It finally occurs to Fred that perhaps they should base their act around their respective talents.  Fred will dance and Judy will sing.  Perfect! With this change, Fred and Judy are a sensation and are soon auditioning for the famed Florenz Ziegfeld’s Ziegfeld Follies revue.  There is some drama between Ann and Fred and Judy and Fred that threatens to break up the act.  However, like all these films go, the drama is resolved and all is well by the end.

Easter Parade was a smash hit and MGM was eager to re-team Fred and Judy for another film: The Barkleys of Broadway.  However, by this point in her life, Judy was in bad shape and ended up being fired from production.  In perhaps a bit of a publicity coup for the film, MGM hired Ginger to take Judy’s place.  It had been ten years since their last pairing.  I don’t know if this is true, but I read somewhere that Judy, upset at being replaced, sent Ginger a shaving kit as a passive aggressive “congratulations” gift.  It seems that Ginger had a lot of peach fuzz on her face and used makeup and filters to hide it on screen. I hope this story is true, because it is hilarious.

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Ginger and Fred reunited for “The Barkleys of Broadway.”

The Barkleys of Broadway very much resembled Fred and Ginger’s real professional relationship: except in the film, they played a married couple.  In the film, Fred and Ginger are at the peak of their popularity, a sensation.  While at one of their shows, Ginger meets a playwright who suggests she take up dramatic acting.  Ginger tries to keep it a secret, but Fred finds out and the couple separate.  The Barkleys of Broadway was a big hit and continued to revitalize Fred’s career.  Curiously enough, Ginger’s career was starting to wind down.  She didn’t really make many big films in the 1950s, except for one of my favorites, Monkey Business with Cary Grant and a young Marilyn Monroe.

Starting with Easter Parade, Fred was becoming more innovative in his dance routines.  In Easter Parade, Fred used trick photography in “Steppin’ Out with my Baby” to make it appear like he was dancing in slow-motion.  In Royal Wedding, Fred again uses trick photography to make it look like he was dancing on the ceiling.  The Barkleys of Broadway features Fred’s “Shoes with Wings” routine where he dances with a bunch of shoes.

My other absolute favorite film from the later part of Fred’s career is Funny Face with Audrey Hepburn.  In this film, Fred plays Dick Avery, a fashion photographer for Quality magazine.  He is tired of photographing the same vapid models, who are pretty, but don’t really bring anything to his photograph.  His editor, Maggie Prescott (hilariously played by Kay Thompson, whom I wished had made more films), agrees that the magazine needs a new look.  They want to find someone who is as smart as they are beautiful.  They end up barging into (and destroying) the Manhattan bookstore: Embryo Concepts.  While at the bookstore, they find Audrey Hepburn, the shy shop clerk.

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Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire and Kay Thompson at Embryo Concepts bookstore in “Funny Face.”

Fred and Kay photograph the comic book reading model, Marion, but she’s just blah.  All beauty but no substance.  Fred ends up getting a photo of Audrey during the shoot.  Back at the magazine office, Fred is developing his photo of Audrey and sees that she has that je ne sais quoi that he and Kay have been looking for.  Kay calls up Audrey’s shop and orders some random books as a pretense to get her to come down to their office.  Audrey shows up and before she knows it, she’s been swept up in the world of modeling.  Audrey accepts the modeling work, as she’s informed that she’ll get to go to Paris.  Paris is where the renowned philosopher, Emile Flostre, regularly holds lectures about empathicalism–a philosophy that Audrey is very interested in.  Complications ensue when Audrey prioritizes her personal interests above those of her employer’s.  One of my favorite scenes of Funny Face is Fred and Kay’s dance at the beatnik hangout–“Clap Yo’ Hands.”

By the 1960s, both Fred and Ginger appeared infrequently in films but kept busy pursuing other interests.  Fred had his own television show for awhile and Ginger was a hit in theater, even appearing on London’s famed West End for a period.  Fred’s television career was very successful, his programs won numerous Emmys and revived an interest in dance.  In 1985, Ginger realized a lifelong ambition–to direct a play.  She directed an off-Broadway production of Babes in Arms.  Fred passed away in 1987 and Ginger in 1995.

The Judy Garland Blogathon–Judy & Gene

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The Gumm Sisters. Judy is bottom center. Mary Jane is on the left and Virginia is on the right.

96 years ago today, one of the world’s best entertainers was born.  Judy Garland was born Frances Gumm in 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.  As a young girl, she performed with her two sisters, Mary Jane and Virginia as part of the Gumm Sisters vaudeville act.  Frances was the youngest and most talented in the group.  When Frances was five, the Gumm family moved to the Los Angeles area.  Mrs. Gumm tried to keep her daughters in the minds of show business executives by having them appear in various short films.  The Gumm sisters toiled in short films, dance classes and schooling for a few years until 1935 when Frances was discovered by MGM.  The Gumm sisters had changed their last names to “Garland” at the end of 1934.  In addition, Frances changed her name to Judy.

MGM studio head, Louis B. Mayer, saw Judy performing with her sisters and was immediately impressed with Judy’s talent.  He requested that Judy and her father come down to MGM and meet with him in his office.  Judy sang “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” for Mayer.  She was immediately signed to a contract.  However, soon MGM found that Judy was difficult to cast.  She was thirteen–too old to be a child star and too young to be an adult star.  Judy spent a few years playing the girl next door parts, co-starring with huge MGM star Mickey Rooney in his Andy Hardy series.  In 1939, Judy was cast in her star-making role: Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz.

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Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz.” In her most memorable screen moment. singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

After ‘Oz,’ Judy was seventeen and was eager to move onto more mature parts.  MGM however, kept her pigeonholed into girl next door parts.  She appeared as a goody goody teen in Babes in Arms and Strike Up the Band with Mickey Rooney.  In 1940, Judy finally snagged her first adult role in Little Nellie Kelly, playing a dual role to boot!  By 1940, much to MGM’s chagrin, there was no doubt that Judy was grown up.  She had already been embroiled in a hot and heavy affair with bandleader Artie Shaw until he ran off with Lana Turner.  Judy was devastated.  She then got together with musician David Rose, whom she married in 1941.  By 1942, Judy was a huge star at MGM and was transitioning into adult roles.  One of her major adult roles was as a vaudeville star in For Me and My Gal.

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Gene Kelly making his film debut with star Judy Garland, in “For Me and My Gal.”

For Me and My Gal is notable for not only being one of Judy’s early adult roles, but also for being Gene Kelly’s film debut.  Gene had been making a name for himself on Broadway, first as a choreographer and then as the star of Pal Joey.  MGM objected to Gene’s casting, but Judy supported him and campaigned for him to get the part.  Throughout production, movie veteran Judy supported Gene and gave him acting tips, especially when it came to adjusting his stage acting for the silver screen.  Gene always remembered Judy’s kindness when he made his first film and continued to support her throughout the rest of her life.

By 1948, Judy and Gene were huge musical stars.  It was also by this time that Judy was having her well-documented personal issues.  Judy initially was excited about shooting The Pirate, she thought it would be fun.  Director Vincente Minnelli (and Judy’s husband) also thought it would be a nice change of pace for he and Judy.  However, the production was in trouble as soon as it began.  Production was delayed two months because of Judy’s mental health.  She was then worried that co-star Gene would steal all her thunder.  Gene would regularly assist in choreographing the routines–he saw The Pirate as a way to make the dancing more ballet-like, a dance style that Gene was very familiar with.

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Hypnotized Judy screams out for Macoco in “The Pirate.” MACOCO!

Judy experienced multiple paranoia episodes during production and barely even showed up to shoot her scenes.  She was only present about 35 days out of the 100+ days of production.  When Judy was absent, the filmmakers would shoot around her.  During Judy’s absences, Gene would work closely with Minnelli on coming up with ideas for scenes and such.  When Judy would show up for work, she’d notice Gene and Vincente’s close relationship and become jealous.  She also thought that her husband had developed a crush on Gene (By all accounts, Gene was straight and did not reciprocate the crush).  Judy’s paranoia, combined with her addiction to pills, led to a nervous breakdown.

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Gene Kelly’s shorty shorts in “The Pirate.”

Judy’s mental health issues caused production to stretch from the planned two months to six.  In the end though, Judy pulled out a great performance–like she usually did.  Judy’s Manuela is one of her funniest performances–especially when she is hypnotized and starts crying out for Macoco.  “Mack the Black” is one of Judy’s most memorable songs.  The Pirate ended up losing money at the box office and was considered one of Judy, Gene and Minnelli’s worst films.  However, now The Pirate has found its audience and it is considered one of the classic musicals.   If you only watch one part of The Pirate, watch the scene where Gene dances with fire while wearing shorty shorts.  You won’t regret it.

In 1948, MGM wanted to re-team their two biggest musical stars, Judy and Gene, in another film, this time Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade.  Judy was supposed to play a waitress whom Gene’s character discovers and molds into his new dance partner.  Gene’s partner, played by Cyd Charisse, has decided to leave the act and strike out on her own. Just prior to production however, Gene broke his ankle during a heated volleyball game at his home.  Gene managed to coax Fred Astaire out of retirement and asked him to take his place.  Cyd Charisse ended up tearing a ligament in her knee and she was replaced by Ann Miller. If you can’t get Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, I guess Fred Astaire and Ann Miller will have to do (lol).  Easter Parade was a smash hit and soon MGM was eager to pair Judy and Fred up in The Barkleys of Broadway.

The Barkleys of Broadway was supposed to feature Judy and Fred as a successful husband and wife musical comedy team.  However, Judy’s character meets a famous playwright who suggests that she take up dramatic acting.  Fred’s character of course is upset.  Judy started production on the film but was soon fired after it was apparent that she had a serious addiction to prescription pills and alcohol.  MGM fired Judy from the film.  They then had the brilliant idea of reuniting Fred with his old RKO dance partner, Ginger Rogers.  Judy fumed at being replaced by Ginger.  It was known that Ginger had an unusually high amount of peach fuzz on her face.  Judy, feeling vindictive, sent Ginger a shaving mug and brush to “congratulate” her on the role (I don’t know if this anecdote is true, I read it somewhere, but if it is, it’s horribly petty on Judy’s part.  But it’s also hilarious).

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Judy and Gene dance the “Portland Fancy” in “Summer Stock.”

In 1950, Judy was cast and then fired from Annie Get Your Gun, due to her normal attendance issues and mental problems.  Busby Berkeley had also been hired to stage the musical numbers and Judy absolutely loathed him.  They had had their run-ins on previous Judy films.  MGM gave her one last shot and re-teamed her with co-star Gene in Summer Stock.  By this point, Gene was a huge star and he didn’t want to appear in a typical “let’s put a show on in the barn!” musical.  And in fact, Summer Stock does feature the gang putting a show on in the barn, albeit, a very large and fancy barn.  Neither Gene, nor director Charles Walters wanted to do the film, but both men did so as a favor to Judy, whom they liked and wanted to help.

In Summer Stock, Gene appears as the director of a small-time musical theater troupe.  One of the members of this troupe happens to be Judy’s sister, Gloria DeHaven.  Gene is also dating Gloria.  The theater troupe has been looking for a place to practice and hold their show.  Gloria suggests sister Judy’s barn on the family farm.  It is apparent that Judy is working hard to keep her family farm going, even through hard times.  Gloria on the other hand, doesn’t want to be a farmer, she wants to be an actress.  Eventually, Gloria ends up leaving the show and Gene ends up coaxing Judy to join the show after seeing that she has singing and dancing talent.  The conflict is that Judy is dating Eddie Bracken, the son of a very boisterous and bossy man who only wants to unite the two oldest families in town.  Eddie however, is such a wimp, that it’s hard to see why Judy even tolerates him.  By the end of the film, she doesn’t and has fallen for Gene–who in return, has fallen for her.  It’s a simple story, nothing groundbreaking, but it features a lot of memorable songs and dances.

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The horrible “Heavenly Music” number featuring Phil Silvers and Gene Kelly. I hate this number so much, I wish it would just die and go away. Judy apparently was supposed to be in this number too, but called in sick and they went ahead with the number anyway. I think Judy knew what she was doing. Shrewd move on her part, I say.

During production, Judy experienced her usual issues, but MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer pressured the film crew to keep going and to accommodate Judy’s issues.  He didn’t want to see her get fired from her third consecutive film.  In one incident, Judy did show up for work, but wasn’t up to filming.  To take the heat off of her, Gene feigned an ankle injury, so that he would be the cause of the production delay.  Gene choreographed two of the most memorable numbers in the film: “You, Wonderful, You” which he performs with simply a squeaky floorboard and a newspaper, and “The Portland Fancy” which features Judy and Gene in a fun dance-off.  Spoiler Alert: Gene wins! Thankfully, Gene was not responsible for creating the god-awful “Heavenly Music” number.  He only had the misfortune of appearing in it.  Supposedly, Judy was supposed to appear in it too, but called in sick that day.  It was decided to go on without her and film it with just Phil Silvers and Gene.  I don’t think Judy was sick, she knew what she was doing.  She didn’t want to have any part of that terrible number.

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Judy Garland in “Get Happy” in “Summer Stock.”

After filming completed, it was decided that Judy needed a big solo number.  By this point, she had taken a well needed vacation and had lost 15-20 pounds.  “Get Happy” was the number that was selected.  Judy looks noticeably thinner in this number and looks and acts more like the Judy Garland that everyone knows.  “Get Happy” is one of the highlights of Summer Stock and is one of Judy’s best numbers.  Summer Stock was released and was a big hit.

Judy was then re-teamed with Fred Astaire and assigned Royal Wedding.  Judy was replacing June Allyson who had to drop out of the film due to pregnancy.  However, Judy’s demons once again re-surfaced and she was replaced by Jane Powell.  At the end of 1950, MGM and Judy made the mutual decision to terminate Judy’s contract.  Judy wouldn’t return to the silver screen until 1954’s A Star is Born.  Judy’s performance as Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester is tremendous, especially her rendition of “The Man That Got Away.”  Judy was nominated for the Oscar and in my opinion, she should have won.  However, Grace Kelly ended up walking away with the award for her performance as Bing Crosby’s plain and disgruntled wife in The Country Girl.  Judy was devastated by the loss.

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Because this gif from “An American in Paris” featuring Gene does not get featured nearly enough on this blog.

While Gene Kelly’s star soared even higher after Summer Stock (his last pairing with Judy), Judy’s collapsed except for her brief renaissance in A Star is Born.  Gene went on to create two of the most influential and highly regarded musicals of all time: An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain.  Gene’s rendition and dance to “Singin’ in the Rain” is probably the most famous musical number of all time.  Judy herself had sung “Singin’ in the Rain” in Little Nellie Kelly (1940).  The famous “Good Morning” song performed and danced by Gene, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds was also performed by Judy and Mickey Rooney in Babes in Arms (1939).  These songs were used in the film to show the development and transition of silent to talking pictures.  I would argue that Judy was one of the major players in helping the transition.  Gene’s contributions were important of course, but films had transitioned by the time he came on the scene.  Judy was right there almost from the beginning.

Without Judy Garland, there might not have been a Gene Kelly.

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Judy and Gene are “Ballin’ the Jack” in “For Me and My Gal.”

Reel Infatuations Blogathon–James Darren, “Moondoggie” from Gidget (1959)

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When I heard about the “Reel Infatuation” Blogathon by Font and Frock and Silver Screenings , I knew that I needed to join.  How can I resist writing about some of my favorite movie crushes? I’ll never turn down an opportunity to post some beefcake photos!  For my entry, I decided to write about one of my favorite teen idols, James Darren, aka “Moondoggie” from the first three Gidget films: Gidget (1959), Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) and Gidget Goes to Rome (1963).  He is so cute and for me, he makes the film–even though I also love Sandra Dee too.  For all intents and purposes, I am going to focus on his first Gidget film co-starring Sandra Dee.  But don’t think you won’t be treated later to an entry about Gidget Goes Hawaiian co-starring Darren with Deborah Walley as the spunky surfer girl.  I can’t help it, I love the 1950s/1960s teen beach movies.

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James Darren as Moondoggie

Gidget is a coming of age story about 17-year old Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, portrayed by 50s/60s teen queen Sandra Dee.  The film takes place during Frances’ summer vacation between her junior and senior years of high school.  Her friends: Nan, Patti and Mary Lou are pressuring Frances to go with them on a “manhunt” to attract a boyfriend.  Apparently, if a girl hasn’t found a man before senior year of high school, she might as well become a nun.  The girls all go down to the beach and try to flaunt their stuff in front of the group of surfer boys, one of which is superhunk James Darren, aka Moondoggie.  Moondoggie is about 1-2 years older than Frances, he is starting college at the end of the summer.

The girls are trying too hard to attract the boys’ attention, except for Frances.  She’s a bit of a tomboy and ends up shunning the manhunt in favor of snorkeling.  Her friends think she’s hopeless.  Frances, in the first of multiple incidents, ends up getting tangled in some kelp.  Moondoggie sees her, grabs his surfboard, and fishes her out of the water.  From that moment on, we as the audience know that Moondoggie and Frances are going to end up together.  Moondoggie, though acting standoffish and too cool for school towards Frances, actually has a crush on her though he won’t admit it until the luau later in the film.

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Left to right: Sandra Dee (Gidget), Yvonne Craig (Nan) and Jo Morrow (Mary Lou). Craig’s bathing suit is hideous. I love Dee and Morrow’s bathing suits. I also love that Gidget couldn’t care less about impressing the boys–she’s going snorkeling.

Moondoggie’s crush on Frances is obvious.  He is the one who nicknames her “Gidget.”  Gidget is a portmanteau of “girl” and “midget.”  Basing her nickname on “midget,” might not be seen as being very endearing, but this action shows that Moondoggie is accepting Gidget into the group.  Earlier in the film, while talking to the group leader, Kahuna, Moondoggie vents about Gidget’s presence in their group.  Kahuna, at least a decade older than the other boys in the group, knows that Moondoggie has a crush on Gidget and easily accepts her into the group and suggests that the others do the same.  Kahuna, I think, also doesn’t take the surf group as seriously as the other boys, and doesn’t really care if Gidget’s there.  He just wants to surf.

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Moondoggie has fun teaching Gidget how to surf. As an aside, I love Gidget’s orange bathing suit.

Moondoggie’s infatuation with Gidget is also apparent when he sees Lover Boy (another boy in the surf group) giving Gidget surf lessons.  Lover Boy is getting very “handsy” with Gidget and it is very visibly making her uncomfortable.  It is obvious that Lover Boy has some other goals in mind besides teaching Gidget how to surf.  Moondoggie looks on at the lesson, and is very visibly irritated and jealous.  He intervenes when Lover Boy really gets carried away with the lesson.  Moondoggie not only wants to protect Gidget, he also doesn’t want other the other boys getting that up close and personal with her. He later takes Gidget surfing himself and gives her lessons on his board.  Moondoggie places his hands on her waist to help her stay up right on the board.

When Gidget gets tangled up in the kelp (again.  Come on Gidget!) and nearly drowns, Moondoggie saves her (again) and nurses her back to health in Kahuna’s tent.  As Nurse Moondoggie croons the movie’s theme song, “Gidget,” Gidget looks up at him adoringly and smiles.  She can’t keep her eyes off of him.  Moondoggie also smiles at her as he prepares a hot water bottle to warm her up.

“A regular tomboy, but dressed for a prom
Boy, how cute can one girl be?
Although she’s not king-size, her finger is ring-size
Gidget is the one for me…”

Later, Gidget finds out about the upcoming luau and convinces Kahuna to let her come.  It seems that the surfer boys think she’s too innocent to attend their annual shindig.  Gidget has an ulterior motive for attending the luau: she wants to get together with Moondoggie.  Because Gidget is awkward and can’t just tell Moondoggie, she puts together a scheme to make Moondoggie jealous.  She’s going to attend the luau with another one of the surfer boys and pay him to act friendly with her within sight of Moondoggie.  However, her plans are messed up when the surfer boy she hired ends up bailing and giving the job to Moondoggie!

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Gidget makes cow eyes at Moondoggie as he sings to her.

Moondoggie shows up to earn his money and also out of amusement after being told of Gidget’s scheme.  Now instead of doing the smart thing and admitting to Moondoggie that he was the boy she wanted to make jealous, Gidget pretends that she’s in love with Kahuna, despite him being twice her age.  Gidget has Moondoggie hold her tight while they sway to the music.  Entranced and in love, Gidget is soaking up every moment in Moondoggie’s arms.  One can’t help but notice that Moondoggie has the same facial expression as Gidget.  Both are holding each other, swaying to the music, eyes closed.

Moondoggie then brings out the big guns and serenades Gidget with “The Next Best Thing to Love.”  As Moondoggie sings, Gidget looks at him with big cow eyes.  Moondoggie is holding Gidget close and is just as smitten with her as she is with him.  He goes in for the big kiss and Gidget accepts it willingly… because, duh! Then of course, one of the surfers has to come over to remind Moondoggie that its past midnight and he no longer has to pretend with Gidget anymore.  Embarrassed, Gidget runs off.

Seeing that Gidget is leaving, Kahuna approaches Gidget for a ride to a friend’s beach shack.  Wanting to keep up the facade that she’s in love with Kahuna, Gidget agrees to give him a ride home and follows him into the beach shack for “one of his private parties.”  It is apparent that Gidget is hoping to get together with Kahuna, intimately.  Kahuna plays along and almost falls under her spell until he comes to his senses and tells her to go home.  Moondoggie, not trusting Kahuna and wanting to protect Gidget, shows up at the beach shack and has it out with Kahuna.

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Gidget’s dad plays matchmaker and inadvertently sets his daughter up on a blind date with Moondoggie, despite warning her to “never again go near those beach hoodlums.”  Don’t look so upset Gidget! He’s gorgeous! Your dad could have done a lot worse!

Gidget ends up being picked up by the police when her car breaks down.  She’s picked up by her parents and is grounded for the rest of the summer.  Had she just told Moondoggie about her scheme to make him jealous, she could have just avoided the whole Kahuna/beach shack debacle.  Fortunately for Gidget, the young man whom her father has been trying to fix her up with throughout the entire film turns out to be Moondoggie! Of course, to Gidget’s parents, he’s Jeffrey Matthews, the son of one of Gidget’s dad’s colleagues.

Gidget and Moondoggie on their “blind” date, end up going back to the beach.  They manage to get to the beach just as Kahuna is dismantling his shack.  They find out that Kahuna aka Burt Vail, has accepted a job as a pilot and is giving up the beach bum lifestyle.  Kahuna, knowing the whole time about Gidget and Moondoggie’s infatuation with one another, gives Moondoggie a reminder:

“Just remember, [Gidget] might be pint-sized, but she’s quite a woman.”

Gidget and Moondoggie embrace and Moondoggie asks Gidget to wear his pin:

GIDGET: “Oh boy, would I? Just wait until the girls get a load of this! Honest to goodness, it’s the absolute ultimate!”
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The Gidg has got her man!

I don’t blame Gidget for being such a nerd when Moondoggie “pins” her.  This is the ultimate symbol of “going steady.”  Moondoggie has essentially asked Gidget to be his girlfriend and she wholeheartedly accepts.  Her friends, the ones who were flaunting themselves trying to attract a boyfriend, are still single at the end of the film.  Gidget, who didn’t try hard at all, and was just herself, has managed to not only snag a boyfriend, but a super hot one to boot! You go girl.

Moondoggie shows up two-years later in Gidget Goes Hawaiian.  The story is presented as a continuation of the first film, despite having a different Gidget.  Moondoggie and Gidget are a year or two older, but are still madly in love.  Moondoggie is hands down, the best part about Gidget Goes Hawaiian.

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He’s so dreamy!

Clearing the DVR- “The Enchanted Cottage” (1945)

I’ve changed one of the pages on my blog from “Film Reviews” to “Clearing the DVR.”  I currently have 300+ films saved on my DVR.  It is 70% full.  I really need to clear up some room before I run out.  99% of my recordings are off of TCM.  The other recordings are PBS, a Me-TV documentary about Rose-Marie (Sally on The Dick Van Dyke Show), and the colorized I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show Christmas Specials that aired back in December.  My issue is that for every movie I watch and delete, I end up recording three in its place.  My other issue is that I end up watching a movie I’ve seen multiple times, because it’s what I’m in the mood for and nothing else will suffice.  For example, even though I’ve seen this movie like five times now, I’m watching Gidget Goes Hawaiian.

I’ve started the “Clearing the DVR” feature here at Whimsically Classic as a means to motivate myself to watch some of the films I’ve recorded and hopefully clear up some space–so that my husband is able to record all his episodes of Archer on FXX before I steal all the space. Typically when I finish watching a film I’ve recorded, I mentally rate it using the following criteria: 1) Did not care for film, would not watch again; 2) Liked the movie, but do not feel that I need to re-watch it; or 3) Loved the movie and must procure my own copy.  Often times, if I’ve decided that I loved the film and want my own copy, I will keep the film on the DVR until I’ve located a copy.  There are also films that I love, Penelope (1966) for example, that are not on DVD.  Storing it on the DVR is the only way to “own” a copy of the film!  Honestly, if it weren’t for the DVR, I wouldn’t get to watch anything! enchanted

A couple nights ago, I watched The Enchanted Cottage.  I recorded this film a few nights ago on TCM.  After reading its praises on the TCM Message Board, I decided to give The Enchanted Cottage a whirl.  I am also a big fan of Dorothy McGuire and knowing that she starred in this film gave me another reason to record it.  I really enjoy watching McGuire’s performances.  Unlike peers like Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner and Hedy Lamarr (to name a few examples), McGuire portrayed more ‘normal’ (for lack of a better word) women.  I think McGuire was very pretty, but in a more natural type of way.  She wasn’t overly made up to look glamorous–she had a more attainable, average type beauty.  I also like McGuire’s characterizations.  She portrays women with real issues, women who overcome adversity and hardship to get ahead.  She is so subtle in her performances.  As much as I love Bette Davis, she loves to chew the scenery (as they say).  McGuire’s characters convey so much sympathy, tragedy, etc. through small facial expressions or inflections in her voice.

One of McGuire’s most spectacular performances, in my opinion, takes place in The Enchanted Cottage.  McGuire co-stars with Robert Young as one-half of a couple who fall in love despite their physical shortcomings.  Their love story is framed within a story about an enchanted cottage.  The story begins with Herbert Marshall, a blind pianist, who is holding a dinner party for McGuire and Young’s characters who have recently fallen in love and married.  Marshall is also their neighbor.  Even though he cannot see, Marshall has seen McGuire and Young’s love for one another grow throughout their courtship.  Marshall has written a “tone poem” (a poem set to music) about his neighbors’ (and friends’) love.  McGuire and Young are late.  Out of respect for his other guests, Marshall begins his poem about the enchanted cottage.

The enchanted cottage resides in a small New England town.  According to the stories that have been told throughout the years, during World War I, a young newlywed couple built a beautiful estate in the country.  The gorgeous home was razed by fire and only one wing could be saved.  That wing was converted into a small cottage which the owner then rented out to young newlywed couples.  The legend says that honeymooning couples experience magic in the cottage– a testament to their love.  A widow, Mildred Natwick, currently owns the estate and works to keep it maintained.  She curiously keeps a calendar dated 4-6-1917.

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Robert Young (pre-disfigurement) and plain-jane Dorothy McGuire. I don’t really think she looks homely.

Fast forward some 25 years later (right after Pearl Harbor) and an engaged couple (Young and Hillary Brooke) wire Natwick about renting the cottage.  Despite her reservations, they’re not officially married after all, Natwick agrees to rent them the cottage.  She advertises for a maid to come to the cottage to help her out.  McGuire shows up on her doorstep to apply for the position.  McGuire’s character is not beautiful in this film.  In fact, it’s mentioned multiple times by other characters and by McGuire, that she is “homely.”  Personally, I didn’t think McGuire was unattractive in this film.  I thought she was pretty in an unconventional way.  However, I could buy that she wasn’t considered beautiful.

I liked that McGuire’s homeliness wasn’t created via prosthetics and makeup.  McGuire insisted that she could be plain looking by not wearing makeup, sporting an unflattering hairstyle and wearing ill-fitting clothing.  Combine McGuire’s requests with bad lighting schemes and filmmakers were very adept at downplaying McGuire’s attractiveness and conveying the idea that she was “ugly.”  In an era of the beauty queen, I think this was very brave on McGuire’s part to appear unattractive.  Many of her peers were too vain to allow themselves to appear on-screen looking anything other than beautiful.

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Mildred Natwick as Mrs. Minnett.

Natwick feels a connection with McGuire and agrees to hire her as a housekeeper.  When Young and fiance Brooke show up, McGuire is immediately attracted to Young.  He is an attractive man.  Brooke immediately dismisses McGuire and the cottage.  It’s not blatant, but it’s there.  McGuire tries to play up the enchanted angle and shows Young and Brooke where previous lovers have etched their names into the window panes of the cottage.  Young tries to use Brooke’s engagement ring to make the engraving and the stone falls out of its setting.  Natwick tells them that it is because they aren’t actually married yet and only honeymooning couples can make the engraving.  One gets the sense that the stone falling out of the engagement ring is foreshadowing.

Before they can marry, Young is called to duty in World War II.  He is injured in a plane crash and now the right side of his face is disfigured.  He also suffered nerve damage in his right hand.  Young returns home to his fiance.  Brooke ends up calling off the wedding.  Depressed, Young returns to the cottage, hoping to stay.  Natwick and McGuire agree to let him stay.  As McGuire dotes on Young, he starts to see that she’s a caring and genuine person.  They spend a lot of time together and it is apparent that they really care for one another.  Neighbor Marshall shows up occasionally and despite being blind, he is able to see their love for one another grow.

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Dorothy McGuire, Robert Young and Herbert Marshall

Young ends up proposing to McGuire.  At first, he has bad intentions when he proposes–his mother (Spring Byington), thinking that his disfigurement has ruined his life has proclaimed that he either must move home and live with her or she’ll move in with him.  Not wanting to live with his mother, Young proposes marriage to McGuire.  He realizes he’s being a jerk and discovers that he genuinely cares for McGuire.  They marry.

After marriage, Young and McGuire discover that a physical transformation has taken place.  Young’s scars and physical injuries are gone.  McGuire is now beautiful.  They are overjoyed and attribute their physical attractiveness to the power of the cottage.  Natwick, who has been witnessing their romance since the beginning, seems hesitant to agree with them, but allows them to live in their fantasy.  Byington and her husband, Richard Gaines, show up wanting to meet new daughter-in-law, McGuire.  Upon seeing her appearance, Byington says something to the effect of how lucky it was for McGuire to marry, despite not being a pretty girl.  This comment devastates McGuire.  She realizes that no physical transformation has taken place for either her or Young.  Natwick explains that the cottage really has no actual magic powers–it’s simply the power of love.  Love causes a couple to look past any physical features and only see what they want to see.

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Beautiful Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young as they see each other

While the message of this film is “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and perhaps even “love conquers all,” it is a film with some very interesting ideas.  In the 1940s, perhaps the lack of outward beauty was seen as a type of defect, something that someone should be ashamed of and trying to fix.  In the 2010s however, the constant emphasis on Young and McGuire’s appearances almost seem abhorrent–especially when their appearance is nothing that they can help.  However, I choose to look at this film from a romantic angle.  Despite being practically shunned by society for how they look, McGuire and Young were able to look past it and see the qualities inside one another.  Would the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” message be stronger if either McGuire or Young weren’t physically disadvantaged and fell in love with a conventionally gorgeous person? A la Beauty and the Beast? I am not sure.  Is it better that two misfits (so to speak) fell in love? Or does it send the message that a misfit can only fall in love with another misfit?

This is a very interesting film to watch and analyze.  I liked the dreamlike quality and how the love story played out.  I also really liked Natwick’s support as the stoic widow who isn’t so much cold as she’s hoping that another couple will be in love as much as she and her husband were.  I get the sense that she and her husband were the ones who built the estate.  He was killed during World War I and the world essentially stopped for her.  When McGuire and Young fall in love, she is so overcome by their romance, this gives her hope–so much hope that she finally updates her calendar to the current date.  I also really liked Herbert Marshall.  One, I really like his voice.  Two, I think his blind pianist provided great support to McGuire and Young.  He does not know how they look.  He only knows that they are two kind people who have fallen in love.  He is truly blind, literally and figuratively, when it comes to outward appearances.

This was a fascinating film and I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.  I have added this film to my running list of films to purchase.