Archive for the ‘Dan Dailey’ Category

Call Me Mister

10 Nov

Call Me Mister – directed by Lloyd Bacon. Musical Comedy. GIs on their way home from war are entertained by a dueling husband and wife. 96 minuets. Color 1951.


Laughter is a door and a room. The door is the joke. The room is laughter itself, a room which one remains in hardly remembering the door at all. For once one is in the room of laughter, the door of the joke is at one’s back. We’re laughing because we’re laughing. We can’t even remember what we’re laughing about.

Betty Grable is like that. One does not estimate the talent she had, if one is to enjoy the skill. What one does do is get oneself lost in the brightly colored room which she is. Good nature exudes from her, and it is real. Set in the most vulgar and phony and energetic of all musical comedy settings – the Fox Musicals – she is down to earth, truthful, human. As an actress she is vulnerable to influence, high responsive, humorous, feisty, has a reasonably good opinion of herself, and is confident of her gifts, such as they are. She one of the two greatest actresses of musical comedy, the other being Judy Garland. But Garland made very few movies playing a grown woman, whereas Grable went on right up to her forties.

She started in film in 1929, when she was thirteen, tricked up in a G-string and hoofing it in the chorus. You can see her as a teenager dance “Knock-Knees” with Edward Everett Horton in Rogers and Astaire’s The Gay Divorcé (RKO 1934), and she is cute as a bug’s ear. She made many minor musicals, even one with Judy Garland, but was still in her early twenties when musical comedy star, Alice Faye left Fox and Grable took her place. Grable had a huge acting and dancing experience behind her by the time this happened. When you see her, mark her speed. Watch her move through the paces of “I’m Going To Love That Man Like He’s Never Been Loved Before,” a big hit from that era. Look how ready and eager she is! It’s refreshing. And authentic.

Like Marilyn Monroe who patterned herself somewhat on Betty Grable, Grable had a complexion for color film. She photographed idealistically. And you sure can see it here, where elaborate hairdos do not distract you from it.

She made a number of films with Dan Daily, and he was her only true co-star because true equal. Unlike the other moustaches, he could really dance. And you can see how well both of them do this as they contrive to put on a show for returning servicemen from Japan.

The story is the usual Betty Grable story of a woman whose man is two-timing her – except that she’s got a bigger career than him –– so there!

Except she’s not that hard-boiled. Naw. She lands her man. Our Betty deserves a love.


Because she is a love.


My Blue Heaven

08 Nov

My Blue Heaven – directed by Henry Koster. Musical Comedy. A famous couple want a baby. 96 minutes Color 1950.


If you are interested in musicals at all, My Blue Heaven is one of the breakthrough ones to see. For it is a Fox musical with the glare amputated. Formerly and for the most part, Betty Grable musicals were set in exotic settings or in The Gilded Age of vaudeville, and Grable would depict an unmarried star on the rise, being two-timed along the way by some handsome cad in a moustache. But here she is already well married and also already well established as half of the Lunt and Fontanne of musical comedy. And the color coding of the musical is no longer loud, vulgar and gaudy, but subdued and natural to its era, which is the ‘50s. The setting is modern, and the story has to do with Grable becoming a mother. Odd.

In 1929 when she was 12, Betty Grable’s mother dyed her hair blond, put her a G-string, and got her in as a chorus girl in the film Happy Days. By the time she made My Blue Heaven she is 33, earning $300,000 a year, Fox’s top star, and for ten years one of the ten top box office attractions in the world. What this has to do with this film is that she had three failures before she made it, and Fox musicals were very expensive to make: $3,000 a minute – partly because of the enormous time rehearsing the numbers. So on the one hand musicals had to succeed and on the other no one quite knew how to make them. But MGM had led the way, so now Betty Grable was made a contemporary American, which made sense, because nobody in the world was more so.

For this one Grable has again her most likeable co-star Dan Daily. He also was her only true co-star, because he was the only one who had big musical comedy chops. He is a gifted dancer, clown, and actor, as was she. Daily has an entertaining face, as did Grable, and they both liked one another enormously, you can see it on the screen. In all four musicals they made together, they are married from the start. But most important, for this film they used a script by Claude Binyon and Lamar Trotti, which is witty, cogent, and surprising, one of the best musical comedy books I have ever seen. Arthur Arling, who had filmed her often and knew now to do it, shot it. It is well-paced, plausible, and bright.

Also on board were oodles of musical numbers written for it by Harold Arlen. These consist of a series of light comedy satires, one of Rogers and Astaire, one of Rogers And Hammerstein’s South Pacific, one of Irving Berlin holliday songs, and the last, also of Ethel Merman and Bing Crosby in Berlin’s Anything GoesDon’t Rock The Boat, Dear, which was a hit in its day and is still a delight. The witty lyrics of this and all these songs were written by Ralph Blane. Mitzie Gaynor, David Wayne, Jane Wyatt, Una Merkel, Louise Beaver lend a happy hand.

Of all the movie stars in the world, Betty Grable is the one most easy to love. If you love loving someone, and I know you do, watch her. She’s a tonic.


When Willie Comes Marching Home

10 Mar

When Willie Comes Marching Home — directed by John Ford. Farce. A patriotic soldier longs to get into the WW II action and then does so. 82 minutes Black and White 1950


It seems incredible that this World War II comedy was made in the year it was, five years after the War itself was over, but there it is, gawky and out of place, and too old for its own mental short pants – as is its star, Dan Dailey, who is clearly 35 when he plays Willie, the boy who wants to go to war. Dailey was one of show business’s most valiant performers, and he brings to the tale his huge ingratiating smile and his mastery of physical comedy time and time again, as he falls, faints, collapses, and dances about to escape the nips of a nasty dog. He has the lanky agility of Ray Bolger, and it almost saves the film. For the problem with the picture lies in how many areas? Aside from being out of date, the story is clearly a bad imitation of Preston Sturges’ masterpiece, Hail The Conquering Hero, of five years before. That might work – save for the treatment by the director. For, while the story is droll, what John Ford thinks is funny, aint. Or at least I am too hoity-toity to find it so. Ford finds patriotism funny. Ford finds drunkenness funny. He finds brawls funny. And he finds stupidity funny. And maybe they are – but Ford’s touch is ham-handed. His wit is on the level of The Three Stooges, not Preston Sturges, for Ford is beer-brained and out to please the lower orders – only. In fact, he is a dreadful snob. Five years later, he was to submit Mr. Roberts to the same wrecking ball of this sort of wit, until Henry Fonda put his foot down and Ford was taken off the film and replaced by Mervyn LeRoy. As soon as Ford enters a room, the mental climate lowers. You find this over and over again in his pictures. There is a terrible disconnect in him between what he thought entertainment was and what people are. Like all artists he saw entertainment as an idealization. But, lying behind that there’s got to be the guts of reality, and where they should be in Ford I find delusion and cowardice. I think of Stagecoach as one of the greatest films I have ever seen. And among its virtues is one that When Willie Comes Marching Home also possesses – pace. Ford knew how to move things forward, he knew where a camera should be placed in a scene to make it simple and clear and arresting, and he has a sense of broad spectacle. These are no small gifts. Ford started way back in the silents. But talkies changed film radically, no more so than with comedy. Drama changed somewhat, but comedy changed completely – from physical wit to verbal. This is why silent comedy is still watchable. But Ford didn’t change with it. He is a bum making films about bums and talking down to them all the while he does it. I feel in him a very gifted, hard-working hypocrite and bully. And I don’t like him.

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