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THREE LITTLE WORDS: The songs of KALMAR & RUBY

 

“Three Little Words” (1950) has always been one of my favourite musicals, mainly because I love the songs of Bert Kalmar (1884-1947) and Harry Ruby(1895-1974).

Kalmar wrote  the words and was played by Fred Astaire , while composer Harry Ruby was Red Skelton in a rare semi-serious role.

Despite the usual liberties taken by Hollywood , this biopic had some truth in it – Ruby loved baseball , and Kalmar was an amateur magician and had been a dancer in his youth.

They were a songwriting team for nearly 30 years, and THREE LITTLE WORDS is a fine tribute to their songwriting skills.

They wrote for the Marx Brothers in “Animal Crackers” and “Duck  Soup”, including Groucho’s ‘Hello ,I Must be Going” and “Hooray for Captain Spaulding”.

Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby

 

A  great song, “Nevertheless” ( written in 1931) is sung in perfect harmony by Astaire and Skelton.

 

Though written in  1923, “Who’s Sorry Now” first reached the screen in 1946’s “A Night in Casablanca “ sung by Lisette Verea.  Gloria deHaven (playing her mother, Flora deHaven) sings it in “Three Little Words”.
It was recorded by many singers, and in 1958 Connie Francis had a top ten hit with it.

For  this song, Ted Snyder wrote the music.

 

This song lists a Herman Ruby as one of the writers. I couldn’t find out if he was related to Harry Ruby.

 

Debbie Reynolds, Carleton Carpenter.

Debbie Reynolds ( in her first film) sings ‘I wanna be loved by you’ to an uncomfortable Carleton Carpenter. But Debbie is dubbed by Helen Kane (1904-1966) who had first sung it in the 1928 stage musical, “Good Boy.”

A nice touch to have Helen reprise her trademark song.
(Helen Kane’s “This Is Your Life” in 1958 ( available on You Tube) has Helen singing the iconic song, with Harry Ruby at the piano.)

Harry Ruby’s “This Is Your Life” is also on You Tube.

Helen Kane with Debbie Reynolds on the set. Helen was said to be the model for cartoon “Betty Boop”, with her famous ‘boop-boop-a-doop’.

 

Vera-Ellen as ‘Jessie Brown’, Bert Kalmar’s wife. Vera- Ellen was dubbed  by Anita Ellis.

 

Arlene Dahl  plays silent star Eileen Percy who married Harry Ruby in 1936. Arlene sings ‘I Love You So Much.’ in a lovely production number.

 

Arlene Dahl, Red Skelton, Harry Ruby, Fred Astaire, Vera -Ellen

 

Harry Ruby, Red Skelton

Harry Ruby was a baseball fan and in this  shot  from the film  he is seen with Red Skelton.

 

 

 

R.I.P. JAMES CAAN

James Caan

I’ll always remember James Caan (1940-2022) as ‘Mississippi’ in “El Dorado” (1966).

James was 27 and costarring alongside John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. It was only his fourth film after several years in TV roles. He had previously worked with Howard Hawks in “Red Line 7000” in 1965.

Mississippi  was bold enough to reveal his real name – Alan Bourdillion Traherne). He was deadly with a knife but  useless with a gun. And he wore a very unusual hat.

Only two weeks ago I watched a 2021 movie , “Queen Bees” ,in which James costarred with Ellen Burstyn. He was quite stooped ( back problems I understand), but the charisma was still there.

MORE GROUCHO LETTERS

Further excerpts from The Groucho Letters:

 

Feb. 1942. To Arthur Sheekman:

Had an offer from Berlin (Irving, not Hitler) to star in a Music Box revue but that would mean the black moustache again and I’m ducking it as long as it is economically feasible.

Irving Berlin

 

Jan.1951 to Howard Hughes:

Dear Mr.Hughes, ……..I wonder if you could spare a few moments to release a picture that was made some years ago involving Jane Russell, Frank Sinatra and your correspondent. The name of the picture, if memory serves, is “It’s Only Money”…….

I am not a young man any more, Mr. Hughes, and before I shuffle off this mortal coil, if you could see your way clear to pry open your strong box and send this minor masterpiece whizzing through the film exchanges of America, you would not only have earned my undying gratitude but that of the United Nations, the popcorn dealers of America and three RKO stockholders…….

With Jane Russell.

“it’s Only Money” was made by RKO in late 1948 and released in 1951 as DOUBLE DYNAMITE . ( RKO was purchased at the time by Howard Hughes and all production was shut down for a time after the completion of Double Dynamite. Apparently Hughes wasn’t happy with the film and shelved till 1951 when the title change was made.

 

Dec.1950

I have solved the television problem by having a remote control installed on the ugly box. As soon as the first word of the commercial is heard, bang goes the little switch and the idiot barker bellowing the virtues of Odorono, Lifeguard tubes,Mohawk carpets or Halo shampoo is silenced into instant oblivion.

Of course it would be embarrassing if my sponsor should get wind of this device, but they are so busy in Detroit converting from automobiles to five passenger cannons that I think I can continue to play with my luck.

 

June, 1945: Replying to some questions from the New York Herald Tribune:

Your question, ‘what about your public – where has it been?”     Those of our fans who are still alive are temporarily marking time and peering with jaundiced eyes at Abbott and Costello, Danny Kaye and the rest of those current whippersnappers who are frantically trying to snatch the bread from the mouths of three lovable comedians.”

 

Oct.1950. To Harry Kurnitz (writer):

I am going to the Bogarts tonight for dinner with the customary uneasy state of mind. Bogey, as you know, lives on  a steep hill and when a little high ( I’m not referring to the hill )thinks nothing of shoving a guest down a mountainside.

So, if you never hear from me again and you are interested, with the aid of a helicopter and an Indian trapper, you may eventually stumble over my body in some lonesome ravine.

I couldn’t find a photo of Groucho and Bogie but here’s one of Groucho with Ethel Barrymore and Lauren Bacall at a 1951 Xmas party at the Bogarts.

 

March 1965. To Norman Krasna.

On the Hollywood Palace I sang ‘Hooray for Captain Spaulding’ and did a scene from “Animal Crackers” with Margaret Dumont. She was terribly nervous, but good. Two days later she died. It’s kind of ironical that she should have done her last show with me.

The Hollywood Palace.Groucho with Margaret Dumont.

The Hollywood Palace show from 1965  is available on You Tube.

A biography of Margaret Dumont (1882- 1965) is due out in October, 2022.

 

April 1946. To Time Magazine:

I was born during a volcanic eruption in one of the banana countries in Central  America. …..at the age of three an utter stranger apprenticed me to a basket weaver in Guatemala. I soon learned to weave with such dexterity that, by the time my second teeth arrived, I was known throughout the village as the basket child of Guatemala .

After I was run out of Guatemala , I met two other fellows named,I  believe, Harpo and Chico. After considerable bickering, they convinced  me that America, softened up by an excess of rationing, could be persuaded to swallow another dose of Casablanca – this one to be called “A Night in Casablanca.”

Well, we made the picture  and that’s that. The point is that Harpo and Chico are brothers but they are both strangers to me…….

 

A biography of Harpo Max will be published this month, July 2022.

Harpo was married to Susan Fleming from 1936 till his death in 1964. Susan was a former Ziegfeld girl and Paramount player.

 

I was interested to read that Groucho loved Gilbert and Sullivan. 
In 1960, at the age of 70, he took on the role of Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner in THE MIKADO.

And he played it straight.  Although a truncated version for the Bell Telephone Hour, it had a stellar cast – Helen Traubel, Stanley Holloway, Robert Rounseville, Dennis King ( as The Mikado).

The whole show is available on dvd and there is a clip of Groucho and Helen Traubel ( as Katisha) on Y.T.  It’s fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COSTUME TESTS 8

Ginger Rogers in DREAM BOAT (1952).

 

Susan Hayward. (Looking rather modern!) DEMETRIOUS AND THE GLADIATORS.

 

Richard Widmark. THE LAW AND JAKE WADE.

With the comment: “Wardrobe.Not yet aged.”

 

Joan Crawford in THE DAMNED DONT CRY,  previously “The Victim.”

Always liked Joan’s assumed  name in the film, ‘Lorna Hansen Forbes’. ( though the character’s real name was ‘Ethel Whitehead’).

And Warner Brothers’ tag line for the film:

“Flaming stars of “Flamingo Road” meet in scarlet shadows again!”

Joan and David Brian had been in “Flamingo Road”, the year before “The Damned Don’t  Cry.”

 

Cheer up, Mary. you’ll be remembered for this role.

Mary Astor. THE MALTESE FALCON.

 

  • Three shots of Ann Sheridan . I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE.

 

 

Interestingly, this still mentions the colors in the costume – green blouse and  skirt, yellow scarf and gloves.

plus Shoes – Spectator.( a low heeled brogue).    Bag – utility.   Cap – overseas green.  Overcoat -long.
Ann stands to attention, no smiling.

 

Lew Ayres, a convincing lawyer in THE UNFAITHFUL , but looking a little like a gangster in this shot. It’s that hat tilt!

I love this film.

 

Maureen O’Hara . HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY.

(Hairdress had their own stills.)

 

 

 

Bette Davis. The glamorous ‘Charlotte’. NOW VOYAGER.

Cigarette in hand of course.

 

 

Bette Davis. THE SISTERS. Hairdress..

(Bette’s sisters – Jane Bryan, Anita Louise.)

GARBO’S BACK!

Well, that’s what producer Walter Wanger  hoped when he signed the long retired Garbo to a one-picture deal  in 1949.

Their idea was to film the novel, “La Duchesse de Langeais” by Honore de  Balzac.  ( which had already been filmed in France in  1942 with Edwige Feuillere), and in a silent version.)

James Mason signed on as Garbo’s costar, and Max Ophuls was to direct the film in Italy ( where a lot of the financing was coming  from).

Although she hadn’t made a film since 1941, it sounds like Garbo wanted to get back to the period drama/tragedy she was famous for in the 1930s. The Duchess is a socialite in Parisian aristocracy,unhappily married and embarking on an affair which will bring her downfall.

Finances for the film began to unravel and eventually Garbo pulled out.

But in attempts to encourage organisations to invest in the project, Garbo did some screen tests in 1949, filmed by some of Hollywood’s best cinematographers – William Daniels, Joseph Valentine and James Wong Howe.
The footage of these tests disappeared until 1989 and excerpts can be seen below.
Garbo was 44 at the time and looks amazing, just a pity there is no sound.

They even had a ad campaign slogan – Garbo’s Back, (following on from Garbo Talks! Garbo Laughs!)

It was a comeback that was never to be and one wonders why Garbo even considered it. She had a good life, living in New York and travelling the world when she wanted to.

Also at this time Billy Wilder approached her for the role of Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”, but she declined that role leading to a sensational performance from Gloria Swanson. 

 

 

The French actress Edwige Feillere was unknown to me, though I recall an old friend  speaking admiringly of her. On You Tube I found a Rank Organisation film she did in Britain in 1948, “Woman Hater”, with Stewart Granger. She, like Garbo, was about 44 at the time and was charming in this light comedy.

 

 

 

 

GROUCHO vs WARNER BROTHERS

Groucho Marx

Reading “The Groucho Letters” (1967), it’s clear Groucho Marx was a prolific letter writer – to magazines, his doctor, T.S.Eliot, Howard Hughes, Irving Berlin, Presidents – and Warner Brothers.

When the Marx Brothers were about to film A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA, there were threats of legal action from the Warner Brothers studio.

Here is Groucho’s  1946  letter :

Dear Warner Brothers:

Up to the time that we contemplated making this picture, I had no idea that the city of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Brothers….I just don’t understand your attitude . Even if you plan on re-releasing your picture, I am sure the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don’t know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.

You claim you own Casablanca and that no one can use that name without your permission. What about “Warner Brothers”? Do you own that,too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about Brothers?  Professionally we were brothers long before you were. We were touring the sticks as The Marx Brothers when Vitaphone  was still a gleam in the inventor’s eye.

And even before us there had been other brothers – the Brothers Karamazov, Dan Brothers ( an outfielder with Detroit), and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime”…

Now,Jack, how about you ?  Do you maintain that yours is an original name? Well, it’s not. Offhand, I  can think of two Jacks – there was Jack of “Jack and the Beanstalk” and Jack the Ripper, who cut quite a figure in his day.

As for you, Harry, you probably sign your checks, sure in the belief that you are the first Harry of all time and that all other Harry’s are imposters. I can think of two Harry’s that preceded you. There was Lighthouse Harry of Revolutionary fame, and a Harry Appelbaum who lived on the corner of 93rd Street and Lexington Avenue.

Now about the Burbank  studio. I believe this is what you brothers call your place. Old man Burbank is gone. He was a great man in the garden…..a wizard at crossing fruits and vegetables until he had the poor plants in such a confused and jittery condition that they could never decide whether to enter the dining room on the meat platter or the desert dish.

This is pure conjecture of course, but who knows – perhaps Burbank’s survivors aren’t too happy with the fact that a plant that grinds out pictures on a quota settled in their town, appropriated Burbank’s name and uses it as a front for their films. It is even possible that the Burbank  family is prouder of the potato produced by the old man than they are of the fact that from your studio emerged “Casablanca “ or even “Gold Diggers of 1931.”

…..I love Warner Brothers, some of my best friends are Warner Brothers……I have a hunch that this attempt to prevent us from using the title is the brain child of some ferret-faced shyster, serving a brief apprenticeship in your legal dept. Well he won’t get away with it! ….. we’ll fight him to the highest court…no pasty faced legal adventurer is going to cause bad blood between the Warners and the Marxes. We are all brothers under the skin and we’ll remain friends till the last reel of “A Night in Casablanca “ goes tumbling over the spool.

 

Actually, Warners didn’t threaten litigation. It was a  Groucho publicity stunt, and  his letter ( and two follow-up letters )were published in the Saturday Evening Post.

Apparently Warners merely enquired about the plot line in case there were any copyright infringements.

Another Groucho/ Warners joke was that Groucho said Warners’ NIGHT AND DAY” infringed on two Marx Brothers titles – “A NIGHT AT THE OPERA” and “A DAY AT THE RACES.”

 

 

The 1923 song, ‘Who’s Sorry Now’ ( by Ted Snyder, Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby) was sung in the film by Lisette Verea, in her only Hollywood film. Kalmar and Ruby had written songs for earlier Marx Brothers films).

The film was originally intended as a parody of “Casablanca”, and in an early draft, Groucho’s character was called ‘Humphrey Bogus’.

Set after the war, Groucho runs the Hotel  Casablanca , and Sig Ruman is a former Nazi who is after treasure hidden in the hotel.

Sig Ruman, Harpo Marx

One holdover from “Casablanca “ was Dan Seymour playing the Prefect of Police.

Dan Seymour

But seriously, Warner Brothers had nothing to worry about !

 

There was also a suggestion that Harpo might talk in the film. His response to a reporter was:

“ I’ve spent 25 years creating the illusion that I can’t talk. No matter what you write, they won’t believe it’s me talking. They’ll think you made it up.”

 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Double Indemnity “

One of the classic lines from DOUBLE INDEMNITY:

Edward G. Robinson as Barton Keyes to Fred MacMurray ( Walter Neff):

“I picked you for the job, not because I think you’re so darn smart, but because I thought you were a shade less dumb than the rest of the outfit.

Guess I was wrong. You’re not smarter, Walter, you’re just a little taller.”

 

You can hear Edward G. Robinson’s resigned tone.Neff has been like a son to him, he mentored Neff, he expected  him to go far in the insurance business. Instead he finds that Neff is a killer.

Edward G. Robinson

 

Fred MacMurray

 

And the blonde who set the drama in motion.

Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray

STRAIGHT AT YOU!

Many  star photos  usually have the stars gazing off into the distance.But the following  find the actors looking straight at you.

 

Ann Sheridan

One of my favourite films, EDGE OF DARKNESS. Ann Sheridan helps lead the resistance to the Germans in Norway during WW2. Who is that little guy on the right.

 

Cary Grant

 

 

Jean Peters

Jean Peters (1926-2000) so good in PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET. A career cut short when she married Howard Hughes. By 1955 she had made 20 films but left films at the age of 29 and didn’t make another film till 1973.
Her final marriage to producer Stan Hough lasted from 1971 till his death in 1990.

 

George Raft

A threatening look from Mr. Raft.

 

 

Lizabeth Scott

 

Paul Douglas, Linda Darnell

My favourite couple in  A LETTER TO THREE WIVES.

 

Joel McCrea

Always the hero.

 

Cornel Wilde, Ida Lupino, Richard Widmark.ROAD HOUSE.

 

Barbara Stanwyck.

 

One of the few times when you see Robert Montgomery who was behind the camera in LADY IN THE LAKE. With Audrey Totter .

 

 

George Brent

 

 

Charles McGraw  in HIS KIND OF WOMAN.  Not a big role but he is always impressive.

 

Susan Hayward

Nice snap of Susan. Could have been a fan taking it.

 

Joseph Cotten

Always remembered in SHADOW OF A DOUBT.

 

Burt Lancaster, John  Hoyt, Jeff Corey.BRUTE FORCE. Nice to see John  Hoyt front and centre. 

 

 

Rita as Gilda.

 

 

Judith Anderson.REBECCA

A face you don’t want looking you in the eye! Not a welcoming look.Poor Joan Fontaine.

CARY GRANT: Name Dropping

The following article comes from FILMS IN REVIEW magazine , written by Michael Buckley:

I’ve added illustrations.


Judy, Judy, Judy”. He never said the line, but millions who imitated him did.

As Sergeant Cutter in GUNGA DIN, he blithely informed a cult of killers who filled a temple – “You’re all under arrest”…..

As C. K. Dexter Haven in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY”, he flattened Katharine Hepburn’s Tracy Lord for breaking his golf club…….

As Roger Adams in PENNY SERENADE , he pleaded with a judge to keep his adopted daughter.

GUNGA  DIN

With Irene Dunne. PENNY SERENADE

 

As David Huxley, a paleontologist searching for an intercostal  clavicle in BRINGING UP BABY, he played straight man to Hepburn and a leopard……..

And we remember him as Johnny Case  who wanted to retire young and take a HOLIDAY…….

he was George Kerby, the spirit-ed friend in TOPPER……

and editor Walter Burns, giving rapid fire instructions to ex-wife Rosalind Russell’s Hildy Johnson in HIS GIRL FRIDAY.

BRINGING UP BABY

 

 

With Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy.HIS GIRL FRIDAY

 

As Irene Dunne’s soon-to-divorced mate in THE AWFUL TRUTH and her about-to-be wed-again spouse in MY FAVOURITE  WIFE…….

as Mr.Lucky, Mr. Blandings, Cole Porter……and an Angel named Dudley and a male war bride…….Poppy Rose and Dr. Noah Praetorious.

 

MR LUCKY

 

With Ann Sheridan.I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE.

 

With Finlay Currie.PEOPLE WILL TALK

 

For his favourite director Hitchcock, he explored a wine cellar with Ingrid Bergman in NOTORIOUS, caused Joan Fontaine to have SUSPICION, dodged a crop-dusting plane and played hide-and-seek on Mount Rushmore in  NORTH BY NORTHWEST.

 

With Ingrid Bergman.NOTORIOUS

 

NORTH BY NORTHWEST

 

Audrey Hepburn, in CHARADE, asked him,

“Do you know what’s wrong with you?”.
“No, what?” he responded.

“Nothing!”

 


He wouldn’t choose a best performance, but stated that his worst was as Mortimer Brewster in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE.

 

And there were the parts he didn’t play: Norman Maine in A STAR IS BORN (salary demands were too high); William Holden’s role in THE BRIDGE ON THE KWAI ( he took too long to decide); THE MUSIC MAN ( he told Jack Warner that he wouldn’t even see the movie if Robert Preston didn’t recreate his stage role of Harold Hill ; MY FAIR LADY ( he didn’t think anyone could do better than Rex Harrison.)

 

 

THE ROONEY – PIDGEON – SKELTON Blues

Was pleased to find this ditty sung by Greer Garson, Judy Garland and Lucille Ball during a WW2 war bond rally, possibly in 1943. The lyrics were supposedly penned by the gals  themselves, and it was dubbed  “The Rooney-Pidgeon-Skelton Blues.”

A comedy plea against  typecasting.

Not  sure what tune was used, though the first line can go with “Three Little Maids” from “The Mikado.”

 

Judy Garland, (Fred Astaire?)Greer Garson, Betty Hutton, Mickey Rooney, Lucille Ball, Spencer Tracy.

 

All: We’re three little maids from Hollywood ,
We want to do things we never should,

They never let us have our fling

We always do the same old thing.

JUDY:

      I’m Mickey Rooney’s girl friend.

GREER:

     I’m Walter Pidgeon’s wife.

LUCILLE:

      I’m Red Skelton’s sidekick.

All: And we’re stuck with them for life.

JUDY:

I sing to Mr Gable but he’s never really there

I’m longing to enchant him with sophisticated flair

But every time I turn I turn around , Andy Hardy’s in my hair.

GREER:

I’d like to go cavorting with some charming Mr. Deeds, and slink around in gowns with several modern well-placed beads.

But all I get is a bustles-flannel nighties- widows’s weeds!

All: There’s no escape – you’re  stuck with that for life.

LUCILLE:

I’d love to play dramatic roles with diction terse and clipped,

To chew the scenery into shreds with stark and sombre script,

But I’m always with Red Skelton, being flipped and tripped and stripped!

All: What good is versatility when we can’t show our ability, To do the sort of thing we would enjoy.

Greer: I’m stuck with domesticity.

Lucille: And I with burlesquicity.

Judy: And I’m so gosh darned busy being  coy.

All: Three girls who are tired of it all.we can’t get away from those three leading men. We finish up a picture, then we’re with them again.

Greer: In aprons!

Lucille: In spangles!

Judy: In socks!

  • I’m Garson
  • I’m Garland
  • I’m Ball.

 

If only it had been recorded. Maybe it was! Bloodhounds at the ready.

 

Lucille and Greer

 

(Bob commented below and also highlighted this photo  of all the stars on the war bond tour.)