Double-feature on Turner Classic! Part two has mostly-good somewhat-exciting clips from MGM musicals introduced by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Kelly directed the lame host segments, where he and Fred walk around some giant colorful shapes and dodgy video effects (and also tromp through Paris for a while). Whole thing is quite wholesome. It’s not all musical numbers – there’s a clip from A Night at the Opera and tributes to Frank Sinatra and Hepburn/Tracy – just a big nostalgic lovefest

Things learned:
– Eleanor Powell is pretty amazing.
– Anything with Judy Garland has gotta be worth watching.
– I like Jimmy Durante.
Cabin in the Sky looks good.

Apparently I was wrong in thinking these MGM musicals were on TV all the time in the 70’s, but they certainly were in the 90’s when part III came out, so they spiced it up with behind-the-scenes shots, scenes from rare films and scenes cut from more popular films. Very good idea, and the selections are given better setup with more historical context, making the whole thing seem less random. Written and directed by the editing team of the first two movies. Guess I always wondered why J. Rosenbaum picked part III of this series for his great films list without I or II, but the first two are merely compilations of film moments so if you have access to the source films there’s very little of value there. Part III is full of original content… an alternate camera angle on a dance number showing how the set was deconstructed mid-scene to make room for camera movement, some Judy Garland scenes from a movie in which Betty Hutton replaced her a few days into shooting, a censored scene of Lena Horne in a bathtub and some unused vocal tracks from Show Boat before they were dubbed by a different singer. Scenes are introduced by Horne, Mickey Rooney, Esther Williams and other surviving stars from the era. Neat stuff. I only technically watched three quarters of it, but I’m gonna cheat and take credit anyway.

Bing Crosby quits his NYC singing/dancing team with Fred Astaire (eight years after The Gay Divorcee, his head and hands still cartoonishly large) and moves to Connecticut (another CT christmas movie) to open the Holiday Inn, where he can goof off 350 days a year, and put on spectacular shows for each holiday with a custom-written song (incl. White Christmas, Easter Parade). When the girl (Charlotte NC native Virginia Dale) whom Fred stole from Bing leaves town to marry a millionaire instead, Fred invites himself to the Inn and tries to steal Bing’s new girl Marjorie Reynolds (later in Lang’s Ministry of Fear). Lots of singing and dancing ensues, Fred gets the girl and takes her off to Hollywood to make a film about the Holiday Inn (featuring the inn sets we’ve already seen, but with all the lighting now visible – it’s the most meta movie of 1942!). A few holidays later, Bing builds up the guts to ride down there and steal her back – plus V. Dale shows up again, so now everybody’s got a pretty girl, and happy holidays and remember to buy war bonds.

The movie obviously won best song for the bestselling single of all time White Christmas, but lost a writing award to 49th Parallel. Irving Berlin would return with Easter Parade in ’48, and White Christmas (which I didn’t like as much as Holiday Inn) in ’54. Sandrich would die four years later in the middle of filming another Berlin/Astaire/Crosby musical, Blue Skies.

Bing Crosby, in between Road movies, celebrating Lincoln’s birthday:

Object of affection Marjorie Reynolds:

Actual black person Louise Beavers appeared in Freaks a decade earlier, and would become one of the first black sitcom stars a decade later.