Set in Paris but I don’t think there’s a single Parisian (character or actor). Stiff lunkhead footballer Randolph Scott (Ride Lonesome), looking convincingly awkward on the delicate Paris sets, is tagging along for some reason with Fred Astaire (here winningly named Huck Haines) and Fred’s band of musical entertainers.

Randolph looks to his rich aunt Roberta (Helen Westley, who also appeared with Irene Dunne in Show Boat) for a place to stay while Fred negotiates with blustery “Russian” Luis Alberni (hotel owner in Easy Living, chef in The Lady Eve) for a place to work.

Enter Fred’s love interest Ginger Rogers. Where did she come from again? I don’t remember, but she’s somewhat hindered here by her awful fake accent and by Fred’s fancy for solo tapdances. Fred’s got no humility – this was only his third film (between Gay Divorcee and Top Hat) and something like Ginger’s 30th. The two dances she participates in are wonderful, especially the first where she wears pants so we can see what she’s up to.

Aaand enter Irene Dunne (pre-Awful Truth, same year she was in John Stahl’s Magnificent Obsession) as Randolph’s love interest. I hate to see a dumb American dude being fought over by a European princess (Dunne, who has also been secretly designing Roberta’s all-the-rage fashions) and an aggressively rich American (Claire Dodd), but maybe Randy is more handsome than I realize. Irene is also secretly (?) the sister of the building’s doorman (Victor Varconi: Pontius Pilate in DeMille’s King of Kings), which leads to misunderstandings. Hmmm. Ultimately what matters is we get some oscar-nominated songs, some Fred/Ginger dances, and some comedic running-around. I like Irene Dunne whenever she’s not singing (she’s fond of the piercing Jeanette MacDonald style, which would thankfully die after the 30’s).

Remade in the 50’s with Red Skelton and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Lucille Ball appears in a fashion montage at the end. IMDB trivia gives clues how to spot her, but I guess my laptop DVD drive is dying so I can’t get screenshots.

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.