DOUBLE TROUBLE opens to the press tomorrow, so here is another instalment to get you jam packed with info on the world of the play and the Hollywood Musical in the days of the "studio system."
Hollywood's most cost-conscious studio concentrated its efforts on low budget comedies and action films. However, Columbia also filmed a series of inexpensive black & white wartime musicals featuring statuesque tap dancer Anne Miller, including the popular Reveille With Beverly (1943).
Although the presence of jazz greats Duke Ellington and Count Basie helped draw audiences, these films were made on the cheap, with production numbers that look as if they were staged in a high school auditorium. Miller soon moved on to MGM, where her outstanding dance talents found classier showcases.
Columbia's most memorable wartime musical was Cover Girl (1944),
the story of a Brooklyn nightclub dancer who becomes a top magazine model. Designed as a vehicle for screen beauty Rita Hayworth (whose singing was always dubbed), it marked Gene Kelly's transition to stardom. On loan from MGM, his "alter ego" dance with a reflection of himself in a glass window proved to be the first of many classic screen moments. The number was conceived and staged by Stanley Donen, who would play a major role in Kelly's career and direct several great MGM musicals over the next ten years. Cover Girl was such a hit that MGM would never again loan Kelly out for a musical role.
After the war, Columbia studio boss Harry Cohn (whose harsh managerial style won him the nickname "White Fang") decided to film Al Jolson's life story, taking the usual liberties with historic fact. For once, this parsimonious studio spared no expense, hiring Jolson to record the songs that actor Larry Parks lip-synched to on screen. Handsomely produced, The Jolson Story (1946)
revived Jolson's popularity and led to that rarest of things, a successful musical sequel – Jolson Sings Again (1949).
NEXT UP: The Twentieth Century Fox blondes and More!
(Thanks to Musicals101.com)