Hollywood Singing and Dancing


Dancing Away the Great Depression: The 1930s PT2

"Hollywood Singing and Dancing" is a thirteen-part series that takes you on the set of some of the most beloved movie musicals of all time. Memorable interviews with stars and people behind the scenes bring tinseltown to life. Starting in the silent era, the series moves through Hollywood's toe-tapping golden years, the iconoclastic 70s and 80s, and ends at the start of the 21st century.

AIRED: January 06, 2020 | 0:58:30




Just as Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies

revived the economy,

Hollywood rejuvenated its movie musicals,

which were bigger and better than ever.

Audiences continued to rely on musicals

to sing and dance their troubles away.


Hollywood had plenty of stars

and no studio had more stars than MGM.

Among movie studios, Metro was the king of the beasts

but not when it came to musicals.

What MGM had were major, major stars --

the Norma Shearers, the Clark Gables,

the Jean Harlows, William Powell --

that carried their pictures.

But they didn't really have a formula for musicals.

Jones: Metro tried to turn its big name stars

into musical performers

regardless of whether or not this was advisable.

Joan Crawford at least had a dancing background

for "Dancing Lady."

MGM also tried to turn sexy Jean Harlow into a musical star

in the appropriately titled "Reckless."

Her singing was dubbed by Virginia Verrill.

♪ When I'm in love, I'm reckless ♪

Jones: Even the redoubtable Clark Gable

was put to work in musical numbers.


♪ If you're blue and you don't know ♪

♪ Where to go to why don't you go where Harlem's hits... ♪

Jones: But some dramatic stars did do well in musicals.

Both originally dancers, George Raft and James Cagney

were typecast as tough guys in gangster films.

He's going in and out. [ Snaps fingers ]

Jones: But occasionally they return to their musical roots.

Why are you dirty...

[ Whistles ]

Say, just a minute. This is supposed to be my dance.

At Paramount,

George Raft danced with Carole Lombard and Sally Rand

in "Bolero."

At Warners, James Cagney starred in the Busby Berkeley

extravaganza "Footlight Parade."


The thing that people didn't know about James Cagney

is he was always a song and dance man

before he was a tough guy.

And you might say the same thing about me.

James Cagney, you know,

he came from Hell's Kitchen for one thing.

But he also was started in vaudeville

and learned all hoofing steps because of being Irish.

You know, those days everybody did Irish clog dancing.


Jones: Cagney starred in "Something to Sing About"

a prelude to his astonishing performance

in "Yankee Doodle Dandy."






Saddler: Jimmy Cagney when you see him dancing he was so light

and yet he had this great sound

but that all came from that Irish clog.


Jones: MGM was still desperate to cash in

on the revival of the musical.

"Broadway Melody" was a huge success in 1929.

So Metro came out with "Broadway Melody of 1936."

It boasted a host of talents

including newcomer Eleanor Powell.

♪ ...use that coffee pot, use your voice ♪

Jones: Powell began tap dancing at the age of 11,

reached Broadway when she was 17,

and danced her way into movie musicals in 1935.

"Broadway Melody of 1936" was her first film for MGM.

♪ You opened heaven's portal... ♪

Masuyama: That made her into a star overnight.

And she was making A-pictures.

I mean, not too many stars would have that power.


Consequently, she also starred in another

"Broadway Melody" in '38

and the picture itself did very, very well.

Eleanor Powell was a great dancer

and MGM let her become one of the great dancers

of all time.

[ Scatting ]

♪ Tap on wood

[ Whistling ]

Withers: Eleanor Powell, in my humble opinion,

is without a doubt the greatest lady tap dancer

we've ever had anywhere at any time.

Yes, I adored Ann Miller and I loved her.

And I'm wild about Cyd Charisse.

But for tap dancing, I think, Eleanor Powell topped them all.

She was queen of tap.

Jones: "Born to Dance" as the title suggests

was tailor made to showcase Powell's dancing.

Frances Langford and Buddy Ebsen

provided additional support.

♪ And what might your plans for today be ♪

Jones: Also there was Jimmy Stewart

making a rare musical appearance.

♪ I scanned the beach

♪ And there was a peach enjoying a hula hula ♪

Jones: But it was Powell's dancing that wowed audiences.

Eleanor Powell, actually, I think learned a lot

from Bill Robinson.

Man: She told me that she would often

sit at the side of the stage and watch him.

You know, she really -- he really taught her how to tap.

Rooney: I just enjoyed watching her.

I think everybody did.


Jones: "Honolulu" was another movie venue for Powell.

Robert Young provided the love interest

and the team of Burns and Allen supplied the comic relief.

Then there were those who saw humor in Powell

tap dancing the hula.

That's right. Tap dancing the hula.


Masuyama: And then there's the "Broadway Medley of '40,"

which, she got to co-star for the first time,

and the last time, with Fred Astaire.


Nicholas: Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell

in the "Broadway Melody of 1940."

Now go rent that, you'll be amazed

how these two worked together.

Masuyama: Plot was kind of okay, but by that time

MGM had their own formula and the gloss was all there.

It was just wonderful.

The production numbers,

how it was choreographed, how it was filmed.

It just got better with each consecutive "Broadway Melody."

Jones: In addition to a dancer, MGM also had a singer.

Jeanette MacDonald was a favorite of Louis B. Mayer.

He liked her voice and her personality.

Masuyama: Louis B. Mayer wanted wholesome entertainment

more than anything.

And who better than Jeanette MacDonald

to be wholesome.

♪ There is magic in the melody upon a summer breeze ♪

♪ Warm and tender all night long ♪

Jones: MGM cast her in "Naughty Marietta"

based on an old Victor Herbert operetta.

Masuyama: It was supposed to star

Jeanette MacDonald and Allan Jones.

He was on stage in something on Broadway or something.

And he couldn't do it so Nelson Eddy was brought in.

[ Singing indistinctly ]

Masuyama: And something sparked in Nelson Eddy

when he was on the screen with Jeanette MacDonald.

♪ Forever

Jones: The result was an unexpected box office smash.

♪ And yet, it's wise...

Jones: Their second film together was "Rosemary."

♪ Would mean my very life to me ♪

Masuyama: And so it worked so well that they ended up

making several films after that like "Maytime."

I always loved you, I always will.

Oh, Paul. Oh, darling.

♪ Sweetheart, sweetheart

♪ Sweetheart

Jones: Forever linked with musical romance,

Eddy and MacDonald became known

as America's singing sweethearts.

Birchard: You know, Jeanette MacDonald's a wonderful

screen personality, Nelson Eddy's a wonderful voice.

He's a bit of a stiff.

For some reason, he's great in "Naughty Marietta."

And then he progressively become stiffer and stiffer

as the pictures go by.

But it didn't seem to make any difference audiences

loved the pairing of these two.

Masuyama: Much like Astaire and Rogers

were a dancing team in RKO,

MacDonald and Eddie was a singing team at MGM

just as popular.

It was a different kind of film

than the other studios were making,

it was really a throwback to an earlier period.

♪ Carry me back

♪ To old Virginny

Birchard: I think nostalgia was a good part of the appeal

of the Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy films.

They usually made costume pictures turn of the century,

you know, 1850s, what have you.

The persona that she had

and he had fit perfectly for that era.

And people saw that and they loved them.

Of course, sometimes they would take their epic costumes

off and put their modern clothes on as they did in "Sweethearts"

MGM's first Technicolor picture.

♪ You're pretty as a picture

I remember back in Minneapolis going to the theater on weekends

and I remember seeing Jeanette MacDonald

and Nelson Eddy

in "Naughty Marietta" and "New Moon"

and I just thought

that's really what made me want to do musicals.

♪ Sweethearts, who need... [ singing indistinctly ] ♪

She had a style of perky, sweet, little innocent lady

where she really wasn't in person.

But it didn't matter. She came across the screen that way.

And he was this great big macho, you know,

thundering hero with his great big voice.

♪ Give me some man, oh, a stouthearted man ♪

She would come in....♪ ah

With her high voice.

They fit that era.

They wouldn't -- they wouldn't --

they wouldn't -- they couldn't get a job today

with the way they were then, you know.

But they were perfect for their time.

♪ We'll find our fortune and our happiness there ♪

♪ We will find...

Their pictures were so anticipated

and I think most of the fans all over the world

thought they a man and wife

and they was just magnificent.


Jones: Raking in the dough with the MacDonald/Eddy films,

MGM hoped to make more money by separating America's sweethearts

to try them with other partners.

"Balalaika" cast Nelson as a Russian prince

masquerading as a commoner

so he can be near a café singer played by Ilona Massey.

[ Singing indistinctly ]

Jones: "The Firefly" paired Jeanette MacDonald with MGM's

other singing sensation, Allan Jones.

♪ There's a song in the air


Carlisle: Allan Jones was so dear.

Oh, he sang so well.

He was wonderful.

♪ Near or ever so far

Jones: He starred in "Everybody Sing" made in 1938.

Yet Jones is best remembered as the singing replacement

for Zeppo in the Marx Brothers movies

"A Night at the Opera" and "A Day at the Races."

When the Marx Brothers were jettisoned by Paramount,

they landed at MGM and hit the ground running.

Supported by Head of Production Irving Thalberg,

their first film from Metro

was a classic -- "A Night at the Opera."

[ Honks ]

They didn't play tricks on me.

And they were charming and I enjoyed making the movie.

And that's my claim to fame with my children

and my grandchildren.

They all adore "A Night at the Opera."

[ Singing in foreign language ]

Jones: Opera was all the rage in movies due in part to a star

MGM had fired.

Osborne: Grace Moore had had an early career at MGM

didn't do so well then she went to Columbia Pictures

and then a movie called "One Night of Love"

that was a huge smash.

She was nominated for an Academy Award

for "One Night of Love."

Man: Grace Moore really has a very sort of vibe

and personality that comes across on screen.

Jones: Although Moore made only a few films,

she is credited with helping popularize

opera in movies such as in "I'll Take Romance."

♪ I'll take romance

Jones: MGM reached for operatic success

with "The Great Waltz,"

vaguely based on the life of composer Johann Strauss.

This big budget production was a curious hybrid

taking the music of Strauss and adding new lyrics

by Oscar Hammerstein II.

♪ ...the song the birds caress the sky ♪

[ Singing indistinctly ]

Jones: Some critics dubbed it "The Great Schmaltz"

and it was a box office dud.


Other big budget musical extravaganzas

included "The Goldwyn Follies."

Independent producer Sam Goldwyn's

return to the Hollywood revues of the early movie musical.

It, too, bombed.

♪ And the cat's meow

Jones: Universal had smoother sailing

with its remake of "Showboat."

"Ice Follies of 1939" was another big MGM musical.



"The Great Ziegfeld" was the most expensive

production at MGM since the silent "Ben-Hur."

This was an epic musical picture which was done

in the grandest MGM style spared no expenses

had all sorts of stars in it

and the most spectacular musicals

that you've ever, ever seen up to that point.

That alone was worth the price of admission

and it won an Academy Award for the Best Picture that year

for that reason.

Jones: Musical and disaster are not two words movie moguls

like to hear together in the same sentence,

but the 1936 production of "San Francisco"

was both a musical and a disaster movie.

Plot revolved around nice guy Spencer Tracy

protecting saloon singer Jeanette MacDonald

from bad boy Clark Gable.


Woman: [ Screams ]

Jones: And, oh, yeah. There was also an earthquake.

[ Screaming ]

Man: I think "San Francisco" and "In Old Chicago"

happened, really, to be disaster movies

with a few musical numbers thrown in for good measure.

This is like the studio thought,

"Oh, well, we don't have enough going on here.

"We've only just destroyed San Francisco.

Let's have Jeanette MacDonald sing as well."

♪ San Francisco open your doors and... ♪

Jones: If MGM could destroy San Francisco to music

20th Century Fox could burn down Chicago to merry melodies.

A year after "San Francisco" premiered,

Fox came out with its own disaster musical

"In Old Chicago."

The big budget bonfire starred the top leading men

on the Fox lot -- Tyrone Power and Don Ameche.

It also starred the chief leading lady

of Fox musicals, Alice Faye.

Oh, when we were kids, we were always fighting.

But I bet if any other Irishes tried to horn in,

it was the O'Learys against the world.

Ooh, you said it.

Jones: Born Alice Jeanne Leppert,

she began her career at an early age

joining Earl Carroll's Vanities

but was fired when they learned she was just 13.

After she turned 15, she went into vaudeville.


Bishop: And the next thing she did was

"George White's Scandals" as a chorus girl.

Rudy Vallée was one of the stars and Rudy Vallée heard her voice

and he liked it so he hired her as his vocalist.

Jones: Vallée brought Fey to Hollywood

for a small part in the movie version

of "George White's Scandals."

When the star Lilian Harvey dropped out,

Alice Faye replaced her in the lead role.

They said, "Why not use Alice?"

So it was -- it was almost like a plot to one of her movies.

She went into the film.

And she was a hit in her first movie.

Jones: Signing Faye to a seven-year contract,

the Fox film company tried to hammer her

into an imitation Jean Harlow.

I'm gonna give you my impression of Jean Harlow.


Jones: But her mellow contralto singing voice

soon helped her evade this mold, landing her starring roles

in Fox musicals.

♪ I need romance and cozy nooks ♪

♪ Okay, baby, you're czar

♪ Under your direction, I'm your future star ♪

♪ I love roses and babbling brook ♪

♪ With you, honey, I'd go far

♪ Under your direction, I'm your future star ♪

♪ Now smile, mm, your smile

♪ Dear...[ gasps ]

♪ Should we part

♪ Love, oh... [ singing indistinctly ]

♪ Stop

♪ You're breaking my heart

♪ You're too handsome for ugly looks ♪

♪ Just be, honey, as you are

♪ Under your direction

♪ I'm your future star

Bishop: They called her the girl with the velvet throat.

She became one with the song.

There was a review inNewsweek magazine.

They said for the generations that have never enjoyed

Alice Faye in the movies the best way to describe her

is not that she was a torch singer.

It was that she was a smoldering torch herself.

Jones: Fox Film Company became 20th Century Fox in 1935.

It was a first-class studio, had Darryl Zanuck

and first-class directors, and first-class actors,

and a huge studio.

♪ Whose big baby are you

Her next movie, "King of Burlesque,"

was the first movie

that actually had 20th Century Fox on it.

♪ I'm shooting high, got my eye on a star ♪

Alice Faye was a husky contralto

who really, I think, was almost wasted on Hollywood.

You know she has the sexuality of Jean Harlow,

she has the earthiness of Mae West,

but all too often she really wasn't allowed

to bring those qualities to life on screen.

♪ Mm, it's you

Bishop: Zanuck kept putting her in movies like "Sing Baby Sing"

and "You Can't Have Everything" and two Shirley Temple pictures,

"Poor Little Rich Girl" and "Stowaway."

♪ My love, my moment with you now is ending ♪

Then he made his big one, "In Old Chicago"

and that's the movie that put her on the map

as far as being a superstar.

In 1938 and '39, "Showmen's Trade Review"

named her the top female box office star.

Jones: "Alexander's Ragtime Band"

was a tribute to the music of Irving Berlin

featuring many of his best loved songs.

Whitcomb: It's supposed to be the life of Irving Berlin,

but he didn't want his real story told.

So it's the story of Alexander played by Tyrone Power.

But there's some terrific sequences in that film.

Bishop: I don't know how that could be a music biography

of Irving Berlin.

It was more like a cavalcade of his music.

♪ Has never been told before

Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, George Gershwin,

and Harry Warren,

year after year said they'd rather have Alice Faye

introduce their songs than anybody else.

And they said there was a quality about her

she just put over the songs and they were big hits.

She introduced more hits

twice as many as Judy Garland, twice as many as Betty Grable,

and the later competitor Doris Day.

♪ You can hold my heart for ransom ♪

♪ If you'll take me in a handsome down direct ♪

♪ 'Cause there we'll have a lot of fun ♪

Bishop: Lillian Russell she always said I don't know

why they didn't film that in technicolor.

She says I had the costumes to make you die over and she did.

She sang a lot of songs never photographed more beautifully

than she was in that movie.

♪ After the ball is over

♪ After the break of morn

♪ After the dance was leaving

♪ After the stars are gone

Jones: Another blonde musical star at Fox

was Norwegian-born Sonja Henie.

Sonja Henie is almost forgotten today which is a tragedy

because she brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.

Jones: She became a world champion skater at the age of 15

and won gold medals at three consecutive Winter Olympics

before starring in ice shows.

She wasn't just the wonderful smiling blond skater

that we see on screen.

She was a sharp minded businesswoman.

Jones: When she demanded a huge salary to appear in movies

only Darryl F. Zanuck would bite

signing her to a contract with Fox.

In her films, Henie would do for ice

what Esther Williams would later do for water.

Yes, I loved her.

She was very dear and cute as a button.

She looked like a doll and it meant so much to me

that she would allow me to skate

on her own ice pond at 21st Century Fox.

I think one of the problems with Sonja Henie

is quite frankly what you cast her in.

How do you manage to write in a scene

on the ice rink into the movies?

But ultimately, she's only great, really,

when she's skating

and there's a limit to how much skating

I think people want to see in a movie.

Jones: When your film career melted in the 1940s

she skated neatly back into live performances

with her highly successful Hollywood Ice Revue

which she both produced and starred in.

At the end of the '30s, Zanuck signed another blonde,

a fresh faced starlet named Betty Grable.

It was the pattern 20th Century Fox

was to follow for the next two decades.

Frothy, lightweight musicals starring beautiful blondes.

♪ Long as soon as you learn that you will never return ♪

♪ To Manhattan

Jones: But another blonde star on the Fox lot

towered over them all.

The musicals of the mid to late 1930s were dominated

by a new generation.

Very new as singing child stars became the rage.

It was led by the all-time

greatest child star, Shirley Temple.

Masuyama: She was just wonderful in all aspects

and she was cute as a button

and people just couldn't get enough for her.

People forget what a jolt of hope

she brought to the public in the depths of the Depression

when people had to scrape up that nickel to get to the movies

going in and seeing the embodiment of optimism.

This kid to whom there was no obstacle too high,

there was no wall that was impregnable.

She could break through anything,

she could defeat any challenge

and do it while singing and tapping up a storm.

♪ Hey, what did the bluejay say ♪

♪ To the little sparrow on the fence one day ♪

As she is in the way she talks

and what she does and with the dimples and the curls

and everything, you know, and I just loved her.


Jones: She was born in Santa Monica in 1928

and took dance lessons at the age of 3.

A year later, she was discovered and put in movies.



How do you like my baby?

Shirley Temple was a phenomenon.

She had been in pictures since the early '30s

as a baby, really

in short pictures and she'd been a couple of feature films

at Paramount suddenly landed at Fox

in "Stand Up and Cheer" and audiences

just took to her.

Stuart: In the first place, she was adorable.

The second place she was very talented.

She could dance, she could sing, she could mime.

It wasn't anything she couldn't do as an actor.



Birchard: And not just in the cutesy way that kids do

but with real panache.

♪ On the good ship lollipop

♪ It's a sweet trip to a candy shop ♪

Jones: In 1935, Temple won a special Oscar.

Oh, thank you very much, Mr. Cobb.

Mommy, can I go home now?

[ Laughter ]

Jones: But there would be no going home for the little girl

after she became the leading box office attraction in the world.

♪ Got to S-M-I-L-E

I really thought Shirley was wonderful with the dimples.

And for a time I used to go to sleep like this

hoping I could wake up with it and never happened.

The audience just ate it up

because she was so adorable on the screen.

The cameras loved her, the audiences loved her,

and she made bundles for Fox in the mid to late '30s.

Jones: The success of her films pulled the troubled Fox studio

out of the freefall it had been experiencing

since the crash of 1929.

And she is credited with saving the studio

from bankruptcy.

♪ That's what I want for Christmas ♪

♪ Yes, that's what I want for Christmas ♪

Stuart: She saved 20th, yeah,

they would have gone under without Shirley.


merchandising was extremely big as well in that, you know,

if it wasn't for Shirley Temple

there wouldn't be a Shirley Temple doll,

Shirley Temple songbook, Shirley Temple dresses, frocks,

what have you.


Thank you very much, Mr. Mayer.

Get ready for the first trip on your beautiful new street car.

All aboard!

Jones: When she wasn't making feature films,

she was being put through her paces for newsreel cameras

at numerous publicity events even her birthdays

were orchestrated for the publicity department.

I want to thank you very much.

I think it's very nice to have a big party like this.

Thank you, Captain Hill.

I like to be honorary Captain of the Waikiki Beach.

Man: She went back to Washington, D.C.,

at the height of her career

with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt,

and they said, "There's nothing wrong with America

as long as we have Shirley Temple."


Jones: But it was her feature films that made her

the top box office draw.

♪ Are you my favorite

♪ You know that you are but definitely ♪

Usually they said when anybody made

a film with Shirley Temple,

they might as well not even be there because all the attention

and all of the fuss was over Shirley

and she was a real scene stealer.

Gloria Stuart at the time that they were making

"Poor Little Rich Girl" went up to Alice and said,

"It's very hard."

She says, "You just feel like nobody around here

with her around here."

And Alice said, "Well, she's the biggest things

"in film right now.

So might as well get used to it."

Actually, if you went up in your lines Shirley had them.

Shirley had said you're supposed to say so and so she was

on target all the time.

Birchard: Buddy Ebsen loved to tell the story of the one film

he did with her where he had to work out a dance routine

for the two of them to do together.

She showed up for a first rehearsal

and said, "Okay, what have you got for me?"

He said, "Well, we're still working on it

let's work it out together."

And she said, "Sorry, I'm busy let me know

when you've got the number ready."

Boom and left.

And he realized if I'm going to do something with Shirley

it's got to be as fully prepared as if I was doing a routine

with any other top star in Hollywood

because that's what she was at the time

and she knew what that meant.

♪ Lobsters dancing in a row

♪ Shuffle off to Buffalo

We were told that she was going to do a wonderful step

that she had been rehearsing with Bill Robinson.

I think practically the whole studio shut down to go

on stage shellacked Shirley in this number.

Look here, will you go,

if I show you a brand-new way

how to go upstairs?

How could there be a new way to go upstairs?

Now you just watch.

♪ I went to the market for to get some meat ♪

♪ [ Sings indistinctly ] and I couldn't get none ♪

He was one of her best partners

because they really complemented each other

and she was such a little genius

that she could keep right up with Robinson.

-Are you ready. -Yep.

Come on.



Say, you catch on quick.

Look out now, here it comes. That's one.




And she'd only been rehearsing that morning.

And she had it. And they were shooting.

Well, I mean, that's genius.

There's a lot of derogatory coverage

especially among the academics of the numbers

that she did with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.

Get over it.

♪ This is a happy little ditty

♪ I know the music isn't pretty ♪

They were good team in those movies.

They had a beautiful relationship.

And then they were called the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers.

[ Laughs ]

Leslie: Dave Butler directed her in some pictures.

And he told me she was a delight to work with.

She did a crying scene.

And afterwards she came over to him and she said,

"Let's do that again. I think there was a little fake in it."

I think. "Oh, okay, Shirley," he said, and they did it again.

She cried all over again, but I mean, she was a child.

But she knew she knew her technique.

Tell Cap, tell him that I love him. Tell him.

I loved Shirley.

She was a little isolated from everybody because her mother

after the scene was over would take her back

to the trailer.

So she really didn't mix too much.

It was a shame.

I think Shirley was a bit lonely.

That's the one. Mackey will play for you.

Have a go at it, Mack.


♪ Every evening at the stroke of 5 ♪

♪ Me and the missus takes a little drive ♪

♪ You'd say wonderful, they're still alive ♪

♪ If you saw that little donkey go ♪

♪ When we starts the blessed donkey stops ♪

♪ He won't move so out I quickly lops ♪

♪ Pals start whackin' him when down he drops ♪

♪ Someone says he wasn't made to go ♪

♪ Wot cher, all the neighbors cried ♪

♪ Who you're gonna meet, Bill

♪ Have you bought the street, Bill ♪

♪ Laugh, I thought I should've died ♪

♪ Knock 'em in the Old Kent Road ♪



♪ Wot cher, all the neighbors cried ♪

♪ Who you're gonna meet, Bill

♪ Have you bought the street, Bill ♪

♪ Laugh, I thought I should've died ♪

♪ Knock 'em in the Old Kent Road ♪

Kenrick: There were any number of Shirley Temple wannabes

in the '30s every studio seemed to scour

the town and the world for other child stars.

I was supposed to be the competition

to Shirley Temple.

This was kind of a joke because we were like day and night.

We were so very, very different.

She was top dog at Fox

and I was the top dog in Warners.

♪ Down goes the apple every day ♪

"Singing Kids" starred Al Jolson.

And I adored this man.

We got along so beautifully to this day,

people write in that there's a certain magic

between the two of us and there was, that was no act.


Oh, don't go away yet, folks. The show's just ready to start.

Jane Withers now there was a little firecracker there.

We're going to New York.

New York?

Yes, to get on that... [ speaks indistinctly ]

When Fox was auditioning for an opposite type

of Shirley Temple for this part in "Bright Eyes," she goes,

"Mom, that's me. That's me. I've got to go and audition."

So she went in there and she got the part.

You have much trouble with your little girl?

Oh, no. She's very good. She sleeps all the time.

'Cause she was everything that Shirley Temple wasn't.

She had straight black hair.

She could really play a mean old brat.

-Shirley's gone. -Gone?

Yes! She didn't sleep in her bed all night

'cause I woke up and looked.

She must've run away.

I always loved Shirley Temple and felt so tacky

that I was so mean to her in "Bright Eyes"

I knew everybody would just gonna hate me, but they didn't.

I got letters all the time saying thank you

for running over Shirley Temple

with your baby buggy and the tricycle.

I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe it.

But I'm glad they didn't get too angry with me for that.


Get a load of this.

And I never had a lesson in my life.

Masuyama: After "Bright Eyes" she would

make pictures like "Ginger."

She was such a good actress that for a little

while there she was a threat to Shirley Temple.

When I played a little gypsy girl

and had to dance, it was my idea,

instead of just dancing on the stairs,

I said, "Poo, anybody can do that."

She's a gypsy. Let's have a tambourine.

So we had three tambourines that I danced on

and that was fun.

I remember going to see her pictures

and thinking, I wonder if I could do that.

And mother and I would watch it and she'd say,

"Well, do you think you could play that scene?"

I said, "Well, I don't know, but I learned from Janie."

I learned from watching her.

And she made a lot of pictures. She was an enormous success.

I know when I first met Ellie Powell,

she said we were rehearsing six weeks,

but I said, "How long?"

She said, "Six weeks." I said, "Good gravy,

I could make a movie and a half in six weeks.

That's what I have to do. And no rehearsal time."

♪ I'm the daughter of mademoiselle ♪

♪ Mademoiselle, you remember so well ♪

My movies, the whole movie was made

and 21 to 25 days every one

and I made five a year which I loved.


Yeah, man.

♪ Old man Rip opened up his eyes ♪

♪ And blinked a bit

Jones: Boy soprano Bobby Breen had been introduced

to radio audiences by Eddie Cantor.

RKO quickly hired the young singing wonder

to be their answer to Fox's Shirley Temple.

♪ So we scratched his noodle, like Yankee Doodle ♪

[ Singing indistinctly ]

Masuyama: Well, his films are pretty routine.

He was the male version of Shirley Temple.

The only difference is that he didn't dance,

but he could sing.

My goodness he was so good.

♪ Make a wish

He made films until 1939

when he was about 12 on the cusp of 13

when his voice was changing

and the industry said bye-bye to him

because you know he didn't have that quality anymore,


♪ May they all come true for you ♪

♪ I wish

Birchard: It's a problem with child stars.

What's appealing at 9 or 6 or 7

may not be as appealing

when you're 13 or 15 or 18.

And there wasn't much we could do about it

because boy, howdy, was I maturing.

I grew five inches in one year.

I thought the studio was gonna have a nervous breakdown.

Mother Nature was the boss

when you started getting out of babyhood.

They didn't want to accept you.

And that's what happened to both Shirley and I.

No, I don't think Shirley Temple was any less

talented as a young adult,

but she wasn't as remarkable at age 18

as she was at age 6.

Jones: The biggest star of Hollywood in the 1930s

was a has-been by the time she turned 13.

Birchard: For the time that she was there

she was a monumental figure in musical film.

The powers that be didn't want

to put any more money or time

into the little powerhouses that were no longer small.

They went into these teenage ones like Mickey Rooney.


[ Singsongy ] Judge Hardy, I have a surprise for you.

Jones: Mickey Rooney started out in vaudeville at 3

and entered movies at the age of 6.

He was a busy child actor throughout the 1930s.

At MGM, he struck it big with the Andy Hardy series.

By the end of the decade, he was the top box office star

in Hollywood.

What is this? Ah. I'm getting dizzy.

Ooh, maybe Cupid is after me.

Orson Welles said, "Question,

"who is the most talented person in town all over?

Name the three people."

He said, "Mickey Rooney, Mickey Rooney,

Mickey Rooney."

He could do it all. He could write so --

he played the drums.

He was great, great on the drums.

My other favorite musical performer

was Mickey Rooney.

I thought he was fantastic.

I wanted to be Mickey Rooney in the musicals.

I made Andy Hardy pictures,

I made 19 of those.

After a while Metro would put their young starlets

in the Andy Hardy pictures.

To get them going, you know.

Jones: Starlets such as Lana Turner, Esther Williams,

and Kathryn Grayson.

MGM also had two other promising teenagers under contract.

I was in Judy Garland's very first movie at MGM.

And it was a little short and they made it with

Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland.

And it was incredible.

♪ Some make... [ singing indistinctly ] ♪

MGM let Deanna Durbin go and said she had no talent.

Masuyama: And then Universal,

who was on the verge of bankruptcy,

snatched her up right away for this film

that would make or break the studio.

Lo and behold, they got this goldmine in their hands.

Oh, my god. It's Deanna Durbin.


Masuyama: She became a huge star

with just one film and her second film

"100 Men and a Girl"

was even a bigger hit and it's a classic.

And so she did really well in those European-type pictures.

And that's where Pasternak and Henry Koster came in.

Those two really made her into a huge star.

Jones: Producer Joe Pasternak and director Henry Koster

led the creative forces behind Durbin's early pictures.

Deanna Durbin really sort of shines.

And also Deanna Durbin was a remarkably

intelligent woman there's no question about that.

♪ 'Cause it makes me merry, makes me feel so very ♪

[ Whistling ]

Masuyama: "Mad About Music"

which is another wonderful picture.

And she has a plethora of great songs by McHugh and Adamson

and a couple of, you know, classical pieces.

♪ Making love

Masuyama: Then, of course,

there's your "3 Smart Girls Grow Up"

sequel to "3 Smart Girls."

Oh, Mother, I've invited a friend of mine

from the music school for dinner tonight,

is that all right? -Oh, why, of course, Penny.

I was just telling Beans about it now.

I think all your friends are very nice.

Oh, yes. Even -- nice? He's sensational. Golly.

Masuyama: Deanna Durbin was known as

"Little Miss Fix-It who burst into song"

and she hated that label.

And generally she sang her way into people's heart

and oh, so charming and so pretty on the screen,

so photogenic.

Bye, everybody. I hope to see you real soon.

Right here in the theater. Goodbye.


Masuyama: "First Love" that's also known as Robert Stack's

first film.

The guy who gave Deanna Durbin her first screen kiss.

Jones: First love shamelessly lifted the Cinderella tale

and dropped it whole in New York high society.

Connie can stay and sing to him or something.

You don't mind, do you, Connie?

You're not really gonna make me miss the party?

You can't. That isn't fair.

[ Singing indistinctly ]



And she was incredibly talented and in a way

I sort of think she's more talented than Judy Garland

because she can sing better than Judy Garland,

let's be honest about this.

She has a better trained voice than Judy Garland.

I think she has marvelous personality that comes across.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

May I take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you

for making me just about the happiest young lady

in the world. Thank you, again.

But I think as she got older she really sort of turned

not only against Hollywood, but also against old films.

She said to me why does anybody care about synthetic old Durbin?

But I think she is a very important place

in Hollywood history.

Durbin went to Universal.

And became a huge overnight sensation, a big star overnight.

Garland on the other hand, didn't.

Garland struggled for the first few years.

♪ For all the world is wrapped in harmony ♪

Judy Garland will become an overnight sensation.

♪ I wanna hear a hoot tootin' against the beat ♪

♪ I wanna feel the muddy waters around my feet ♪

Masuyama: She'll be a small part of a huge picture

or a big part of a small picture.

That's how it was.

♪ Got a pair of new shoes

♪ Pretty patent leather

Jones: She was teamed with Mickey Rooney

for the first time in "Thoroughbreds Don't Cry"

Next came the Andy Hardy pictures.

Metro cast Rooney and Garland together in movies

capitalizing on their youthful appeal.

Altogether they were teamed in nine pictures.

I worked with a lot of other people

but I loved Judy very much and we loved working together.

Judy was a very special person.

And a very special talent.

♪ Delighted, excited

♪ Ignited with a lovely glow

What a combination,

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland.

I don't how many pictures they made,

but no matter how many it wasn't nearly enough.

And it's a shame that they didn't do more

because they were just sensational.


You'd rehearse them,

two days and you go in and shoot them in an hour.

It's just common gratitude, Mrs. Hardy, you see,

back in Carvel, Andy took me to my first grown-up party.

I loved her. She was so wonderful.

And she sang so well.

She was just great.

♪ Please send me somebody to love ♪

When Judy Garland sings any ballad,

your heart is right there with her.

When she goes into an up tune you're flying with her

because she puts the raw emotion right there on screen.

She makes it accessible to you.

She was bringing you right into the soul of what was

going on at that moment.

And that's why her performances have not aged.

They have not dated.

♪ But I can't remember where

♪ Or when

Jones: Also in Hollywood was an animator

about to carve a new channel for the movie musical.

No one thought that feature-length cartoons

would have an audience but Walt Disney.

Always the innovator pushed ahead

to turn the fairy tale Snow White

into a musical animated feature.

Even though Disney risked bankruptcy,

he pioneered new techniques for animation.

Disney: I was at the premiere of Snow White and Seven Dwarfs

at the Carthay Circle Theater in 1937.

I remember it very well, actually.

And my favorite story about it I had seen Snow White,

I guess, probably six or eight times before it was finished

because they used me as a handy audience

that didn't have to get paid to come in, you know.

So Snow White to me was something that already existed

by the time I saw it in the theater.

But an awful lot of people, you know, were just completely

blown away by the experience and it's a beautiful film.

Jones: "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"

was the top box office film of 1938.

Having previously dismissed Walt's folly,

Louis B. Mayer was at last open to the idea of a fantasy musical

pitched by a director turned producer, Mervyn LeRoy,

based on the children's books of L. Frank Baum.

LeRoy: It took me five years to get somebody to do it.

Sam Goldwyn owned it first, you know, we got it from him.

Jones: LeRoy wanted to direct as well as produce his pet project.

Mr. Mayer call me up the office

and said, Mervyn, look, you can't do both.

I said, "Yes, I can."

He said, "No, you can't 'cause I'm not gonna let you." Uh-huh.

So he said, "You'll produce it, and we'll get somebody else."

Jones: Victor Fleming got the job.

Shirley Temple was originally proposed for Dorothy,

but Judy Garland landed the role.

Ray Bolger was cast as the Scarecrow,

Bert Lahr as the cowardly lion, and Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man.

But Ebsen was poisoned by his makeup

and was replaced by Jack Haley.

It was very, very difficult work.

Oh, it was awful.

It took an hour and 45 minutes to put the makeup on.

And poor Bert Lahr.

Well, you could imagine him with a mask --

not a mask over his face, but a canine mouth.

They used to put the cap hair, you know, on it,

and he couldn't eat at lunchtime.

He was just sip liquids through a straw.

And poor Ray Bolger

he had a shammy with glue all over his face

and then you do that to your face all day long

and it's burdensome, terrible.

I was on a reclining board.

I couldn't sit down.

I was like this, you know, when they weren't taking a shot

I was lying on a board like this and I would fall asleep

because I was doing a radio show at the same time.

And Bert Lahr says, "Look at that sucker," he says,

"He can fall asleep on a meat hook."

The amazing thing is, as popular as the book is,

it's the film "The Wizard of Oz"

that people think of when they say "Wizard of Oz."


That's partly because of the magic of MGM.

Partly because of one of the most perfect casts

ever assembled for a film

and also because of the power of music added to that story.

Follow the yellow brick road.

Follow the yellow brick road.

Follow the yellow brick road.

Follow the yellow brick road.

Follow the yellow brick road.

♪ Follow the yellow brick road

♪ Follow the yellow brick road

♪ Follow, follow, follow, follow ♪

♪ Follow the yellow brick road


♪ Follow the yellow brick, Follow the yellow brick ♪

♪ Follow the yellow brick road


♪ You're off to see the wizard the wonderful wizard of Oz ♪

♪ We hear he is a whiz of a wiz ♪

♪ If ever a wiz there was

♪ If ever, oh, ever a wiz there was ♪

♪ The Wizard of Oz is one because ♪

♪ Because, because, because, because, because ♪

♪ Because of the wonderful things he does ♪

♪ You're off to see the Wizard

♪ The wonderful Wizard of Oz

[ Cheering ]

Jones: "The Wizard of Oz" was not the hit MGM had hoped

it would be.

Rooney: We went to the premiere,

and a lot of the people got up and walked out, and she cried.

She didn't know what to think.

She was just torn apart because people didn't understand it.

It made money, but it wasn't a huge success.

It was a moderate.

But it made Garland into a star, anyway.

Jones: It also introduced a song by Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen.

That became for ever identified with Judy Garland.

♪ Somewhere over the rainbow

♪ Way up high

♪ There's a land that I've heard of ♪

♪ Once in a lullaby

♪ Somewhere over the rainbow

♪ Skies are blue

♪ And the dreams that you dare to dream ♪

♪ Really do come true

♪ Someday I'll wish upon a star ♪

♪ And wake up where the clouds are far behind me ♪

♪ Where troubles melt like lemon drops ♪

♪ Way above the chimney tops

♪ That's where you'll find me

♪ Somewhere over the rainbow

♪ Blue birds fly

♪ Birds fly over the rainbow

The signature song "Over the Rainbow"

had a lot to do with the subjectivity

of this little girl Dorothy.

This some ordinary quality, this folk quality,

could bring an audience closer, could touch an audience.

♪ If happy little bluebirds fly ♪

♪ Beyond the rainbow

♪ Why, oh, why

♪ Can't I?

[ Applause ]

Masuyama: It wasn't until the TV showings

that it became a classic.

So thanks to TV the film is what it is today.

Jones: Disappointed with the reception of "Oz,"

Mervyn LeRoy gave up producing

and returned to directing.

However, associate producer Arthur Freed was inspired

and undeterred.

He persuaded Louis B. Mayer

that he had a new idea for making musicals.

And Mayer put him in charge

of his own musical unit at the studio.

That's the first thing about Freed

on beside his lyrical gifts,

he loved the musical and he knew

that the musical could do better than it was doing

especially song and dance in a musical.

Jones: Capitalizing on the youth craze producer Freed

teamed Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland

in "Babes in Arms."

It was the first of the gee, let's put on a show

in the barn musicals

and the first of four such Rooney/Garland teamings

directed by Busby Berkeley.

Come on, students, just dance, just dance.

Masuyama: So that film was such a runaway hit, runaway success

and Freed even wrote a couple songs for it

like "Good Morning."

♪ It's great to stay up late, good morning ♪

♪ Good morning to you

You know, Mayer said, oh, go ahead

and produce more films and Freed knew what sold.


Jones: Arthur Freed would continue gathering up talent

and giving them the creative freedom and studio resources

to make outstanding musicals.

It was the beginning of MGM becoming the powerhouse

maker of movie musicals

for the next two decades.

Masuyama: "Babes in Arms" really is the start of it all.

Then because of Freed

came the Golden Age of Hollywood Musicals in the '40s.

♪ Strike up the band

Jones: While Hollywood was achieving perfection

in movies, the rest of the world was sliding toward the abyss.

War had already broken out in Europe and Asia.

Soon it would land on America's doorstep.

But just as the Hollywood musical

had lifted spirits during the Depression

it was ready to boost morale for the war effort.

And during the other difficult times ahead.




















  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv