Monday, August 27, 2012

Breakfast In Hollywood (1946)

Heart Singing...Laugh Ringing! Here's a Honey of a Hit!
Director:Harold D. Schuster
Tom Breneman
Bonita Granville
Beulah Bondi
Edward Ryan
Raymond Walburn
Billie Burke
Zasu Pitts
Guest Appearances By:
Hedda Hopper
Andy Russell
Spike Jones
Nat King Cole
I don't think I've ever watched a movie from 1946 that reminded me of a movie that was made in 2010.  But, while watching Breakfast in Hollywood, a movie that takes various stars in various sub-plots while joining them together in one central theme, in this case a morning radio program that aired nationally at the time (for those from the Cincinnati area, a kind of pre Ruth Lyon's show for women), the similarities between it and Valentine's Day struck me as deja vu.  It made me realize how dismal that latter movie really was.  But, I'm not here to write about movies from this century so let's return to the middle of the 20th century and this rather convoluted piece of fluff that, while at points are entertaining, left me most of the time pausing the Amazon Prime streaming to see how much time was left.  And then finally, when everything begins to pick up, the movie comes to a fairly quick conclusion.
This film is centered around around a radio program hosted by Tom Breneman which aired in the mornings at a restaurant he owned in Hollywood.
It was located on Vine Street off Sunset Boulevard.  Seeing as how this restaurant was built because of the success of his radio show and that a movie was made with his radio show as the central setting, I'm guessing that it was a pretty popular show.
At any rate, the first quarter of the movie takes place for the most part (after introducing us to our main characters as they prepare themselves to see the show), during the Breakfast in Hollywood morning telecast. In many ways the telecast is one of the most interesting things about this film as it shows a sort of time capsule into radio shows of that day and provides some pretty good talent as well as laughs.  I've heard the name Spike Jones often, but can't remember having seen him perform before.  Another performer on the show, Andy Russell, was someone that I wasn't familiar with, but later learned was quite popular at the time.  He would go on to replace Frank Sinatra on Your Hit Parade.  And of course, there is no need to explain who Nat King Cole is, although in this movie he is referred to simply as King Cole.  Much of the show is an interaction between host Breneman and his audience and it is through this method that we see Hedda Hopper as well as the mothers of Gary Cooper and Joan Crawford.  It is also how all of the main characters in the show become aware of one another.
Bonita Granville plays Dorothy Lawson, a young girl who has travelled by bus from Minnesota to meet up with her fiance who is in the Navy and has failed to show up at the depot.  A woman that is from the U.S,O. gives her a ticket to the show to pass the time until she can get her on a bus back to Minnesota. She is the main character of the movie and the story between her and another sailor (not her fiance) turns out to be the actual main plot of the movie.
Edward Ryan plays Ken Smith, the other sailor.  He is given a ride into Hollywood by Breneman who also gives him a ticket to his show.  Until the show begins, Smith has no idea that he is Breneman.  It is at the show that he meets Dorothy, and while talking to her when paired together by Breneman, realizes that her fiance is one of his shipmates and that he is already married. 
Beulah Bondi, who must have started playing a senior citizen when she was in her twenties, judging from the wide range of films she made in that type of role and the whole  gamut of decades in which she played them in, plays one in this film as well.  She is 82 year old  Mrs. Annie Reed and has been thrown into the mix to assist as a matchmaker to our young couple.  Her role is perhaps one of the best of the entire movie as you feel humor, sympathy and compassion for her character.  Bondi seems to never disappoint as a supporting character.
Zasu Pitts is Elvira Spriggens and seems to be in the film as nothing more than comic relief.  She has spent months working on an ugly hat that will get her chosen to appear on the radio show, almost getting chosen, but who is upstaged by Hedda Hopper, notorious for her collection of outrageous head gear.
Finally, we have Billie Burke, most famous as Glinda, the good witch in The Wizard of Oz, this time cast as Mrs Francis Cartwright, who is married to the seemingly womanizing Richard Cartwright (Raymond Walburn).  I have no idea why they are in the picture, but their plot involves Burke winning some beauty products at the show and the transformation that takes place and Walburn once again being attracted to her.  Walburn incidentally, runs into Bondi on his way to see his mistress and this sets off an entire comedy of circumstances that go on throughout the movie.  Not to worry, Bondi's character is not severely injured.
The rest of this  movie is up to you.  Maybe it was original at the time, but this is one that somehow seems to stall in the middle, about the time that Smith reveals to Lawson that her fiance is already married.  Of course it didn't help matters that he told her right after sneaking a kiss in a photo booth and expressing his feelings for her, which she rejects.
I could reveal more, but if you know how the rest goes it would make this film seem just that much longer.  Incidentally, you can watch this film online even if you don't have Amazon Prime. It is free at Archive.Org.  Or, you can watch it below:

 My recommendation:  Watch the beginning of this movie through the radio broadcast and then decide for yourself if you want to see more. 

1 comment:

Clyde said...

I may check this out later if for no other reason than to check out Bonita Granville. Granville was the original Nancy Drew in the movies, later life married Jack Wrather, and they became parents to Lassie.


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