Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Coney Island (1943)

CONEY ISLAND is a colorful but unusually dull Betty Grable movie.

Betty plays Kate Farley, a popular turn-of-the-century singer at Coney Island. As Kate develops from a brassy saloon singer into a classy, elegant star, Eddie (George Montgomery) and Joe (Caesar Romero) battle for Kate's love and control of her career. Unfortunately there's a little too much of Eddie and Joe -- and way, way too much of Charles Winninger's drunken Irishman and Phil Silvers' comic -- and not enough of Betty.

The script by George Seaton (MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET) is a bit plodding, never quite firing on all cylinders; reviewer Craig Butler, who generally enjoyed the movie, notes it has a "sleepy screenplay." The viewer can see developments coming a mile away, such as anticipating Kate's reaction when she learns Eddie has tried to keep her for himself by preventing her from performing in front of a Broadway producer (shades of HOLIDAY INN...). The horseplay and plotting between Montgomery, Romero, Silvers, and Winninger gets old quickly.

There are a couple nice numbers, including the title song and Betty's crooning rendition of "Cuddle Up a Little Closer." Betty in blackface in "Lulu from Louisville" is a bit uncomfortable for the modern viewer, but it's also an interesting reflection both of the time the film was made and the era the movie depicts.

Choreographer Hermes Pan, who also partnered Betty in MOON OVER MIAMI, dances with Betty in the big finale. Viewers can easily recognize Pan as he looks a great deal like his colleague Fred Astaire.

The film's striking, colorful costumes were designed by Helen Rose, who shortly thereafter moved to MGM, where she would work for the next couple decades. At MGM Rose won Oscars for THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL and I'LL CRY TOMORROW and received eight additional nominations; she also designed Grace Kelly's wedding dress.

CONEY ISLAND was directed by Walter Lang. It runs 96 minutes. The lovely Technicolor photography was by Ernest Palmer.

CONEY ISLAND has not had a VHS or DVD release. It can be seen on TV periodically on Fox Movie Channel.

CONEY ISLAND was remade in 1950 as WABASH AVENUE, starring none other than...Betty Grable. That time around she was directed by Henry Koster, and costarred with Victor Mature, Phil Harris, and Reginald Gardiner.

Betty Grable movies previously reviewed here: MOON OVER MIAMI (1941), DOWN ARGENTINE WAY (1940), SONG OF THE ISLANDS (1942), SPRINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES (1942), and I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941).

2013 Update: This movie is now available on DVD-R in the Fox Cinema Archives series.


Blogger Classic Maiden said...

I would be very interested to know which of Betty Grable's films you consider, essential viewing, of those you've had the pleasure of seeing?

2:34 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Sebina,

I would say that all of the 1940-42 films which I previously reviewed are essential Grable viewing. 4 of them are musicals, including her star-making breakthrough, DOWN ARGENTINE WAY, and one is a rare dramatic role which is also one of the earliest -- if not the earliest -- examples of the film noir genre. These breezy musicals present Betty at her most endearing and at the height of her beauty -- it's easy to see why she was so popular with the G.I.'s during WWII when you see these films.

Of her later films, she made some fine movies with Dan Dailey; I particularly like MOTHER WORE TIGHTS (1947). HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953) is also worth seeing.

I haven't yet seen THE DOLLY SISTERS or THE SHOCKING MISS PILGRIM but I understand they're good Grable films which I'm looking forward to seeing.

Happy viewing, Sebina!

Best wishes,

12:00 PM  
Blogger Classic Maiden said...

Thank you Laura, much appreciated and very helpful. I really need to dive into the more well-known films of Betty Grable :)

Best wishes,

4:16 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older