I’m currently working my way through the Mill Creek Entertainment 50 Musical Classics pack, which I recently picked up at Target for only $8. Yes, the quality is sometimes very poor, but $8 for 50 films – most of which I’ve never seen before – is a steal to me even in low quality, because I love to discover films I’ve never heard of. The first two films that I decided to watch from the set were Calendar Girl (1947) and All-American Co-Ed (1941), which I watched as a quick double feature. (Calendar Girl is about an hour and a half long; Co-Ed only runs for 53 minutes.)
Calendar Girl (dir. Allan Dwan, 1947)
Johnnie Bennett (a composer) and Steve Adams (an artist) head to New York City and move into a building full of artists. They both fall for a beautiful singer named Patricia (Jane Frazee). Johnnie truly loves her, but Steve is a bit of a ladies man. Johnnie becomes jealous when Patricia agrees to pose for one of Steve’s paintings, and a comedy of competitive jealousy ensues.
This film is an example of the low quality that the Mill Creek sets are known for, but it’s nowhere near unwatchable. I’m more than willing to deal with a bit of grain and slightly muffled audio in order to discover a new-to-me film starring performers I’m not too familiar with.
This is a B-musical that is a delight to watch. The songs are very sweet, very charming. They’re performed by lesser-known actors who have very pleasant voices. It plays out very much like any ol’ “man versus man, jealous over a girl” tale, but is still highly enjoyable. The plot is full of misunderstandings and competitive schemes.
The characters in this musical are very witty, especially in their dialogue. One example: “This is strictly a Boston tea party.” The characters take a lot of soft jabs at each other and engage in the type of banter that I love to see between characters.
Calendar Girl is a quick, cute watch worth your itme if you’re a fan of romantic comedies or musicals and don’t mind putting up with a low quality print in order to discover a forgotten film.
The score: 3.5/5
All-American Co-Ed (dir. LeRoy Prinz, 1941)
Mar Brynn is an all-female horticultural school that has a bit of a rivalry with the local all-male school, Quinceton College. In order to drum up publicity for a scholarship contest they’re holding, Mar Brynn publishes a direct jab at Quinceton in the newspaper, calling their students “least likely to succeed.”
Offended by what they see in the newspaper, the Quinceton boys come up with a plan. They know that Mar Brynn plans to choose 12 girls to come to the school – so what better way to get revenge than by sending a guy in as one of those twelve “girls,” dressed in drag and putting on a fake voice? The Quinceton boys recently put on a cross-dressing stage show, which obviously gives them the experience to pull off the stunt. Bob Sheppard (Johnny Downs) is chosen to pose as “Bobbie DeWolfe,” queen of the flowers. But complications arise in the plan when “Bobbie” falls for Virginia (Frances Langford), who is putting on a musical show at Mar Brynn.
All-American Co-Ed was nominated for two Oscars: best scoring and best original song. It was released as a double bill with Sundown starring Gene Tierney. And unlike Calendar Girl, this film is an example of one big reason to check out the Mill Creek releases: you can find hidden gems such as this, which is in near-perfect quality in terms of both visuals and audio. For a forgotten film, it’s been very well-preserved.
This film was nothing like I expected after reading the synopsis. A predecessor to later (and more well-remembered) cross-dressing films (i.e. Some Like It Hot), All-American Co-Ed packs more hilarity and craziness into its short 53 minute run than some musicals spend over two hours trying to pull off. Aside from the use of racial stereotypes and a few sexist pieces of dialogue which will certainly set off warning bells for the average modern viewer, the film is very funny. It’s hard to tell whether they’re using the drag plotline for sheer entertainment value or hinting at the lifestyle of the Quinceton boys, but the mishaps that naturally come along with the scenario keep the viewer laughing.
The songs in this film are also fun, generally upbeat and well-performed. A number of cutural references are used for the viewer’s enjoyment, including impersonations of stars such as Gary Cooper. Frances Langford gives the stand-out performance and has a beautiful voice.
All-American Co-Ed is a very strange but overall delightful little musical. It’s such an odd duck that you can’t help having at least a little bit of fun while watching.
The score: 3.8/5