Monday, July 31, 2023

Chuck, Judy, June, Joan, and Grace

Disneyland isn’t the only thing that came out of Anaheim. Chuck Walters (born Charles Powell Walter; the “s” was added later) was a dancer, choreographer, and director during the heyday of the MGM musical. The first shot shows him dancing with Judy Garland in “Presenting Lily Mars” (1943). The original finale was an overdone patriotic mess; Walters was called in to choreograph a new musical number to show off the maturing Garland and her talents. In the Walters biography, The Director Who Made Hollywood Dance by Brent Phillips, the author tells how Walters was able to get a fearful Garland to tackle the difficult steps:

“I’m not sure I can do what you want. I can’t move like this.” With Judy, he understood that kid gloves were required. They sat down together, and in a flash of inspiration he asked, “Who is your favorite female dancer?” Without much hesitation, she replied, “Renee De Marco.” “All right,” he announced. “From now on, whenever we rehearse, you are Renee De Marco.” Garland looked at him with wide eyes and gave a sigh of relief.

Judy begged for Walters to join her again in her next picture, “Girl Crazy” (1943). For “Embraceable You,” the two twirl around the dance floor with glee. It is a beautiful sight to see. Walters danced with the polish of Fred Astaire and the approachability of Gene Kelly.

Although a fantastic dancer, producer Arthur Freed realized that Walters had a knack for directing. He had a knack for knowing how to work with actors, keep the action moving, integrating the musical numbers so that they were natural and plot driven, and most importantly of all, bring the picture in under budget! His first big assignment came with “Good News” (1947), starring June Allyson and Peter Lawford. From the accompanying publicity blurb:

VARSITY DRAG…If you’re over forty…you’ll remember it. If you”re under forty…you’ll love it! It’s the “Varsity Drag,” dance craze of the roaring twenties, when every college campus was filled with turtleneck sweaters, short-skirted flappers…and not Quonset huts and surplus jeeps. The “Drag” comes to life again in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Technicolor musical, “Good News,” starring June Allyson and Peter Lawford, with Broadway stars Patricia Marshall and Joan McCracken. “Just like an end play off left tackle!’ says June…and Peter begins to see the light.

Walters had to spend a lot of time boosting Lawford’s song and dance limitations. From Brent Phillips’ bio:

Upon seeing the finished film, Lawford’s boydhood dance teacher, Muriel O’Brien, declared: “I kept watching him and thought, Oh, my God! Anybody who could teach that boy to sing and dance in time has got to be a genius.”

Walters often directed by showing the actors how to do a scene (or number) by performing it himself.

“Good News” was such a success that Walters was handed the plumb assignment of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly in “Easter Parade” (1948). Just before filming commenced, Kelly had to be replaced by Fred Astaire due to an ankle injury.

By the time of Garland’s “Summer Stock” (1950), Walters was the only director at MGM who the brass knew could get the job done. Walters was able to elevate the basic barnyard musical story into one that is highly enjoyable and features some of the best numbers done by both Judy and Gene Kelly. “Friendly Star” is a highlight of the movie due to Garland’s performance, vocal talents, and perfect staging of this key number.

Another “J” in Walters’ portfolio was Joan Crawford. When she returned to MGM for “Torch Song” (1953), Walters was the director of choice. From the accompanying publicity blurbs:

MGM SPECIAL LAYOUT…BACK AT “HOME STUDIO”…AFTER 10 YEARS. CAMERA! ACTION!: Joan Crawford, now that the “welcome home” party is finished, goes immediately into a dance rehearsal with Charles Walters, director of her new Technicolor picture, “Torch Song,” and who is also her dancing partner in the dance sequences.

RHYTHMIC DUO… Joan Crawford and Charles Walters step a fancy rhythm in this scene from M-G-M’s drama packed Technicolor production “Torch Song.” Film co-stars Miss Crawford and Michael Wilding. In addition to portraying Miss Crawford’s dance partner, Charles Walters also directs the film and is credited with the choreography. Henry Berman produced.

Another dancer, Marc Wilder, was cast as Crawford’s partner for the scene shown above. Joan had different ideas; she wanted the best. “I’m so comfortable when I’m rehearsing with you. Would you consider doing the routine with me in the film?” Just as he had to do with Judy in “Girl Crazy,” Walters had to coax a performance out of the nervous Crawford. As Phillips tells it:

Crawford gravely whispered, “Chuck, I cannot get out of this chair.” “Honey, you’re gonna be great. The routine is down pat. We’re lit. We’re ready to go.” “I know his is a terrible thing to ask,” said Joan, “but would you be upset if I have a little vodka?” “Baby, anything that’s going to relax you is fine. Have a little slug if it’s gonna help.” “Well, you have to have one with me.” Walters later admitted it took about three drinks to shore up her confidence. “We came out of the dressing room a hair high—but relaxed and comfortable.”

One of my favorite Walters directed films was the cinematic swan song of Grace Kelly (why couldn’t her name begin with “J” for my title alliteration?), “High Society” (1956), also starring Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.

The duet that everyone waited for between Sinatra and Crosby was the Cole Porter chestnut “Well, Did You Evah” first introduced by Betty Grable. From Phillip’s bio:

“Towards the end of the number, I did a fairly audacious thing,” said Walters. “When they exited, I simply let the camera roll,” focused on the empty library. Then without warning, the duo burst back into their safe haven, made a beeline for the bar, tossed back one final drink and offered one final chorus. It was a unique example of a stage convention working neatly on the screen. During the film’s first sneak preview, the audience broke into spontaneous applause at what they assumed was the song’s finish. Then Frank and Bing rushed back onto the screen for another drink and another verse; by the time the pair made their arm-in-arm final exit—bellowing, “What a swellegant, elegant party this is!”—the crowd was cheering.

Not surprisingly, Crosby would later say “High Society” was his favorite film to make.

See more Classic Movie & TV photos at my main website.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Disneyland in 3D: June 26, 1966, Pt. 2

Part 2 of June 26, 1966 at Disneyland begins with the Crystal Arcade on Main Street, U.S.A. For these, I have included a flat version which melds the left and the right view, providing a slightly wider frame.

I do love looking inside the shops, especially since we rarely see vintage interiors. Note the window display on the right for the Upjohn Pharmacy, which was next door.

One of the Emporium window displays, also seen in yesterday’s photo:

Across the street you can see Lon Chaney in “The Phantom of the Opera,” playing at the Main Street Cinema:

Definitely summertime, as the patriotic bunting appears on the lightpost at left:

If you’re wondering about the name Edgar Kennedy on the right side of the marquee, he was typically in the Keystone Kops comedies that were featured here, too.

As we approach East Center, we come to the Swift Market House:

See anything you’d be interested in purchasing? Note the old fashioned wallphone visible in the window on the right:

The Art Festival is going on in the East Center Street alleyway:

Guests were once able to have their portraits sketched here. Below are some samples:

The Carnation Company borders on West Center Street:

I could sure go for a sundae right now! It’s so fantastic to be able to see the employees inside the lit interiors at night.

How about a fake bouquet from the West Center Street Flower Market?

$1.25 and 80¢? Not bad!

Still more on the way!

See more vintage and contemporary Disneyland photos at my main website.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Disneyland in 3D: June 26, 1966, Pt. 1

For Daveland, June 26, 1966 was a WONDERFUL evening! In my collection, I have a series of 3D slides shot at night of the Park. Of course, I will attempt to stretch these out over two posts. When I digitally combine the left and right slides, I get a slightly wider view for most of these:

By this point, the Main Street Train Station has 50,000,000 listed as the guest count. I love seeing the people inside the station, too. It’s almost like being there.

As we enter the Park, we see that Mr. Lincoln is now playing. At this point, the show had been going on for about a year.

The combined view:

In the detailed view, you can see the interior of the Wonderland Music shop on the left, and inside the Opera House, there is a bust of Lincoln at the entrance.

Continuing up Main Street we see the Magic Shop and the Wurlitzer Music Hall:

The combined view:

A great view of the Wurlitzer display window, with the slogan, “The name that means music to millions.”

A view of Town Square shot from the Main Street Train Station:

The combined view:

If you notice that many of the people are blurred in these shots, that’s because an evening exposure would mean the shutter would have had to stay open longer.

On the other side of Town Square we see City Hall:

The combined view:

Do guests still just hang out at night and sit on benches? I’m guessing if they do, they are busy with their phones.

The Disneyland Fire Department:

Not much of a difference with the combined view other than better focus on the edges.

Since Walt was still alive at the time this was shot, the light in the window at night was not a standard thing to see.

Moving back up Main Street we encounter the Emporium:

The combined view:

I LOVE looking inside the windows! I’m so nosy! Note the photographer with a tripod on the left.

More to come!
See more vintage and contemporary Disneyland photos at my main website.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

El Adobe de Capistrano

Thanks to the Stack’s Liberty Ranch duo  (did you get your book yet?) I finally ate at the historic landmark El Adobe de Capistrano located in (you guessed it) San Juan Capistrano. Yes, that’s Volume Three clutched tightly under my arm as I attempted to take a selfie.

In operation since 1948, the restaurant is comprised of two adobe buildings; the northern one is the former home of Miguel Yorba and the southern one the former Juzgado (court and jails). Together, they form a local favorite that serves up tasty meals and delicious drinks. Perfect for our Sunday brunch get together!

A great place for a banquet or special occasion:

I need to go back with the camera and capture more details.

A painting by Laguna Hills artist James G. Powning from 1964:

A tribute to President Richard Nixon, who frequented the restaurant while at the nearby “Western White House” in San Clemente.

You know me and signs; as bad as vintage tile, light fixtures, and neon.

The wine cellar is supposedly haunted. I definitely need to return to explore there!

See more San Juan Capistrano photos at my main website.