Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Betty Hutton in INCENDIARY BLONDE

This is a post about my favorite Betty Hutton movie and how it relates to her 1950 MGM hit, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN. It involves a Hollywood story I'd read a number of times over the decades. When I was kid -- way back before VHS, DVDs and cable TV -- local TV stations often filled up airtime by showing old movies. This was terrific in Southern California because a few of the stations were hooked up to movie studio libraries. I grew up having seen many classics that have yet to make it to DVD. One of those movies was the loosely-based 1945 biopic with music, INCENDIARY BLONDE. It was the tale of the flashy, popular 1920s New York City nightclub owner/performer Texas Guinan. She became famous for her brassy greeting to customers, "Hello, suckers!" She was played briefly by Phyllis Diller in 1961's SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS. In the 80s, there was talk of Bette Midler starring in a Texas Guinan biopic. Initially, Paramount had Barbara Stanwyck in mind to play Guinan until someone suggested adding musical numbers and styling it for one of Paramount's other big new stars, Betty Hutton. Hutton had come to Hollywood from Broadway. She'd also been a singer with a band. She seemed to crystallize the fresh vibe of the 1940s. She was a high-energy blonde babe who could belt out a tune and make you laugh. She could also act. In my youth, I grew up sitting in front of the TV in our living room and laughing hours away watching her romantically chase Eddie Bracken in 1942's THE FLEET'S IN (her film debut) and again with Bracken in the Preston Sturges screwball comedy, 1944's THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK, as pregnant Trudy Kockenlocker.
INCENDIARY BLONDE gave Betty Hutton the deluxe Paramount Pictures glamour treatment in Technicolor with gorgeous outfits by Edith Head. There were funny moments in it. But, overall, it's the bittersweet tale of two star-crossed lovers. The story opens with Texas Guinan's funeral. Two friends of hers, mourners, comfort each other and recall her humble beginnings. We flashback and see her story from spunky tomboy who leaves home to get work in a rodeo show to help her family, to getting a spot in a Broadway show, to getting her own nightclub and becoming the toast of Broadway. There's also the handsome show manager who hires her. Very well-played by Arturo de Cordova, he falls in love with her eventually but doesn't want to marry her. We'll find out why.
In her black and white comedies, Hutton was given bouncy swing tunes to introduce. In THE FLEET'S IN (seen above with Eddie Bracken, Dorothy Lamour and fellow screen newcomer William Holden) she does "Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry." In 1944's AND THE ANGELS SING, she belts out "His Rocking Horse Ran Away" and in 1945's THE STORK CLUB, there was "Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief" which became one of Hutton's hit records. My dad, a brawny WWII vet who was a big Betty Hutton fan, had a record of that in our collection at home. Just like Judy Garland, a top star at MGM in the 40s, Hutton was a top star at Paramount in the 40s who introduced tunes written for her. She too was a vocalist whose records got radio play.
INCENDIARY BLONDE showed that Hutton could be quite effective with dramatic scenes. She was a crowd-pleaser in upbeat rhythm numbers. However, when a director got her to bring the emotions in and bring a softness out, she was like velvet. An example is her luscious rendition of "It Had To Be You" in INCENDIARY BLONDE. That was another one of her hit records. Her reprise of it in the final poignant moments of INCENDIARY BLONDE, as she's tearful in mink and walking off alone into a starless cold night, will touch your heart..

1945's INCENDIARY BLONDE was a success for singer/actress Betty Hutton. It displayed her musical and acting range. Now zoom ahead to 1949. MGM is trying to get ANNIE GET YOUR GUN made with Judy Garland. Unfortunately, although only in her 20s, she's emotionally and physically exhausted from having been a hard-working contract player in that dream factory of a studio since she was 13. She was back from a sanitarium stay and really needed about another two weeks to get up to the task of that grueling musical. Things weren't going well. She was dropped -- and replaced with Betty Hutton on loan from Paramount. The story I'd often read was that Dore Schary, a head of production at MGM, had to screen a copy of Betty Hutton's 1947 comedy/drama musical, THE PERILS OF PAULINE, to see if she'd be right for the role of Annie.

I never bought that story. Hutton was, like Garland, a major Hollywood star known for musical comedies. Every quality you needed for an actress to have for ANNIE GET YOUR GUN is evident in INCENDIARY BLONDE. She's a tomboy in cowgirl attire singing "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" in the first ten minutes, she's in a rodeo show, she had a tender romance, became a singing and dancing Broadway star, and does a dreamy rendition of "It Had To Be You." Why would he need to screen THE PERILS OF PAULINE? What other top female musical star at a big studio would've been as perfect to replace Judy? Columbia had Rita Hayworth. She was great but wrong for ANNIE GET YOUR GUN. And she was not a singer. Deanna Durbin at Universal? Wrong for it. Betty Grable at Fox? Good, but also wrong for ANNIE GET YOUR GUN. Warner Bros didn't have a big female musical star in the 40s. Doris Day would be in place for the 1950s and do her own version of sorts, the original screen musical CALAMITY JANE. MGM had June Allyson, Betty Garrett and Jane Powell. All talented but none quite special enough a star to carry that project with her name above the title. Betty Hutton would be the obvious consideration. In fact, she wanted Paramount to buy the property for her. The studio, however, was outbid by MGM, the Tiffany of studios for Hollywood musicals.

Ethel Merman scored another Broadway triumph in Irving Berlin's ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, the musical that gave her the show biz anthem, "There's No Business Like Show Business." Ethel brought in Broadway audiences. Butt, in the 40s, she wasn't a movie star like Judy Garland or Betty Hutton. Think of Billy Wilder's SUNSET BLVD (1950). When down on his luck screenwriter, Joe Gillis, played by William Holden, gets a script pitch meeting with a Paramount producer named Sheldrake. As the broke screenwriter pitches his idea, the producers says "We're always looking for a Betty Hutton. Do you see it as a Betty Hutton?"

Betty Hutton was a star. There was no need to double check by screening THE PERILS OF PAULINE. Also, Hutton would've felt landing the role would be a bit of karmic justice. In 1940, Merman starred in the Cole Porter Broadway musical, PANAMA HATTIE. Betty Hutton was a featured player in it and, reportedly, had two numbers that wowed audiences in pre-Broadway tryouts. Diva Merman had the numbers cut and left Hutton with one number near the end of the last act. Hutton's understudy was June Allyson. When done with PANAMA HATTIE, dejected Hutton headed for Hollywood. Her screen debut in 1942's THE FLEET'S IN was an out of the park home run.

In the 1990s, I worked on a local weekend live news program called WEEKEND TODAY IN NEW YORK on WNBC. One morning, I did a liveshot from the Manhattan site of an upcoming charity event. A socialite involved with it would be my guest to tell viewers about it. She was most gracious when we met before we went on air. Her last name was Clark. As I shook her hand and looked at her, I asked "Were you Merman's best friend? Were you in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN?"
The fact that this Black guy from a local TV news show knew that she was Benay Venuta warmed her up to me even more. She was in the Broadway show and the movie as Dolly.. We did our bit on the air and then I wanted dish about Betty Hutton replacing Garland.

Benay Venuta told me she was at a Hollywood party. Director Charles Walters and production head Dore Schary were discussing the footage Judy had shot up to that point for the movie. Both agreed that she just was not up to her usual performance level and would have to be replaced -- because it was too expensive a project. Benay said, "I called Betty and told her 'If you want it, you'd better start going after it.'" She did.

The property was repackaged for Hutton. She starred in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN and it was one of MGM's biggest box office hits of 1950. Also in 1950, she sang and danced with Fred Astaire in the musical comedy, LET'S DANCE. In his autobiography, Astaire cited that movie as one of his personal favorites. Hutton went on to do trapeze acts as the leading lady in De Mille's THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. It won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1952.

Oh! As for the actor who played Sheldrake in Billy Wilder's SUNSET BLVD., that was actor Fred Clark. He was married to Benay Venuta. Enjoy Betty Hutton in INCENDIARY BLONDE if you have a chance to see it.



10 comments:

  1. Life is always beautiful when you have good health. For almost a year i had Hpv and I was lonely and sad luckily I was directed to a very kind and Great Dr Onokun who helped me cure my Hpv and today I am free from Hpv and very healthy thank you so much Dr Onokun Email him via: Dronokunherbalcure@gmail.com 

    ReplyDelete
  2. few weeks ago i left some pains and i want to the hospital my doc told me i had HPV about 1 year and i need to start the treatment early he gave me some medicine to be taking and i told him no i will not because i hated taking medicine when i wont not see cure for the purpose after i got home i started getting worried searching for strong advice and i found valid natural treatment online lot people says they got HPV cure from Dr onokun and i email Dr onokun 3 days passed i purchase his cure online some weeks after the process taking his treatment i got cured i went for checkup twice after taking the natural treatment from the herbalist called Dr onokun and i tested negative contact him on email :Dronokunherbalcure@gmeil.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was diagnosed of herpes virus, I have tried all possible means to get cure but all my effort proved abortive, until a friend of mine introduced me to a herbal doctor called Dr Agaba, who prepare herbal medicine to cure all kind of diseases including herpes virus (Herpes), when i contacted this herbal doctor via email, he sent me herpes virus herbal medicine via courier service, when i received the herbal medicine he gave me step by step instructions on how to apply it, when i applied it as instructed i was totally cured from the virus within 3 weeks of usage. Contact this great herbal doctor today to get your cure. 
    Via Email: Dragabasolutionhome@gmail.com or WhatApp: +2349074536486

    ReplyDelete
  4. My ex-husband and I had always managed to stay friendly after our divorce in February 2017. But I always wanted to get back together with him, All it took was a visit to this spell casters website last December, because my dream was to start a new year with my husband, and live happily with him.. This spell caster requested a specific love spell for me and my husband, and I accepted it. And this powerful spell caster began to work his magic. And 48 hours after this spell caster worked for me, my husband called me back for us to be together again, and he was remorseful for all his wrong deeds. My spell is working because guess what: My “husband” is back and we are making preparations on how to go to court and withdraw our divorce papers ASAP. This is nothing short of a miracle. Thank you Dr Emu for your powerful spells. Words are not enough. here is his Email: emutemple@gmail.com or call/text him on his WhatsApp +2347012841542

    He is also able to cast spell like 1: Lottery 2: Conceive 3: Breakup 4: Divorce 5: Cure for all kinds of diseases and viruses.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am pleased to write the first comment that has anything to do with your post! WTH? Anyway, I really enjoyed your blog post ... and especially about your converesation with Benay ... wow, that is really interesting. Also, I am the admin for Betty's fanpage on Facebook ... please come by and visit @ www.facebook.com/huttongluttons/

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello Am From The UK , I want to write a little testimony about the good work of doctor Oyagu who cured me from Hsv 1 and 2 for just 2 weeks with his herbal medicine, I never believe I can be normal again and have a good life like others I always regretted the day I got diagnose with the virus, I was lost of hope when my doctor told me there is no cure for it but I keep thinking and thinking about my future, if I can have kids of my own well I am so grateful for my helper who get me cured with his herbal medicine, I go online in search of anything that can help me because I can’t deal with it forever so I found this doc Oyagu email on a blog of someone who was cured by him I quickly contact him for help and explain all my pain to him, he told me not to worry about it there is cure for real, I never believe until he send me the herbal medicine when I order for it and I have it within 4 days that is how I took the medicine for 2 week and the following week I go for test just to confirm I was 100% cured from this sickness what a miracle in my life I am so happy right now, you can also get in contact with him if you have such sickness through email address oyaguherbalhome@gmail.com or text him on what's app, phone number +2348101755322 or visit his website https://oyaguspellcaster.wixsite.com/oyaguherbalhome Dr Oyagu also has remedy to others disease like COLD SORES,HIV/AIDS,DIABETES.CANCER,HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE AND MANY MORE. I oblige everyone to contact this powerful herbalist Dr Oyagu and be free from suffering.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Never give up in life they all say no cure to HSV 2 which is a big lie I have pass through many process also i never believe there is really cure to HERPES until I meet Dr.Aire the doctor that have been helping many people for many years, I come across this doctor online when I was searching for cure online I found out about this man, and to my greatest surprise this man have the herbal medicine which I have been looking for years I explain my problem to him through the email I found on someone who testify about him also, Dr.Aire write me a reply and explain how the process work so after ordering for the medicine I got it within 4 days and I took it according to the way Dr.Aire instructed, I was so happy after two week I took the medicine there was very big change in my health when I was done with the process I go for test, I found out I am negative that was the day I have the tears of joy you can also get in contact with my doctor through his email now drairehome@gmail.com or you can also WhatsApp him +2347036740271. And He also have herbs medicine to cured the following diseases; eczema,urethra wart,chronic problems.Herpes, Cancer, Als,Hepatitis, Diabetes, HPV,Infections,ulcer ETC

    ReplyDelete
  8. DR OYAGU herbal medicine is a good remedy for herpes simplex virus cure. My name is MIGNON WRIGHT , am from USA,I am here to give my testimony about DR OYAGU who helped me in my life, i want to inform the public how i was cured from (HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS) by DR OYAGU, i visited different hospital but they gave me list of drugs like Familiar, Zovirax, and Valtrex which is very expensive to treat the symptoms and never cured me. I was browsing through the Internet searching for remedy on HERPES and i saw comment of people talking about how DR OYAGU cured them, when i contacted him he gave me hope and send a Herbal medicine to me that i took and it seriously worked for me, am a free person now without any problem, my HERPES result came out negative, I pray to God to never let me and my family forget you in our life, am now cured permanently, you can also get your self cured my friends if you really need this doctor help, you can reach him on his website ;https://oyaguspellcaster.wixsite.com/oyaguherbalhome Email: oyaguherbalhome@gmail.com or via whatsapp +2348101755322

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm 61 years old.  I contracted hpv in 2011' I has be taking lot treatment for it and embarrassed some months ago the wart stated coming out seriously, I used lot recommendation because there was lot warts around my anus and was so . but today I'm totally happy I got the virus eliminated by using natural treatment from Dr Onokun herbal center after his treatment I got cured. all the warts went away' seriously believed Dr. Onokun he have the cure for human papillomavirus because he has eliminated hpv been in my body since 2011, Dr. Onokun make it possible for me. Here is Dr. Onokun email: Dronokunherbalcure@gmail.com or page at:  https://www.facebook.com/naturaltreatmentcenter1 he is welled capable of curing terrible diseases.  

    ReplyDelete
  10. To know more about Chief Dr Lucky you can visit his website (https://chiefdrluckyherbaltherapy.wordpress.com/)
     
     A friend that suffered from Herpes and was cure with the help of this great herbal doctor Chief Lucky so i decided to contact him for help in getting rid of my families genital herpes virus 1/2 which i did and all i was told to provide was just some useful information and some materials used in preparation of the natural cure and that i did and now i am the happiest person on earth because i am writing this testimony of mine with joy and happiness in my heart to the whole world to know that natural remedy is real because i am a living testimony of Chief Lucky traditional herbal cure and i want you all to contact Chief Lucky via his email: chiefdrlucky@gmail.com or WhatsApp him +2348132777335 am sure he will help you too.

    ReplyDelete

Liza Sang It First

 A whole generation is singing this movie theme -- and getting the lyrics wrong. The song is from a 1977 Martin Scorsese film that starred R...