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May 24, 2007

Moon over Miami

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Walter Lang - 1941
20th Century Fox Region 1 DVD

With my last week of living in Miami Beach coming up, I decided to seek out DVDs at the Miami-Dade Library system using "Miami" as a keyword. This studio film is about as close to Miami as an episode of C.S.I. Miami. There is some second unit stuff that is unmistakably Miami Beach, but that's about it. At the end of the film the credits mention location shooting in Ocala and Winter Haven, both over two hundred miles away. There isn't even a fake shot of the moon over the beach, as if the title would be enough.

The basic story is one that Darryl Zanuck seemed to love as it appeared in several Fox productions. Two attractive young women decide to leave the Texas hamburger stand for Miami in search of millionaire husbands. Just off the top of my head, this is the basic plot for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire and Three Coins in a Fountain. At least one of the young women will decide money isn't everything and marry some guy purely for love, but no one in the audience and certainly no one at the studio really believes that. The biggest weakness of Moon over Miami is not that it's fake, but that it cannot transcend its' fakeness.

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Betty Grable and Carole Landis are the two sisters who take aunt Charlotte Greenwood to Florida. Betty has to make up her mind between the truly wealthy Bob Cummings, Cummings' broke best pal, Don Ameche. Betty and Carole also find that pretending to have money can be very expensive. The point of the film was to come up with enough reasons to show off Betty Grable's legs.

Hermes Pan's choreography is filmed much in the way that Fred Astaire is filmed dancing, using full shots so the audience can see the entire dance. Whether it's a small bit such as in the beginning of the film, or a more elaborate number with the Condos Brothers, Grable is filmed so that no kick or arm movement is missed. Even though Grable is in virtually every scene in the film, there are suggestions that she could have been used better. Betty Grable's gift at physical comedy is only hinted at, as if Zanuck and company decided that it was not appropriate for a lead actress. Moon over Miami is the kind of film that once you've seen it, is mostly forgotten. What is memorable are not the songs, not even the dances, but the sight of Betty Grable tripping over the extended leg of a sleepy Don Ameche.

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Posted by peter at May 24, 2007 12:03 AM


This is the kind of thing I grew up watching for relaxation (and still do, if I am honest) -- mindless, silly, glorious to look at, wasn't going to keep me up all night thinking too hard. I do remember this movie, chiefly for Carole Landis's truly astonishing beauty. Betty Grable seems to have been a very likable, earthy sort of person in real life and judging by how funny she is in something like "How to Marry a Millionaire," it is a shame she did not often get good scripts. She was rather like Kay Francis in that she did what she was given and made little fuss.

If nothing else, look at those stills. GOD I wish Technicolor were still around.

Posted by: Campaspe at May 27, 2007 06:47 PM