Friday, April 20, 2012

Tonight and Every Night



“Tonight and Every Night” (1945) might be Rita Hayworth’s most underrated film and arguably her best musical. This is not a slight against the two marvelous films she made with Fred Astaire, or “Cover Girl” (1944) with Gene Kelly. I love them all.

But the urgent wartime setting of “Tonight and Every Night” trumps the previous films. Their plots are standard musicals with comedy and conventional love stories. In “Tonight and Every Night” the characters are responsible for a city’s morale, and the love story may not last beyond the next evening.

Filmed in beautiful Technicolor, “Tonight and Every Night” is set during World War II at the Music Box Theater in London. Despite nearly nightly bombing raids, the theater never closed its doors or missed a performance. The Music Box here is inspired on the real-life Windmill Theater. More about that later.

 

Rita Hayworth plays an American showgirl from St. Louis named Rosalind Bruce, a wise move since no English accent was required. Her best friend is fellow showgirl Judy Kane (Janet Blair) and it’s very refreshing to a see a genuine friendship in a movie like this, and a rarity in the Hayworth canon. Rosalind and Judy are supportive of each other through the whole movie, so there are no tiresome scenes of them fighting over the same man or angling for more solo numbers onstage at the expense of the other.

 

One night an RAF squadron leader named Paul Lundy (Lee Bowman) comes to the Music Box and sees Rosalind perform the film’s best number, the sultry, intoxicating “You Excite Me.” This could be Rita’s best solo musical number on film. I know, I’m not forgetting the immortal “Put the Blame on Mame” from “Gilda” (1946), but “You Excite Me” is a genuine pleasure, with Rita and dancers backed by those sensuous rumba rhythms and evocative lighting. The underrated Jack Cole was the choreographer for the film and I think this is one of the best numbers Rita ever did.(I did try to upload the You Tube clip, but couldn't figure out how to do it. Where's a 10-year-old when you need one? But if you want to see it, it's available on You Tube in all its Technicolor glory).

During an air raid alert, he spies her in an underground tunnel and begins his wooing. He’s pretty brash, but he has to be. Death could come at any minute either from the sky or on a mission. On one date, he brings her back to his apartment only to find it destroyed in an air raid.

While London burns, the troupe at the Windmill continues on. To keep the show going, the girls move into the theater’s basement. The lights remain on as a grateful city pours into the theater to see the show.

The film is loaded with terrific numbers, and a good song score by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. Both toiled for years writing songs for “B” musicals at Columbia and Republic. Here, they got the plum assignment of writing for one of the biggest stars of the era, and they turned in a wonderful score. The lovely ballad “Always” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song but lost to Rodgers and Hammerstein for “It Might as Well Be Spring” from “State Fair.” Marlin Skiles and Morris Stoloff were nominated for their Musical Direction duties, but lost to Georgie Stoll for “Anchors Aweigh.”

You may think you don’t know “Always” but if you’ve seen any Columbia movies from the 1940s and 1950s you’ll recognize it as it was used as source music for radios and nightclub scenes in dozens of movies, including “Gilda.”

All the songs are performed onstage, which makes sense, though there is a brief scene where the cleaning women and a stagehand sing the film’s title song as they are working. I thought it was a mistake for director Victor Saville to include this short scene, as it (slightly) takes us out of the movie. Because so far it’s not a traditional musical (characters breaking out into song) it seemed a little incongruous.

 

"Tonight and Every Night” gave us the film debut of dancer Marc Platt. Looking like Ross Alexander’s younger brother, Platt should have had a much bigger career than he did. He has a terrific scene where he auditions for the troupe by performing a series of impromptu dance routines to what is on the radio, even dancing to one of Hitler’s speeches.  

 

Rita was at the peak of her beauty when she made “Tonight and Every Night” and she positively glows in her musical numbers. A professional dancer since she was a little girl, she loved dancing and when she smiles it seems genuine. It looks like she’s having a blast.

If there’s one major fault in the film, it’s Rita’s wardrobe. For a simple showgirl in war-time London, she dresses off stage like a million bucks. In one scene when she comes in to the theater, she’s wearing a fur and jewel ensemble that looks like it cost the GDP of a small country.

Another fault is a pretty painful comedy routine by the xylophone playing Professor Lamberti, who plays The Great Waldo, a one time vaudeville star who now toils as a stagehand. Rather than postpone the show by a half hour The Great Waldo offers to do his old routine. It seems to go on for days. This was the good Professor’s only screen credit and it’s easy to see why.

(Speaking of sparse screen credits, Stephen Crane plays Leslie, one of Paul’s flight comrades. Yep, Lana Turner’s second husband appears in a few scenes here. He appeared in only three movies before going into the restaurant business).

The ending is a sad one, showing that war doesn’t spare even the most innocent. But the troupe carries on. They have a serious patriotic duty to perform, even if only to give a few hour’s relief to visiting servicemen and war-weary Londoners.

 

 As I said earlier, the Music Box is based on the real life Windmill Theater. Not only did the Windmill never close its doors, but was equally well known for its onstage nudity. Because London’s censorship boards didn’t object to nudity in statues, the Windmill’s owners had the girls perform nude as living statues (i.e. no movement). The story of the Windmill was told in “Mrs. Henderson Presents” (2005) starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins.

“Tonight and Every Night” is a genuine pleasure. It may not be as known today due to its lack of a leading man on the scale of an Astaire, Kelly or Glenn Ford, but it deserves to be better known. I’m happy to have the opportunity to champion it.  

 

13 comments:

David Lobosco said...

I haven't seen this movie in about 20 years. The music was so so in it, but Rita Hayworth and Janet Blair looked super hot in the film. It is a great film to look at.

Great review!

Kevin Deany said...

Thanks, Dave. There were some shots of Rita in this movie that had my stomach doing flip flops. Not becoming my adult status, but there you go.

I do apologize to my readers for the somewhat clumsy design. Blogger has a new design and after several attempts to get it the way I liked - and it looked OK in the preview - I hit publish only to see the pictures slightly off center and added white space by the photos (which did not look this way in the preview.) I tried to re-fix, but couldn't get it to change. After tearing out my remaining hairs, I left it as it is.

Jim Lane said...

I've got David L. beat by several decades: haven't seen Tonight and Every Night since before the Age of Color Television. A hop over to YouTube to check out "You Excite Me" persuaded me to hop again to Amazon and secure the Rita Hayworth Collection (other worthy titles in that one!).

BTW, at YouTube, click on the "Share" button under the video, then on "Embed", and it shows you the code to copy and paste to embed the clip in your post.

Nice job, Kevin!

David Lobosco said...

Hi Kevin,

I hate the new blogger interface, but it let me go back to the old one still. Not sure for how long!

KimWilson said...

Great write up, Kevin. I've never see this one and you have truly opened my eyes to it. I love Hayworth in Gilda, so I'm sure if she's better here, as you say, I will also love Tonight and Every Night.

ClassicBecky said...

I'm never seen this one either, Kevin, but Rita Hayworth is a definite draw for me. Being a girl, I don't exactly get stomach flip-flops, but she is one of the most gorgeous women on screen!

R. D. Finch said...

Kevin, a really entertaining post on a film I wasn't aware of. You're sure right about Rita being at the peak of her beauty in the mid-40s, and she always looks especially gorgeous in Technicolor. Something about that process really caught peachy skin tones and red hair. I'm a sucker for movies set in WW II England, and I very much enjoyed the story of The Windmill as told in "Mrs. Henderson Presents."

Kevin Deany said...

As usual I'm late in responding to comments. Dave, I fixed the interface too and hope it stays. I've been having computer issues of late, so I'm not holding my breath.

Kim and Becky, I do hope you get the chance to see it some day. I was captivated throughout and think it's a tremendously underrated film.

R.D, I think you would like it and I'm now very interested in seeing "Mrs. Henderson Presents."

Jim, I'll figure out the You Tube embedding one day. I'm sure I'm just missing a step that's obvious to everyone but me. I'll tray again with another post.

Happy to read that you ordered the Hayworth collection based on the "You Excite Me" clip. I do hope you like it. It's a terrific collection and "Gilda" looks better than its previous DVD release.

The only clunker is "Salome" but that offers some small pleasures. It has a good cast and a very amusing scene where Charles Laughton, as Herod, lets out a gigantic yawn. I wonder if that was unscripted and director William Dieterle kept it in? It always tickles me when I see it.

The George Duning score is pretty good, and the seven veils dance music by Daniele Amfitheatrof is, very evocative. (Good enough for Charles Gerhardt to record it for one of his Classic Film Score series in the 1970s.) I think I like the music just as much as, if not more than, similar music penned by Richard Strauss in his "Salome" opera. I know, sacrilege.

Note to readers, if I'm ever found dead under mysterious circumstances, point the police to a rabid Straussian sect.

Page said...

Kev,
So many of our favorite stars didn't look so great in Technicolor,however Rita was the exception. She looked even more radiant.

I haven't seen this film (that whole musical thing) but I really enjoyed your review of TAEN.

I'm a fan of Rita's dancing, especially with Astaire so if you say this one is even better I'll certainly give it a try whenever it airs again.

Beautifully done and a fine tribute to your girl Rita. : )
Page

Kevin Deany said...

Page, you might find it more agreeable than the average musical since all the numbers are done as part of a stage show. There's no singing of love duets in the street while bombs fall among them. I think you might like it. And yes, Rita in Technicolor is like a gift from the gods.

Caftan Woman said...

Yes, the new blogger set-up sucks. I had my first run in with it earlier today.

However, your article is tops. I've been reading this week about London show business in the war years so your post is timely for me. I haven't seen this movie since I was a kid, and on a B&W TV. I must see it in its Technicolor glory - and have a good cry.

Kudos for putting a spotlight on "Tonight and Every Night".

The Lady Eve said...

A sheer delight, Kevin, even for someone who has seen nothing of "Tonight and Every Night" but a snippet of Marc Platt's audition dance routine (included in a documentary on the Ballet Russe dancers). Thanks for a great recommendation.

Kevin Deany said...

CW, even in black and white, Rita is something to behold. But in Technicolor, she is luminous. But beauty isn't everything. Fortunately, she was a top notch dancer and an excellent actress to boot.

L.E, like I said, Marc Platt should have had a much bigger career. He's also featured in another Hayworth musical "Down to Earth" which is a real ordeal, and I've always wondered if that turkey sank his career. He later turns up in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." Marvelous dancer.