Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood
and Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood
are giving us the opportunity to celebrate the one and only Rock Hudson with this blogathon running November 17, 18 and 19. Click HERE
to join the fun.
Publicity shot of Universal-International's young leading man Rock Hudson kicking up his heels in The Charleston for the 1920s set comedy Has Anybody Seen My Gal
released the same year as his breakout role of Trey Wilson in Bend of the River
Director Douglas Sirk's career from the study of law and art in Germany to Hollywood acclaim and influence brought him to Universal Studios in the 1950s where his output included the polished yet homey family comedy we look at here, to heartrending classic melodramas.
Working at the same studio brings directors and actors together often, and in the case of Has Anybody Seen My Gal
this was one of two with Piper Laurie, the third of four with Gigi Perreau, the first of three with William Reynolds, and the first of nine with Rock Hudson. The collaborations of Sirk and Hudson would bring many challenges and successes to both and include Battle Hymn
, Taza, Son of Cochise
, and All That Heaven Allows
Eleanor H. Porter (Pollyanna
) wrote the story used for the basis of our movie and the screenwriter Joseph Hoffman borrowed a plot from one of his earlier films called Young as You Feel
. The lovely Technicolor cinematography is by Clifford Stine (This Island Earth
) and the music by Herman Stein. The soundtrack is filled with Tin Pan Alley hits of yesteryear that bolster the nostalgic feel the 1950s audience had for the 1920s.
Piper Laurie, Lynn Bari
Harriet Blaisdell played by Lynn Bari (Sun Valley Serenade
) is a discontented housewife. Her husband Charles played by Larry Gates (Guiding Light
) owns and operates a drug store and the family often has trouble making ends meet. Harriet's late mother married for love while her spurned suitor went on to become a millionaire. Harriet followed suit, but wants and expects better for her eldest daughter Millicent played by Piper Laurie (The Hustler
). Harriet has her heart set on Millicent marrying the town's spoiled rich kid Carl Pennock played by Skip Homeier (The Tall T
). All Millicent wants is Dan Stebbins played by Rock Hudson (Pillow Talk
). Dan works for her dad and he's the bee's knees!
Samuel Fulton played by Charles Coburn (Kings Row
) is the aforementioned spurned suitor of Mrs. Blaisdell's late mother. Unemcumbered by a family he went out into the world and made his fortune. The crotchety hypochondriac wants to leave his money to the family of his long-ago sweetheart. His doctor played by Willard Waterman (The Great Gildersleeve
) and attorney played by Frank Ferguson (Johnny Guitar
) put the idea into Fulton's head that he should return to his hometown and check the family out in person before bequeathing his fortune. They actually just want the old man to be up and doing something.
Charles Coburn, Gigi Perreau
Fulton, using the name of John Smith, gets himself ensconced in the Blaisdell household as a boarder and at the drugstore as a new soda jerker. The youngest Blaisdell, Roberta played by nine-year-old Gigi Perreau (Shadow on the Wall
) takes to Mr. Smith right away, as does the family mutt called Penny. Roberta/Gigi is an appealing package of personality and energy. Her scenes with Smith/Coburn are a lot of fun.
After a while, Fulton decides to send a little of the green stuff the Blaisdell's way. Did I say a little? The cheque for $100,000 sends the family into a tizzy. Harriet takes charge in a big way. She urges Charles to sell his store. After all, a mere shopkeeper in their exalted social position? She breaks up Millicent and Dan's engagement. Dan is one of the proud types who doesn't want it to be said he's marrying Millicent for her money.
Charles Coburn, Rock Hudson
While Dan and "Gramps", as he calls Mr. Smith, adjust to working under less than ideal conditions with the skinflint of a new owner, Mr. Quinn played by Forrest Lewis (The Great Gildersleeve
), they share lodgings. Harriet insisted on buying the biggest house in town where there was no room for Mr. Smith nor room for Penny the pooch who also moved in with Dan when replaced by two French Poodles.
William Reynolds, Larry Gates
Howard, the son of the Blaisdell household played by William Reynolds (There's Always Tomorrow
) had been following his mother's lead and aiming to fit in with a fast and richer crowd. When he got into trouble with some gamblers it was Mr. Smith who anonymously came to his rescue. Howard was smart enough to figure out who his benefactor was and smart enough to learn his lesson.
Mr. Smith got Millicent out of a couple of scraps as well with the irresponsible Carl Pennock, and poor Smith kept ending up in court because of his largess. Eventually, the Blaisdell's ran through their money and their unknown benefactor did them the greatest favour of all by refusing to cough up anything more to get them out of the hole.
Rock Hudson, Piper Laurie
It was back to the comfortable if crowded home, and back to the store with Dan about to join the family as son-in-law and the business as a partner. Mr. Fulton remained Mr. Smith to the family as he said his goodbyes.
This charming family comedy is what I call a Sunday matinee movie due to its popping up on local television on that day and being such a comfort to watch. The movie is gorgeous to look at, with lovely and subtle transitions from summer to fall to winter. The cast is attractive and pleasant, and the problems are not life-threatening, but easily and expectedly solved to the satisfaction of the audience. The costumes by Rosemary Odell (To Kill a Mockingbird
) are good looking as well as capturing the era.
The extras are packed with young people doing the Charleston and giving out with the slang of the time. There is a very brief and amusing scene with James Dean as a customer giving Gramps a hard time at the soda fountain. You will recall that Dean and Hudson will team up in a "little" picture in a few years.
Stage and screen actor Charles Coburn had been in the acting game for decades. I wonder what he thought of the young leading man who was his co-star here, or even imagined that a cult would build up around that youngster with one scene.
Piper Laurie, Rock Hudson
Millicent sings Gimme a Little Kiss to Dan in this scene. It is adorable!
Rock Hudson had some more westerns to make for Universal-International in the following years and soon he and Piper Laurie would leave behind the Charleston to cavort in the Arabian adventure The Golden Blade
. The next level of Hudson's stardom would be reached in 1954 with Magnificent Obsession
. A-level classics are in Hudson's future, but there is a lot of joy to be found in his early career.