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Thursday, July 27, 2017

It's A Monogram Bulls-Eye!


Music and Merriment in Melody Parade (1943)

"A musical that will please the less critical," said Showman's Trade Review, so where does that leave viewers who'd pick Melody Parade over any number of deluxe tune-fests from war years? Monogram took pride in the show, previewing finished reels to visiting showmen during summer '43, touting Mono variant on an all-star singing cast: Mary Beth Hughes, Eddie Quillan, Tim and Irene Ryan, plus in-for-comedy Mantan Moreland --- all these familiar and liked faces to cheer customers staying for a second feature. Wartime boom in attendance was a help, patron appetite for musicals being acute so as to get minds off meatless dining and gas rations. Melody Parade got reward same as majors for supplying light-heart relief, scoring Broadway placement at the RKO Palace starting 8/19/43, a coup worth its weight in boastful trade ads that came after. Melody Parade was strong argument that Monogram was aiming for fences and could serve song-dance with the best of them.

Melody Parade Supports a '43 Reissue of The Oklahoma Kid

Parade's plot would neatly sustain 72 minute haul: Can a hat check girl headline for a struggling club and make the grade with Ted Fio Rito's orchestra? The conclusion, if foregone, was fun in the getting there, as was laff-making to bookend swing numbers. Monogram did their musicals a cunning way --- build one elaborate nitery set and confine action to it, with cleff and comedy enough to distract from fact we're riding coach. So who needed Technicolor all the time? Not a few MGM and Fox tuners were overstuffed turkeys, to which Melody Parade was modest and enjoyable appetizer, if not antidote. It doesn't take much watching of Tim and Irene to become a fan; coming away from this, you could hope there were a dozen more Monograms spotlighting the pair. Fact is, Tim was very much a creative influence behind this and others from the company, and rare though they are on DVD, some of the Mono musicals have shown up at streaming addresses like Amazon and satellite On-Demands. They were made humbly to please a crowd, even if those "less critical," which should include much of GPS readership.

5 Comments:

Blogger Rodney said...

I love Mary Beth Hughes. Where did you find this one? Checking my usual sources turns up nothing.

12:31 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

It was streaming on Amazon, but since withdrawn.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

A friend of mine had this on 16mm. It's a pleasant way to spend 72 minutes. I love the major studio musicals as well as the next person, but there's something to be said for these (comparatively speaking) low budget tuners. Fast and unpretentious.

MELODY PARADE seems to be in the block of Monograms that MGM wound up owning.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

MEODY PARADE came out at a very opportune time for Monogram. The studio made a major breakthrough in 1943-44: theater chains balked at the high prices charged by major studios, and started booking Monogram's much more reasonable first-run features into big-city venues.

The films were making good impressions, and the Monogram brand name wasn't really a factor. Mr. and Mrs. Moviegoer usually didn't know they were getting a budget brand until they got in line at the theater. The title published in the newspaper, and the star name if there was room, did the persuading: MELODY PARADE, HOT RHYTHM, CHARLIE CHAN IN THE CHINESE CAT, VOODOO MAN, BOWERY CHAMPS, WILD HORSE STAMPEDE, and so on. Once the customers arrived at the theater, Monogram's lithographed posters were an excellent come-on. They looked expensive and they sold the merchandise with colorful graphics.

John, thank you as always for shining the spotlight on these lesser-known titles.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Paul Castiglia said...

I absolutely love the Monogram musical comedies I've seen, and am totally enthralled with Tim Ryan and his career as "utility man" at the smaller studios (fascinating as it is to me to consider someone giving his all despite most often swimming in small ponds). A glance at Ryan's filmography, not just acting but all the screenplays he wrote, "story by" and "additional dialogue by" credits boggles the mind. He had a great mind for comedy, both conceiving it and playing it. Re: his on-screen appearances, to me he took that Ted Healy kind of character and somehow made it eminently likable. Perhaps when I clear all other projects from my plate I'll commence on doing some kind of work - article, book, biography - on Mr. Ryan. He deserves a proper appreciation, in my opinion.

8:47 AM  

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