Metro Making Music and Million$
Everybody's Kind Of Music To Win The War
Was Music For Millions handing out the wrong kind of hope? A telegram from the War Department tells June Allyson that her husband has died in the South Pacific, a fact her intercepting roommates conceal from Junie, a bad idea by itself compounded by fact that the wire turns out to be a mistake. He's still alive! I was under impression that wartime pics never did a reverse on official word of casualty. Same year's Since You Went Away has Jennifer Jones questioning bad news re Robert Walker till Claudette Colbert firmly says "that's the worst thing you can do." A warring nation did not want families kidding themselves once in receipt of bad news. Did Music For Millions make some of us doubt truth in telegrams? This was where fantasy at Metro may have had damaging effect. Hope was fine, false hope something else. A "Bureau Of Motion Pictures" at the government's Office Of War Information had been created "to assist
"A Romantic Drama Of Young Love Set To Your Musical Favorites," said the trailer, this to accompany of The Hallelujah Chorus. Music For Millions filled a big tent for all tastes, classical as performed by Jose Iturbi, swing by most everyone else, plus comic riffing on concert scale by Jimmy Durante, who introduced his to-be standard Umbriago here. Great composers got respect from mainstream
|Margaret O'Brien with Joe Pasternak and Henry Koster|
MGM had ways of luring talent from elsewhere to richer preserves at Culver. For promise of better money and higher budgets, talent like Mervyn LeRoy, Pandro Berman, numerous others, crossed the moat. One who'd defected to Metro (from Universal) and would stay for remain of a career was Joe Pasternak. It was his kind of candy land. Joe believed in movies as fluff. His musicals for Deanna Durbin had been machinery printing money for U. Pasternak wouldn't direct, but had a friend back there who did. It was only matter of time before Henry Koster came over and joined his teammate. Pasternak/Koster would be trusted with $1.7 million of Metro dollars to make Music For Millions. That was more than had been spent on any two Durbins. Koster lived long and told some of truth from the experience to interviewing Irene Kahn Atkins for a Director's Guild oral history. He recalled a "whole high command" of departments, each an undermine to director authority. Koster found Margaret O' Brien already pre-programmed by her mother and acting coach Lillian Burns, the studio sanctioned guide for most if not all performing talent. Koster felt "very safe" at MGM, but realized such factory efficiency "interfered" at times.
Margaret O'Brien may have been a most valuable of acting assets for Metro during 1944. She was all of seven and being top-billed for a first time in Music For Millions. Unlike Shirley Temple who could admittedly sing/dance better, O'Brien was a mini-Garbo enacting high drama to wring tears not only from herself, but a nationwide public. The cry mechanism was one that O'Brien reduced to science. She'd ask Koster if he wanted tears streaming, halfway down cheeks, or merely wet eyes. O'Brien has always impressed me for never whining over hardship of child stardom. She loved the work and saw herself as an actress from beginning at age four. MGM would be her candy land as well as Pasternak's. Maybe it wasn't for everyone, but certain personalities could thrive in this Lion's den. I don't know of an interview where O'Brien knocked Leo, Mayer, or any of co-stars, except Wallace Beery (from Bad Bascomb), a stance endemic to any and all that worked with famously truculent Beery. For those who get unwanted sugar high from Margaret O'Brien, Music For Millions is a picture to stay away from, but do note critics to a man adoring her once upon a 1944 Christmas season, when just-previous, and still playing to packed houses, Meet Me In St.Louis, established O'Brien as a top working actress and asset for Metro.
To stand hours in the snow suggests you want to see something badly. Above was the scene outside Broadway's Capitol Theatre, an MGM flagship and site of Music For Millions opening for holiday week '44. A photo like this makes me look back for any theatre I'd have sacrificed such time and warmth getting into. What's a lifetime's longest wait to see a movie? These hundreds shivered willingly for Margaret O'Brien, or was it live act Tommy Dorsey that appeared with Music For Millions? Trade ads tended to play down stage shows that were truer lure for Broadway crowds. Dorsey was at popularity's summit and certainly accounted for much of a first week's $75K the Capital took. The Main Stem gathered many a Christmas shopper to bosom that was first-run theatres, each with best the industry had for Yule attracting. Meet Me In