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  Moon Over Miami Sunshine State of Mind
Year: 1941
Director: Walter Lang
Stars: Betty Grable, Don Ameche, Robert Cummings, Carole Landis, Jack Haley, Charlotte Greenwood, Cobina Wright, Lynne Roberts, Robert Conway, George Lessey, Jack Cole, Robert Greig, Minor Watson, Fortunio Bonanova, George Humbert
Genre: Musical, Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: The lovely Latimer sisters, Kay (Betty Grable) and Barbara (Carole Landis) work as singing cowgirl waitresses at a hamburger stand run by their Aunt Sue (Charlotte Greenwood), where they eagerly await news of an inheritance left by a wealthy relative. Unfortunately, taxes and various legal fees leave them with practically nothing. So Kay decides to head down to Miami, where “millionaires grow on trees” and use her pretty face and va-va-voom figure to bag a rich husband. Adopting the guise of a wealthy heiress, with Barbara posing as her secretary and Sue as her maid, Kay quickly draws the attention of handsome playboy Jeff Boulton (Robert Cummings) and his no-less rich and good-looking friend, Phil McNeil (Don Ameche).

Both men compete for her affections, yet though Kay is clearly enamoured with Phil, she has second thoughts upon discovering his financial troubles. In fact he was hoping to borrow money from her. After Kay confesses her real reasons for romancing him, Phil surprisingly agrees to step aside so she can pursue Jeff instead for the betterment of her struggling family. Which rather breaks Barbara’s heart since she has taken a shine to Jeff. Meanwhile, bumbling waiter Jack O’Hara (Jack Haley, onetime Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz (1939), in his final role) is aghast to discover the Latimer girls are fortune-hunters and resolves to expose them.

Twentieth Century Fox managed to adapt this particular story, based on a play by Stephen Powys, no less than three times. First as the comedy, Three Blind Mice (1938) with Loretta Young, Joel McCrea and David Niven, then later as the musical Three Little Girls in Blue (1946) starring June Haver and George Montgomery. Moon Over Miami remains the best known version, largely because it’s a showcase for the studio’s top female star, Betty Grable whose legendary million dollar legs get ample screen-time tapping their way through the energetic song-and-dance routines choreographed by Hermes Pan.

With a plot that prefigures Grable’s more famous hit, How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) - and the by-no-means-coincidentally similar Shaw Brothers musical comedy We Love Millionaires (1970) - this tweaks the potentially cynical subject matter into something frothy and charming. Screenwriter George Seaton, who later wrote and directed the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and kick-started the Seventies disaster movie craze with Airport (1970), includes an agreeably upbeat message. No matter how mercenary the characters try to be, their hearts override everything else. Phil’s declaration to Kay, that their life together will be neither rich nor easy, but with true love they’ll make it through - harks to the gutsy, can-do optimism of Seaton’s Apartment for Peggy (1948). Such sentiments surely appealed to wartime audiences as much as seeing Grable at her bubbliest and most appealing.

Working behind the camera was Walter Lang, an underrated hand at musicals and comedies, who went on to direct one of Grable’s best movies, Mother Wore Tights (1947), and score an Oscar nomination with The King and I (1956). Lang trained as a painter in France and brought his eye-catching way with Technicolor to a handful of Shirley Temple’s best movies and feel-good classics like State Fair (1945), Cheaper by the Dozen (1950). In his hands, Miami becomes a Technicolor toy box for glamour gals in glittering gowns and suave smoothies in immaculate tuxedos, surrounded by gorgeous greenery, eye-catching wildlife and impossibly chic nightclubs. Miami would never look so elegant again. On top of it all, as the crowning set-piece that caps Phil and Jeff’s hilarious game of one-upmanship, Lang includes an amazing speedboat chase through the Everglades, as exciting as any action movie.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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