Friday, May 30, 2008

Joan Blondell on The Finally Friday Freakout

This is story. A story of a soldiers who lost themselves after coming back from war. The name of the song is Remember My Forgotten Man. This is a song about a woman who lost her man to that war and wants him to come home. The fellas that did come home had all kinds of trouble re-integrating back into society. Some had PTSD, some serious depression and others didn't have access to healthcare, jobs or a home.

I could be referring to some of the news stories about today's returning veterans but this scene looks at World War 1 returning veterans trying to survive during the depression.

This is the final classic scene of Gold Diggers of 1933. It was made during the depression, (the 1929 depression before this one and 9/11). And yes, it was a "fun" movie about folks wanting to put on a Broadway show during hard times. But there was a message in this music.

No one was expecting this ending. You don't have to see the whole movie to get a sense of how powerful the imagery and the presentation makes you take a step back and go, "Whoa, what was that?" Soldiers that fought in World War 1 were promised certain things that they did not receive coming home. More things change the more they stay the same.

Joan Blondell is the blond who had a long and wonderful career in show business. She had stories to tell. So sit back and get a sense of how music, storytelling, dance and great cinematography work together.


  1. I didn't know she was a singer. :) I'm a new convert to Blondell-mania, so this is a welcome look at a movie I hadn't yet seen.

    Thanks for posting this. It also gives me a different look at the "forgotten man" as presented in My Man Godfrey.

  2. The studio system had good and bad things about it. It had the money to mount these kinds of movies, have the best talent and once they gave the ok you could step off the grid.

    The bad thing about it in this case was that they worked Joan to death at Warner Brothers, kept her locked into the same kind of roles and never fully saw her talent.

  3. Hello Gena

    I have shamelessly filched your entire 2004 post, + comments, with the lyrics of "Sky Pilot," for a thread about ... well, check it out, ipse dixit.

    It's the 3rd post in a thread that begins with

    with poems from British soldier poets of World War One.

    Not surprisingly, there's a large body of poems by American soldiers in the Iraq War. Or perhaps that comes as a surprise to Americans who weren't soldiers. I was the last of the draftees during the Vietnam era.

    Though I was never much of a Disco guy, my favorite of all anti-war Vietnam-era songs was "Bring The Boys Home" (1971) by Freda Payne. You expected anti-war songs from folksingers and nasty rock bands, and they were enormously appreciated, but my heart exploded with Hope that the war was coming to an end when a Disco Diva demanded it all over the AM car radios. Armed Forces Radio in Vietnam (the network Robin Williams' deejay broadcast for in "Good Morning Vietnam) banned this song as "defeatist." (I was a hard-core defeatist.)

    Joan Blondell was generally dismissed as a light comedienne, pop singer and hoofer, but as you note, regularly surprised the crap out of her audience with the most unexpected things.

    May I recommend that you put your entire life and career on hold while you immediately rent, disconnect the phone, and lock the doors to watch "Nightmare Alley" (1947). Again, ipse dixit, let Joan say it for herself. Totally knock your socks off.

    Northampton Massachusetts

  4. check out the verses that begin "Once in khaki suits ..."


    Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

    Lyrics by E.Y. ("Yip") Harburg
    Music by J. Gorney (1932)

    Once I built a railroad, made it run
    Made it race against time
    Once I built a railroad, now it's done
    Brother, can you spare a dime?

    Once I built a tower to the sun
    Bricks and mortar and lime
    Once I built a tower, now it's done
    Brother, can you spare a dime?

    Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell!
    Full of that Yankee-Doodly-Dum!
    Half a million boots
    went slogging through Hell
    I was the kid with the drum --

    Say, don't you remember, you called me Al!
    It was Al all the time!
    Say, don't you remember, I'm your pal!
    Brother, can you spare a dime?

    Copyright Warner Bros. Inc., E.Y. Harburg and J. Gorney

    In his oral history of the Great Depression, "Hard Times," Studs Turkel just calls this "The Song."

  5. i love this blog! keep up good works. See you again..

  6. Hi Gena,

    I have a great Busby Berkeley CD that has many songs on it from Busby Berkeley movies. Songs like "42nd Street," "Young and Healthy," and "Shuffle Off To Buffalo." It also has "Remember My Forgotten Man."

    It's interesting because anytime I listen to those wonderful upbeat songs and then I get to "My Forgotten Man," the song never fails to resonant and give me pause.

    Great post.


  7. Thanks folks. I didn't think that anyone else would appreciate Joan's work and certainly didn't think folks would respond to a black and white movie from the 1930s.

    I love movies and I don't care when they were made so long as they are choice.

    I am a veteran of the Late Show, the Late, Late, Show and if necessary the Late, Late, Late Show. It was a six nights a week version of film school.

    I hope Joan's spirit is smiling down in recognition that there are a few of us who knows a good dame when we see and hear one.