Today was my second day at Cinecon 53 (I skipped Saturday) and came with Martine this time. Today’s highlights were two zany musicals. The first was Anything Goes (1936) with music by Cole Porter and starring Bing Crosby, Ethel Merman, Charlie Ruggles, and Ida Lupino (as a blonde no less!). The action takes place on an ocean liner on which Bing is stowing away, because he thinks the lovely Miss Lupino is in danger. Notable is the role of Arthur Treacher as Lord Oakleigh, who is escorting Lupino for what Bing suspects are nefarious purposes. I could describe the plot in more detail, but then it was never intended to make sense. It is merely a rack onto which a number of great Cole Porter tunes are (dis)played to advantage.
The other loony movie was a 1940 quickie from Universal called La Conga Nights, with an even more improbable plot. First of all, the star is Hugh Herbert, who plays no less than six roles. Then there’s this boarding house which is laboring under an evacuation order for nonpayment of mortgage. The tenants, a musical set led by Dennis O’Keefe and Constance Moore, decide to turn the place into a nightclub called the Conga Room.
Neither of these films was slated for fame. They came out when Americans attended movie theaters in droves to see the hundreds of films that Hollywood cranked out year after year. Americans felt in their bones that there would be another war: Spain was already a demo zone for weapons from Germany, Italy, and Russia. But we had just survived a terrible depression, and people didn’t mind being a little silly. I wonder if the tendency will return with our having elected a president that is trying, under the rubric of “Make America Great Again,” to turn us into a Third World Country. So let’s laugh while we can!