Cast & Crew
Broadway producer Tony Naylor and his partners, writers Al Marsh and Jerry Ralby, throw a party for potential backers of their new show, but cannot raise a penny because they have no startup money. Their problem soon appears to be solved when Al, whose real family name is Wodzscyngkic, receives a letter from Paris, informing him that his aunt Roberta, a famed couturier, has died and left half of her business to him. With seed money from big-hearted showgirl Bubbles Cassidy, who is in love with Tony, the men leave immediately for France, hoping to sell Al's half of the business and finance their show. Once in Paris, though, they learn that sisters Stephanie and Clarisse, who are Roberta's adopted nieces, cannot buy Al out because the once elegant dress salon is now badly in debt. The brash Tony blames Stephanie's designs, which he calls dowdy and out-of-date, and determines to help the business revive so that Al can sell his half. Tony tells Jerry and Al that with they need to spruce up Stephanie's designs, then stage a Broadway-style fashion show. Jerry agrees, and because he is attracted to Clarisse, suggests that he and Tony convince the sisters to bring in gorgeous models, music and dancing. While Jerry and Clarisse tour Paris, Tony describes his plan to Stephanie, and the two begin to realize their mutual attraction. Stephanie tries to tell Tony that their creditors, who want to close Roberta's down, will never agree to a lavish show, but when Tony barges into their meeting, he talks the bankers into advancing more money. As the weeks pass and preparations for the show progress, Stephanie and Tony begin to fall in love. When Bubbles arrives unexpectedly, however, Stephanie thinks that Bubbles and Tony are in love and is crushed. Al, who is attracted to Stephanie himself, is happy at Bubbles' arrival and asks Stephanie out while Tony takes Bubbles to Montmarte. Bubbles, who senses how Tony and Stephanie feel about each other, is annoyed when Stephanie and Al show up at the same club where she and Tony are having champagne. Al orders more champagne, and soon the two couples are joined by Jerry and Clarisse, then model Zsa Zsa and her rich, jovial companion, Max. After several rounds of champagne, everyone is drunk, except for Bubbles, who fumes while Tony and Stephanie share a romantic dance. At the end of the evening, Bubbles goes home in a taxi with Al after Tony insists that he needs to discuss business with Stephanie. In the taxi, a very inebriated Al confesses his love, and talks about a simple life with a wife and six children. Bubbles is touched, but becomes angry when she realizes that he thinks he is talking to Stephanie. Meanwhile, in a hansom cab, Stephanie and Tony kiss for the first time, after which Stephanie passes out. The next morning, Stephanie has a terrible hangover and does not remember the previous evening. When Al cheerfully tells her that he meant every word in the taxi, she is initially confused but finally understands and gently lets him know that she does not feel the same way. After Al leaves, Tony arrives and reminds Stephanie of their kiss, after which they admit their feelings for each other. Some time later, everyone is invited to a party at Max's. Al and Bubbles quietly commiserate with each other over Tony and Stephanie, then Al performs a comedy singing routine with Jerry. After the routine, which the partygoers love, Jerry and Tony discover that "Max" is actually famous Broadway impresario Max Fogelsby and immediately try to convince him to back their Broadway show. They negotiate for hours, after which Tony agrees, over Jerry's objections, to leave immediately for New York with Max. Stephanie is hurt that Bubbles' warning that Tony is too self-centered to think of anyone but himself has come true. When he says that he will leave Jerry and Al to oversee the fashion show and insists that he will send for her as soon as his Broadway show opens, she runs away. Several weeks later in New York, progress on the new Broadway show is not going well, and Tony, who realizes that his previous successes depended on his collaboration with Al and Jerry, tries to get out of his contract. Max realizes that Tony is feeling guilty for betraying his friends and has heard from Zsa Zsa that Jerry and Al are not doing well with the fashion show. Max then takes matters into his own hands by booking a flight to Paris for himself and Tony and promises to bring the Paris show to Broadway if it does well. Tony arrives at Roberta's just as the creditors are arguing with Stephanie and Clarisse. In Paris, after Tony apologizes to everyone for his behavior, the re-energized partners get to work readying the show for that night. The lavish fashion show is a great success, and at the finale, the reconciled Tony and Stephanie lovingly dance together, as do Clarisse and Jerry and Al and Bubbles, who look forward to being Mr. and Mrs. Wodzscyngkic.
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Jean Del Val
Thomas B. Henry
Daniel De Jonghe
Carli D. Elinor
Jo Anne Aehle
Mary Jo Devlin
Jack Del Rio
George J. Folsey
A. Arnold Gillespie
John Mcsweeney Jr.
Jack D. Moore
Edwin B. Willis
Lovely to Look At
MGM used the title Lovely to Look At (1952) for its remake of Roberta, which had in turn been based on Kern's Broadway hit of the same title. After MGM bought the rights to the property, the RKO musical was shelved for several years. Stepping in as the stars of Lovely to Look At were Howard Keel, Red Skelton and Gower Champion as showbiz buddies who hope to parlay Skelton's inheritance of a Parisian dress salon into a big Broadway show; and Kathryn Grayson, Ann Miller and Marge Champion as the men's romantic interests. Zsa Zsa Gabor pops up as a character whose name is, appropriately enough, Zsa Zsa.
The movie features 10 Kern songs, including such standouts as "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," sung by Grayson and hauntingly danced by the Champions to choreography by Hermes Pan; "I Won't Dance" as interpreted by the Champions; and, of course, "Lovely to Look At," sung by Keel and Grayson. Miller shines with "I'll Be Hard to Handle," staged by Pan with a chorus of male dancers wearing wolf masks. Other songs include "Opening Night," "Lafayette," "Yesterdays," "You're Devastating," "The Most Exciting Night" and "The Touch of Your Hand." As a bonus, Skelton throws in his hilarious "Irish Tenor" routine.
Although Lovely to Look At was directed by Mervyn LeRoy, the film's fashion-show finale is the work of Vincente Minnelli, an expert in color and movement who stepped in when his friend had to leave the production prematurely. Adrian, MGM's top designer, had created more than 40 costumes, at a cost of $100,000, and Minnelli recalled later that he was determined to give them "as extravagant a mounting" as he could. In four different sequences, with Kern's music as a backdrop, Minnelli shows off the designer's street clothes against a green background; bathing suits backed by blue; the dancing Champions on a red set; and formal wear with the chorus in gold armor against a backdrop of opera boxes.
Producer: Jack Cummings
Director: Mervyn LeRoy, Vincente Minnelli (uncredited)
Screenplay: George Wells, Harry Ruby, Andrew Solt, from play Roberta by Dorothy Fields and Otto A. Harbach, based on novel Roberta by Alice Duer Miller
Cinematography: George J. Folsey
Original Music: Jerome Kern, Jimmy McHugh
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Gabriel Scognamillo
Editing: John McSweeney, Jr.
Costume Design: Adrian
Principal Cast: Kathryn Grayson (Stephanie), Red Skelton (Al Marsh), Howard Keel (Tony Naylor), Marge Champion (Clarisse), Gower Champion (Jerry Ralby), Ann Miller (Bubbles Cassidy), Zsa Zsa Gabor (Zsa Zsa), Kurt Kasznar (Max Fogelsby).
C-102m. Closed captioning.
by Roger Fristoe
Lovely to Look At
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th
PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Callaway Went Thataway (1951)
Ride, Vaquero! (1953)
War Wagon (1967)
"MGM Parade Show #14"
(Keel talks with George Murphy about his latest MGM picture "Kismet")(1955)
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
HOWARD KEEL (1919-2004):
Howard Keel, the strapping singer and actor whose glorious baritone took him to stardom in the early '50s in some of MGM's best musicals, including Showboat, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, died on November 7 of colon cancer at his home in Palm Desert, California. He was 85.
He was born Harry Clifford Leek on April 13, 1919, in Gillespie, Illinois. His father, was a coal miner and his mother, a strict Methodist, forbid the children from enjoying popular entertainments. When his dad died, his mother relocated the family to California when Harry was still a young teenager.
After he graduated high school, Keel had a brief stint as a singing busboy, but had not considered a professional career as a vocalist....until one fateful evening in 1939. It was at this time he saw celebrated opera singer, Lawrence Tibbett, at the Hollywood Bowl. Keel was inspired, and he soon began taking voice lessons. Over the next several years, he carefully trained his voice while entering any singing contest he could find. It wasn't long before his talents caught the attention of Rodgers & Hammerstein.
In 1946, they signed him to replace John Raitt in the Broadway production of Carousel, changed his name to Howard Keel (His proper surname Leek spelled backwards), and Keel was on his way to international stardom.
After his run in Carousel ended, he sailed to London the following year to play the role of Curley in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma. He received rave reviews from the London press, and by the time he returned to the United States in 1948, he was ready to make his move into films.
Keel made his movie debut in the British thriller, The Small Voice (1948), but it would be his second film, and first for MGM, portraying Frank Butler, Betty Hutton's leading man in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), that sealed his success. Keel's several strengths as a performer: his supple, commanding singing voice; his athletic, 6'4" frame; striking, "matinee-idol" good looks; and his good humored personality made him one of the studios' top leading men over the next few years. Indeed, between 1951-55, Keel could do not wrong with the material he was given: Show Boat (1951), Lovely to Look at (1952), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Kismet (1955). Clearly, he was a shining star in this golden era of the MGM musical.
By the late '50s, movie musicals began to fade out of fashion, but Keel returned to the stage and had success performing with several touring companies. He made a brief return to films when he was cast as a seaman battling carnivorous plants from outer space in the popular British sci-fi hit, The Day of the Triffids (1962). Television also provided some work, where he guest starred in some of the more popular shows in the late '60s including Run For Your Life, and The Lucy Show.
Keel would keep a low profile over the next decade, but he made an amazing comeback in 1981, when he was cast as Clayton Farlow, Ellie Ewing's (Barbara Bel Geddes) second husband in the wildly successful prime time soap, Dallas. Not only did he play the role for ten seasons, but Keel would also be in demand for many other shows throughout the '80s and '90s: The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder, She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and Walker, Texas Ranger, to name a but a few. By the late-'90s, Keel retired to his home in Palm Desert, California, where still made public appearances now and again for a tribute or benefit. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Judy; a son, Gunnar; daughters, Kaija, Kristina and Leslie; 10 grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
by Michael T. Toole
Important Milestones on Howard Keel:
Moved to Southern California at age 16 (date approximate)
Worked as a singing busboy in a Los Angeles cafe
Worked for Douglas Aircraft as a manufacturing representative travelling among various company plants; work included singing; won a first prize award at the Mississippi Valley while on the road; also won an award at the Chicago Music Festival
Began singing career with the American Music Theatre in Pasadena, California
Chosen by Oscar Hammerstein II to perform on Broadway in "Carousel"; succeeded John Raitt in the leading role of Billy Bigelow; also took over the leading role of Curly in "Oklahoma"
Recreated the role of Curly when he opened the London stage production of "Oklahoma"
Made feature film debut in a non-singing supporting role in the British crime drama, "The Small Voice"
Signed by MGM; became instant star as the male lead of "Annie Get Your Gun"
Provided the offscreen narration for the Western saga, "Across the Wide Missouri", starring Clark Gable
First film opposite Kathryn Grayson, "Show Boat"
First leading role in a non-musical, "Desperate Search"
Made best-remembered film, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"
Last musical starring roles, and last musicals for MGM, "Jupiter's Darling" and "Kismet"
Went to Britain to play the leading role in the action drama, "Floods of Fear"
Last leading role, "Red Tomahawk"
Last feature film appearance for over 20 years, "Arizona Bushwhackers"
Starred on the London stage in the musical "Ambassador"; later brought the role to Broadway (date approximate)
Toured the nightclub circuit, sometimes teaming up with his co-star from three MGM musicals of the 1950s, Kathryn Grayson
Toured in stage productions of musicals and comedies including "Camelot", "Man of La Mancha", "Paint Your Wagon", "I Do! I Do!", "Plaza Suite", "Gigi", "Show Boat", "Kismet", "The Most Happy Fella" and "The Fantasticks"
Teamed with Jane Powell on record-breaking national theater tour of "South Pacific"
Reprised screen role of eldest brother Adam in a touring stage version of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", opposite original screen co-star Jane Powell
Joined the cast of the CBS primetime serial drama, "Dallas", which had premiered in 1978; played Clayton Farlow
Recorded first solo album, "And I Love You So"
Was one of the hosts of the feature compilation documentary, "That's Entertainment III", revisiting the MGM musical from the coming of sound through the late 1950s
Keel was President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1958-1959.
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
A November 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item announced a remake of Roberta starring Lucille Ball as "Comtesse Tanka Scharwenka," a part played by Ginger Rogers in the 1935 RKO version of the same name, which was directed by William A. Seiter (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). In a Los Angeles Times article published on November 19, 1948, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Betty Garrett were named as potential stars of the new version that was being written by Harry Rudy and George Wells, whose screenplay was eventually used for Lovely to Look At.
As noted in news items and reviews, when M-G-M purchased the rights to Roberta they decided to do a thorough rewrite of the RKO film. Although the basic structure of Lovely to Look At is the same as the musical and film Roberta: an American inherits a once successful Parisian fashion house and falls in love with the chief designer, most of the storyline for the 1952 film differs from the earlier stories. Some of the songs from Roberta were retained in Lovely to Look At, including "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "Yesterdays," "I'll Be Hard to Handle" and "I Won't Dance," some with new or revised lyrics added to Jerome Kern's music by Dorothy Fields.
Red Skelton performed "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" in his famous "Irish Tenor" comedy skit in the film. Skelton, according to reviews, had recently performed the same skit on his popular television comedy series. The film marked the motion picture debut of Zsa Zsa Gabor. A Hollywood Reporter news item indicated that the film would use English-language subtitles as a "gimmick" to accompany Gabor's exclusive use of French in the film. Although Gabor's only lines in the picture were spoken in French, no subtitles were used when the film was released. The film was also the debut of actress Rosemarie Bowe.
Lovely to Look At marked a return to M-G-M after a ten-year-absence at the studio for designer Adrian, who had been head of M-G-M's costume department from the late 1920s through the early 1940s. Within the film, Howard Keel's character, "Tony Naylor," refers to Adrian by name when describing how he would like to create the fashion show. The lengthy fashion show sequence at the end of the film included a number of different themes, with lavish costumes and settings. Its musical numbers included a duet performed by Keel and Kathryn Grayson singing "The Touch of Your Hand." Another number that critics singled out for praise involved a fantasy in which Tony appears simultaneously in several full-length mirrors as he sings "Lovely to Look At" to "Stephanie."
Released in United States 1952
Remake of "Roberta" (1935) directed by William A Seiter.
Released in USA on laserdisc September 1991.
Released in United States 1952