Monday, March 27, 2023

Movie Monday: Centennial Summer

Movie Monday: Centennial Summer

As most of you know, I adore watching old movies, especially those produced during the 1930s and 1940s. But I was doubly happy when I unearthed the 1946 film Centennial Summer which is set during the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition – the same setting as my recent release Maeve’s Pledge.

In 1944, MGM had a smash hit Meet Me in St. Louis starring Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, and Mary Astor. Adapted from a series of short stories, the movie was a series of seasonal vignettes that take place between the summer of 1903 and the spring of 1904 when the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1904 World’s Fair) begins. Meet Me in St. Louis was the second-highest-grossing movie of 1944.

Produced by 20th Century Fox, Centennial Summer was based on a 1943 book by Albert E. Idell, a
novelist long forgotten, but a prolific writer of more than forty books. I couldn’t find much about him other than he was born in 1901 and passed away in 1958. The plot is a simple romance: two sisters contend for the affections of a visiting Frenchman who is in Philadelphia to prepare his country’s pavilion for the exposition.

Despite being a musical, the three leads had their singing voices dubbed. Jeanne Crain, one of the sisters, had her first major role in the 1944 Home in Indiana, and the film established her as a “name” in the industry. This led to her being cast in several movies throughout the rest of 1944 and into 1945. Interestingly, she was often cast in musicals with Louanne Hogan providing her singing voice. Linda Darnell was cast as the other sister after coming off the success of Summer Storm, and Hungarian-born Cornel Wilde (birth name: Kornél Lajos Weisz) played the Frenchman. I’d never heard of Wilde despite him being in several dozen films and TV shows. Dorothy Gish and Walter Brennan are the girl’s long-suffering parents.

The movie was director Otto Preminger’s first color film and received two Academy Award nominations: Best Original Song for All Through the Day (Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II) and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture. The movie only earned slightly more than it cost to produce, and fans and critics panned it.

Was it as terrible as some have claimed? You be the judge:


Maeve’s Pledge

Pledges can’t be broken, can they?

Finally out from under her father’s tyrannical thumb, Maeve Wycliffe can live life on her terms. So what if everyone sees her as a spinster to be pitied. She’ll funnel her energies into what matters most: helping the less fortunate and getting women the right to vote. When she’s forced to team up with the local newspaper editor to further the cause, will her pledge to remain single get cropped?

Widower Gus Deighton sees no reason to tempt fate that he can find happiness a second time around. Well past his prime, who would want him anyway? He’ll continue to run his newspaper and cover Philadelphia’s upcoming centennial celebration. But when the local women’s suffrage group agrees that the wealthy, attractive, and very single Maeve Wycliffe act as their liaison, he finds it difficult to remain objective.

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