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Mother Wore Tights

Mother Wore Tights(1947)

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teaser Mother Wore Tights (1947)

Betty Grable often said that her personal favorite of all her films was Mother Wore Tights (1947), a nostalgic musical based on the true story of a married vaudeville team of the early 1900s, Frank and Myrtle Burt. Made at the peak of Grable's popularity and the happiest period of her private life, it was her most popular film, and the one that best showcases her talent and her sunny personality.

Grable had begun toiling in movies as chorus girl and bit player in 1930 at the age of 13. It took her ten years and a featured part in a Broadway hit, DuBarry Was a Lady (1939), for 20th Century Fox executive Darryl Zanuck to notice her and sign her to a contract. A strong supporting role in the musical Tin Pan Alley (1940) made her a star. Grable's popularity rose steadily during World War II as she appeared in a series of successful Technicolor musicals, became the G.I's favorite pinup queen, married popular bandleader Harry James, and gave birth to her first daughter. She was one of Hollywood's top ten box office stars for ten years, starting in 1942. For eight of those years, she was the top female box-office star, and in 1943, she topped the entire list. By 1945, she was the highest paid star in Hollywood, earning nearly $300,000 a year.

Grable's career hit a few bumps after the war. Realizing that she was not a dramatic actress, she turned down a serious role in The Razor's Edge (1946)-- Anne Baxter eventually played the part and won an Oscar® for it -- but Grable's refusal so infuriated Zanuck that he put her on suspension. Fans protested when Grable's famous legs were covered in her first film after the suspension, the period musical The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947). The film also suffered from a lack of chemistry between Grable and her less than scintillating co-star, Dick Haymes, and did not do well at box-office.

Grable's next film, Mother Wore Tights, was also a period musical, but with plenty of leg visible, and plenty of chemistry with a new co-star, Dan Dailey. Grable reportedly wanted John Payne, with whom she'd appeared in four films. Production was delayed while the studio negotiated unsuccessfully to borrow James Cagney from Warner Bros., or Fred Astaire from MGM. By the time production finally got underway in October of 1946, Grable was pregnant with her second daughter. Finally, Zanuck settled on new Fox contract player Dailey. He proved to be a perfect partner for Grable, and they made three more films together, including When My Baby Smiles at Me (1948), which earned Dailey a Best Actor Oscar® nomination. Grable and Dailey remained lifelong friends until her death in 1973.

Mother Wore Tights was a huge hit, and earned three Oscar® nominations, for Harry Jackson's cinematography, for the song "You Do," and for Alfred Newman's musical score, which won the award. The reviews ranged from tepid to enthusiastic. The New York Times critic called it "a pretty fair song and dance show," and added, "Miss Grable in Technicolor is a balm for the eyes...Dan Dailey put a great deal of compensating personality into the tired numbers." Time called it "a trifle weak on dramatic interest," but had kinder words for the stars. "Brash Dan Dailey...has a personality as sharp and convincing as a breath of stage door air: he can really sing really dance, and really act. Miss Grable can sing too; her pleasure in playing a generous and happy woman is contagious enough to make up for her shortcomings as an actress. What she can really do, of course, is dance. And she still holds the undisputed title to the most gorgeous legs in the business."

Grable remained on top into the early 1950s, and when she began slipping, Fox groomed a new, younger blonde to succeed her, even putting the two stars in the same film, How to Marry a Millionaire (1953). With typical generosity, Grable encouraged Marilyn Monroe, saying "Honey, I've had mine. Go get yours."

Director: Walter Lang
Producer: Lamar Trotti
Screenplay: Lamar Trotti, based on the book by Miriam Burt Young
Cinematography: Harry Jackson
Editor: J. Watson Webb, Jr.
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly, Charles Le Maire
Art Direction: Richard Day, Joseph C. Wright
Music: Alfred Newman, Charles Henderson
Cast: Betty Grable (Myrtle McKinley Burt), Dan Dailey (Frank Burt), Mona Freeman (Iris Burt), Connie Marshall (Mikie Burt), Vanessa Brown (Bessie), Robert Arthur (Bob Clarkman), Sara Allgood (Grandmother McKinley), William Frawley (Mr. Schneider), Ruth Nelson (Miss Ridgeway).

by Margarita Landazuri

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