Moon Over Miami (1941), or in my case, Moon Over Ameche



Kay and Barbara Latimer (Grable and Landis) are working at a singing drive-in in Texas, but they quickly forget work when the mailman pulls up. Apparently the sisters have been waiting for a letter telling them how much their Aunt Susan (Charlotte Greenwood) has inherited from a dead relative. The three ecstatically read that they’re now $55,000 richer! But then they read on and realize after taxes and other fees, they’re left with just $4,000. The girls were counting on that money to allow them to quit their awful jobs and live in luxury, but once they get this news, Kay insists they go for her back-up plan: they’ll use the $4,000 to go to Miami and pass her off as a wealthy woman so she can snare a millionaire, while Barbara poses as her secretary and Aunt Susan her maid.


The first night they’re in Miami, one of the hotel’s waiters, Jack (Jack Haley), brings the trio a bottle of champagne. It seems that the rich Mr. Jeff Bolton (Bob Cummings) is throwing a party and he’s giving champagne to all the hotel guests. The second Kay hears this, she calls Mr. Bolton, but not to thank him for the bottle—instead, she chastises him for gifting her with flat champagne! It’s an effective tactic, and within a minute, Jeff comes over and invites Kay to join his party. The girls are thrilled, but there’s one Latimer girl in particular who’s already getting stars in her eyes over Jeff.

Right away, we can tell that Jeff is having fun doing nothing and spending money. Not only does he just give away bottles of champagne, he’s also been throwing this party for three days. Some guests are passed out, and the band has been going for 16 hours until they’re replaced by “the second shift”. One of these sleeping guests is Phil O’Neil (Don Ameche), and he’s not too pleased when Kay trips over his feet and wakes him up.



However, their first interaction should tell you that they’re meant to be together:
Phil: “I was using my chair for my feet, but you can use it.”
Kay: “Well, thanks. It’s a lovely party, isn’t it?”
Phil: “If you’re going to sit there and talk about the party, I’d rather put my feet back.”

He then proceeds to comically insult her face (it’s cute, but not beautiful) and her figure (it’s almost perfect, but there’s no “poetry” to it), to which Kay responds with “You want this chair back pretty badly, don’t you?” Phil admits he could fall for her easily, and suddenly the two are dancing and Phil is serenading her with the same song Jeff did a few minutes earlier. That's how you win a lady's heart, gentlemen.



Now Kay has two suitors, and naturally they’re two guys who have always been rivals. We get a fun montage of the boys crashing each other’s dates, which Kay doesn’t seem to mind at all. But once Susan and Barbara tell her they’re out of cash, Kay realizes she has to make a decision: Phil or Jeff? Barbara pushes her towards Phil, so now all that’s left to do is have Barbara distract Jeff so he won’t barge in and ruin Kay’s chance to be alone with Phil and close the deal. Jeff divulges to Barbara that Phil has always won when they competed because Jeff’s dad has always handed everything to him, so he’s never really fought that hard for anything. Barbara tells him straight-up that he shouldn’t give up something just because he doesn’t feel like fighting for it. He realizes she’s right, but when he looks for Kay, she’s already gone with Phil on a romantic boat ride.



Phil and Kay are pretty adorable as they sing to each other and cuddle, but then Kay gets a shock: Phil’s not rich at all! His family’s mines have been bankrupt for a year and he was counting on Kay’s wealth to get them through for the next five years, then he’ll take over. (Not exactly a sound business plan, if you ask me.) Kay has no choice but to tell him the truth. He’s not thrilled, but he’s reluctantly willing to let Kay go so they can both marry for money. So, Kay and Jeff announce their engagement, much to Barbara’s dismay.



During all this, Susan and Jack have been carrying on their own relationship, but they have to say goodbye to each other temporarily because the girls are moving to Jeff’s family estate until the wedding. Unfortunately, Jack overhears Barbara asking Kay when she’ll tell Jeff the truth, making Jack realize that Kay is just a golddigger out to get a millionaire. He starts to run to tell Jeff, but the girls trick him and lock him in the bathroom. This comes back to bite them when they arrive at the Bolton estate and find Jack there. They try to convince him that Kay is really in love with Jeff, but he’s keeping his eye on her.



Jack isn’t the only unexpected guest. Phil shows up, too—he’s concluded that it’s ridiculous to let Kay marry Jeff and make everyone miserable. While they’re fighting, Barbara is helping Jeff get a backbone. He decides that he wants a job so he can actually work for something, and without even realizing it, Barbara’s been nudging him along to the whole idea.
Jeff finds Kay and Phil to tell them that he’s changed his mind and wants to marry Barbara (a decision we don’t see onscreen), only to be surprised that Kay wanted to tell him she’s marrying Phil. Everything gets straightened out and everyone’s happy. Barbara and Jeff are walking down the boulevard, Kay and Phil are lounging in the sand, and Jack and Susan are water-skiing in the ocean. All’s right in the world.

I gambled $11 by buying this film on Amazon without ever seeing it before, and I was glad to see that my instincts were right. I’ve been on a bit of a Don Ameche kick lately, which is super random but super rewarding, too. The more I see of Ameche, the more I love him. He’s sarcastic and funny, especially as Phil O’Neil. His introduction in Moon Over Miami is great and a little off, which I think describes Ameche the actor as well. It’s easy to see how Bob Cummings’s character loses to Ameche’s all the time. Ameche worked with Betty Grable before in Down Argentine Way (1940), but I liked this movie better. It’s smoother and funnier.


Speaking of Betty Grable films, I’m becoming more and more of a fan of hers. She reminds me of Lucy Ricardo in a way… But anyway, Grable movies are great when you want to shut your mind off for a few hours. That being said, I did have a slight problem with her character in Moon Over Miami. Kay is pretty selfish when you think about it. She gets to enjoy being the rich girl with beautiful new clothes; she tells Barbara to tone down her beauty so the millionaires will be more attracted to her; she has her own aunt be her maid, even when other people aren’t around. Other than that, though, she’s fun. You can find quite a few Grable movies on YouTube, by the way. Sadly, Moon Over Miami isn't one of them. 



The songs in this film are by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger and they aren’t particularly memorable, but that could just be because it’s my first time watching it and they haven’t grown on me yet. Sometimes I have to watch a musical more than once in order for the score to click. I did, however, really enjoy Charlotte Greenwood and Jack Haley’s number, "Is That Good?"
The lyrics get funnier as Susan and Jack wonder whether doing things like putting mustard on honeydew and salt in a chocolate malt are good things to do since it means they’re in love. Plus, they dance. How could this routine not be a gem? I'm really sad that I couldn't find any videos online of any of the routines.

I really enjoyed this film, and I can’t wait to watch it a second time. Ameche is wonderful, as is Grable. Bob Cummings and Carole Landis are great, too. However, I’m not entirely sure whether Cummings and Ameche actually sang for the movie. I remember Cummings singing some in Lucky Me, co-starring Doris Day. Ameche starred in the original Broadway production of Silk Stockings in 1955, but I read that that was his first time singing in his career. Fact or fiction, I don’t know. I've searched for the answer in a few different places, but nothing told me what I wanted to know. If anyone has the answer, please tell me! The film’s Technicolor doesn’t hurt, either. That’s part of why I love these splashy 1940’s musicals—gorgeous color is almost always guaranteed. This film especially seems to love blue tones.



With love,
Michaela

Comments

  1. I'm so glad I stumbled upon this post about Moon Over Miami. I'm a huge Betty Grable fans and I agree with you, her movies are good when you want to turn off your mind and just enjoy the technicolor. The 20th Century Fox musicals may not have been sophisticated as MGM's but their troupe was very talented and pumped out some good ones. I also really enjoy Down Argentine Way, Springtime in the Rockies and Weekend in Havana. Love your blog and thanks for visiting mine :)

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    Replies
    1. Hey, you're welcome! I love discovering new blogs, so this has been great. I'll keep an eye out for Springtime in the Rockies and Weekend in Havana. You can't go wrong with a Betty Grable flick.

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