Today is the eleventh day of #CleanMovieMonth, PEPS’s first annual celebration of Code films during July. Throughout this summer month, we are watching and reviewing only films from the Breen era (1934-1954). During this week, we have reviewed two movies so far, Rhythm on the River from 1940 and Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever from 1939. Today, I have chosen another lighthearted classical musical, Seven Sweethearts from 1942.
This MGM picture was Kathryn Grayson’s fourth film. Like Three Smart Girls, the 1936 Deanna Durbin I reviewed on July 1, this movie is a melodic, heartwarming family story about sisters and their father. Set in the charming Dutch village Little Delft, Michigan, this story shows the peaceful existence of a lovable Dutch innkeeper and his seven daughters. This movie features Kathryn Grayson, Van Heflin, and S. Z. Sakall. The fun is completed by historic Dutch costumes, a town full of musicians, and a lot of tulips!
Henry Taggart is a New York newspaperman who has been sent to Michigan in search of Little Delft’s annual Tulip Festival. It is his assignment to photograph the festival and build an article around the pictures. He discovers the town by talking to a Dutch innkeeper, Mr. Van Maaster, who tells him about their town and invites him to stay at his inn, The House of the Seven Tulips. While checking in, Henry meets five beautiful young ladies who work in various capacities at the inn. They all are Mr. Van Maaster’s daughters, and they all have boys’ names! Henry is a metropolitan fellow with a very short temper, so he is quickly exasperated by the old-fashioned technology and the casual service in the hotel. Most of all, he is bothered by the waitress, Albert, who insists on giving him nutritional advice. He starts yelling, but he is quickly scolded by the youngest Van Maaster daughter, Billy. She is a sweet, helpful young lady who sings beautifully and always tries to be a dutiful daughter. Just when Henry is about to begin his assignment, it starts to rain. As a matter of fact, it starts to pour. Every incident makes Henry despondently say, “I’m trapped.” While being trapped in the quaint inn with a pair of blissful newlyweds, a Viennese composer, and a refined old maid who considers herself to be the surrogate mother of the Van Maaster girls, Henry finds some diversion in the oldest Van Maaster daughter, Regina. Her name is very appropriate, since she thinks she is the queen. Unlike the other girls, who were given pre-chosen male names and have to work at the inn, she is a vain, selfish creature who wants to be an actress. She is her father’s pet because she looks just like her late mother. At first, Henry is attracted to the flirtatious young woman. However, her dramatic entrances and quotations from plays are only entertaining for so long. She is flattering Henry because she wants him to take her to New York. Meanwhile, the younger sisters are desperately hoping that she may fall in love with and marry Henry. Their father follows the family tradition of marrying his daughters from oldest to youngest. All of the sisters except Regina and Billy are engaged, but they can’t get married until Regina does. However, Billy scolds them for selfishly wanting their sister to marry a man they hardly know. The others don’t suspect that she is falling for Henry herself. Henry soon realizes that he loves Billy, too. However, Regina is determined to get a career on Broadway with Henry’s help, no matter whom she hurts. Will Regina succeed in spoiling her younger sister’s romance? Will Mr. Van Maaster be able to see that his youngest daughter is in love? Can any of the tulips be happy if they leave their native Little Delft? Watch the movie to find out!
Billy is played by Kathryn Grayson. Henry is played by Van Heflin, whose name fits this Dutch-themed film. S. Z. Sakall plays Mr. Van Maaster. Regina is played by Marsha Hunt. The other sisters are Victor, played by Cecilia Parker, Albert, played by Peggy Moran, Peter, played by Dorothy Morris, George, played by Frances Rafferty, and Cornelius, played by Frances Raeburn. Carl Randall, the Viennese musician, is played by Carl Esmond. Miss Robbins, the kind spinster, is played by Isobel Elsom. Mr. and Mrs. Nugent, the newlyweds, are played by Lewis Howard and Diana Lewis. Interestingly, two of Kathryn Grayson’s real siblings are in this movie. Frances Raeburn, the sister named Cornelius, was actually her sister Mildred. Peter’s beau, Bernard, was her brother, Harold, whose screen name was Michael Butler.
There are some very charming songs in this movie. Kathryn Grayson sings Mozart’s “Cradle Song” to Henry after she hears a jazz version of it on his radio. In disgust, she switches it off and says that Mozart would have written syncopation if he wanted it that way. She sings it beautifully to represent how it should be performed. I agree with her stance on performing music the traditional way. Click here to read more about our views on classical music and proper performing. In a church service during the tulip festival, Kathryn Grayson sings a beautiful Dutch hymn, “We Gather Together.” At the height of the celebration, she performs a famous opera aria, “Je suis Titania” from Mignon by Ambroise Thomas.
The rest of the score is composed of semi-classical songs written by MGM composers for this movie. Kathryn Grayson and the chorus sing the lively song “Tulip Time” to celebrate their floral festival. At a show in their inn, Billy and some of her sisters perform the charming number “Little Tingle Tangle Toes.” They all sing and play instruments as Kathryn Grayson trills in her coloratura voice. One particularly poignant and touching moment is when Billy sings “You and the Waltz and I” with Mr. Randall’s piano accompaniment. This is supposed to be a song which Mr. Randall wrote. They discuss how beautiful Vienna was. Mr. Randall says it was wonderful before they came. This melancholy waltz celebrates the glory days of Austria before the Nazis invaded it. This was very poignant for 1942, the beginning of World War II in America. It is a more serious, melancholy moment in a merry movie.
This movie is charming, clean, decent, and uplifting. It teaches the importance of honesty, patience, heritage, and traditions. Like all good Code films, you feel safe when you watch this movie. You don’t have to worry about being shocked, offended, or invaded. You can watch this movie without being manipulated or forced to experience certain emotions and reactions. You are a guest in Code films. In modern entertainment, you are a prisoner. Once you enter that realm, you become a hostage of the filmmakers’ whimsies.
I like the fact that movies could be very warm, amusing, and cheerful without being silly or too comical. They could spare a serious moment for a delicate reference to the war without dwelling on the country’s problems all the time. The country had to endure such things in every aspect of real life. Why obsess with it in the movies?
I thought of this movie for today because it has been raining a lot in my part of Southern California. It has been a nice diversion from the heat. All the precipitation made me think of the “rain, rain, rain” of which Regina complains in this movie. Whether you are experiencing thunder showers or intense summer heat, take some time to watch this charming movie. As the film’s original tagline declared, “It’s a sweetheart of a picture!”
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3 thoughts on “Day 11 of #CleanMovieMonth: “Seven Sweethearts” from 1942”
Just reading the outline of this movie I am sure I would love it! It sounds charming.
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Yes, this is a charming movie. I highly recommend it.
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