For the next few weeks, I’m reviewing Betty Grable movies. Today’s (I know, it’s Tuesday) selection is Mother Wore Tights, co-starring Dan Dailey and Mona Freeman.
Interestingly, Fox executives held reservations about the film’s potential for success. Betty’s films normally focused on contemporary backstage shenanigans, but Mother Wore Tights revolved around turn-of-the-century vaudeville. Betty’s role of Myrtle McKinley required her to age roughly 35 years at the end as well; Fox worried the public might turn their noses up at Betty as an older woman.
Myrtle McKinley has always excelled at dancing, but her overprotective grandmother (Sara Allgood) insists she should go to college. Myrtle soon finds herself working as a dancer in a burlesque house, where she meets comedian Frank Burt (Dailey). Myrtle and Frank eventually fall in love, marry and have two daughters, Iris (Mona Freeman) and Mikie (Connie Marshall). Myrtle gives up show business to care for her daughters, but when Frank finds himself without a dancing partner, Myrtle’s stage career begins all over again. The girls spend their childhoods with their grandmother while vaudeville is in season, but go to an elite boarding school once they’re of age. Iris, rubbing elbows with society’s upper crust, soon becomes ashamed of her parents’ careers; however, she eventually embraces her show business upbringing.
Betty was on the fence about Dan Dailey’s casting; however, they quickly became close friends and remained in contact until her death–one of the few Hollywood friendships she fostered.
Mother Wore Tights had the highest budget of any Betty movie in her career.
Betty enjoyed playing a mom in the film, and held no qualms about her the scenes featuring her at 65; however, later in her career, she turned down roles requiring her to play mother to an adult actress.
Betty found out she was pregnant with her second child, Jessica James, during the tail-end of filming.
The film earned over $4 million for domestic rentals alone.
This is my absolute favorite Betty movie. The songs are great, including Betty’s ballad, “You Do.” She really gives her all in dance numbers with Dan, and their chemistry is undeniable on the screen. She’s most definitely “The Hoofer” in this role, and her enthusiasm makes up for anything she’s lacking in the technical aspect.
The plot really is another backstage comedy, but it’s set in a different era. Some Betty biographers think this film should have been a transition piece for her to dramatic roles, but besides some heavier scenes with Mona Freeman, it’s full of song-and-dance numbers and a couple slapstick moments with Dan Dailey.
There is a short scene with some minstrel overtones, but Betty doesn’t appear in blackface like The Dolly Sisters. The scene is so brief that I don’t think it really takes away from the film, but I understand people’s discomfort in watching it.
Below: Betty singing “You Do”
Final Rating: 5/5