1940s Film, Holidays in Film, musicals

YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942) on the Big Screen

It’s always a pure joy to watch a classic film on the big screen, especially when you’re watching James Cagney sing and dance. On the evening of Thursday, July 6, I drove about an hour and a half to a little town called Moberly and met one of my online friends (and fellow classic film blogger), Terry, at the newly restored 4th Street Theatre.

As you can see below, the theater is gorgeous. A lot of hard work has been put in over the last several years in order to make it look as it did when it screened movies in its original run.

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The 4th Street Theatre opened in early 1914 and functioned as a movie and vaudeville house. 1,000 people were able to pack in at one time, a concept that most of us are not familiar with. Many cinemas are now multiplexes, which means that there are multiple movie screens in one complex. In theaters like the 4th Street Theatre, this meant that 1,000 people were able to pack into one movie showing. With multiplexes, we lose out on that feeling of true camaraderie, in my opinion.

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The 4th Street Theatre in its infancy. Date unknown.   (courtesy of cinematreasures.org)

As Terry and I stepped inside the theater, I was in awe as I looked around. To say that the restoration of this theater was merely successful would be an understatement; everyone who put effort into its restoration did an incredible job. One of the volunteers informed us that many of the parts inside are original and most of the parts that are not original are replicated. Terry and I got there about an hour before the show began, so we took advantage of the extra time and took photos. Here are a few I captured:

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A closeup of the exterior of the 4th Street Theatre
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This popcorn machine is to die for.
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The inside of the theatre: 100% restored and 100% lovely
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The poster for Yankee Doodle Dandy is on the left side and the poster for Pillow Talk, which was screened in June, hangs beside it.
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Filing out after the show

This is the second James Cagney film that I’ve been fortunate enough to see on the big screen. Incidentally, the first was his first musical film, Footlight Parade (1933). Prior to the release of that film, movie audiences had only known Cagney as a gangster onscreen. He played the fast-talking, seedy tough guy characters like nobody’s business. Funnily, enough his first gig as a performer came in 1919 when he appeared onstage, in drag, as a chorus girl.


For his portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Cagney won the Oscar for Best Actor. Cohan, who began his career as a young boy on the vaudeville stage with his family, became the most popular figure in Broadway in the early 20th century. Besides having a successful acting career on Broadway, he went on to write some of the most enduring songs in American history, including “The Yankee Doodle Boy” – often referred to as (I’m a) Yankee Doodle Dandy” – and “You’re a Grand Old Flag”. Cohan was also the first entertainer to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was honored with it in 1940 particularly for his patriotic songs “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Over There”. They became anthems for the United States during World War I and World War II.

The film, directed by Michael Curtiz, is really one of the most uplifting films ever created. The musical numbers are crafted wonderfully and the supporting cast (including Cagney’s real-life sister as his onscreen sister, Josie) lends a warm touch to the already heartwarming story. I especially enjoy Joan Leslie as Mary, the love of George’s life.

My personal picks from the musical numbers are “Give My Regards to Broadway” and “So Long, Mary”, which I’ve shared below.


You can find Terry’s blog mercurie.blogspot.com.

1940s Film, Holidays in Film, musicals

“Easter Parade”

“Miss Brown, what idiot ever told you you were a dancer?”
“You did!”

In 1948, MGM released a vibrant Technicolor musical called Easter Parade. Originally, Gene Kelly had been cast as Don Hewes, Cyd Charisse was cast as Nadine Hale, and Frank Sinatra was cast as Jonathan Harrow III. Because of various circumstances, the cast was completely switched around. The finished product starred Fred Astaire as Don, Judy Garland as Hannah Brown (as planned), Ann Miller as Nadine, and Peter Lawford as Jonathan Harrow III.

The story, set in 1912 and 1913, begins as a Broadway star named Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) receives the crushing news that his partner Nadine (Ann Miller) is suddenly quitting the act. Nadine tells him that she’s received an offer to go solo and Don tries to persuade her to stay with him. They go into a lovely song and dance number (“It Only Happens When I Dance with You”) and she seems to be persuaded to stay…until Don’s charming and handsome friend, Jonathan Harrow III (Peter Lawford), walks in to the apartment. Nadine has obviously moved on from Don to Jonathan.

Annex - Miller, Ann (Easter Parade)_NRFPT_01
(courtesy of doctormacro.com)

When it looks like Nadine can no longer be persuaded to stay, Don sets out to prove to her that he can find any ordinary chorus girl and turn her into a star. He wants to make her jealous. Enter Hannah Brown (Judy Garland). Hannah is a singer and dancer working at a local bar. She catches Don’s eye, so he grabs her off the stage, tells her to quit her job, and meet him for her first lesson the next day.

As Don tries to model Hannah after Nadine (Hannah has no idea about the scheme), he attempts to teach her how to dance exactly like Nadine, dress like her, and even have her name changed to something similar (Juanita). In one of the scenes, he even tries to teach Hannah how to be “exotic” and extra attractive to men. It really shows off Judy’s underrated comedic gift:

As the story progresses, love triangles unfold and cheery musical numbers ensue. This is one of the most memorable numbers in the film, sung and tapped wonderfully – as always – by Ann Miller:

Easter Parade is one of my personal favorite musicals. I think part of that is because it’s one of the movies I watched a lot when I was little. I often talk about movies that I watched as a child on here because many of them have made a huge impact on me. I love reminiscing about watching movies like this one with a different view of the world. Fortunately, I still watch Easter Parade with the same childlike amusement as I did when I was six. I’m really grateful for that.

However, I will say that as I’ve gotten older, I now think that Hannah should’ve chosen Jonathan instead of Don. As much as it pains me to say that Fred Astaire shouldn’t have been chosen, I’m one of those people that thinks she’d be so much happier with Jonathan. Maybe “Fella with an Umbrella” has something to do with it, but I mean it!

Having said that, I still think the ending is adorable. I can’t easily argue with a happy Judy and Fred. I hope you all have a happy Easter! Go drum crazy, shake the blues away, and sing to someone you love in the rain.

Before you go, here’s a bonus musical number that was cut from the final print of the film. Notice that Judy is wearing the same suit that she’d wear two years later in Summer Stock during the iconic “Get Happy” number.

1940s Film, Christmas Films, Holidays in Film

A Christmas Discovery: It Happened on Fifth Avenue

 

“For to be without friends is a serious form of poverty.”

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I made a wise decision in taping It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947) when it aired recently on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).

(Side note: Taping movies on TCM is how I usually come across cinematic gold. Thanks, TCM.)

The film chronicles the lives of several New York City residents in the 1940s, all from extremely different walks of life.

The story begins as a hobo named Aloysius T. McKeever (Victor Moore) is moving into a Fifth Avenue mansion for his third winter – unbeknownst to the owner, of course. With his little dog in tow, McKeever takes up residence at the home of Michael J. O’Connor (Charles Ruggles), the second richest man in the world, while he is away for the winter in Virginia.

McKeever comes across a newly homeless ex-G.I. named Jim Bullock (Don DeFore) after being evicted from his apartment. The reason for the eviction? A man named Michael J. O’Connor (ring a bell?) is tearing down the apartment building in order to build a skyscraper. Before he is physically kicked out of the building, Jim stubbornly refuses to leave, even going so far as to chain himself to the bed with handcuffs. Dedication!

The video below is marked as a trailer, but it’s actually the first Jim Bullock scene:

Just after Jim moves into the O’Connor mansion, a young lady makes her way into the house. The audience is made aware that the girl in question is O’Connor’s 18 year-old daughter named Trudy (Gale Storm). Unhappy with her life, Trudy had run away from her father and returned to their Fifth Avenue home, of course unaware of the mansion’s winter guests:

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/359700/It-Happened-On-Fifth-Avenue-Movie-Clip-Shed-That-Mink-.html

When Trudy realizes that McKeever and Jim are harmless and just need a place to stay, she decides to hide her identity and take up the alias Trudy Smith in order to fit in. She even goes to the extent of nabbing a job at a music store to become an “everyday girl”.

Soon, Trudy falls for Jim. However, Jim is still unaware of Trudy’s true identity. She is determined to win Jim over without the knowledge of her wealth – something that Jim wouldn’t even take into consideration for falling in love. After she tells her father about Jim, she convinces him to meet him…but under one stipulation: He has to disguise himself as a panhandler named Mike. McKeever allows “Mike” to stay in the mansion as a servant. Funny how stuff works out.

When Trudy brings her mom (her father’s ex-wife)  -portrayed so well by Ann Harding – in to the mix, things get ever so sweetly complicated…as if the situation wasn’t crazy enough before. Throw in a subplot that involves Jim and several of his ex-GI buddies living in the mansion and their plans to buy an old Army camp and make low-cost housing out of the former barracks and you’ve got one heck of a Christmas film.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue is so funny. It’s got a touch of screwball in it. It’s silly, but it tugs at the heartstrings. It was nominated for the Best Writing, Original Story Academy Award and lost to another holiday classic, Miracle on 34th Street. After going into almost total obscurity for nearly twenty years, it was released on DVD for the first time in 2008. Following suit, Turner Classic Movies aired it for the first time in 2009.

There are a couple of songs performed and nice incidental music in It Happened on Fifth Avenue. This is my personal top pick:

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/359699/It-Happened-On-Fifth-Avenue-Movie-Clip-That-s-What-Christmas-Means-.html

This just may be my new favorite Christmas movie.


It Happened on Fifth Avenue will air on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on Christmas Eve at 12:30 PM (EST).

Happy watching. ♡

-Meredith

Holidays in Film

#PayClassicsForward: A Christmas Special

Well, we’ve nearly made it to another Christmas. In the life of an ultra-enthusiastic classic film fan, this time of year rules. I’ve got my stack of DVDs, but I get most excited about checking out Turner Classic Movie’s holiday lineup each year. Within this list you will find photos, commentary, and video clips linked for optional viewing.

Let’s go!


ONE Directorial Debut:

À bout de souffle (Breathless) – 1960, dir. Jean-Luc Godard

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TWO Duos:

Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon

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Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall

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THREE Foreign Films:

Une femme est une femme (A Woman is A Woman) – 1961   [France]

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Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)- 1963  [France]

[Two brief notes: This film was shot in beautiful color and the sets and costumes are vividly colorful. Also, the dialogue is entirely sung. Click here to listen to the soundtrack; it’s gorgeous. There are no subtitles with this audio, but I encourage you to listen anyway.]

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Sommaren med Monika (Summer with Monika) – 1953   [Sweden]

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FOUR Soundtracks:

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

(click here to hear the suite)

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Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

(click here to hear the soundtrack)

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The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

(Click here to hear parts of the score)

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Gone With the Wind (1939)

(click here to hear the musical score suite)

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FIVE Westerns:

Stagecoach (1939)

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) – Not considered to be a western in most cases, but it can be argued. It’s a Western musical!

Oklahoma! (1955) – See commentary on 7BF7B.

Dances With Wolves (1990)

The Wind (1928)

[I feel I should note that this genre of classic film is probably the only one that I’ve barely touched, which is probably pretty obvious from the list. A new year’s resolution: Watch more Westerns!]


 SIX Dance Routines:

Be sure to click on the links to watch these musical numbers I’ve shared. They are well worth a view (or fifty).

By a Waterfall : Footlight Parade (1933) – choreographed by legendary Busby Berkeley. It’s a water ballet (just like the next one is) but I think it’s fair game! This one features one of my favorites (Ruby Keeler), Dick Powell, and a bevy of chorus girls. It’s tough to choose just one of his musical numbers to list. I’d list all of his Pre-Code Warner Bros. numbers if I could.

Gene Kelly’s roller-skate tap dance in It’s Always Fair Weather (1955) : This one will always put you in a good mood. Whether you’re actually in love in real life or not, you will be for 4+ minutes when you watch this.

Esther Williams in Million Dollar Mermaid (1952): This water ballet was choreographed by Busby Berkeley and performed by actress/swimming star Esther Williams and many other swimmers. Any time Esthers jumps into a pool, you can be guaranteed a fun time.

A Lot of Livin’ To DoBye Bye Birdie (1963) – fun choreography, amazing early ’60s youth fashion, and a catchy beat. Plus, I’m in love with Ann-Margret’s pink frilly outfit. Anyone else?

All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm : A Day at the Races (1937) – This one is amazing. Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, a group of extremely talented dancers, get a musical feature in the middle of a Marx Brothers movie. The coolest part is that they’re all African Americans. This is the same group who rocked the heck out of a Lindy hop number in Hellzapoppin’ (1941).

All That Jazz (1979) finale: This one’s kind of life changing – no pun intended. Bob Fosse, who directed Cabaret (1972) –one that’s become a favorite of mine — does wonders with this film. The ending of the film really intrigued me. I was stunned.


 

SEVEN Comedies:

The Thin Man (1934)

Is there anything wrong with this film? I don’t think so. William Powell and Myrna Loy charm audiences of all decades as Nick and Nora Charles, a married couple who balance solving crimes + downing martinis + flirting with each other perfectly. They’re a couple who have a passion for the finer things in life – including alcohol and each other. Nick and Nora taught 1930s audiences that marriage really can be fun and sexy.

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It Happened One Night (1934)

This is where the chick-flick really began. We, the audience, get to hop on a bus with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert and watch a bickering roadside romance brew. Tear down the Walls of Jericho!

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Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Talk about a fun movie – this one has it all. It’s Pre-Code, which means that the content was a bit more risqué than anything filmed after 1934. There are innovative and captivating musical numbers choreographed by Busby Berkeley, romance, and highbrow hi-jinks carried out by a strong ensemble of women, portrayed by Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Ginger Rogers, and Aline MacMahon.

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Animal Crackers (1930)

Although this is not one of the Marx Brothers’ most popular or well-known films, Animal Crackers may be their zaniest. It was their second film – in the days that they were still headquartered at Paramount. Their Paramount films are extra fun because they avoided contrived plots, unlike some of their films made at MGM after they began there in 1935.

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Ball of Fire (1941)

Dorky meets sexy in this Howard Hawks-directed film starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. Cooper portrays Bertram Potts, an English professor who is working with a group of other professors to create an encyclopedia of human knowledge. When the men decide to scrap their original idea and begin working on an encyclopedia of modern slang, Potts meets his match in nightclub singer Sugarpuss O’Shea (Stanwyck). Lots of laughs and sexual tension ensue. This is an amazing movie. If you’re a fan of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, you’ll really love it.

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Safety Last! (1923)

One of the finest silent comedies ever. It’s available on Blu-ray and DVD. There are also a couple of full versions of this film uploaded on YouTube.

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The Women (1939)

This movie is the ultimate cat-fight comedy. Norma Shearer portrays Mary Haines, a woman who, through nail salon gossip, finds out that her husband is cheating on her. Her friends (some of them are true “frenemies”) get tangled up in the gossip and their own drama. Add in Joan Crawford as Mr. Haines’s ‘side chick’ and scene stealer Rosalind Russell and you’ve got one of the finest comedies ever created.

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EIGHT Films Noir:

White Heat (1949)

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Gun Crazy (1950)

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The Big Sleep (1945)

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Strangers on a Train (1951)

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Laura (1944)

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Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

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Double Indemnity (1944)

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Sunset Boulevard (1950)

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NINE Inspiring Movies:

The Sound of Music (1965): A young nun who sings, dances, and becomes a governess to a large family – This may be the most generic summary for the film, but just about everyone knows how it goes. This one never gets old for me.

Dead Poets Society (1989): Okay, I know this one is considered to be modern in classic film reference, but this one is too great to keep off this list. It’s a classic.

You Can’t Take it With You (1938): This is another Frank Capra classic filled with social commentary. I love, love, love its message. This story revolves around the courtship between the son (Jimmy Stewart) of a wealthy and stuck up family and the daughter (Jean Arthur) of a poor, kind, and eccentric family.

Stage Door (1937): A group of aspiring actresses reside in a boardinghouse share their dreams and fears with each other and the audience in this tearjerker. This is a great story that illustrates the importance of female friendships and the bonds they can create. It boasts an awesome ensemble cast, including Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, a very young Ann Miller, Eve Arden, and Adolphe Menjou.

Sullivan’s Travels (1941): A popular film director (Joel McCrea) goes on the road to experience life as a hobo in order to make his next film a great one. He finds out some important life lessons along the way.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927): This is not only one of the greatest silent films ever created; it’s one of the best films ever created. In a nutshell, it teaches us that the power of love and forgiveness must prevail over all. Click here to watch the entire film on Youtube.

Pollyanna (1960): A young girl (Hayley Mills, adorable as ever) takes a dreary turn-of-the-century town by storm and teaches all of its citizens how to be happy and kind to each other. It will never leave you in a bad mood – I can promise you that.

Fiddler on the Roof (1971): The three oldest daughters of a poor Jewish family living in turn-of-the-century Russia follow their hearts (against their father’s will) and find love on their own.The results – and the musical soundtrack – are magical.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946): This is a movie that I wish everyone would watch. It revolves around three men who served during World War II and their experiences upon returning to civilian life. Each has his own experiences with returning to loved ones. This one is a tearjerker and it’s worth every minute of viewing time.


 

TEN Performances:

Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind (1939)

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Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas (1937)

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Eleanor Parker in Caged (1950)

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Judy Garland in A Star is Born (1954)

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The principal cast of The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

[Yeah, I couldn’t choose between them – They were all that good]

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Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958): I honestly hope I can be as cool as Auntie Mame when I grow older.

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Liza Minnelli in Cabaret (1972)

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James Cagney in White Heat (1949)

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Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind (1960)

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Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass (1961)

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 ELEVEN Movies for Children

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944): Ahhh, my favorite movie of all time. I grew up watching this one all the time with my Grandma. Many consider this film as a Christmas movie (as I do now, even though I mostly consider it a year-round film) but I used to watch it religiously all year long. I will always be madly in love with this movie.

Pollyanna (1960): I mentioned this one in the “Nine Inspiring Movies” section. I grew up with this one, too. I love it just as I did when I was a little girl. Hayley Mills is everything.

Swiss Family Robinson (1960): One of the coolest adventure movies ever – a childhood highlight.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954): Another great adventure story.

Mary Poppins (1964): Does this one need any explaining?

The Wizard of Oz (1939): Does this one need any explaining, either?

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971): This one may get a bit dark in places (Well, really just the trippy boat scene) but it’s one of the coolest movies you can watch as a kid, teen, or adult.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968): This movie will probably give you the creeps, but it somehow works really well as a children’s film. The soundtrack is extremely fun, too.

Peter Pan (1952): I think most of us watched this one growing up (no pun intended). No further explanation needed!

Anne of Green Gables (1985): This one veers on the modern side, but I can’t not include it. I grew up on the Canadian “Anne” miniseries. It’s one of the most spectacular films you will ever watch.

Sherlock Jr. (1924): Every kid should be treated to a silent comedy. I think Buster Keaton is the best choice, too. This one’s a fun movie that I think children would appreciate.


 

TWELVE Heroes

Atticus Finch – To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Mahatma Gandhi – Gandhi (1982)

Marty – Marty (1955)

Mr. Chips and Katherine – Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

Lou Gehrig – The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

Spartacus – Spartacus (1960)

Cal Trask – East of Eden (1955)

Susy Hendrix – Wait Until Dark (1967)

Nick and Nora Charles – The Thin Man (1934)

Johnny Case – Holiday (1938)

Lily Powers – Baby Face (1933)

Jefferson Smith –Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

 


 

This challenge was created by Aurora over at aurorasginjoint.com – Even though it’s Christmas Eve, I still challenge you to pass this on in your own way and on your own time!

Happy Holidays —

Love, Meredith