Film Festival: Art Deco
Betty Grable is our hostess for a romance-filled tour in Moon Over Miami. When you think about Art Deco, Miami Beach comes to mind. It’s one of the best places in America to see Art Deco buildings and style integrated into the fabric of a city.
“We’re going to Miami. That’s right, Miami. Where rich men are as plentiful as grapefruit and millionaires hang from every palm tree.” –Kay
Moon Over Miami (1941) brings us Betty Grable and south Florida in maximum Technicolor glory. It’s the tale of the Latimer family, two sisters and their aunt, golddigging their way from Texas to Miami in a manic husband-hunt.
Kay (Betty Grable) and Barbara Latimer (Carole Landis) work as singing waitresses at Texas Tommy’s (“Service with a Song”) drive-in restaurant. Their Aunt Susan (Charlotte Greenwood) is the short-order cook. The three women are thrilled when they receive news of an inheritance, but after taxes and lawyers’ fees, they’re left with a very meager amount. Rather than give up on their dreams, they quit their jobs and devise a plan.
Our trio checks into a beautiful pink luxury hotel in Miami, the Flamingo. They used what was left of the inheritance to buy Kay a deluxe wardrobe. Barbara poses as Kay’s secretary and Susan plays their personal maid. They immediately meet two rich, eligible young men among the guests wintering at the hotel. The two boys get into a competition for the attentions of “wealthy” Kay.
“Let’s see what do we want? We want you, the juice of the grape and a good hot dance band.”
“But right now we’ll settle for those potato chips and cheese.”
— Phil and Jeff
Kay and Phil McNeal (Don Ameche) get very close. Phil confesses that his family fortune is gone and he is looking for a rich wife. Kay in turn confesses her plot to Phil and he begins to push her at the truly rich Jeff Bolton (Robert Cummings.) Meanwhile, Barbara and Susan enjoy their own romances. Susan flirts with a hotel waiter, played endearingly by Jack Haley. After multiple mix-ups, everyone ends up happy.
Travis Banton designed a memorable set of costumes for Betty Grable. We first see her in a short cowgirl skirt with fringe and boots that show off her great legs and a hat that frames her face. When arriving in Miami she wears an aqua fur-trimmed traveling suit with a giant matching muff. Her first party outfit is red, white, and blue georgette, trimmed with stars. For a date she wears a peach halter-topped gown with silver sequined appliques down the front.
A midriff-baring silver lamé halter is the focus of another party gown. The long skirt is made of white chiffon and she wears a row of white-sequined lilies in her hair. When visiting a millionaire’s private off-shore island, Betty wears a royal blue and white pantsuit. Her final party dress is a white crepe gown with an open back, painted with huge, colorful butterflies. If you love 1940s fashion, these outfits will feed your soul!
The songs and musical numbers in Moon over Miami are by turns very gay or very romantic: “Mornin’ Friend,” “Oh Me, Oh Miami,” “You Started Something,” “I’ve Got You All to Myself,” “I Don’t Know,” “I’m in a Paradise with You,” “Conga to a Nursery Rhyme,” and “Swing Seminole.”
Miami and south Florida are also colorful stars of the movie. We visit Miami Beach, Cypress Gardens, Silver Springs, Rainbow Springs, and even get a little glimpse of the Hialeah racecourse.
An energetic, attractive, and musical cast, the beautiful settings of Florida, and Betty Grable’s dancing all make Moon Over Miami a light-hearted package that is hard to resist.
Affiliate links: if you make a purchase using product links, I’ll receive compensation towards maintaining this blog.
This review appeared originally in RETRO magazine, Nancy Eaton, editor.