Panama Hattie (1942)

79-80 mins | Musical comedy | 1 October 1942

Director:

Norman Z. McLeod

Producer:

Arthur Freed

Cinematographer:

George Folsey

Editor:

Blanche Sewell

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

Cole Porter composed the score of the Broadway musical Panama Hattie for star Ethel Merman, marking their fourth collaboration. The show was a great success, and became the first book musical since the 1920s to run over 500 performances. Only two of Porter's songs from the stage musical--"I've Still Got My Health" and "Let's Be Buddies"--were used in the film, along with "Just One of Those Things," a song Porter wrote for the 1935 Broadway musical Jubilee. Among the original numbers from Panama Hattie omitted from the film, the most famous was "Make It Another Old-Fashioned, Please." Comedian Rags Ragland was the only member of the Broadway cast to repeat his role in the film.
       The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: "WARNING! Any resemblance between the three sailors in this story and human beings is purely accidental." According to a 1972 Var obituary, nightclub owner Mary Lee Kelly, an American who moved to Panama just before World War I, was said to have been the inspiration for Panama Hattie, although a modern source claims the musical was inspired by Porter's song "Katie Went to Haiti," from the 1939 Broadway musical Du Barry Was a Lady.
       HR news items provide the following information: RKO bid against M-G-M for the film rights, intending to give Ginger Rogers the starring role. George Murphy was originally cast in the role of "Dick Bulliet," and Shirley Temple was to have played the part of "Geraldine" before she left M-G-M to go under contract to David O. Selznick. M-G-M sought ...

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Cole Porter composed the score of the Broadway musical Panama Hattie for star Ethel Merman, marking their fourth collaboration. The show was a great success, and became the first book musical since the 1920s to run over 500 performances. Only two of Porter's songs from the stage musical--"I've Still Got My Health" and "Let's Be Buddies"--were used in the film, along with "Just One of Those Things," a song Porter wrote for the 1935 Broadway musical Jubilee. Among the original numbers from Panama Hattie omitted from the film, the most famous was "Make It Another Old-Fashioned, Please." Comedian Rags Ragland was the only member of the Broadway cast to repeat his role in the film.
       The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: "WARNING! Any resemblance between the three sailors in this story and human beings is purely accidental." According to a 1972 Var obituary, nightclub owner Mary Lee Kelly, an American who moved to Panama just before World War I, was said to have been the inspiration for Panama Hattie, although a modern source claims the musical was inspired by Porter's song "Katie Went to Haiti," from the 1939 Broadway musical Du Barry Was a Lady.
       HR news items provide the following information: RKO bid against M-G-M for the film rights, intending to give Ginger Rogers the starring role. George Murphy was originally cast in the role of "Dick Bulliet," and Shirley Temple was to have played the part of "Geraldine" before she left M-G-M to go under contract to David O. Selznick. M-G-M sought Arthur Treacher to repeat his stage role as stuffy butler "Jay Jerkins." South American singer Estrellita was considered for a specialty number, but her appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
       News items add Lester Dorr to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. During the film's extensive retakes, HR news items reported that Robert Young, and later William Lundigan, would replace Dan Daily, Jr. as Dick. A 7 Apr 1942 HR news item stated that footage featuring Jackie Horner as Geraldine would be eliminated and reshot with Joan Carroll, who had played the little girl on Broadway. According to a 1 May 1942 item in HR, radio star Kate Smith turned down $100,000 to perform in a musical sequence. An 18 May 1942 column in HR reported that an unreleased Judy Garland recording of "Son of a Gun Who Picks on Uncle Sam" was making the rounds in Washington, D.C., adding that the song "looks like it might be the 'Over There' of this war." The column went on to suggest that M-G-M add a few new lyrics and make the song available to the government.
       According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Hays Office was concerned that "our Latin American neighbors" might find the film offensive. In a 3 Jul 1941 letter to Louis B. Mayer, Addison Durland requested that the mosquito netting in a bungalow set be omitted, fearing that the sight of it might undermine the Panamanian government's efforts to promote its country as a "healthy" tourist destination, and stressed that the dancers, spies and laborers depicted in the film not be characterized as Latin American. Despite these changes, Panama Hattie encountered numerous problems with foreign distribution. The Office of Censorship deemed the film unsuitable for Latin American audiences because of the comic portrayal of the three American sailors, and the OWI classified the film as "The Enemy" because of its espionage subplot. A 9 Sep 1942 HR column criticized Hollywood's poor sense of public relations on the international front, adding that "too many stories about spies, fifth columnists and saboteurs have been made, in the OWI's opinion, so that the American public and fans in foreign lands possibly think our nation is riddled with subversive activity." PCA files add that the local censor board in Argentina deleted "Son of a Gun Who Picks on Uncle Sam" because of its pro-Allied sentiments, and Sweden cut the song because of derogatory references to the Japanese.
       Panama Hattie marked Lena Horne's first film for M-G-M, following her debut in the 1938 film The Duke Is Tops (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.1147). Horne was the first African-American star to sign a long-term contract with a major studio, although her performances were generally limited to musical numbers that could be cut from the film before its distribution in Southern markets. On 10 Nov 1954, the CBS television network broadcast a one-hour version of Panama Hattie starring Ethel Merman.
       The film was in release Sep-Nov 1942.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
1 Aug 1942
---
Daily Variety
22 Jul 1942
p. 3
Film Daily
22 Jul 1942
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jan 1941
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
1 Apr 1941
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
23 Apr 1941
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 1941
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 1941
p. 5
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jul 1941
p. 8
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 1942
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 1941
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
26 Sep 1941
p. 16
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 1941
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 1941
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jan 1942
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 1942
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
7 Apr 1942
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 1942
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 1942
pp. 1-2
Hollywood Reporter
5 May 1942
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
18 May 1942
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 1942
p. 7
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 1942
p. 13
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 1942
p. 6
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
25 Jul 1942
p. 793
New York Times
2 Oct 1942
p. 31
Variety
22 Jul 1942
p. 8
Variety
18 Oct 1972
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir of retakes
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Mus presentation
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Assoc
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus adpt
Georgie Stoll
Mus dir
Vocals and orch
Vocals and orch
Vocals and orch
SOUND
Rec dir
DANCE
Mus numbers staged by
Dance dir
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
STAND INS
Dance stand-in for Lena Horne
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the musical Panama Hattie , book by Herbert Fields and B. G. DeSylva, music and lyrics by Cole Porter, as produced on the stage by B. G. DeSylva (New York, 30 Oct 1940).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHORS
SONGS
"I've Still Got My Health," "Fresh as a Daisy," "Let's Be Buddies" and "Just One of Those Things," music and lyrics by Cole Porter; "At the Savoy," music and lyrics by Walter Donaldson; "Hattie from Panama" and "Good Neighbors," music and lyrics by Roger Edens; "The Sping," music and lyrics by Phil Moore, Jeni LeGon and Alfred Ligou; "Son of a Gun Who Picks on Uncle Sam," music and lyrics by Burton Lane and E. Y. Harburg.
SONGWRITERS/COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 October 1942
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 1 Oct 1942
Production Date:
15 Jul--late Sep 1941; retakes Nov 1941, Jan--May 1942
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Loew's Inc.
21 July 1942
LP11530
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
79-80
Length(in feet):
7,131
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
7829
SYNOPSIS

In Panama's Canal Zone, during World War II, sailors Red, Rags and Rowdy go to Phil's Palace to see the musical revue starring their friend Hattie Maloney, also known as Panama Hattie. After her number, Hattie tells the men that she is going to marry soldier Dick Bulliet, who comes from a prominent family in Philadelphia, but first she must meet his eight-year-old child from a previous marriage. The next day, Dick goes to the dock to greet his daughter Geraldine, who is accompanied by the family's starchy English butler, Jay Jerkins. Also disembarking is the elegant Leila Tree, the admiral's niece, who greets Dick as an old friend. Hattie and her friend, Flo Foster, the cigarette girl at the club, meet Dick and Geraldine in the town square, and Hattie is offended and hurt when Geraldine laughs at her gaudy outfit and slang expressions. Hattie spends the evening drinking at Phil's. The following morning, a hung over Hattie is having breakfast with her sailor friends when Flo asks to accompany her to Dick's rented cottage because she has fallen in love with Jerkins. Dick comes for Hattie and introduces her to Leila, whose snobbish manner irritates her. At Dick's cottage, Hattie and Geraldine cement their friendship as Flo flirts with Jerkins. Later, Leila's friend, Lucas Kefler, gives a note to Hans, a waiter at the club, instructing him to go to the "empty house" at midnight and "do your stuff." Hans gives the assignment to his co-worker Bruno. Meanwhile, Red tells Rags they must help Hattie, and gives Bruno a note for Leila. Bruno accidentally gives Leila the wrong ...

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In Panama's Canal Zone, during World War II, sailors Red, Rags and Rowdy go to Phil's Palace to see the musical revue starring their friend Hattie Maloney, also known as Panama Hattie. After her number, Hattie tells the men that she is going to marry soldier Dick Bulliet, who comes from a prominent family in Philadelphia, but first she must meet his eight-year-old child from a previous marriage. The next day, Dick goes to the dock to greet his daughter Geraldine, who is accompanied by the family's starchy English butler, Jay Jerkins. Also disembarking is the elegant Leila Tree, the admiral's niece, who greets Dick as an old friend. Hattie and her friend, Flo Foster, the cigarette girl at the club, meet Dick and Geraldine in the town square, and Hattie is offended and hurt when Geraldine laughs at her gaudy outfit and slang expressions. Hattie spends the evening drinking at Phil's. The following morning, a hung over Hattie is having breakfast with her sailor friends when Flo asks to accompany her to Dick's rented cottage because she has fallen in love with Jerkins. Dick comes for Hattie and introduces her to Leila, whose snobbish manner irritates her. At Dick's cottage, Hattie and Geraldine cement their friendship as Flo flirts with Jerkins. Later, Leila's friend, Lucas Kefler, gives a note to Hans, a waiter at the club, instructing him to go to the "empty house" at midnight and "do your stuff." Hans gives the assignment to his co-worker Bruno. Meanwhile, Red tells Rags they must help Hattie, and gives Bruno a note for Leila. Bruno accidentally gives Leila the wrong note, and when she indignantly confronts Red, he suggests that she could improve her image by dating a sailor. Leila goes to Hattie's dressing room and accuses her of putting Red up to insulting her, then announces herself as a rival for Dick's affections. She tells Hattie that she will never belong to Dick's world, and after Leila leaves, Hattie weeps in despair. Red, meanwhile, looks at the note Leila left behind, and when he sees it is not the one he sent her, he realizes something suspicious is going on. Red, Rags and Rowdy show the note to Hattie, who is packing to leave Panama, and tell her it must be the work of spies. That night, the sailors nervously enter the empty house, which is rumored to be haunted, and have just discovered a chemistry set when two men arrive. One of the men disappears through a secret passageway, and the other escapes and shoots at the sailors from outside the house. Red, Rags and Rowdy manage to get out moments before a bullet ignites the chemicals and the house explodes. The next day, Hattie is saying goodbye to the bartender at Phil's when Kefler insults her by calling her "terrific," and the sailors attack him. Hans and Bruno join in, and a huge brawl erupts. Jerkins, who witnessed the start of the brawl, goes to Dick's cottage and announces that Hattie has boarded a boat to New York, and Dick and Geraldine rush off to stop her. Meanwhile, Red, Rags and Rowdy are nursing their bruises in the stockade when the guard tells them that the men they were fighting with are spies. The sailors are given a hero's parade through the streets of Panama, winding up at the club. Dick, Geraldine and Hattie arrive, and when Dick tells Leila that he and Hattie were married an hour before, she faints. Red revives Leila and proposes to her, promising to take her around the world and show her "where Japan used to be."

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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