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What a potentially great film (finally got hold of a copy), a big hit
MGM musical that boasted Bessie Love, Charles King, Jack Benny, Marie
Dressler, and Polly Moran.
What a shame that all the Technolor is gone from the existing print, and even worse, so are all the big production numbers! Title cards appear to tell us where the numbers USED to be. Even the audio is gone.
Indeed we miss Bessie Love leading a chorus in "Everybody Tap," Charles King singing "Love Ain't Nothing' but the Blues." and Marie Dressler singing "My Dynamic Personality." Also the entire finale of "Happy Days Are Here Again" is also gone. Thanks to Richard Barrios for listing the missing songs in a footnote in A SONG IN THE DARK.
The few numbers that are left aren't too great. King sings "Lucky Me and Lovable You" to Love (who does not sing). But they do a short dance number. Dressler does an early number on the train, and Nina Martan (odd spelling) also sings one song.
In this backstage musical about an acting company traveling across country in a show called "Goodbye Broadway," we get the usual stories about jealousy, love, etc. Love is adorable as Carlie, King is better than he was in THE Broadway MELODY, Benny is funny, and of course Dressler and Moran steal every scene they're in. George K. Arthur has a small role as a (gay?) member of the troupe, and so does Gwen Lee as the member who quits early on, requiring them to hire Martan. Eddie Phillips plays the smarmy lover.
After smash hits with THE Broadway MELODY and Hollywood REVUE OF 1929, MGM launched this musical with its A Cast, but by the time the film hit theaters, the craze for musicals was winding down. Revue films were so unpopular that MGM included "Not a Revue" in its advertising for CHASING RAINBOWS. Bessie Love was MGM's #1 musical star of the time, and Marie Dressler and Polly Moran are just plain hysterically funny together.
Let's hope these Technicolor musical numbers are found some day. What a treat that would be!
A troupe of musical comedy performers travel about the
country, forever CHASING RAINBOWS of success & happiness.
This early MGM musical, considering its age and the obvious limitations brought on by the new sound technology, does a fair job in entertaining its audience. Although the film features a song that would become a classic ('Happy Days Are Here Again' by Milton Ager & Jack Yellen) it is on the strength of a couple of its performances that its modest success is based.
Pert & pretty Bessie Love is wonderful as a sweet young singer who adores her leading man. She is completely natural with the microphone and exhibits a tender talent which was never allowed to grow to its full potential in talking films. While good throughout, the scene in which she dissolves into hysterical laughter upon hearing some emotionally devastating news is absolutely frightening in its power.
As her love interest, Charles King doesn't fare nearly so well. This is largely due to the fact that his romantic trials & tribulations - involving women other than Miss Love - are of no interest whatsoever and his reaction to them show his character to be both shallow & immature, critical character flaws in a film's hero. King was among MGM's very first musical stars, but his movie career would be very brief, lasting only from 1928 to 1930, for a total of six films.
Playing the stage manager, Jack Benny is the emotional calm point around which the activity swirls. He has very little to do besides move the plot along. His brotherly interest in Miss Love seems platonic and Jack is left out of the film's romantic action.
While not given top billing, Canadian Marie Dressler steals the film as an aging comedienne with too much past. Using her large, homely face & shapeless body to great advantage, she grabs the viewers' attention and never lets go. At this point in her career Dressler was right on the cusp of gaining enormous personal success and within a year she would become Hollywood's biggest star. Even in such a relatively routine role, such as she fills here, Dressler reveals the tremendous heart & common touch which would be the secret to her celebrity. (For an extra chuckle, pay close attention during the opening long shot where the cast sings the last few bars of 'Happy Days' - just to the right of center screen is the Marvelous Marie, swaying across the stage with elephantine grace.)
Appearing as a drunken wardrobe lady, the ubiquitous Polly Moran makes another appearance as Dressler's sidekick. Short, spunky & buxom, Polly was always fun to watch - but never more so than when teamed with Marie.
In a small role, George K. Arthur plays Benny's gynandrous assistant; an important silent comedy star for MGM, this Scottish-born actor would soon sink into talkie anonymity.
It should be noted that the film's original Technicolor sequences - including several songs and the entire conclusion - are now completely missing.
"Chasing Rainbows" (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1929-30), directed by Charles
F. Reisner, was the studio's attempt in duplicating the success of its
very first all sound musical titled "The Broadway Melody" (1929), that
won the Academy Award as Best Picture. To review "Chasing Rainbows,"
one cannot help but compare this to "The Broadway Melody," a backstage
story revolving around a sister act (Bessie Love and Anita Page) that
nearly breaks up on account of their love for the same leading man
(Charles King). Aside from the re-teaming of Love and King, this new
edition, set in small town theaters during a road show tour instead of
the Broadway theater district, substitutes troublesome leading ladies
over kid sisters to complicate matters. Love, whose climatic crying
scene from "The Broadway Melody" that earned her an Academy Award
nomination as Best Actress, attempts doing same thing here with her
moment of hysterics, this time with laughter. As much as the situations
are basically the same, the results aren't. Although the film's title
might indicate an old favorite of "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" as one
of its highlight production numbers, it actually began production as
"Road Show" a title more appealing to the plot at hand.
Following the opening title credits over the visual of a passing train, and minus any underscoring, the plot gets underway with the closing of the road show performance of "Good-bye Broadway" where the cast gathers together in the big finale. Eddie Brock (Jack Benny), the stage manager, gets the company ready for their next engagement in another town. Terry Fay (Charles King), the leading man, is blind by the true love of Carlie Seymour (Bessie Love), his partner of five years. Upset over Peggy (Gwen Lee) quitting the show and leaving with another man, Terry threatens suicide until Brock acquires Daphne Wayne (Nita Martan) as the show's new leading lady. Terry falls for Daphne, who, in reality, is using him for her own professional gain. After Carlie discovers Daphne carrying on an affair with Don Cordova (Eddie Phillips), her former leading man, she tries to warn Terry, who refuses to listen. Even after he realizes Carlie accusations are correct, Terry, still blinded by Daphne's presence, marries her, complicating matters all around.
For the motion picture soundtrack, songs (*indicating two-strip Technicolor sequences) include: "Happy Days Are Here Again" (sung by chorus); "Pure But Honest" (sung by Marie Dressler); "Lucky Me and Lovable You" (sung by Charles King); "Do I Know What I'm Doing?" (sung by Nita Martan, reprized by Marie Dressler and Polly Moran); *"Everybody Tap" (performed by Bessie Love); *"Love Ain't Nothing But the Blues" (sung by Charles King); "Lucky Me and Lovable You" (reprised by Charles King); *"My Dynamic Personality" (sung by Marie Dressler) and *"Happy Days Are Here Again" (sung by chorus). Considering its bright score, only "Happy Days Are Here Again," twice performed briefly, remains relatively known to this day. "Lucky Me and Lovable You," the film's best song, used for underscoring during the tender moments between King and Love, did not recapture the similar mood and qualities of "You Were Meant For Me" that was introduced in "The Broadway Melody." While "Chasing Rainbows" improves technically over its primitive production style of "The Broadway Melody," which simply lacked the brighter moments supplied by Marie Dressler and Polly Moran in their usual feuding pal roles. Dressler, shortly before achieving super stardom following her Academy Award winning performance in "Min and Bill" (1930), not only gets a chance to sing, but shares a drunken scene with Moran, cast here as the wardrobe woman. Fans of Jack Benny's radio and TV show can get an early glimpse of the popular comedian before reaching 39 playing a straight man providing some funny one-liners here and there.
Of all the musicals produced during the early sound period, "Chasing Rainbows" is truly a forgotten one. Due to the missing two-strip Technicolor musical sequences, shortening its original length from 100 minutes to 86, "Chasing Rainbows" has never been televised, at least until the era of Turner Classic Movies following its 1984 premiere where this musical became part as its very own film preservation series where still photos for the missing sequences were inserted with sub-titles indicating its actions filling in the void. With that said, "Chasing Rainbows," in spite of Charlie King's occasional annoying character portrayal, proves not only one of the more worthier rediscoveries of the early sound era, but a good companion piece to the much better known "Broadway Melody." (** curtain calls)
I really love this film - that is, what is left of it. What remains is
roughly the 85 minutes which comprise the dramatic portion. What is
missing are the Technicolor numbers, or approximately 20 minutes. TCM
has inserted publicity stills with title cards telling the audience of
any plot developments that happen during the missing scenes, and all in
all it is quite watchable in its current state.
This movie reunites Bessie Love and Charles King from "Broadway Melody" fame of the year before, and throws in Jack Benny, Polly Moran, and Marie Dressler of "The Hollywood Revue", also from 1929. Many people describe this film as a redo of the Broadway Melody formula, but it really is quite different from that. The film follows the troupe of the show "Goodbye Broadway" as it moves from town to town during one theatrical season. Here Charles King plays vaudevillian Terry Fay who is oblivious to the fact that his partner, Carlie, (Bessie Love) is in love with him. Terry makes a play for every leading lady on the vaudeville circuit. Of course they use him, of course they break his heart, and of course he goes right out and does it again. However, he finally meets his match in Daphne Wayne (Nita Martin) who sees in Terry a way to make it to Broadway and off the road show circuit.
Plotwise, it isn't much, but plot really isn't the point of these early talkie back-stagers. Bessie Love comes across wonderfully as the taken-for-granted partner. You can really feel the emotional roller-coaster she is on as she thinks she may have finally gotten to Terry only to find out he's thrown her over once again. Jack Benny is great as the wise-cracking stage manager. MGM has thankfully dropped the lechery angle that he had in Hollywood Revue and instead has him adding in his biting sarcastic wit here and there, showing us a taste of what will make him a success in radio. Polly Moran and Marie Dressler are hilarious as two aging ladies of the vaudeville scene, long-time friends who are constantly at each other's throats.
The whole group plays together with such chemistry, yet Jack Benny himself always kidded about how this film landed with a thud when it opened in 1930, calling it "Chasing Customers". If you like any of the stars I've mentioned and the early talkie musicals, this one is worth watching and even has a few songs in it. If it had been released a year earlier it would probably have been a major hit and be intact today. Had it been made a year later - well, it wouldn't have been made at all a year later because by 1931 nobody was making musical films anymore. This is really worth seeking out, just don't be surprised by the condition the sound and video are in. The film really looks shaggy compared to how well the other early MGMs have been preserved.
Any film that starts out with a passenger train chugging across the countryside, followed by a full ensemble rendition of Ager-and-Yellen's "Happy Days Are Here Again" can't be all bad. Sadly, this great old song is presented only in fragmentary form at the beginning to set the tone for a story about a traveling theatrical troupe; later, when the time comes for a full- length version, we learn from an insert that the sequence has been lost, a blow which this backstager cannot survive. (Imagine Golddiggers of 1935 without "Lullabye of Broadway.) There is a decent Ager-Yellen ballad ("Lucky Me, Lovable You," crooned impeccably by Charles King) and a couple of comedy numbers put over with gusto by the scenery-chewing Marie Dressler. The plot (girl-loves-boy-who-loves-other-girls) moves too slowly and far too much time is spent on Dressler's vaudevillian comic routines with her frequent screen partner Polly Moran. The two were real crowd pleasers back in the day, which only shows how much tastes have changed. Their shtick is occasionally funny but not funny enough to justify twenty minutes of footage. Jack Benny is very good as the level-headed stage manager who holds the troupe together and Charles King acts almost as well as he sings. The delicate Bessie Love has a strange, extended scene in which she breaks into grimacing, demented laughter which veers into crying and then back into laughter.
Pretty big role for Jack Benny in his very first film acting role, playing someone besides himself (acc to IMDb). He rattles off many of his one-liners as Eddie, part of the big traveling (and unraveling) road show. He should know, after all those years of vaudeville, before getting his own radio and TV shows. This movie is all about taking the show on the road, and Bonnie's (Marie Dressler) facial expressions as she gets elbowed, steam-blasted by the train, and insulted by the rest of the cast. Dressler was showing her age here (sixty something, with pretty big bags under her eyes) but that didn't slow her down any. She made SEVEN films in 1930, and only made a couple more before passing away in 1934. Two of her last ones were biggies, Tugboat Annie, and Dinner at Eight! Co-stars Bessie Love (Carlie) and Polly Moran (Polly) had also started in the silents and continued on with the talkies. Lots of backstage jokes and chiding each other, mostly by Eddie and Polly. Also an on again, off again love story between Carlie and Terry (Charles King, who only made a few films). Some serious, touching moments between the girls as they talk over their intentions regarding the men-folk. Sad to note that the color song and dance portions are missing in action - hopefully someday they will be found. Directed by Charles Reisner, who had worked his way up through every occupation, starting with the silents. Written by Robert Hopkins, who would be nominated for an Oscar for his writing on San Francisco (1936). Good story, no plot holes, very family friendly. I really enjoyed watching this one.... it wasn't as hokey as a lot of those "back-stage, behind the scenes stories" were back then. Good to see J. Benny in an early role.
It's really not fair to give a numerical score to this film, as it's
NOT the "Chasing Rainbows" of 1930. That's because the Two-Color
Technicolor portions of the film are missing and Turner Classic Movies
substituted stills for the missing scenes! It's a crude way to try to
reassemble the film--far from ideal, that's for sure.
"Chasing Rainbows" is a musical featuring Bessie Love and Charles King (who'd just starred together in the Oscar winning "Broadway Melody"). In addition to being a musical, Jack Benny (in one of his first films) as well as Polly Moran and Marie Dressler (both of which made a short series of comedies together following this film) are on hand to provide some comedy. Those familiar with Benny's 1940s-50s persona might have a hard time recognizing him, as here he is nothing like his radio and TV self. I'd seen him in a couple early shorts, so seeing him as a fast-talking sort of guy didn't surprise me.
The film finds Benny the leader of a touring Broadway-style review. Although Love and King are good friends, you have a strong impression that they are destined to be much more. But, in the meantime, dumb 'ol King's head is turned by a new leading lady (Nita Martan). You just KNOW that Nita is 100% bad and Bessie is a sweetheart, but it sure takes King a long time to recognize this. In fact, he is a bit too stupid to be real! In the meantime, there are lots of song and dance numbers, comedic interludes (which aren't all that funny) and various backstage vignettes. In fact, the plot isn't always all that important--it's more an excuse to feature the other acts.
As I said above, it's very hard to score this movie. It is rather old fashioned and derivative (an awful lot like "Broadway Melody") but good for 1929/1930. But the fact that it's missing so much of the film make it great viewing for total film nuts (like me) but not so great for everyone else. As I LOVE films from this era and don't mind the very dated style, I could highly recommend it to people like me....all six of us! By the way, this film was apparently made in 1929 and not released until 1930. Believe it or not, this is actually pretty easy to tell as sound technology improved quickly during the late 20s-early 30s and the film looks and sounds more like a 1929 production.
By the way, if you DO see this film, get a load of Bessie's laughing sequence--she sounds positively demented! It's easy to see it's an early talkie, as later directors never would have done the scene that way.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't usually see things the way that everybody else does, but in
this case, I do. The other reviews here are pretty spot on. I enjoyed
the film. It had strengths, but it also had flaws. In fact, three of
The three strengths were Jack Benny, Marie Dressler, and Bessie Love. I've always been a Jack Benny fan, and he does not disappoint here. His sharp, fast one-liners are a funny and very welcome part of the movie. This was my first introduction to Marie Dressler, and I'm an instant fan; she was just marvelous. Probably the best part of the movie. And finally, I loved Bessie Love's work here. The Carlie character she brings to life is sweet and sincere and adorable, and you quickly find yourself pulling for her. I would've gone for Carlie in an instant.
As for the flaws, the biggest is Charles King's Terry Fay. I can't even assess Kings performance, because the character itself, as written, is just so horrible. He's a romantic lummox and comes across as both moron and jerk. By the time we learn that he's married Daphne, I completely hated him and didn't *want* Carlie to end up with him; she was just too good for him and deserved much better. That's a pretty big flaw in a romance.
The other two flaws were more minor, and one of them wasn't the film's fault. First, I found the romantic resolution to be lame. After all the romantic vacillations and tribulations, we were entitled to more of a payoff at the climax. The long-awaited final get- together is just so rushed and skipped-over, its like the film makers themselves really didn't care. But part of the problem may be related to the second flaw: the fact that the film is missing a number of scenes. As others have already pointed out, there are a number of scenes which were filmed in early 2-color Technicolor (whatever exactly that is), which are missing. From the descriptions that the cobbled together available version provides, it seems like they were just set-piece stage numbers. But that includes the *entire* ending of the film. Maybe somewhere within all that missing stuff, more was developed to support the final get-together of the two leads. Even if it were all just wordless, looks and expressions and whatever. Maybe that's part of why the resolution feels so thin and rushed.
Regardless, I would pay a lot to see the film restored to its original form. If for no other reason than to get to see one more number with Marie Dressler!
I won't repeat other reviews; I agree with almost all comments. What I'd like to address is the unprofessional editing. In one scene actors apparently are listening to Jack Benny lecturing but without sound. This is clearly a medium reaction shot, meant to have Jack's voice over. Poly Moran stands in a doorway without moving for about three seconds before action begins. An actor enters a door from the outside - you can't see the door - and then the camera pauses. Then on the inside we see the door continues to open. At the trimmed fade out you see the door start to open again. This is an A picture made by an A studio. Such gaffes are unforgivable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This copy of this film on TCM was rough and appeared to be only a part
of the movie that it once was. After watching it, during a Marie
Dressler day, I wish more of this film existed.
What is here is a story about a Vaudeville road show spending it's season run on the road. There are some trials and rough spots between the folks. The train travel seems to get the best of most of them.
What is most interesting, is seeing a 35 year old Jack Benny as the stage manager trying to keep the peace between some distinctly strong personalities. What is left here works okay. It appears in 1929 that even though Benny is given opportunities to be funny here, he has not yet got the comedy timing down on film that would make him so famous later when he was 39. He does get some chances to shine.
I understand a whole lot of musical numbers are missing from this and I have no doubt that the entire ending is gone as on TCM the movie just seemed to stop abruptly. I have a feeling if it were all here, I might have given the film a higher rating. As it is though, I am glad to have seen what is left.
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