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This is a unique film in the history of musicals. Neither of the
leads can sing; most of the dancing, whether by the stars or
chorus girls, is rudimentary at best; the story is a familiar
litany of 1920's stage cliches, and was dated almost
immediately. Yet, it is utterly charming and effective. Part of
this has to do with the appealing cast (particularly Janet
Gaynor), but most of the credit goes to songwriter/producers
DeSylva Brown & Henderson, and director David Butler. The music
is integrated into the story in a dramatically sophisticated and
cinematically daring way. The production number "Turn On the
Heat" is, conceptually, a model for what Busby Berkeley would do
in the 1930's.
If your only exposure to early musicals is that award-winning dud "The Broadway Melody", check out "Sunny Side Up" (or, for that matter, "The Love Parade"). You'll be pleasantly surprised.
SUNNYSIDE UP (Fox, 1929), directed by David Butler, the fourth screen
teaming of Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, ranks one of their most
enjoyable outings. Following their success of SEVENTH HEAVEN (1927),
STREET ANGEL (1928) and LUCKY STAR (1929), produced during the tail end
of the silent film era, SUNNYSIDE UP introduced them to the new cycle
of "talking pictures" in which they not only talk but sing as well,
with Gaynor's voice resembling that of a child. Although she sings
adequately, Farrell does not. With so many musicals produced during the
dawn of sound, SUNNYSIDE UP, subtitled "an original musical comedy,"
promises just that. No backstage story in "The Broadway Melody"
tradition nor reworking of old Broadway shows as "Rio Rita" for
example, but a contemporary love story set in the summer where two
unlikely dreamers of different backgrounds meet and make sweet music
Chapter One: "New York, July 4th, with 4 Million" The story opens with a view of residents from the lower East Side of Manhattan going about their every day lives prior to the upcoming block party. Living in the community are Eric Swenson (El Brendel), a grocery store owner; the youthful Molly Carr (Janet Gaynor) sharing her tenement apartment with her best friend, Bee Nichols (Marjorie White), whose boyfriend, Eddie Rafferty (Frank Richardson), is a songwriter. Molly is a dreamer who reads society columns about her dream man, millionaire Jack Cromwell. Chapter Two: "Southampton, Long Island, .July 4th with the "400" Jack Cromwell (Charles Farrell), the youthful son of society snobs, is hopelessly in love with the upper crust Jane Worth (Sharon Lynne), who refuses to marry in favor of remaining in circulation with the fun crowd. After seeing her walking off with another man, Jack drives off his estate in anger. Later that night Jack ends up on the lower East side where he loses control of his car to avoid hitting a child. In a bewildered state, Swenson offers the young man his apartment to rest for a while. As fate would have it, Jack turns up in Molly's apartment instead. After getting acquainted and watching her perform at the block party, Jack invites her and her friends to act as entertainers for their charity carnival. Chapter Three: Feeling she would be out of place, Mary agrees to appear as Jack's guests, posing as a society girl with Eric as butler, Bee the maid and Eddie as her chauffeur. All goes well until vicious rumors circulate about Molly, whose dreams are soon shattered by Jack's proposed decision.
With a bright score by Buddy DeSylva, Ray Henderson and Lew Brown (credited with their surnames only), the motion picture soundtrack is as follows: "I'm a Dreamer, Aren't We All?" (Sung by Janet Gaynor directly to the camera); "You'll Find the Time and I'll Find the Place" (sung by Sharon Lynn); "Pickin' Petals Off Daisies" (sung by Frank Richardson and Marjorie White); "Sunny Side Up" (Gaynor/ reprized by Richardson and White); "Turn on the Heat" (Sung by Sharon Lynn /Frank Richardson/ danced by chorus); "If I Had a Talking Picture of You" (sung by Farrell, Gaynor and children); "I'm a Dreamer, Aren't We All" (sung by Gaynor); "Anytime You're Necht of a Broad Moonlight" (sung by Marjorie White) and "If I Had a Talking Picture of You" (sung by Farrell and Gaynor).
Had SUNNYSIDE UP been a silent, there would be no doubt that "I'm a Dreamer" would have become its theme score. "Sunnyside Up" is a lively tune where Gaynor sings, shuffles and concludes with her jumping over a hat during the 4th of July festival. Being one of the hit tunes of the day, it was later vocalized for its closing to the 1973 comedy PAPER MOON (Paramount) starring Ryan and Tatum O'Neal. "Turn on the Heat" gets the production number treatment at the society party consisting of risqué lyrics and energetic dancing. As for the "Talking Picture" song, it's quite timely, considering its introduction during the advent of "talking pictures." With a considerable amount of movie extras filling out the crowd scenes, look for future child star Jackie Cooper as Jerry Maginnis as the little boy reciting a poem at the block party. The actor playing Joe Vitto, undertaker and master of ceremonies, is enacted by Joe Brown, whose name can sometimes be linked or confused with famed comedian Joe E. Brown. Marjorie White and Frank Richardson are agreeable as the secondary couple supplying fine comedy relief.
While many references label SUNNY SIDE UP with the running time of 81 minutes, it's surprising to find it's actually 122 minutes. In spite of its length, the movie moves briskly and surprisingly doesn't have that primitive appearance as most first talkies have prior to 1930.
Formerly available on video cassette in 1998 by Critic's Choice Video Masterpiece Collection, television revivals for SUNNY SIDE UP have been extremely rare. Aside from limited broadcasts at some local public broadcasting channels in the early 1990s, it became part of cable TV's American Movie Classic's annual film preservation festival that took place appropriately enough in July 1996, and finally Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: December 21, 2010). Regardless of its age and "corny" situations, SUNNYSIDE UP is still an entertaining antique. This, along with DELICIOUS (1931), another musical featuring Gaynor, Farrell and Brendel, should be an appropriate companion piece if ever considered as part of a double feature presentation on DVD. (***)
"Sunny Side Up," a major hit in its day, still entertains probably
because of the combination of a winsome leading lady (Janet Gaynor), a
game director (David Butler) and last but not least an integrated
script and score, both created by DeSylva, Brown and Henderson at their
creative peak as a trio.
The film opens with a much admired, ambitious crane shot that explores a crowded tenement street, peering into open windows and back out to the cobblestones. Much of the action is stagey and a bit forced, but the spirit behind it is admirable and prefigures a more elaborate and technically slicker sequence in "42nd Street" a few years later. This opening panorama of a certain section of society is echoed later when the action shifts to a garden party at a Southampton Estate.
The sweet-natured story involves a poor working girl (Gaynor) who dreams of pairing with a wealthy high society gentleman (Charles Farrell) whose picture she spots in the newspaper in relation to a charity function. Since this is a movie from the late 1920s with DeSylva, Brown and Henderson songs, her Cinderella dream comes true, making it all the more appropriate that she sing the best song in the film, "I'm a Dreamer, Aren't We All" not once, not twice, but three times, and always to stunning effect despite her weak and wavery vocal chords. She also manages to pull off a dandy vaudeville dance number in a street fair scene. Her leading man, Farrell, fares less well, though he transmits innocence and sincerity as well as a clear and melodious song delivery. Marjorie White and Frank Richardson contribute great supporting energy as pals of Gaynor.
Other outstanding songs are "If I Had a Talking Picture of You" and "Turn on the Heat," the latter a playfully erotic concept wherein Eskimo women are so sexy that they melt their icy surroundings, transforming them into steaming, and eventually flaming, tropics. It is the only big production number in the film, the others being focused on one or two performers in medium close-up.
When I purchased this movie, I expected it to be a dud, from all the bad press it has received. But it is actually very funny, entertaining, and charming. I especially liked Bea's character, and the motorcycle chase at the end was hilarious. I also thought that Charles Farrell did an excellent job his Cape Cod accent fits this character perfectly. It's great!
Did Busby Berkeley view this film before making THE GANG'S ALL HERE
(also at Fox)? The "water curtain" effect is exactly the same...the
production number is also set on a Long Island estate...the heroine
sings a sad solo number to the audience at the benefit...there are big
inflated bananas. It's hard to imagine this wasn't at least an
inspiration for his big Technicolor triumph.
SUNNY SIDE UP defies all the expectations you have of early sound musicals...it's lively, well acted, funny and--get this--beautifully photographed. If you have only been exposed to pioneering musicals like THE Broadway MELODY, THE SINGING FOOL, and SHOW OF SHOWS, this will feel like it arrived from Mars. Time has been kind to Janet Gaynor, who had a marvelous range (see her in Murnau's SUNRISE) and was almost devoid of the usual affectations and Talkie mannerisms. She gives a beguiling performance here. And as an added bonus: one of the most insane of all pre-Code musical numbers.
The great reviews don't lie. See this!
Sunnyside Up lays claim to the fact that it is the first original
musical for the screen. It might very well be and if so deserves no
small credit to the score that the Broadway team of
DeSylva,Brown&Henderson wrote for it.
It also was the talking debut of the Fox screen team of Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor. They do sound a bit arch for today's taste, but at this time nearly everyone on the screen sounded that way. There singing voices are pleasant, but nothing else. But the screen chemistry is unmistakable.
The plot is typical for a stage musical at the time involving a poor girl falling for a rich boy. Farrell is the society kid who almost runs down a kid in Gaynor's neighborhood in the city. She takes him and he gets the bright idea to bring her out to Southampton to make his prospective fiancé Sharon Lynn jealous. But it all works too well as Gaynor goes for Farrell big time.
The thin plot is just an excuse to hang several musical numbers at the society party in the Hamptons and at a block party in the city which was the case for stage films. As Sunnyside Up was written directly for the screen, they didn't have to rewrite it to disguise any stage origins. Although Gaynor and to a lesser degree Farrell do their numbers most of the singing and dancing is taken up by Sharon Lynn and friends of Gaynor, Marjorie White and Frank Richardson.
The two best known songs I'm A Dreamer Aren't We All and If I Had A Talking Picture Of You were a couple early records that Bing Crosby did with the Paul Whiteman band. They are probably the best known recordings from this score.
Sunnyside Up still retains a lot of the charm it had even if its overacted for today's audience taste.
This movie is so entertaining. Janet Gaynor is sweet but doesn't make you sick. She does some great dancing, funny thing is she does some moves you would see Fred Astaire do but he wasn't even in the movies when this movie came out, so I guess it's true when they say nothing is really new, someone has done it before. I didn't even know Janet could dance and sing. I can see why she was considered America's sweetheart and the personification of an young American girl, many felt she was a positive role model and introduce a new image unlike wild Clara Bow. Marjorie White, she has yet to disappoint me in any performance she gives. She steals just about every scene she's in but the whole cast holds their own. Marjorie was a great comedienne and so pretty. She was the first musical comedy star in my eyes. I wish more spotlight is put on her and her films. She's as better or up there with Carole Lombard, Patsy Kelly, Lucille Ball, and Thelma Todd. Marjorie is a natural. She died young and tragically in 1935. This is a nice little movie, Hollywood don't do movies like these anymore, innocent but not saint and it's so entertaining and charming. Like the other reviewer I thought it be a dud to. Just about all the stars of the movie sing and dance to sweet songs. Sharon Lynn sings a sweet song. Frank Richardson is a riot. Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor were the top screen couple in the early 1930's. Farrell couldn't seem to get out of that shadow. Movie fans always wanted to see them together, it was a hard for either to break and do other things. This is a nice movie to enjoy with your family, it's a change from what we see on TV today. Oh another thing to point out is I think Marjorie White was the first to say a curse word in a major movie. She said "hell" It's not really bad but it had my jaw drop because I never heard any stars say that in early movies, its such an innocent time, of course I wouldn't be shock by it today, people use worser words then that but it was funny and cute coming from cutie pie Marjorie White.
This was the first talkie for Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor, who starred in numerous romantic silent films together. Their chemistry is wonderful. This film was also one of the first film musicals. The supporting cast is terrific and there's a fun cameo by little Jackie Coogan who recites a poem (or at least starts to recite). The "Turn Up The Heat" dance sequence is a hoot. Very pre-code sensual with chorines writhing on the floor and palm trees complete with bananas shooting erectly up out of the floor (the movie theater audience howled) . Saw this film today at The Museum of Modern Art here in NYC as part of their "To Save and Project" series. The film has been beautifully restored and future generations will now be able to see this "classic" pristine print. Thank You MOMA.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Sunny Side Up" (Fox, 1929) has its heart in the right place. It teams
silent screen romantic stars Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, and asks
them to sing for their supper this time. Farrell is no Sinatra, and
Miss Gaynor is no Doris Day... but they can both carry a tune, and
their charm takes us the rest of the way.
Miss Gaynor plays Molly, a working girl who lives in a New York tenement, but always has her "sunny side up." She's a smiler. And she never smiles more prettily than when she sees a newspaper photo of her idol, handsome Long Island millionaire Jack Cromwell (Farrell). She tears his photo out of the paper and keeps it.
Fate brings these two polar opposites together, and they click, but for different reasons. Cromwell invites Molly to his estate to make his girlfriend jealous -- and she goes, properly chaperoned by her gal pal, Bea, and two male friends; but Molly goes because she has fallen for Jack and incorrectly believes he loves her too.
Of course the two get together at the end, after a lot of singing and dancing, and the usual romantic mixups are accounted for and straightened out.
There's a big-scale production number involved, in which dozens of girls, led by Sharon Lynn, dance and sing "Turn on the Heat." It opens with all the girls in an arctic setting, wearing heavy parkas and eskimo boots; but, as the weather heats up and their igloos melt, they shed their outer clothes and wind up in bathing suits, basking in a tropical paradise complete with palm trees and coconuts.
The music and story of "Sunny Side Up" were written by the formidable trio of Lew Brown, Buddy DeSylva, and Ray Henderson. Songs include the title tune, plus "I'm a Dreamer (Aren't we All?)", and the now standard "If I Had a Talking Picture of You."
Dan Navarro (firstname.lastname@example.org)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Sunny Side Up" was the first full length talkie to feature "America's
Favourite Sweerhearts" - Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell - and Fox
spared no expense, hiring top song writers Da Sylva, Brown and
Henderson. Although Gaynor and Farrell had already appeared in a couple
of movies with talking sequences, rumours abounded that their voices
were inadequate. Even though in "Sunny Side Up" some critics scoffed
that they couldn't tell their singing voices apart, to me that made
them all the more charming. Fox also surrounded them with the top
supporting players from their roster. Critics raved about 4'10"
Marjorie White who was a cute Broadway comedienne and would brighten up
many movies until her untimely death in 1935. El Brendel was Fox's
resident "Swede" comedienne, who was extremely popular back in the
This movie depicts the poor as being energetic and happy with their lot - "I wonder what the poor are doing tonight" ponders Molly, which brings roars of laughter from her friends, who are sitting down to a "feast" of bread and beer. The rich are shown to be gossipy, two faced and mired in convention.
The film opens with a stunning crane shot that pans the camera over different families in the tenement where Molly (Janet Gaynor) and her peppy pal Bee (Marjorie White) live. Molly dreams of one day meeting her Prince Charming and she already has him picked out - he is high society guy, John Cromwell (Charles Farrell). She even sings a song to express her feelings - "I'm a Dreamer, Aren't We All" in a sweet, plaintive and wholly captivating voice, while accompanying herself on the zither. As she looks at the camera she makes you believe. Meanwhile the real Johnny is celebrating with his fiancée, Jane (Sharon Lyn) at Long Island - she sings "You Find the Time, I'll Find the Place". Jane is not going to let her marriage cramp her flirting style and John, despondent, wants to find an old fashioned girl. He drives off in a huff and after almost running down a small child, wanders forlornly into Molly's flat - who thinks all her dreams have come true.
The big event is the block party where the first song is a novelty number, "You've Got Me Pickin' Petals Off Daisies", sung by Bee and her boyfriend (a singer in the Al Jolson tradition, who is sometimes hard to take). Jackie Cooper has a bit part as a tenement kid trying to recite "The Village Blacksmith". Molly is the star attraction with the rousing "Sunny Side Up" - she does a little dance and gets everyone to join in. John thinks she is pretty swell too and wants Molly to come down to Long Island and sing in a charity show.
He passes Molly off as a visitor from Detroit society and initially the ruse works but a chance remark about "paying the rent" and word soon spreads that Molly is John's "kept" woman. The charity show starts off with the fabulous "Turn On the Heat" number. Sharon Lyn, dressed as a cute Eskimo, sings about "heating up poppa or poppa will freeze" and also about being his "little radiator". For 1929 it was really spectacular - the Northern lights flash, cuties come out of igloos, suggestively dancing so the igloos melt, their fur coats disappear, revealing scanty costumes and turning the North Pole into a volcanic island that blazes into fire, forcing the girls to jump into the water. Truly stupendous.
After that the love ballad "If I Had a Talking Picture of You", is a bit anti climatic, but Molly looks beautiful and it is also sung by a group of small children dressed as brides and grooms - one little groom even pepped it up with a boop, boop a doo chorus. The rest of the movie is filled with mistaken feelings as Molly flees back to the East Side after fearing she was made a fool of. This movie is full of magical moments ie when John is gazing at Molly's photo, which then comes to life and tells him that "You've Got Me Pickin' Petals Off Daisies"!!!
Highly, Highly Recommended.
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