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Newspaperman Bill Bradford becomes a special agent for the tax service trying to end the career of racketeer Alexander Carston. Julie Gardner is Carston's bookkeeper. Bradford enters ... See full summary »
Temperamental saloon singer Freddie Jones, jealously shoots at her cheating boyfriend Blackie but mistakenly hits Judge Alfalfa J. O'Toole's honorable behind, forcing her to skip town under the guise of a schoolteacher.
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Rick and Dot, two penniless New Yorkers, meet and fall in love in Central Park. Promising to meet later, they separate. Dot is picked up by small-time hood Nick Sarno, posing as a police ... See full summary »
Jean Paurel is a womanizing opera star, who agrees to help Diana Page her career in order to take advantage of her. But instead he finds falling in love with her. To complicate matters, ... See full summary »
It is surprising that so few motion pictures dramatized the phenomenon of the crooner during the heyday of that singing style. Aside from a handful of features with plots revolving around actual "crooners" like Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee, the cultural phenomenon of "crooning" - the quiet, intimate delivery of songs by male vocalists which swept America along with the rise of radio as a mass medium - was seldom explored. CROONER is a modest, low-budget, sketchy treatment of this subject. As put together, the story could have, with minor adjustments, just as well have been about a banker, an author or an acrobat or any other professional on the rise, but it happens to locate itself in the popular music world. It says very little of substance regarding the evolution of popular song but does make a few points about the trends of its time.
The plain vanilla David Manners gives an occasionally effective performance in the title role as the saxophone playing leader of a mediocre college dance band who discovers he has a marketable singing voice when he reluctantly subs for the band's ailing vocalist. With the help of his girlfriend (Ann Dvorak) and a publicist she knows (Ken Murray) he achieves overnight fame which over-inflates his ego, creating a crisis which is resolved by film's end. We are repeatedly reminded that his singing appeals to women and offends men, a more or less accurate reflection of the general attitudes towards sotto voce male singers of the period. This state of affairs is crystallized in an amusingly twisted way in a brief sequence during a nightclub performance: an effeminate man praises the crooner ("I think he's superb!") after which his companion, a masculine woman, declares "He's lousy!" The Ken Murray character illustrates how music industry professionals regarded "crooning": he tells Manners to his face that he dislikes his singing, but if the female public buys it he is willing to promote it for 25 percent.
Manners gets interesting after fame goes to his head and he starts behaving in an effete, pretentious manner, which suits his talents. He should have played more haughty, shallow parts, but he was usually cast as a romantic lead and made only a faint impression, and his film career evaporated too soon.
Warner Bros. squeezes every last drop out of a mere two songs: "Sweethearts Forever" by Cliff Friend and Irving Caesar and "Three's a Crowd" by Harry Warren, Irving Kahal and Al Dubin. Inoffensive as they may be, they are repeated excessively. Manners does all of his "singing" into a megaphone, relieving him of the chore of lip-synching to the dubbed voice of Donald Novis. Earlier in the story when Manners is called upon to pretend he is playing a sax, his cheeks don't even move. Director Lloyd Bacon, whose 42nd Street made film history shortly after this effort, handles talking-head dialogue scenes well enough, but his staging of a mini-riot lacks real vigor.
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