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Modern Cinderella, A (1932)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Warner short has Ruth Etting playing a poor shop owner's daughter who is sent to a lavish party so that she can deliver a dress to a rich girl. The stuck up one doesn't like the dress so she has Etting put it on who eventually gets mistaken for "one of them" and is asked to sing. When Etting's name is brought up today it's usually because someone is mentioning Doris Day who played her in the classic LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME. This here was my second or third short with Etting and I'm pretty much in the middle. There's nothing bad about her but then again there's nothing overly great either. She doesn't have the greatest voice in the world but it is a unique one and I did enjoy her big number here. The film is well directed by Mack who keeps everything moving and the 17-minutes really flew by. The supporting cast wasn't overly strong and that includes the comedy relief by the drunks.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ruth Etting was the lady whose life was featured in the film "Love Me
or Leave Me"--and she was played by Doris Day. Here in "A Modern
Cinderella" you get a chance to see her for real--a lady who made a
decent career as a singer but had limited exposure in Hollywood and
mostly only made musical shorts.
The film begins with her playing the daughter of a very stereotypical Italian costume shop owner. Ruth is told to take a dress to a posh party--where she finds that the lady ordering the dress is a nasty piece of work who refuses to use the outfit. When Ruth offers to model the dress, she is mistakenly assumed to be a guest at the part and the folks get her to sing a number (how did they know she could sing?). Then, comes a nice surprise ending.
Overall, while this is a far from brilliant film and I found I wasn't a fan of her singing, it was a pleasant diversion and the ending had a nice payoff. For fans of old time lounge singers, this will probably be a bit more enjoyable. And, if you are like me and like spotting celebrities before they were famous, you'll get a kick out of Brian Donlevy's over-the-top performance as a far from subtle drunk...who, inexplicably, drives Etting and her film father home after the party (yikes).
I've seen a number of Ruth Etting shorts and have never really understood what was so great about her. She was a below-par actress and a passable singer. She certainly is not the singer that Doris Day portrays in "Love Me or Leave Me". In this short, she portrays the daughter of an Italian tailor who must deliver a gown to a socialite for a party. At the party, she is asked to sing. This is where we get her two musical numbers. The comedy in this short is mild at best and the supporting players do not add much. Ruth Etting does not give anything to her role; she is not funny and it seems that she is reading her dialog. I suppose her poor acting kept her in shorts and in guest spots in features. The Brooklyn Vitaphone short subject unit was never a great studio for comedy. They tried, but they rarely succeeded. They did not use Bob Hope properly and gave Shemp Howard some very bad material. This is just another in the series of comedy misfires from Vitaphone.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
. . . from TV Land's ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE show. "Cinderella" (a.k.a. Anita, played by Ruth Etting) is a bigger thief than Goldilocks ever thought of being. She crashes the ball, only to discover that the prince is a drunken boor. She leaves her rags in the princess' boudoir, and waltzes out of the castle in Her Majesty's new clothes. Just then, the King and Queen return, sending the princess--their daughter--to the kitchen with no bedtime. Meanwhile, Anita must return to the House of Italian Fashion to keep her brother Pinocchio company. Since she has outgrown her strings to become a "real girl," Lars or Geppetto or whomever her Pops is whistles for her (shrilly, since her hearing is not as sharp as a dog's). In an ironic plot twist of Art imitating Life, the second guy appearing in this 17-minute live action Vitaphone short is the latest in a long string of "Anita's" voice coaches. Teacher and parent agree that as far as singing goes, Anita is a hopeless case, just as most 1930s movie-goers must have decided for themselves about quirky-voiced Ms. Etting. If cooks back then forgot to restock their dill seasoning, all they needed to do was to play an Etting recording to sour their Cukes.
The chance to see Ruth Etting one of the great singers of the 20s and
30s who did not make too many films is not to be passed up. Even in a
short subject like A Modern Cinderella and I have to say that Ms.
Etting's acting was not as good as her singing.
Ruth plays the daughter of an Italian tailor played by Adrian Rosley who makes Chico Marx's Italian look like a Renaissance Prince. He asks his daughter to rush deliver a gown over to a swank party.
When she models the gown, she gets invited to the party by the chauffeur a most tipsy Brian Donlevy. Where she delivers a couple of songs in good Ruth Etting style.
Etting never did really make it in Hollywood. Her life turned out to be a great subject for a great film where Doris Day played her. Best you see her in the Eddie Cantor classic Roman Scandals where she has a big Sam Goldwyn/Busby Berkeley production number No More Love.
It's easy to agree with the other reviewers that Etting wasn't the
greatest singer and that this short is sub-par in many ways. Shorts,
however, were shown between the main features and Etting was primarily
a radio star--perhaps the first woman to fully become a radio-based
celebrity. It's hard to know what she really sounded like--the
technology of the day doesn't compare to now and if you listen to the
spoken dialog it's just about as tinny as the vocals.
But I was very surprised to see the bit of creative film-making in the middle of this short. I'm referring to the scene where Etting is filmed sitting singing into a mirror. We see her sing through her reflection. Then, the mirror image changes and the frame around the mirror becomes a screen into which Etting and the audience can see, as if by remote surveillance video, the other characters going through their motions elsewhere. This was a common understanding at the time of what television would look like when made available. It also pretty well encapsulates Jacques Lacan's notion of the mirror stage--that place where the real and the fantasy bump against each other when desire comes out to play.
Not a great short but always interesting to find hidden gems of cinema making no matter where Hollywood buried them at the time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The two previous comments on this short seem to have the basics covered
pretty well here. There are a couple of things I would mention. Painful
stereotypes were fairly typical in Hollywood in the 1930's. They can be
kinda tough to watch today. On heavy display in this one were Italian
immigrants and "funny drunks". The "lovable lush" type of characters
actually lasted well into the 1970's with Foster Brooks carrying the
longest torch. By the 80's people finally realized that alcoholism
really wasn't that funny. But at least Brooks WAS funny. The two drunks
in this short had nothing funny about them.
There is a slight plot twist at the end involving our snooty rich woman (playing the evil stepmother role) and the two drunken buffoons at the ball, but it does little to improve this story. We hit the end credits with the two drunks driving our modern Cinderella and her "wats amatta you?" father home in a car, (also not particularly funny or politically correct).
For me, the only strong point of the short was watching Brian Donlevy
portray a drunk in way over-the-top fashion. He manages to provide the
only point of interest in this insufferable take on the Cinderella
Vitaphone produced some really dated musical shorts in the '30s and this is certainly one that lacks a decent script. Much of the humor is today regarded as politically incorrect, particularly the overdone Italian accents and the drunken routines that are supposed to be very funny.
The only originality comes in the "mirror" scene with Etting seated before what looks like a huge TV screen (a mirror) gazing at the party and imagining herself as being introduced as a singer.
Her voice is small and tinny (thanks to the bad sound recording of the era), but it's her acting that is really atrocious. She sounds like a Brooklyn dame trying to sound high class and reading her lines with flat delivery. Nothing at all like the woman who would portray her much later on--Doris Day.
So much for Vitaphone and their Ruth Etting shorts. This has got to be one of the worst. The lifeless songs are no help.
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