An ambitious girl who wants to be a cabaret star poses as "Zaza", a French chanteuse, to get a job in a prestigious nightclub. Unfortunately, she finds herself in the middle of a dispute ...
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An ambitious girl who wants to be a cabaret star poses as "Zaza", a French chanteuse, to get a job in a prestigious nightclub. Unfortunately, she finds herself in the middle of a dispute between Mike Kelly, the club's Chicago-born owner, and a group of American gangsters bent on taking over the club. To put pressure on Kelly, the gangsters kidnap "Zaza". Written by
As a female comedian, Cicely Courtneidge's performing style was somewhere between those of Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett. Like both of them, Courtneidge tried to get laughs out of elaborate costumes, in her case involving ludicrous over-sized hats. As with Joan Davis (who was much funnier and far sexier), Courtneidge's comedy routines often involved dancing and slapstick. Her stage and film comedies always involved extremely contrived plot lines. Her career peaked at roughly the same time as Bea Lillie's, and these two performers were frequently compared. But in fact Bea Lillie's most famous routine -- the 'double dozen double damask dinner napkins' -- was originated by Cicely Courtneidge (which explains why Lillie never performed this routine in Britain). Courtneidge's usual sidekick in her antics was her husband Jack Hulbert, who complemented her in roughly the same way that Desi Arnaz backed Lucille Ball. Hulbert was dark, handsome, urbane, and made some attempt -- never successful -- to keep his wife's antics earthed in reality.
Very late in her life, Cicely Courtneidge gave a deeply touching dramatic performance in 'The L-Shaped Room', as a wistful old lesbian from the variety halls. Regrettably, this one good performance was preceded by several decades of daft slapstick. It's not surprising that the Monty Python gang used Cicely Courtneidge's name to get a cheap laugh in one of their comedy routines.
'Along Came Sally' lacks Jack Hulbert but is otherwise absolutely typical of Courtneidge's work. She plays Sally Bird, an Englishwoman who combines the worst traits of the characters played by Gracie Allen (she's brainless) and Lucille Ball (she's got the showbiz bug but is utterly untalented). Sally applies for a job in a London nightclub, only to discover that some American gangsters (with guns!) are trying to take over the joint. Of course, she decides to stop them. Somehow, this involves her pretending to be a French performer from the Folies Bergere, cried Mademoiselle Zaza. That name is funnier than anything else in this movie.
The most interesting thing about 'Along Came Sally' is this film's depiction of American gangsters, with all the English stereotypical perceptions of such characters. The gangsters are played tolerably well by American actors, including Sam Hardy as the gang's leader. One of the henchgoons is well-played by Ben Welden, a semi-Edward Brophy character actor from America who got his start in British films before showing up at Warner Brothers. Less well-cast here is Hartley Power, an American character actor long resident in Britain, who usually played ineffectual roles. It doesn't much help that the American gangsters' dialogue is filled with Anglicisms. As 'Zaza', Courtneidge's attempts at a French accent are laughably bad without actually being funny. This entire movie bears an odd resemblance to the Groucho Marx/Carmen Miranda movie 'Copacabana', made a few years later.
I'll rate 'Along Came Sally' 3 points out of 10, mostly because I'm a fan of 1930s comedy in general. This film is firmly in that mode, but not nearly up to the high comedic standards of that decade. For some reason, 'Along Came Sally' is listed on IMDb as 'Aunt Sally'. In Britain, an 'Aunt Sally' is any empty personality that exists for the sole purpose of being knocked down or ridiculed. Well, that description fits this movie.
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