|Index||5 reviews in total|
Pleasant musical comedy from the stage given a big boost by terrific
performances by Gloria Swanson and John Boles. They play a bickering
couple who get involved with a naive younger couple from an alpine
village. And all the bickering revolves around a new operetta and who
will play what parts. Familiar plot and OK music. The real attraction
is the funny and charming performance by Swanson in the last starring
film of her 20-year reign in Hollywood. Like Indiscreet and Tonight or
Never, this should have been a hit but Hollywood legend tells us that
after The Trespasser, Swanson's next five talkies flopped. Why? Her
films were well made and her voice was superb. She had a singing voice
reminiscent of Irene Dunne's. Music in the Air was a hit on Broadway,
but who knows what was cut for the film version. The stars are joined
by a solid supporting cast: Douglass Montgomery (better than usual),
June Lang, Al Shean, Jed Prouty, Joseph Cawthorne, Reginald Owen,
Marjorie Main, Sara Haden.
Swanson and Boles (usually so stiff) have so much fun as they throw themselves into their roles it's hard to resist. The two had starred in the 1927 silent film, The Love of Sunya. Hard to understand today why Swanson's career crashed. She made one other film between this one and her great success in Sunset Boulevard in 1950.
This may be the Hollywood debuts for German director Joe May and writer Billy Wilder! So although Music in the Air was a flop in 1934, in 1949 when Wilder was searching for the perfect Norma Desmond, Swanson's name was at the top of the list. Legend has it Mae West was the first choice for the role, but Swanson got and turned in the film performance of the century.
A whimsical, agreeably carefree Lubitsch-inspired operetta that has pleasantly melodic Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein music, a lyrical fairy-tale German setting, and a fine romance with an eccentric cast of characters. The stars, with their charm and enthusiasm intact, are joy to watch. Gloria Swanson and her bickering partner John Boles are secondary to the young vibrant couple, played by a handsome Douglass Montgomery and a lithesome June Lang. Montegomery's role as the school teacher Karl Roder in the German village may be the most cheerful role he has ever played. The most tuneful song "We Belong Together" is so melodious and beguiling that you might want to see the film again and again so you wouldn't forget it. Although the film was made for Fox and directed by the implacable German émigré Joe May, this kind of frothy European-style operetta is reminiscent of those by Lubitsch. The difference is that Lubitsch's operettas show irony and feeling for its characters, whereas Joe May's movie is merely a frou-frou, an inconsequential fluff only to showcase the musical talents of its first-rate cast.
Here we find various famous talents converging at the height of their fame and appeal. Where has this film been all these years? This was a big Depression stage hit for the Master, Jerome Kern, and one of his equally accomplished partners, Oscar Hammerstein II, and transferred to the screen with much of the original delight intact. Definitely a slight tale from a much more innocent era, the story is literally a competition between a team of singing divas each latching onto an attractive, naive, and somewhat star-struck fan visiting from a small Tyrolean mountain village. If it weren't so well done, you might call it all "kitschy," but the result is so sincere that one gets swept up. There are marvelous moments, but surprisingly, not too many involving the famous star, Gloria Swanson, and her handsome sparring partner John Boles. Nothing wrong with their singing, which is, well, glorious! It's the "Diva" act. Although they just skirt going over-the-top on many occasions, there is an overall lack of punch, with too many blasts sailing over their targets. There's a lot of layered shouting, as if everyone were struggling to "work the screwball angle." The best moments are enjoyed during the lush and enchanting music, and in the scenes involving the village, particularly the school-room sequences with teacher and leading bucolic Douglass Montomerey, who turns in the best performance I've seen him give, with not a hint of that namby-pamby, self-pitying, "gloomy Gus" he specialized in. Here he is robust, cheerful, positive, and often found wearing the complete Tyrolean mountain-climbing uniform, which he definitely had the legs to wear. Indeed, he, along with his fellow villagers June Lang and Al Shean, make an energetic, thoroughly entertaining lot, much better at mining the script than their more sophisticated counterparts. The settings are impressive, the period detail attractive, and the costuming, particularly Miss Swanson's wardrobe (although Mr. Boles is decked out to the nines as well), is sensational throughout. Director Joe May pulled off an impressive feat, bringing together unlikely, if somewhat battered giants like Kern, Fox, and Swanson, and making them work so beautifully together. I believe if you enjoy Lubitsch, or European flavor musicals of that era, you'll certainly appreciate this picture.
This was an excellent adaptation to film from the stage hit by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. The opening Alpine scene reminds you of a later film, "Sound of Music". A strong screenplay by Howard Young and Billy Wilder that avoided becoming too saccharine.Gloria Swanson was given top billing as a tempestuous German Prima Donna and she did all her own singing which was quite good. She really was a hoot in her role and she really was a natural for comedy. John Boles plays the show's lyric writer and is suave as ever and sung on his own rather well too. Douglas Montgomery is fun to watch. He's a little bit on the goofy side and his songs were dubbed by a James O'Brien. June Lang played the heroine trying to break into show business but fails. Her vocals were dubbed as well by a Betty Hiestand. Ms. Lang showed great effort but like her character she played, doesn't quite cut it. Perhaps she took the same advice and went home. We never heard from her again. Al Shean is also a classic act as the Poppa.
This is a lightweight piece of musical fluff- very stagebound from the
Broadway hit as it is transferred to early musical film. The libretto isn't
much and only one of the seven songs became a hit - I'VE TOLD EVERY LITTLE
STAR. However, it is the star personalities that make this a delightful
Gloria Swanson and John Boles are the protypes for Fred and Lili Graham, the feuding husband and wife leads in KISS ME KATE. Here they perfectly assess the comedic and vocal requirements of their roles and play them to the hilt. As the young male lead Douglass Montgomery gives one of his finest performances, full of joy and innocence. June Lang fares somewhat less as the ingenue support, registering neither talent nor personality. Al Shean does his usual Charles-Winniger want to be turn as the old song writer. Marjorie Main has a silent role as Swanson's maid.
The score contains two dances and the songs: SCHOOL PRAYER; BEYOND THE HILL; WE BELONG TOGETHER; I'M COMING HOME; ALL ALONE; ONE MORE DANCE; and the hit I'VE TOLD EVERY LITTLE STAR.
A must-see for Swanson fans - after seeing this and TONIGHT OR NEVER, it stll baffles me why she wasn't a big talkies star - she could do anything - drama, comedy, musical - with flair and inventiveness. It was certainly our loss.
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