|Index||7 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.
When Gloria Swanson sang Love Your Magic Spell Is Everywhere in The
Trespasser Hollywood discovered she had a great singing voice. Sad to
say though that this film adaption of Jerome Kern and Oscar
Hammerstein,II's Broadway show Music In The Air was the only film that
really exploited her vocal talents.
In fact we're lucky that this film was made at all. It was right about now that German subjects became not very popular. Sigmund Romberg's The Student Prince had to wait until 1954 for a film version. Among the Jewish moguls in Hollywood, Germany was now symbolized by its Fuehrer and his goosestepping sycophants.
Music In The Air is set in Bavaria in the small village of Elmendorf where Al Shean has written a song inspired by a bird call that becomes I've Told Every Little Star. Shean is an old friend of a music publisher in Munich and he and daughter June Lang and her bashful beau Douglass Montgomery head there to see if he can get the song published.
Shean and his old friend Reginald Owen get the song inserted in a new operetta. But Lang and Montgomery become pawns in the diva like machinations of John Boles and Gloria Swanson, a talented but always quarreling couple. Lang winds up with the lead in the show, but does she have the right stuff?
Music In The Air is one of Jerome Kern's best and most beloved shows which theatrical companies still produce. As is usual the show's score was cut to ribbons. I've Got Every Little Star which is the focal point of the whole show had to stay. But what possessed the folks at Fox to cut The Song Is You from the film? I'm sure lots of people who plunked down their Depression Era nickels to see this film were royally disappointed at not hearing The Song Is You. John Boles was supposed to sing it and I'll bet he was more than disappointed when his number was cut.
By the way part of the Jerome Kern legend is that he actually did hear a bird call the way Al Shean does in the film and got the idea for I've Told Every Little Star. Shean is the only member of the Broadway cast to repeat his role for the film.
The film version of Music In The Air will I fear be a disappointment to fans of Jerome Kern's music as I am. Nice the film got made at all, but without The Song Is You it is most incomplete.
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.
In many ways this is a very strange film. After all, three expatriates
who escaped Europe due to the rise of Hitler all were major factors in
creating this film. Joe May, Erich Pommer and Billy Wilder all worked
to direct, produce and write this film...a film which brings us an
incredibly idealized and Hitler-free version of Bavaria! In this fairy
tale land, everyone is happy, there's no repression and militarization
simply doesn't exist. I wonder how these three men felt about this. Was
this their homage to the Germany they used to love or did they feel a
bit dirty for producing such a pasteurized view of modern Germany? Who
knows...all I know is that having these three men being responsible for
bringing the play to the big screen is interesting.
As for the film, it has LOTS of music...lots and lots. And it's not necessarily the enjoyable type by today's standards--being the operatic style popularized by Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy. Still, the main song is very hummable and the plot slight, but enjoyable. Plus, while her voice was not brilliant, I was surprised because Gloria Swansen appeared to actually be singing in the film...competently. Overall, a silly but enjoyable piece of fluff that is a nice time passer about folks learning to accept their lots in life. I can see why this film did nothing to help the career of Erich Plommer, as it wasn't a bad film but an easy one for the studios to ignore...as well as his subsequent efforts.
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