Curly Flagg, Philadelphia nightclub dancer, witnesses a murder and runs away to avoid being held as material witness. Landing in Princeton, she hides out in a college dorm, decked out in men's clothes and haircut by students Paul and Buzz. Soon, converging on Princeton are: 1) publicity men for Buzz's dad's movie studio; 2) Paul's irate fiancée Frances; 3) killer Mugg, who wants to rub out Curly. By the time they arrive yet another girl is after Paul: Midge, the dean's daughter. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
SHE LOVES ME NOT (Paramount, 1934), directed by Elliott Nugent, based upon the hit play by Howard Lindsay, is a college farce with music that has comic similarities to play and motion picture titled CHARLEY'S AUNT, only in reverse, where a girl in this production, played by the unlikely Miriam Hopkins, hiding on campus disguised as a boy.
The movie begins with the opening titles and credits over the view of a Princeton University in which off-screen students are heard singing "Three Cheers for All, That's All." Then while the credits are still imposed on the screen, the scene changes focus to a nightclub in Philadelphia where Curly Flagg (Miriam Hopkins) is singing and dancing to a jive number, "Put a Little Rhythm in Every Little Thing You Do." While she is doing her tap dance, gun shots are heard and a man falls dead, causing excitement and screaming among the patrons. Because Curly happens to be the closest one to witness it, and not wanting to get mixed up in a gangland killing, she sneaks away from the nightclub and heads straight to the nearby train station. With only 75 cents to her name, Curly uses it to buy a ticket going as far as Princeton University. After arriving at the university, Curly, quite hungry, comes upon an open window where she finds Paul Lawton (Bing Crosby), a student who not only writes songs, but is studying to become a surgeon. Paul then encounters Curly, and with the help of his roommate, "Buzz" Jones (Edward J. Nugent), the two young men decide to help Curly by cutting her hair and dressing her up as one of the boys. Complications ensue in trying to keep Curly from giving herself away. Later, Lawton meets Midge Mercer (Kitty Carlisle), the dean's (Henry Stephenson) daughter, and becomes very much interested in her, in spite of he being engaged another girl, the snobbish Frances Arbuthnot (Judith Allen). The rest of the plot focuses on the gangsters who, after learning of Curly's whereabouts, coming to Princeton to try and kidnap her, and Lawton and Jones trying to prevent themselves from getting expelled shortly before graduation after the dean learns of what's happening.
SHE LOVES ME NOT was a highly successful comedy upon its release, but for now, comes somewhat forced, especially by Miriam Hopkins who is sometimes hilarious in her role, but then again her occasional screeching and screaming growing tiresome after a while. Aside from the usual college hi-jinx, the movie is presented with some nice tunes, mostly sung in good voice by Bing Crosby on the piano. In the supporting the cast are Lynne Overman, George Barbier, Ralf Harolde, Vince Barnett and Warren Hymer. Barnett and Hymer play gangster stooges hired by Harolde to kidnap Curly. Hymer's kidnapping methods comes off a bit strange here, for which he not only tries to get his victim unconscious by strapping a pillow over the girl's face, but for the men, forces them at gunpoint to drop their pants and leaving them in boxer shorts! Judith Allen, who was Crosby's featured co-star in TOO MUCH HARMONY (Paramount, 1933), appears in a secondary role as his fiancée as well as a kidnapping victim mistaken for Curly (Hopkins).
The songs composed for the movie include: "Put a Little Rhythm in Every Little Thing You Do" (by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel); "Cocktails for Two" (by Johnny Burke, Sam Coslow and Arthur Johnston, instrumental/ danced by Miriam Hopkins); "Straight From the Shoulder, Right From the Heart" (by Gordon and Revel); "Love in Bloom" (by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger, both sung by Crosby and Kitty Carlisle); "I'm Humming, I'm Whistling, I'm Singing" (by Gordon and Revel, sung by Crosby); "Love in Bloom" (reprise); "Three Cheers for All, That's All," followed by other traditional college songs; and "I'm Humming, I'm Whistling, I'm Singing" (reprise by Crosby). Of all the melodies heard in this production, only "Love in Bloom" became a solid hit. So popular, it was nominated for an Academy Award for the initial Best Song category of 1934. While it did not win that honor, losing to "The Continental" from THE GAY Divorcée (RKO), it soon became comedian Jack Benny's lifelong theme song in both his radio and television shows. Plugged twice in the story by Crosby and Carlisle, the reprise comes off quite memorable as the couple converse on the telephone in a split screen view with a telephone pole between them as the two decide to sing their love song together.
SHE LOVES ME NOT was remade by Paramount in 1942 as TRUE TO THE ARMY starring Judy Canova, Allan Jones and Ann Miller, in the Hopkins, Crosby and Carlisle roles; and again by 20th Century-Fox in 1955 as HOW TO BE VERY, VERY POPULAR with Betty Grable, Robert Cummings and Sherre North. All three are seldom seen these days, but to watch and compare all three, start with the original. (***)
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