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Aspiring songwriter George Harris works as a harried soda jerk at an extremely busy soda fountain counter. His boss, Mr. Adams, threatens to fire him if he doesn't pick up his speed of service. When Adams sees him fraternizing with a customer instead of doing his job, he fires him. That customer is singer Sally Ray, who is currently in rehearsals for a new Broadway stage musical. After listening to George's music, Sally and her colleague Elsie try to get George's songs into the show. Regardless of what Mr. Hayburn the director says, Elsie thinks she's got a plan to involve George into the show. Could this chance be the start of George's rise to stardom, or is it just a pipe dream? Written by
I'm Sally Ray. I'm rehearsing with the Frank Green show over at the Gaiety.
Sally Ray? Say, I remember you. You're a singer! I used to see you on Vaudeville.
Yes, when there was Vaudeville.
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Here's an enjoyable Vitaphone short that packs several musical numbers, a wisp of a plot, and a modest supply of laughs into a tight twenty minute running time. The leading man is a comedian named Georgie Price, who was prominent in Vaudeville and musical comedy in the 'teens and '20s. Unlike some of his contemporaries such as George Burns, Jack Benny and Bob Hope, Price did not transfer his stage appeal to comparable fame in movies or broadcasting, so he became a footnote in theater history while those other gents are still remembered. Price was a petite, energetic comic who comes off like a combination of George Jessel and Eddie Cantor, both of whom were his co-horts from childhood days in the famous stage kiddie act of Gus Edwards. Seeing as how our leading man grew up in show business it's appropriate that this vehicle for his talents is built around that ever popular theme: the young performer who makes his Broadway debut as an unknown but comes backyes, a star!
Soft Drinks and Sweet Music opens at a Manhattan drug store where Georgie is a lowly soda jerk, but we quickly learn that he's also a gifted songwriter who yearns to get his tunes heard on Broadway. Perhaps the best thing about this short, as with so many other Vitaphone mini-musicals, is that things happen fast! This one kicks off with a cheery number featuring the drug store's waitresses (back when they served meals in drug stores), and before you know it, Georgie is flirting with a cute young lady named Sally who was formerly a singer in Vaudeville "when there WAS Vaudeville," as they ruefully note. Soon Georgie is fired for flirting with a customer, but she takes him back to her place for an impromptu performance of his latest song. Sally's roommate is a dancer who is appearing in a show that needs a new number, so she whisks him to the theater to play his tune for the director. And gee, before you can change the scene with one of those nifty optical effects, the show is underway and Georgie is wowing the house.
The highlight of the show is a parody of old-time melodramas, something of a familiar target in the movies around this time. Georgie plays the dastardly villain with a black top hat and a big mustache, having the time of his life as he hams it up mercilessly. Fans of W.C. Fields will certainly get a sense of déjà vu when the villain exclaims that "it ain't a fit night out for man nor beast," and then gets hit in the face with a handful of fake snow. (Oh well, Fields probably borrowed the bit from some old melodrama, himself.) This all culminates in a salute to that 19th century stage perennial Uncle Tom's Cabin, complete with an array of dancers all attired as characters from the story. Viewers familiar with the musicals of Busby Berkeley won't be fazed by the sight of a stage filled with multiple versions of Tom, Topsy, Little Eva, and Simon Legree, all singing and dancing in unison: just another bizarre tableau brought to you by the folks at Vitaphone. Georgie follows it with a stand-up routine in which he tosses off some excellent impressions of Jolson, Cantor, Harry Richman, and Ed Wynn.
It's not too surprising when Georgie's whirlwind Broadway success turns out to have been a dream, and we find that he's still Georgie the lowly soda jerk. There's an inside joke at the end however, albeit an accidental one. In the final moments before our hero wakes up, he's being courted by several prosperous producers who want to sign him to lucrative contracts. In reality, Price left show business not long after this film was made and became a stockbroker. He traded Broadway for Wall Street, and wound up as wealthy as his character in Soft Drinks and Sweet Music could ever dream of being. (In later years he did perform again on occasion, on stage and TV.) Perhaps Georgie Price the forgotten comedian had the last laugh after all.
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