President Franklin Roosevelt appoints a theatrical producer as the new Secretary of Amusement in order to cheer up an American public still suffering through the Depression. The new ... See full summary »
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President Franklin Roosevelt appoints a theatrical producer as the new Secretary of Amusement in order to cheer up an American public still suffering through the Depression. The new secretary soon runs afoul of political lobbyists out to destroy his department. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <email@example.com>
With the country in the throes of the Great Depression, the President calls upon a celebrated Broadway impresario to become the first Secretary of Amusement, in the hopes that Americans can beat hard times by learning to smile, laugh, and, eventually, STAND UP AND CHEER!
It is always vital when examining old films to try to be sensitive to their context within their own time frames. Important movies of 70 years ago may look terribly trite now through absolutely no fault of their own. Judging by today's standards can often lead to pitfalls.
That having been stated, however, it is difficult to appreciate this film without seeing it for what it is: undeniably silly. And racist. And even a bit bizarre at times. But it contains one great jewel...
Earnest Warner Baxter & lovely Madge Evans certainly give the plot a try, but the script is dead set against them all the way, making him encourage hillbilly singers as the remedy for the nation's economic woes and having her mope about lovelorn & lonely.
As Aunt Jemima, blackfaced singer Tess Gardella (very popular at the time on Broadway's Show Boat) and especially Stepin Fetchit are embarrassingly stereotyped. It should be noted, however, that this sort of racial belittlement was not unusual in the Hollywood of the 1930's.
The physical, knockdown humor of Frank Mitchell & Jack Durant, playing a couple of zany U. S. Senators, is very odd & no longer funny. Odder still is the penguin that thinks he's Jimmy Durante.
Familiar faces show up from time to time - Nigel Bruce, Ralph Morgan, little Our Gang kid Scotty Beckett, warbling John Boles
but they are quickly submerged by the plot.
In the midst of all this clutter of mismatched parts, when all might be given up for lost, comes five-year-old Shirley Temple and she is an utter joy.
Shirley had already appeared in a series of features & shorts. But it was here, singing & dancing - and completely obliterating poor James Dunn who played her father - that the situation was ripe for her to march straight into the nation's heart. In 1935 Shirley would begin to star in her string of classic family films, and, with the death of Marie Dressler in July of 1934, the mighty moppet was to begin her reign as Hollywood's number one box office attraction.
So, with the arrival of Shirley Temple, we do indeed have much for which to STAND UP AND CHEER!
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