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STAND UP AND CHEER (Fox, 1934), directed by Hamilton MacFadden,
features Warner Baxter as Lawrence Cromwell, a Broadway producer who is
appointed by the U.S. president as secretary of amusement to rid the
country of the Depression blues. Madge Evans co-stars as Cromwell's
secretary, Mary Adams, and Arthur Byron as John Hartly, a corrupt
politician who wants to keep the Depression going so he can stay in
political power, but fails in trying to bribe Cromwell to give up his
An enjoyable Depression musical which reflects upon the people and the times, is noted virtually as a Shirley Temple movie. With Baxter and Evans enjoying more screen time, Temple, with her limitations to the plot, became an overnight sensation playing little Shirley Dugan, daughter to song and dance man, Jimmy Dugan (James Dunn). The musical numbers in STAND UP AND CHEER do not play for the audiences in the movie (there are none), but mainly to its viewers. The song and dance appears during the course of the story, beginning with Dick (billed Nick) Foran coming out of a front page newspaper as Baxter and Evans read the headlines, and singing "I'm Laughing," later sung by a cross-country of citizens, and concluding with Aunt Jemima (Tess Gardella) and chorus. Next comes "Baby, Take a Bow" performed by Dunn, a chorine, and Temple; "Broadway's Gone Hillbilly" (sung by Sylvia Froos and chorus); "She's Way Up Thar" (sung by John "Skins" Miller); "This Is Our Last Night Together" (an audition number, sung by John Boles and Sylvia Froos); and the big parade march of happy Americans singing "We're Out of the Red" (introduced by Foran as the Paul Revere bearer of good news on a horse riding across the sky).
As many classic movies in recent years have been nearly restored to its original length, such as the 1933 classic, KING KONG, for example, STAND UP AND CHEER seems to have never played in its entirety on television since the 1960s, and currently is the victim of further butchery. While the Stepin Fetchit segment, in which he encounters a penguin dressed, acting and talking like Jimmy Durante, has been restored, other scenes have been deleted, making the print in circulation since 1984 choppy and confusing. There's one scene in the story in which Baxter says "No" to Fetchit before hearing what he has to say. The violent gags of comedy team of Mitchell and Durant as U.S. senators are either trimmed or completely cut out. I was fortunate to have watched the complete version of STAND UP AND CHEER at a revival theater in New York City in the 1980s. Scenes missing from current prints are Aunt Jemima's introduction to "I'm Laughing," and Nick Foran's introduction to the finale, "We're Out of the Red." 'Skins' Miller, billed as the hillbilly, seen looking for a gal named Sally, bursting into song, "She's Way Up Thar," while Fetchit is out in the mountains with a butterfly net hired to get a hillbilly by Dinwiddie (Nigel Bruce), is completely gone. The closing cast credits is shown on screen in freeze frame and ends abruptly. Originally presented in theaters at 80 minutes, it can now be seen on video cassette (sometimes colorized) and on TV at the 69 minute length. A pity, because those seeing this for the first time today will think this is how it was presented to 1934 audiences, and it wasn't.
STAND UP AND CHEER, which formerly played on American Movie Classics from 1996 to 2001, can be seen once in a while on the Fox Movie Channel. While no great masterpiece, this is one movie that deserves restoration to its original 80 minute length to be fully appreciated. (**1/2)
This is a billed as a "Shirley Temple film," but it really isn't
because she hardly appears in it. In fact, she doesn't appear until
after 20 minutes have gone by, and then after the scene and a
subsequent dance routine with James Dunn, disappears again until the
very end. When she's here, she's as cute as ever, especially being so
Warner Baxter had the main role as "Lawrence Cromwell." He was assisted by his secretary played by a very pretty Madge Evans, whom I didn't know until trying to find out on this website because the video box doesn't even have her listed in the billing.
The rest of the cast included a couple of people I was familiar with from other roles, such as Nigel Bruce, who played Dr. Watson to Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes. We also have a lady who played Aunt Jemima and Stepin Fetchit, both a couple of embarrassing stereotypes of the period. I was never a fan of Fetchin, not for PC reasons but simply because of his whiny voice and stupid characters he played. He was the same here except when he dove into a fish tank, which made gave me a big laugh.
This film had a good share of strange characters but, despite that, overall isn't anything that memorable....perhaps because Shirley had such a small role.
With the country in the throes of the Great Depression,
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,
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!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The 80 minute version is the complete film not the cut 69 minute version. I've seen the extended film on TV more than 30 years ago and loved it. If it's still available ( the 80 min. version ) can it be released on DVD? I'm sure there are other admirers of complete Shirley Temple films. The missing scenes has a Hillbilly talking to the incomparable " Steppin Fechit ", whose job it is to locate and sign-up additional novelty acts for his boss Warner Baxster. The Hillbilly commences to sing " Well shes down thar, and I'm up yar...". We see his wife swinging an ax against a tree and taking out huge chunks at a time. Her description is that shes large with a corn cob pipe in her mouth. She calls to him " you who " and he responds the same way back.
I just watched this movie again, and I think it is wonderful. Shirley
Temple is adorable, as always. Madge Evans is terrific. She was way
underrated as an actress. She was so good in so many films; Dinner at
Eight , Beauty For Sale, and Mayor of Hell are a few that come to mind.
Warner Baxter is good, but his role does not offer him the acting
opportunity that 42nd Street did , one year earlier.
As for Stepin Fetchit, he is marvelous!!! The man was a comic genius. I rate him as good as Stan Laurel. People nowadays keep stressing the stereotypes of minorities in old films. That's true, but even so, actors like Fetchit displayed great talent. And didn't most comedians, of any color, play stereotypical roles? Silliness has always been a source of comedy, whether it was performed by Stepin Fetchit, Stan Laurel, Cary Grant, or Willie Fung.
I love the musical numbers! They are upbeat, and happy. my favorite one is not Baby, Take A Bow, but Broadway's Gone Hillbilly. I think that The Picken Sisters sing in this number, although they are not listed in the cast.
There's a famous story about President Herbert C. Hoover meeting Rudy
Vallee during the midst of his term which as we know coincided with the
Great Depression. Hoover supposedly said to Vallee it would be great if
he could sing some hit song that would make people forget their
troubles, economic and otherwise.
Well maybe that story got back to the ears of Will Rogers because he was the one who came up with the idea of a Cabinet position for Secretary of Amusement. Maybe Rogers had himself in mind for the job, he was sure doing it unofficially.
Fox was Rogers's home studio, but he makes no appearance here. Instead the president of the United States hires Warner Baxter for that job.
Baxter essentially reprises his role of Julian Marsh the driven director from 42nd Street. I guess the money from that hit show didn't last long for Baxter so he's got this job.
But can you imagine; instead of trying to get financial backers for a show, Baxter goes before a Congressional committee for an appropriation? I'm not sure which is a worse ordeal.
So the movie is Baxter trying to find a talent enough for a big extravaganza that will do what Herbert Hoover wanted from only one song.
Stand Up and Cheer survives today because of the appearance of Shirley Temple, on her way to becoming the movies' biggest box office attraction of the decade. She only does one number here, with hoofer James Dunn as her father. But it's one of her biggest, Baby Take a Bow.
If it weren't for Shirley, the film would have been a curious forgotten relic of some very tough times. Still it's worth watching for more than just Shirley Temple.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As you have probably guessed by now, Shirley Temple is the shining light in this rather hum-drum musical comedy. Composer, songwriter, producer Jay Gorney was ecstatic with his prized find, after auditioning close to 150 little girls for this picture. Shirley Temple was exactly what was needed to add some sparkle. As she was rushed into the production, the studio decided to save time, by having Shirley Temple teach James Dunn the dance routines she already knew, rather than teaching her something different. For the next five working days, she and Dunn rehearsed their routine between the few non-musical scenes she had to do. Finally, after lunch one day they were ready to film her song and dance with Dunn. Upon leaving the studio commissary with her mother, an excited Shirley skipped down the stairs, and slipped, falling head first onto the red-brick paving. A small cut on her forehead began oozing blood, a cold compress was immediately applied, but the lump grew larger as the ice melted. Filming was due to start, in desperation Mrs. Temple pulled one of her loose curls across the bump and plastered it down as a spit curl. It did the job, and after that it would always be fifty-six curls and one spit curl. "Stand Up And Cheer" was the big break Mrs.Temple had been waiting for and Shirley Temple was now on her way to becoming the biggest child star of all times.
The portrayals of African American characters in this movie are, as has
been pointed out, stereotypical, but I would like to suggest that where
the actors themselves are allowed to show their talents, they transcend
the stereotypes in ways even the filmmakers themselves recognized.
Take, for example, the show-stopping finale to "I'm Laughing," performed by Tess Gardella. There are a series of tableaux in this number, of various individuals all representing different marginalized groups: Immigrants, sweatshop workers, laborers of all kinds, all leading up to Tess Gardella herself busting out with the biggest, cheeriest performance of all, surrounded by a rousing, dancing chorus. It was clearly meant to recap the song's theme--if I can laugh, as downtrodden as I am, so can you--and to embody those who persevere and triumph over circumstance. With a swish of her ample hips and a gleam in her eye, Ms. Gardella triumphs.
The standard Stepin Fetchit routine has been analyzed everywhere, but let me just add that in this picture, the actor personifies African American resistance. In 1934 Black men were still not free from the vicious system of racial etiquette known as Jim Crow, and were therefore limited in the number of personae they were allowed to display. The genius of Stepin Fetchit is that he acts out the prescribed social role while frustrating those who prescribe it by withholding his intelligence and personality from the social interaction altogether. He slyly gives white people exactly what they demand,nothing more, forcing them to realize that perhaps that's not what they want after all. The resistance is his and the joke is on them.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A pointless attempt at a feel good musical has the silly premise of a secretary of amusement to cheer the struggling people of the depression. It sort of feels like giving a death row inmate ribeye steak just before pulling the switch. The highlights are the production numbers which includes Shirley Temple and James Dunn performing "Baby Take a Bow", the name of their next movie. "Broadway's Gone Hillbillv", which emulates "Oklahoma!" more than "Li'l Abner" in spite of some snazzy choreography. Warner Baxter basically repeats the same role he played in "42nd Street". Those hoping for a Shirley Temple movie will be sorely disappointed. She has the one musical number, a brief scene and a close-up in the special effects filled finale. A truly tacky scene has Stepin Fetchit confused by a talking penguin who sounds like Jimmy Durante. Aunt Jemima also makes a cameo appearance in the opening musical number. If it wasn't for the camp element, this would rank as a pointless, sometimes tacky bore.
To say that this is a bad film is like saying the Bubonic Plague of the
14th century was a minor inconvenience! Aside from some adorable acting
by a very young Shirley Temple, there really isn't much to like about
this film. They even manage to make good actors like Warner Baxter look
pretty bad since the film is terribly written and the variety acts are
a bunch of no talents.
The film begins on am embarrassing note. Warner Baxter's character is supposed made 'Secretary of Entertainment' by the President. The problem is that the guy sounded nothing like FDR--nothing! And the idea of a Secretary of Education!! Uggh! This is just a thinly disguised plot in order to fill the movie with one god-awful variety act after another. Among the terrible acts is a 'Hillbilly music' number, John Boles singing a terrible love song that could only have helped to INCREASE the divorce rate and an embarrassingly bad number where they imitate Jimmy Durante (you gotta see this--its awfulness is impossible to adequately describe). There also are some extremely racist numbers with 'Aunt Jemima' (actually Tess Gardella in black-face) and Stepin Fetchit behaving like a sub-human--just to guarantee that any black person watching the film would become disgusted and angry.
This film was ostensibly designed to lift folks spirits during the Depression. Is it any surprise then that the Depression would continue for another eight years!!! I think it's no coincidence!! Overall, a godawful mess of a film only of interest to Shirley Temple-philes. Otherwise avoid like the plague! Don't say I didn't tell you!! "Stand Up and Cheer" only manages to earn a 2 because of Temple's charm and talent. But, considering she's barely in the film, there just isn't ANYTHING else to recommend this turkey.
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