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Sweet Adeline (1934)

Approved  |   |  Musical, Romance  |  29 December 1934 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.7/10 from 164 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 1 critic

In 1898, composer Sid Barnett manages to get his sweetheart, Adeline the beer-garden singer, to sing the lead in his new Broadway operetta; this infuriates Elysia, the erstwhile star. But ... See full summary »


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Complete credited cast:
Donald Woods ...
Sid Barnett
Rupert Rockingham
Ned Sparks ...
Dan Herzig
Joseph Cawthorn ...
Oscar Schmidt
Wini Shaw ...
Elysia (as Winifred Shaw)
Major Day
Nydia Westman ...
Dorothy Dare ...
Phil Regan ...


In 1898, composer Sid Barnett manages to get his sweetheart, Adeline the beer-garden singer, to sing the lead in his new Broadway operetta; this infuriates Elysia, the erstwhile star. But Sid frets as Adeline spends increasing amounts of time with the dashing Major Day. Written by Diana Hamilton <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Musical | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

29 December 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Tua Canção  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Like many film musicals adapted from stage successes of the time, the plot line and characters of "Sweet Adeline" bear only a faint resemblance to the ones in the original Broadway show. See more »


The action takes place in 1898, but two cast members sing the title song, "You're the Flower of My Heart, Sweet Adeline", which wasn't published until 1903. See more »


'Twas Not So Long Ago
(1929) (uncredited)
Music by Jerome Kern
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Sung by Joseph Cawthorn, Irene Dunne, Phil Regan, Hugh Herbert and Nydia Westman during the ride to McGowan's Tavern
See more »

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User Reviews

The Belle of Hoboken
23 December 2005 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

SWEET ADELINE (Warner Brothers, 1934), directed by Mervyn LeRoy, released January 1935, continues the cycle of backstage musicals that began successfully with 42nd STREET (1933). Breaking away from the usual Depression-era backdrop, Warners obtained the rights to an earlier stage play starring Helen Morgan, shifted its story to the turn of the century, and acquired the music and lyrics not by the current team of Harry Warren and Al Dubin, but by the more legendary names of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. However, in true Hollywood tradition, the screen adaptation strays away from the original adding material of its own.

Set during the Spanish-American war, circa 1898, the story, revolves around Adeline (Irene Dunne) a Hoboken barmaid and daughter of Oscar Schmidt (Joseph Cawthorn), a beer garden owner, who wants her to marry Major James Day (Louis Calhern), a man of title and wealth. However, Adeline loves Sid Barnett (Donald Woods), a struggling young composer who hopes to get his music published for an upcoming show for the Love Song Company. Barnett wants Adeline as his leading lady, but because her name isn't relatively known to attract an audience, he is forced to star Elysia (Winifred Shaw), a bad singer who happens to be a espionage spy. After the story shifts from Hoboken to New York City, Elysia, who loses the lead to Adeline, becomes resentful, coming between her and Sid, later making an attempt in having her meets with an "accident" during a performance.

The Music and Lyrics by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein include: "The Polka Dot" (sung by Dorothy Dare); "There'll Be a High Time in the Old Town Tonight" (sung by chorus in background); "Here Am I," "We Were So Young." "Why Was I Born?" (all sung by Irene Dunne); "Oriental Moon" (sung by the unbilled Noah Beery as the Sultan); "Molly O'Donahue" (Sung by Phil Regan); "Lonely Feet" (sung by Irene Dunne); "T'Was So Long Ago" (sung by Joseph Cawthorn, Irene Dunne, Phil Regan, Hugh Herbert and Nydia Westman); "Pretty Little Kitty Lee" (sung by trio); "Lonely Feet" (sung by Dunne/chorus); "We Were So Young" (sung by Regan and Dunne); "Down Where the Wurtzburger Flows" (sung by chorus); "Don't Ever Leave Me" and "Don't Ever Leave Me" (reprize, both sung by Dunne). Of the handful of tunes, only "Lonely Feet" and "We Were So Young" are given the production number treatment as choreographed by Bobby Connolly.

A backstage story with limited details of dress rehearsals, it's not precisely an exciting production, but does score points when it comes to nostalgia. Starring the sophisticated Irene Dunne, on loan from RKO Radio, it marked the beginning of her brief career in musical films. The others that followed: ROBERTA (RKO, 1935), benefited from the support of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; while SHOW BOAT (Universal, 1936), succeeds as being the best due to its reputation. A gifted soprano as she was in dramatics and later comedy, Dunne adds dignity to a story much needed of a better script. Donald Woods, who is best as a secondary performer than a leading man, does what is necessary to bring life to his character; Winifred Shaw as the femme fatal, sports an unconvincing accent that's supposed to be Spanish, but sounds more like the French actress Fifi D'Orsay; Louis Calhern as the debonair major who comes between Sid and Adeline, who in turn uses him to make Sid jealous, becomes the show's backer in order to win her over; Nydia Westman supports as best Adeline's friend who's love interest happens to be the befuddled Rupert (Hugh Herbert); the cute and pert Dorothy Dare as a singing female bandleader who appears in the film's opening and closing, having no connection with the story, while Irish tenor Phil Regan vocalizes during the dress rehearsals.

SWEET ADELINE amounts itself with some doses of amusement, including some inside humor, ranging from a little boy auditioning who turns out to be that Jolson kid, Al that is, along with reliable character actors Hugh Herbert and Ned Sparks (as the show's director) in their funny moments with their one-liners: Sparks: "See that step. It's a very hard step to do." Herbert: "Why do they do it?" (Sparks' reaction to that answer is priceless. Watch for it). And then there's Herbert's attempt to fool people with his disguises, now that he is Operator 66 for the Department of Justice, and being recognized anyway, does provoke some good laughs as well.

SWEET ADELINE, distributed on video cassette around 1992, and currently out of print, formerly shown on Turner Network Television during its early days of broadcasting that began in 1988, can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, especially on December 20th, as a tribute to Irene Dunne's birthday. The movie may not be perfect, but being more like a nostalgic trip down melody lane makes this 87 minute operetta palatable. (***)

6 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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