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Sweet Adeline (1934)

Approved  |   |  Musical, Romance  |  29 December 1934 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.7/10 from 165 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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Title: Sweet Adeline (1934)

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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 »


Why Was I Born
(1929) (uncredited)
Music by Jerome Kern
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Played on piano by Donald Woods and sung by Wini Shaw at the beer garden
Reprised by Irene Dunne at the beer garden
See more »

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User Reviews

Soaring songs, sputtering story
21 August 2000 | by (Chicago) – See all my reviews

Chock full of sweet melodies by Jerome Kern, this lavish period musical takes Irene Dunne from Hoboken to Broadway, but in a tin-lizzie of a plot. Set in 1898, in a world of beer gardens and theatres, the film works up plenty of nostalgia -- with horseless carriages, Edison's new "pho-no-graph", and even an audition by "that Jolson kid" ["He'll never get anywhere"]--but self-consciously drops these references in like lead weights. Meanwhile, the screenwriter tries out a tiresome conflict of stage career vs. disapproving papa, then a wholly disposable spy subplot, and finally settles on a dull love triangle.

Irene Dunne supplies much-needed star authority to hold it together, but seems baffled that she has no plausible leading man - where is Cary Grant? -- and no plausible scenes to play. Still, she is a professional, and delivers a surprisingly affecting "Why Was I Born?" In return, she enjoys a knockout wardrobe in white organza and feathers from Orry-Kelly

But what pallid consorts she gets! The erstwhile leading man is Donald Woods, an estimable actor [memorable as Bette Davis' brother in WATCH ON THE RHINE], but here positively evaporating off the screen whenever a stronger personality shares the scene. His songwriter character, when allowed a frame to himself, comes off as callow and egotistical. In the third corner of this love triangle, Louis Calhern-moustachios a-twirl-- plays a military recruiter for Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, but also fades into the scenery.

Luckily, the music keeps coming, one verging-on-operetta tune after another, staged with a clear Busby Berkeley influence. An amusing Sultan's palace number has a basso trying to sing through the chaos of rehearsal. There's a beer garden singalong of "Polka Dots"; a parade of hansom cabs for "Twas Not So Long Ago"; and hordes of dancers in chiffon enact "Lonely Feet". Appealing Irish tenor Phil Regan [why didn't HE play the lead?] joins Irene Dunne in a country bower filled with flowers, swans, twinkling stars and girls on daisy-swings in "We Were So Young". Finally, and imaginatively, a torn-up score is used for a charming ending with "Don't Ever Leave Me". [Yes, the title tune --not by Kern---is briefly sung.] Throughout, Sol Polito's camera tracks from pretty pastorals to hard-edged dance numbers, but always bathes Irene Dunne in flatteringly soft light for big juicy movie-star closeups.

The heroes behind the scene are the editors at Warners, chopaholics in the 1930's, who made every frame of film fight to stay in the picture. This produced razor-fast comedies [like FIVE STAR FINAL] and gangster operas [like BULLETS OR BALLOTS], while protecting the product from harried and unimaginative directors. [Indeed, when director Mervyn LeRoy moved to MGM, his films slowed to a lumbering pace]. Here, the editors relax for the leisurely musical numbers, but seize their scissors again every time the plot surfaces, winning our applause for speeding us through the creaky parts.

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