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Underworld king Lee Lother has been killed aboard a ocean liner, several people could have been the murderer. There is his mistress Anya Roysen, a married woman, who was jealous of his flirtations with his old moll, night club singer Sally Marsh, who had agreed for one last night with Lother, to get her younger brother Ned out of the Lother's clutches because he has faked Lother's name on a check to pay his gambling debts. Then there is Sally's new flame Jimmy Brett, a con man and gentlemen thief, who has out-tricked Lother in a fixed poker game, and is, together with shorty, after the ladies jewels. Inspector McKinney suspects Joe Saunders, a recently released convict, who was arrested due to some tips by Lother, but Ned and Sally insist that they committed the crime alone. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
TRANSATLANTIC MERRY-GO-ROUND (Reliance, released by United Artists, 1934), directed by Benjamin Stoloff, produced by Edward Small, is pure thirties entertainment featuring numerous radio and screen personalities of the past whose names are almost forgotten today.
The story, told in flashback, is set on an ocean liner involving numerous passengers, including a Jimmy Brett, a jewel thief (Gene Raymond), Sally Marsh, actress (Nancy Carroll), some loan-sharks (Sidney Blackmer, Sam Hardy and William "Stage" Boyd), and a jealous husband (Ralph Morgan) out to spy on his unfaithful wife (Shirley Grey) by becoming a stowaway in a lifeboat. A murder later occurs which causes Inspector McKinney (Robert Elliott) to take time off from his vacation to gather up all the suspects.
In between the scenario, radio comedian Jack Benny as Chad Denby, with Nancy Carroll perform a spoof of MGM's GRAND HOTEL (1932); Mitzi Green singing "Oleo, It's Love" while impersonating actor George Arliss; the three Boswell Sisters singing "Rock and Roll" two decades before that term became standard to 1950s music, as well as "If I Had a Million Dollars"; along with a production number or two, save one biggie, "It Was Sweet of You," done in Busby Berkeley type-fashion, but choreographed by Larry Ceballos and Sammy Lee, including dancing girls, overhead camera shots with the chorus doing geometric figures. On the lighter side of "comedy relief," there's Patsy Kelly as a wisecracking passenger who participates in a shipboard skit; Sid Silvers as Raymond's sidekick posing as a cabin boy who hides the stolen jewels; and Sydney Howard as the passenger drunk who never sobers up for an instant during the duration of the entire story. And if any curious viewer wants to see a Nancy Carroll movie, this is possibly the only one of hers made available. What a shame that she isn't better known today especially since she was one of those top named Paramount stars of the 1930s (who at times resembles Paramount's own Sylvia Sidney). Carroll's career sadly faded after leaving Paramount, appearing in some forgettable programmers before accepting minor assignments in two 1938 releases.
TRANSATLANTIC MERRY-GO-ROUND was distributed on video cassette in 1987, became part of the "Nik-at-Nite Movie" which played after the midnight hours on Nickelodeon prior to 1988, and later returned to cable television for a while on American Movie Classics from February 2, to November 13, 2000, before disappearing from view.
It spite of its shortcomings, TRANSATLANTIC MERRY-GO-ROUND is enjoyable sort of movie quite common during the Depression era. (**1/2)
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