Harry and Inez are a dance team at the Wonder Bar. Inez loves Harry, but he is in love with Liane, the wife of a wealthy business man. Al Wonder and the conductor/singer Tommy are in love ... See full summary »
Harry and Inez are a dance team at the Wonder Bar. Inez loves Harry, but he is in love with Liane, the wife of a wealthy business man. Al Wonder and the conductor/singer Tommy are in love with Inez. When Inez finds out, that Harry wants to leave Paris and is going to the USA with Liane she kills him. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One scene gave the censors some consternation: A man asks a couple if he can cut into their dance, and while the woman says, "Sure!" and rushes towards him, he dances away with her partner. Upon hearing this, Al Jolson says with a twinkle in his eye: "Boys will be boys!" Warner Brothers refused to cut the scene (and it exists today in the Turner Classic Movies print). At the time, the Production Code was not rigorously enforced. Surprisingly, however, the movie was approved for reissue in 1936 despite this homosexual scene and the fact that someone gets away with murder, both clear violations of the Production Code. See more »
[rolls eyes as two men dance off together]
Boys will be boys, woooo!
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Lighten up! This is a great movie and Jolson's great in it
I love "Wonder Bar." I love it in all its vulgarity and I even love the "Goin' to Heaven on a Mule" number despite Busby Berkeley's seeming determination to include virtually every ridiculous racist stereotype of Blacks. "Wonder Bar" seems to me to be one of the few Berkeley movies (like "Gold Diggers of 1933" and "Footlight Parade") whose plot is genuinely interesting and entertaining in itself and not just an excuse to set up the spectacular numbers. The alternation between drama and comedy which bothers some of the other reviewers is one of the best things about this film; it gives it a contemporary quality even if some of the numbers badly date it. Lloyd Bacon's direction is unusually stylish for this generally hacky filmmaker, the Harry Warren/Al Dubin songs are at least serviceable and sometimes better than that, and though Warners was dubious enough about Al Jolson's continued popularity that they surrounded him with an all-star cast (Dick Powell, Kay Francis, Dolores del Rio, Ricardo Cortez), he triumphs.
One thing I've always loved about Jolson is that -- unlike Eddie Cantor and other contemporaries, who sang in blackface exactly the way they sang in whiteface (viz. the Cantor/Berkeley "Whoopee!") -- Jolson didn't. In his whiteface number in "Wonder Bar," "Vive la France," Jolson's voice is a shrill high tenor with an annoyingly fast vibrato. His singing on "Mule" is in an almost different style: he drops his register, slows down his vibrato, sings from deeper in his chest and genuinely tries for -- and, I think, achieves -- the simple, direct eloquence of the Black singers of the time. Whatever you think of Jolson's blackface act (and I'll admit it dates VERY badly), blackface liberated Jolson and freed him to sing in a deeper, more soulful style. One could make the case that Jolson did for Black music what Benny Goodman and Elvis Presley did later -- as a white performer he could reach audiences Blacks themselves couldn't -- and Jolson actually did it twice, in the 1910's when he got his start on Broadway and the 1940's when the success of "The Jolson Story" launched his comeback. White audiences tired of the bland "crooners" of the early 1940's seized on Jolson's direct, ballsy style, and his comeback paved the way for other Black-influenced white singers like Frankie Laine, Johnnie Ray and Elvis.
Also, if you'll dig out your copy of the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack CD and listen to the 1928 recording of "Big Rock Candy Mountain" by Harry McClintock and you'll find that the fantasy of heaven in the "Mule" number isn't all that different from the one in this song ("where the hens lay soft-boiled eggs ... and they hung the jerk who invented work") by a whiteface performer aimed at a white audience. O.K., so no one would dare do a number like this today, but "Mule" is still astonishing and, despite the patronization, worthy to stand as the one Jolson/Berkeley collaboration.
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