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 <email@example.com>
Al Jolson insisted on singing the opening number Vive la France live on set, as he claimed it would be impossible to do the song justice if was filmed miming to playback, in order to deliver it with the excitement and verve that only he could bring to it. Even though this presented considerable technical problems, Warner Brothers agreed (that's the real studio orchestra actually on set playing the house band of the Wonder Bar) and this is one of the very last musical numbers to be performed live on camera. See more »
[rolls eyes as two men dance off together]
Boys will be boys, woooo!
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The opening credits appear as the respective actors enter the nightclub through a revolving door. See more »
In 1931 Al Jolson went back to Broadway to star in a new show Wonder Bar. It got good reviews, but as it was the middle of the Great Depression the costs proved too much and it closed after two months.
Not like any great hit songs came out of it for Jolson, but Warner Brothers decided to buy it for him as a film property. The plot line was changed somewhat and a whole new score was written for the film by Warner Brothers contract composers Harry Warren and Al Dubin.
Jolson got as one of his co-stars Dick Powell who was the screen partner of Mrs. Jolson, Ruby Keeler. Although Powell was fifth in the billing, he was number one in the song department. His songs included Don't Say Goodnight, Why Do I Dream Those Dreams and the title song. Powell plays the orchestra leader at the Wonder Bar and helps Jolson in the vocal department.
Between Jolson and Powell in the billing are Dolores Del Rio, Ricardo Cortez, and Kay Francis. Del Rio and Cortez are a pair of tango dancers and both Powell and Jolson are crushing on her. She is hopelessly infatuated with Cortez. And Kay Francis is a rich woman who Cortez has been seeing on the side.
Ricardo Cortez was one of a number Rudolph Valentino wannabes during the silent screen era and in Wonder Bar, he's as nasty a heel as ever been portrayed on the screen.
Wonder Bar was produced right before the Code took effect and there are lots of sexual innuendo in this film. Of course it's set in Paris and one expects decadence there. But apart from a few newsreel shots to establish Paris as the location, this was all done on the Warner back lot.
Jolson got three songs of his own, Vive La France, Otchichornya, and the infamous Heaven on a Mule. It's as bad as everyone makes it out to be.
Al Jolson got his start at the turn of the 20th century in live minstrel shows which were still around then as a runaway kid. When he became a star on Broadway, he played black characters on stage in blackface. And for reasons that I still can't fathom, would not leave it behind. I'm sure that in his mind, Jolson felt this was what the audience expected from him.
It's worse because Heaven on a Mule adds zero to the plot. In a Parisian nightclub, I'm sure the audience was not expecting a blackface number. Remember this was the Paris that Josephine Baker was triumphing in at that point in time. It might have been nice had Ms. Baker or Ethel Waters had done a real number, Wonder Bar would have a better historic reputation today.
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