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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Welcome to the WONDER BAR! Your host, Al Wonder (Al Jolson) promises you the finest music & entertainment Paris can offer in this wonderful year of 1934. Our featured dancers, Harry & Inez (Ricardo Cortez & Dolores Del Rio) will thrill you with their passion; they say that Inez adores Harry, but that he, a true gigolo, loves only money. Seated on the sidelines is a wealthy married woman (Kay Francis) who is supposedly giving Harry diamonds for his affections. Al loves Inez, as does his boy bandleader & crooner Tommy (Dick Powell). And if you glance over at the bar you'll see a French Captain (Robert Barrat), bankrupt, disposing of his last cash & valuables, hinting darkly that we should not miss tomorrow morning's newspapers. Al himself will of course entertain us with a selection of tunes sung in his inimitable style. Yes, I think we can promise you an evening you won't forget, full of waltzes & romance, love & hate, murder & suicide! Right this way, mesdames & messieurs!
Released just prior to the imposition of the Production Code, this neglected film is an example of too much talent & not enough taste. Sex in several illicit forms seems to preoccupy much of the dialogue & plot (watch the reaction on Jolie's face as the two young men dance past him). Some of the references are a bit sly, others obscure, but the decadence lingers on...
That having been said, the film does have strengths. Jolson is wonderful to watch. His outsized personality was too big for any screen to hold; nonetheless, his talent to entertain was immense & he doesn't stint here. Francis (she has little to do) & Del Rio are both lovely and Powell is in good voice. The comedy is handled by two American couples, Guy Kibbee & Ruth Donnelley and Hugh Herbert & Louise Fazenda, who bicker and flirt and have almost nothing to do with the rest of the plot.
Al Dubin & Harry Warren provided some good tunes for the picture. Powell sings 'Why Do I Dream Those Dreams?' & 'Wonder Bar' - while Jolson sinks his teeth into 'Welcome To My Wonder Bar/Vive La France.' Busby Berkeley was the dance choreographer and he provides one of his finest creations, 'Don't Say Good-Night' (featuring the talents of Powell, Del Rio & Cortez), with the Berkeley hallmark: identical blonde chorus girls in swirling precision movements filmed from above, this time endlessly magnified by mirrors. It is gorgeous.
On the other hand, Jolson, Berkeley, Dubin & Warren must take responsibility for one of the most outrageous sequences of the decade (looking back with hindsight). 'Goin' To Heaven On a Mule', which makes the Celestial City look like a honky-tonk Harlem populated by the Hall Johnson Choir, is amazingly racist & fascinatingly vulgar, a definite smudge on First National/Warner Bros. reputation.
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