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I LIVE FOR LOVE (Warner Brothers, 1935), directed by Busby Berkeley, a
showcase for Everett Marshall, then a well known radio singer with a
rich baritone singing voice, and one motion picture (DIXIANA in 1930)
behind him, makes his second and final screen appearance. Marshall, who
is virtually unknown today, makes a better singing performer than an
actor as Berkeley makes a better choreographer than a non-musical
director. But I LIVE FOR LOVE, with the title sounding more like a Kay
Francis-George Brent tear-jerker, is a musical but without those lavish
scale production numbers that made Berkeley so famous. Marshall, who
has a somewhat physical resemblance to singer/actor Harry Richman, was
lacking as a leading man, and like Richman, had a short stay in the
motion picture business.
The plot involves Roger Kerry (Everett Marshall), who, after gaining some attention from passersby on a crowded street by helping out three struggling street musicians (Eddie Conrad, Shaw and Lee) by singing "Oh, Marie," lands himself a co-starring role when picked out by producer Howard Fabian (Berton Churchill) to appear in an upcoming play starring the famed but temperamental South American actress, Donna Alvarez (Dolores Del Rio). Because Donna wants Rico Cesaro (Don Alvarado), the man she loves, to be her co-star, she makes life difficult for Kerry, now working under the professional name of Owen Jones, by telling him he's a bad actor, thus, causing him to quit. His failure as a theatrical actor leads to success when discovered by George P. Henderson (Guy Kibbee) of Henderson Soap Company, to hire him to sing on his radio program, where, performing under his real name, wins fame and fortune. The duration of the story finds Donna and Roger constantly being pitted together either on radio or in public for publicity reasons, causing the feuding actress and radio singer to finally fall in love and make wedding plans. But after learning about this, the producers as well as Jim McNamara (Allen Jenkins), the publicity agent, agree that once these two get married, their careers will lead to ruin, so the possible solution is to do their best and break up their relationship.
A good but forgotten score written by Mort Dixon and Allie Wrubel, all sung by Everett Marshall, includes: "Mine Alone," "I Live for Love," "A Fella Has to Shave," "Mine Alone" (reprise); "Silver Wings" and "Mine Alone" (Reprise, finale). Of the songs, "Mine Alone" gets the most reprises, and heard through instrumental underscoring during the tender moments of the story. If "Mine Alone" sounds overly familiar, it's the same score used for the motion picture drama, DANGEROUS (1935) starring Bette Davis in her first of two Academy Award wins as best actress. "Mine Alone," first sung on a radio program by Marshall, is later reprised with Marshall singing the tune while playing the piano, with Del Rio listening attentively. In spite of some reprises, on a personal note, the film's best song near the end with Marshall's tender ballad of "Silver Wings," where he introduces at the Casino Cafe under the spotlight to his audience, including Del Rio, with close-ups of her smoking her cigarette, and Alvarado. Like the movie itself, the songs are virtually forgotten.
With Busby Berkeley as sole director, it is apparent that his then resident home studio of Warner Brothers wouldn't allow him to do more than direct "B" movies when insisting on directing other than dance numbers. With the exception of GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935 (1935), which had Berkeley directing both story and musical numbers, he rarely got the opportunity at that studio to direct a major movie sans music. The musical interludes to I LIVE FOR LOVE consisted of singing. The only time it broke into a production mode was with "A Fella Has to Shave." It's not a number performed in a theater, but might as well be. It begins after Marshall gets out of the shower and into his robe, where his associates, the street musicians (Conrad, Shaw and Lee) and his press agent (Allen Jenkins) have a little fun bursting into song, singing and dancing around, whether on top of the furniture or with each other. It concludes with the three men wearing lamp shades, and after Marshall hits that high note, the lamp shades fly off their heads and land one by one on top of Marshall's head. A really silly number that provides limited or no solid laughs at all.
With Marshall and Dolores Del Rio as the major performers, what helps I LIVE FOR LOVE get by are its familiar roaster of Warner Brothers stock players, which consists of Hobart Cavanaugh as Townsend C. Morgan; Mary Treen as the Maid; but most important, Guy Kibbee, pleasing but likable screen personality, along with Mexican actress Dolores Del Rio's dark-haired featured beauty, makes this, and any movie, worth watching and rediscovering.
I LIVE FOR LOVE plays occasionally on cable station's Turner Classic Movies. While it's a sort of movie that could have been better that what it is, as it stands, is quite brief at 64 minutes, and makes a passable time filler. (**)
The generic, meaningless tile is a tip-off. Everett Marshall has no
screen presence. He may have been a popular radio singer but what he's
given here is dull and repetitious.
The ravishing Dolores del Rio is made up too heavily and essentially miscast. Lupe Velez, who was at another studio, would have been much for fun. So would any number of Warner Brothers stars. Glenda Farrell, Winifred Shaw, Joan Blondell -- all of them could play temperamental divas in their sleep.
It's hard to think hat Busby Berkeley had anything to do with this movie, which has no real dancing and has no style. It would have been better, right from the start, had there been a couple other female characters. Del Rio has no one to bounce off. And Marshall certainly is no help.
...but I was somewhat perplexed. This movie might have been OK if
someone other than Everett Marshall had been the leading man - say Dick
Powell for example. Mr. Marshall was an excellent singer but had
absolutely no chemistry as a leading man here and therefore no
chemistry with lead Delores Del Rio. What were they thinking when he
was cast as a romantic lead? Fortunately, Marshall is given frequent
opportunities to exercise his excellent vocal chords. Unfortunately, a
big part of the plot is Marshall's character, up and coming radio star
Roger Kerry, feuding with Del Rio's character, dramatic actress Donna
Alvarez - for apparently no reason. This is followed by the pair
abruptly falling madly in love - again, with apparently no reason and
no build up. Of course the pair's radio sponsors are pleased when a
romance sparks between the two - it means great publicity. However,
these same sponsors are equally displeased when the two decide to wed.
Corporate meddling in affairs of the heart and complications ensue.
Although directed by Busby Berkeley, you won't see any of the hallmarks of Berkeley's films in which he was dance director. There are no big numbers of any kind. There is a very annoying number in the middle of the film that I had to finally fast forward to get through - "A Man Has To Shave". It's made annoying by the attempts made at comedy throughout the number by the three street singers that accompany Kerry from unemployed singer to stardom. The Three Stooges these three are not.
The positives in this film include the excellent comic support - and by support I do mean they're carrying this thing - given by reliable contract Warner Brothers players Allen Jenkins and Guy Kibbee. This film is a good example of the many B and B- features all of the studios churned out in support of their bigger and fewer A releases, which is a custom that continued until TV took away the audiences for the multitude of smaller films such as this one.
The stars are foils for the fabulous supporting cast in this film --big name stars in the credits an hilarious reference to one of the movie's plot mechanisms, in which a big name star supposedly adds luster to a radio program. The supporting cast stars in this film, an acerbic send up of show business, both theater and newly popular radio. The film smacks by-then-dead vaudeville, then places both high toned "thea-tuh" and radio in the same category. With focus almost entirely on the supporting cast, who have all the great lines and embody the satire, the film moves at a good clip, challenging us not to give a hoot about the "stars'" love story. I found this film absolutely hysterical and laughed out loud through the whole thing.
Everett Marshall only appeared in two films, this one and "Dixiana".
While he was the leading man in each, he chose a different career path.
He was a great operatic singer and simply chose to stay on the big
stage where he made a fortune and gained fame. In hindsight, I think
that was an excellent choice--especially since this sort of singing
would only last in films until the early 1940s with the Jeanette
MacDonald and Nelson Eddy films.
Marshall plays Roger Kerry--a singer who is about to become a radio sensation. However, his introduction to the American public isn't perfect as the show also featured Donna (Delores Del Rio), a very tempestuous stage star herself. They immediately take a dislike for each other but both are very successful over the air. Then their respective agents come up with a plan...play up their hatred to manipulate them and get the public to love them. They also then spread the story that the two have just fallen in love...though they hate each other. But, in a case of art imitating life, they do fall in love. But what will they each do? She has Broadway calling to her and he places like the Met. What's to become of them and their careers?
The story works reasonably well because the supporting actors are quite nice. But the story bogs down for me when the stars break into song...mostly because the singing, while great for the 1930s, is very old fashioned and dull when heard today to most folks. Still, a clever story makes it enjoyable in spite of the high-brow singing.
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