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Entertainers enter a political rally to get out of the rain and become part of the show. One of them (Powell) gives a speech in place of the besotted candidate (Walburn) and is chosen to be the candidate by backers he later exposes as crooks. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
Excellent Musical in Political Arena with Two-Fisted Wisecracking
A fine-tuned crooner, two dancing sisters, a fast-talking agent, a gin-soaked gubernatorial candidate and an unemployed orchestra troupe collide with a pack of corrupt officials in this well-honed production, often classified as "the greatest political comedy of the Great Depression."
But, in a broader sense, it may well rank as the most entertaining political satire in film history.
Thanks a Million (20th C Fox 1935) would become an early Musical for the newly-formed 20th Century Fox Studio, for which crews constructed Sound Stage #16, a theatre set, to film "a show within a show," casting scores of extras as audience members.
This films's four leading characters arrive from varying entertainment backgrounds.... Dick Powell, a major star of Warner Bros. musicals, as 42nd Street (1933), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Footlight Parade (1933) and Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934), had performed as a tenor in his early career.
Ann Dvorak, a child star in the Silents, had achieved recognition as a leading lady at Warner Bros. In Three on a Match (1932), she, Joan Blondell and Anne Shirley are billed above Bette Davis Warren William, Lyle Talbot, Humphrey Bogart, Allen Jenkins and Edward Arnold.
Fred Allen, host of several radio programs between 1932 and 1949, including "Town Hall Tonight" and "The Fred Allen Show," would arrive from NYC for his first major feature film roll here.
Patsy Kelly, a vaudeville dancer/comedian from childhood, had arrived in Hollywood four years earlier, to co-star with Thelma Todd in a series of comedy short films.
"Thanks a Million" introduces Eric Land (Dick Powell), Sally Mason (Ann Dvorak), Phoebe Mason (Patsy Kelly), Ned Allen (Fred Allen) (Actually should/be Ned "Lymon"), along with Tammany (Benny Baker) and David Rubinoff and the Yacht Club Boys (Charles Adler, Billy Mann, George Kelly, James V. Kern) in its opening scene, aboard a bus being chauffeured (by Herbert Ashley) through a downpour.
As the vehicle's radio receives an instrumental version of the song "Thanks a Million," performed by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, Ned challenges the Bus Driver that his troupe could outperform (after a little edging by Phoebe).
As the band prepares, Sally learns from Eric that he hails from this state, which they're crossing en route to New York City, and once swore that he wouldn't have returned without achieving success as a singer.
But soon, they're stranded. During a stop over, Ned schemes employment with Mr. Grass (Andrew Tombes) and other Commonwealth Party's gubernatorial candidate's election committee members to embellish the ticket with entertainment coinciding with speech-making.
This plan partially backfires on the heels of Sally and Phoebe's song and dance performance of "Sugar Plum" and Eric's spectacular delivery of "Sittin' on a Hilltop," no one would stay to hear Judge Culliman (Raymond Walburn).
At a celebration party, with Eric, Phoebe and the Yacht Club Boy's singing a politically flavored rendition to the tune of "Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue," Ned enters to douse their enthusiasm, delivering an ultimatum from campaign headquarters, thereby redirecting any plans from New City on.
But the plot thickens as Judge Culliman arrives at the next venue not feeling much pain. Enter politicians from the Commonwealth Pary: Mr. Kruger (Alan Dinehart) Maxwell (Paul Harvey), Mr. Casey (Edwin Maxwell), plus Mrs. Kruger (Margaret Irving), who form agendas of their own.
Before the election is decided, more tunes fill the air: Eric and the Yacht Club Boys team for the magnificent "Sittin' on a Hilltop."
Gov. Wildman's (Charles Richman) reelection committee hires Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, featuring Ramona and the King's Men, to perform "New O'leans."
And with David Rubinoff at his side on violin, Eric delivers the title song, "Thanks a Million," which would go on to become one of Dick Powell's hit records, as well as signature song.
Patsy Kelly and Fred Allen keep the wisecracks coming through to the ending, a scene which ranks among the most highly implausible endings in film history.
But the very premise of "Thanks a Million" is political farce, so this makes it all the more memorable.
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