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A new Broadway show starring Gary Blake shamelessly lampoons the rich Carraway family. To get her own back, daughter Mimi sets out to ensnare Blake, but the courtship is soon for real, to the annoyance of his co-star, hoofing chanteuse Mona Merrick. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
Despite introducing three Irving Berlin classics ("This Year's Kisses," "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" with Dick Powell, and "Slumming on Park Avenue," followed by The Ritz Brothers in drag), Alice Faye, already well established in screen musicals, received only third billing, below the film title. Mr. Powell and non-vocalizing Madeline Carroll placed above Miss Faye. See more »
In his third and final scene, actor Stepin Fetchit tells Dick Powell that Mimi is on the phone. His character name is Herman, but Powell says "Thanks Step." See more »
ON THE AVENUE (20th Century-Fox, 1937), directed by Roy Del Ruth, is a lively musical film capitalizing on the current trend of screwball comedies that never seems to go out of style: spoofing high society. For instance, art imitating life with a theatrical company poking fun of a rich family with a well-to-do family recognizing themselves as the subject matter, and taking action.
Gary Blake (Dick Powell), star of the latest musical show, "On the Avenue," has written a play about "The Richest Girl in Town," starring himself as the rich father with Mona Merrick (Alice Faye) in the title role. Mimi Carraway (Madeleine Carroll), the richest girl in town, along with her father, the Commodore (George Barbier), Aunt Fritz (Cora Witherspoon) and fiancé, Frederick Sims (Alan Mowbray), an Arctic explorer, attend the opening and immediately recognize themselves as the topic of society fun. At the conclusion of the play, Mimi storms over to Blake's dressing room where she greets him with anger and a slap on the face. Because she refuses to listen to reason, Blake hasher forcibly ejected from the theater for not being a "good sport." Thinking back of what was said, Mimi agrees on becoming a "good sport" by inviting Gary for a night on of town, posing as Mr. and Mrs.Hossenpfeiffer, to discuss matters and have fun at the same time. Returning home at dawn, Gary and Mimi, who have fallen in love, come to a compromise. Mimi agrees to let Gary carry on with his show as written while Gary goes one step further by tastefully changing the material so it won't be offensive. Jealous over Gary's infatuation towards Mimi, Mona takes it upon herself on sketching the musical play to be even worse than before. Mimi and family attend to witness the shock of their lives with the play's revision. Believing Gary is at fault, Mimi gets even by buying the rights to the show and hiring patrons to walkout during Gary's performance and using the Ritz Brothers to make him look ridiculous for every newspaper critic in town to see. Once Gary discovers what Mimi has done, it becomes his turn to have the last laugh.
With music and lyrics composed by the legendary Irving Berlin, the motion picture soundtrack is as follows: "He Ain't Got Rhythm" (sung by Alice Faye, and The Ritz Brothers); "The Girl On the Police Gazette"(sung by Dick Powell in 1890s attire, bowler and mustache); "You're Laughing at Me" (sung by Powell to Madeleine Carroll); "This Year's Kisses" (sung by Faye); "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" (sung by Powell and Faye); "Slumming on Park Avenue" (Sung by Alice Faye and The Ritz Brothers); "You're Laughing at Me" (Powell); "Ochye Tchonia"(Russian Folk Song sung and performed by The Ritz Brothers); "This Year's Kisses'" (sung by Alice Faye); and "Slumming in Park Avenue"(sung by cast).
In spite the fact that the Berlin songs, as good as they are, never became as legendary as "Blue Skies" or "White Christmas," he did acquire fine singers to promote his distinguished tunes: Dick Powell, on loan out from Warner Brothers, having the film's best song, "You're Laughing at Me," while Alice Faye, in a secondary role, contributes some of her best vocals, namely "This Year's Kisses." In between songs,the Ritz Brothers collaborate their version of bizarre comedy, ranging from facial expressions, crossed-eyes, and dressing in drag. Others in the cast include: Joan Davis (Miss Katz, a secretary); Douglas Fowley(Eddie Eads); Stepin Fetchit as "Step," billed as Herman; Sig Rumann(Herr Hanestange); Billy Gilbert (Joe Papaloupas, the lunch wagon proprietor); Walter Catlett (Jake Dibble); and E.E. Clive (Ben, the Central Park Horse Cabby), Dewey Robinson (Lunch Wagon Patron), among others.
The sequence where Powell (in tuxedo and top hat) and Carroll (in glittering white evening gown) are strolling through Central Park, in medium camera range the couple resemble that of current song and dance team of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. In fact, watching Powell and Carroll together in this scene alone, anyone would expect them to go into their dance to "You're Laughing at Me," which doesn't happen. With Seymour Felix credited as choreographer, much of the dancing takes place on stage.
Regardless of listenable tunes, agreeable cast and above-average story, ON THE AVENUE is a forgotten item from the 1930s. Its 1994 video cassette distribution consisted of an added bonus with a surviving comedy outtake featuring Alice Faye and the Ritz Brothers. Seldom revived these days, ON THE AVENUE was formerly presented on American Movie Classics cable channel in 1996 as part of its tribute to the movie musical during the station's annual film preservation festival. ON THE AVENUE is old-fashioned entertainment that should still please its viewers whenever aired on the Fox Movie Channel. (***1/2)
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