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The daughter of a struggling musician forms a symphony orchestra made up of his unemployed friends and through persistence, charm and a few misunderstandings, is able to get Leopold Stokowski to lead them in a concert that leads to a radio contract. Written by
Herman Seifer <email@example.com>
The position of Patsy's hands when she's crying on the bed. See more »
[Having just had Frost light a cigarette for him only to have it explode in his mouth]
When are you going to stop playing these cheap childish tricks on me?
John R. Frost:
The day you stop playing them on me.
Well, at least mine are funny, and new!
John R. Frost:
Oh, yeah? Well, mine work.
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ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL (Universal, 1937), directed by Henry Koster, features teenage soprano Deanna Durbin in her second motion picture lead, following her enormous success in THREE SMART GIRLS (1936). With Universal best known for his horror thrillers ("Dracula" and "Frankenstein") or best selling based love stories ("Back Street" and "Imitation of Life"), the Durbin products brought forth a new cycle of screen entertainment, venturing into the world of classical music with the celebrated musical conductor, Leopold Stokowski, appearing as himself. Durbin, who shared screen time with other Universal starlets, Nan Grey and Barbara Read, in THREE SMART GIRLS, becomes the sole focus here, sharing screen time with one hundred men, being her father and his group of unemployed musicians.
Set in New York City, John Caldwell (Adolphe Menjou), is seen as an unemployed musician who makes a desperate attempt confronting conductor Leopold Stokowski at Carnegie Hall for a job, but is consistently chased about by stage doorman, Marshall (J. Scott Smart), with pleas ignored by Stokowski's manager, Mr. Russell (Jameson Thomas). After being shown out the door, Caldwell acquires a lost purse on the crowded street with cash inside. Unable to locate its owner, he returns home where he uses the found money to pay off his back room rent, giving his teenage daughter, Patricia (Deanna Durbin) a indication that he's now working under Stokowski with advance in salary. In due time, however, Patricia, learning the truth, locates the identification inside the purse and does the right thing by returning it to Mrs. Frost (Alice Brady) at her luxurious home. Telling her and society guests about her father's orchestra, Mrs. Frost agrees to have her husband, John R. Frost (Eugene Palette), sponsor them on his radio program. As Caldwell organizes his orchestra in the garage, Patricia comes to the Frost home to follow up on her promise only to find that the absent-minded Mrs. Frost has gone to Europe. After locating Mr. Frost's whereabouts, she asks him for financial support, but dismisses the girl and her story as one of many practical jokes by his friend, Tommy Bitters'(Jed Prouty). With unexpected results, news reaches the media of Stokowski conducting for Caldwell's unemployed musicians, causing complications for all concerned, considering Stokowski is going on a six month concert tour in Europe.
A delightful Depression era/ fairy tale type story helped by the presence of Deanna Durbin's self confidence and energetic personality. It's hard to believe how virtually new she is to the movie business and natural she is as a performer. It's not so easy to forget Durbin's blink of her eyes that bring a happy smile to her sad-faced father (Menjou). Aside from its original screenplay by Bruce Manning, Charles Kenyon and James Mallhauser, the film is highlighted by a mix of contemporary and classic music, including "Symphony # 5, 4th Movement" by Peter Ilyich Tchiakowsky (conducted by Leopold Stokowski); "It's Raining Sunbeams" by Frederick Hollander and Sam Coslow (sung by Deanna Durbin); "The Rakoczy March" by Bezloiz; "A Heart That's Free" by Alfred G. Robyn and Thoms T. Railey; "Prelude to Act II" from Richard Wagner's "Loitengrin"); Mozart's "Allelua in 'F' Major" "Second Hungarian Rhapsody" by Franz Liszt; and "Libiamo Ne Liete Lauci" from Guiseppi Verdi's "La Traviata" (sung by Durbin). With these classical pieces, good production values and high notes, 100 MEN AND A GIRL gives the distinction of looking more like an MGM product than Universal's.
The supporting cast includes such Hollywood reliables as Mischa Auer (Michael Borodoff, a musician and close friend of the Caldwells); Billy Gilbert (The Garage Owner); Frank Jenks (The Taxi Driver); Edwin Maxwell (Ira Westling); with John Hamilton, Jack Mulhall and Charles Coleman in smaller roles. The performance given by Leopold Stokowski may provoke laughter to contemporary viewers for his wavy combed back hairstyle and mechanical way of conducting his orchestra with the use of his hands instead of a baton.
ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL earned an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture of 1937. After frequent public television revivals that took place in the 1980s, this now Durbin classic got further recognition on home video around 1994. In 1996, it had occasional revivals on American Movie Classics, and later on Turner Classic Movies where it premiered February 20, 2006. If movie does not prove satisfactory with its story, then it should for classical music lovers. (****)
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