Popular New York band leader Terry Rooney (Cagney) is offered a lucrative film contract out in Hollywood. Rooney and his wife pack up and head for California. Upon arriving, they meet Mr. Regan, the head of the studio, who believes that Rooney's true lack of desire for stardom is arrogance on the band leaders part. When his first film is huge success and hit for the studio, Regan tries to hide the truth from Rooney. Feeling a need to get away from Hollywood, Rooney takes his wife on a South Seas cruise, only to return to the real truth of his fame. Written by
Rita is in New York when she reads of Terry's supposed relationship with Steffie on the front page of the "Express" newspaper. Meanwhile in Hollywood, Terry learns of the false rumours in exactly the same way, from the exact front page of an identical "Express" newspaper. Props used the same newspaper for both coasts. Highly unlikely. See more »
SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT (Grand National, 1937), directed by Victor Schertzinger, stars movie tough guy James Cagney in his second screen musical. Though not in the Busby Berkeley tradition as FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933) where Cagney sang and dance for the first time, nor academy award potential as his legendary performance of YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942), it does offer Cagney a slight departure from his usual style. He's not a wiseacre nor is he slapping dames around. Although still handy with his fists when in need of them, there's a gentle side to his nature, especially his loyalty to the girl he loves. As a band-leader, Cagney gets to do some fancy footwork, yet, much of the musical interludes go to newcomer Evelyn Daw. Resembling French actress Simone Simon (CAT PEOPLE,1942) and a diva singing voice of Jeanne Madden (STAGE STRUCK,1936), Daw's film career was as short-lived as Grand National Studios itself. Slightly better than Cagney's Grand National debut, GREAT GUY (1936) due to its higher budget and reasonable plot, SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT also marked his second and farewell with the studio.
Following the pattern of a Hollywood story, though not as famous as David O. Selznick's A STAR IS BORN (1937), the plot revolves around Terry Rooney (James Cagney), a New York band-leader, with Rita "Canary" Wyatt (Evelyn Daw), the girl he loves, as his lead singer. He leaves them behind when called to Hollywood to be tested for the upcoming motion picture, "Any Old Love." Arriving by train and met by Hank Myers (William Frawley), his publicity man, and Bennett O. Regan (Gene Lockhart), president of Galor Studios, Terry finds himself going through the motions by being taught to speak correctly by the dialog coach (Marek Windheim) costume changes by the wardrobe man (Johnny Arthur); going through extremes on how to look by the make-up man (Dwight Frye); and the way how he should act by his director (Richard Tucker). During a scene, Terry loses his temper and tears up the set. With all this captured on film, it is used for the sneak preview that turns Terry into an overnight star. Unaware of how good he is, Terry, who has sent for Rita, marries her, and goes on his honeymoon to the South Seas. Upon his return, Terry (real name Thaddius McGillicuty), discovers he's a sensation and is offered a long term studio contract. He's unable to accept due to a clause that forbids him to marry. At Rita's request, he decides to abide by the studio rules, with Rita acting as his confidential secretary. Their marriage soon falls apart when Terry's name becomes romantically linked with Russian actress Stephanie Hajos (Mona Barrie).
Other members of the cast worth mentioning include Kathleen Lockhart as Emmy Robbins, a gossip columnist; James Newill, Candy Candido and Harry Barris as members of the band; William B. Davidson as Mr. Richards, the night club manager; and Philip Ahn as Ito, Terry's servant and friend who realistically shows the two ways Japanese speak, articulately, and the Hollywood stereotype of Japanese lingo ("Yes, honorable mastah"). This is something rare in movies from this era, bringing out into the open that Orientals converse just like everyone else.
Although the story is routinely done, the songs, written by Victor Schertzinger, come off as unmemorable, though a couple of dance numbers help out during the dull stretches. The song include: "Something to Sing About" (sung by Evelyn Daw during opening titles); "Here Comes the Bride" (danced by James Cagney); "Right or Wrong." (sung by Daw); "Any Old Love" (sung by Cagney); untitled dance number (performed by Cagney and male dancers); "Out of the Blue" (sung by Daw) and "Something to Sing About/"Out of the Blue" (reprise). Aside from Cagney's dancing, the title song comes off best, and is used considerably in underscoring through much of the story, along with "Out of the Blue." "Right or Wrong" the film's weaker song, is vocalized by Daw on a long distance telephone call to Hollywood with Terry (Cagney) listening on the other end.
When SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT resurfaced on commercial television in the 1970s, it played under another title, THE BAFFLING HOOFER, actually from a 1940s reissue print 15 minutes shorter than the original 93 minute length. A decade later, it turned up under its original title, and being a movie that fell victim to public domain, was distributed on video cassette through various companies. For years, video copies of SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT were inferior either audio or visually. Its cable broadcasts such as on the Nick-at-Nite Movie on Nickelodeon during the 1980s, and American Movie Classics (1989-1990) were vast improvements. SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT has later been restored with much better copies presented on Turner Classic Movies, where it premiered August 2, 2005, and finally DVD.
In closing, without the presence and charisma of James Cagney, SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT might have remained in some dark archive, along with other Grand National releases (1936-1939). Generally, the movie itself is okay, but not nearly as fun as LADY KILLER (1933), Cagney's earlier venture into Movieland. As with other films with a similar theme, it goes through the motions with behind the scenes of movie making and how fame and fortune may or may not be for the main character in question. This movie may not be something to sing about, but actually something to consider since it's a chance to see Cagney in rare form, starring in a musical and an independent production outside his home base of Warners. A fine supporting cast of veteran actors (Frawley and Lockhart) helps. (***)
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