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A famous singer and matinée idol helps a pretty young theater usher in her dreams of becoming a singer, but when her career begins to take off and she becomes engaged to a wealthy young man, he realizes he's fallen for her and plots to break up her impending marriage. Written by
THIS WAY PLEASE (Paramount, 1937), directed by Robert Florey, is an enjoyable little "B" musical noted for its introduction of the radio voices of Mary Livingston (Mrs. Jack Benny), James and Marian Jordan (as Fibber McGee and Molly of Wistful Vista) to the silver screen. Top-billing goes to Charles "Buddy" Rogers, a popular singer in the early days of Paramount musicals, making a possible comeback attempt to recapture those glory days, but in the long run, he is overshadowed by an up-and-coming Betty Grable, only three years away from her achieving popularity with those lighthearted Technicolor musicals for 20th Century-Fox during the World War II years beginning with DOWN ARGENTINE WAY (1940).
As for the storyline, Betty Grable plays Jane Morrow, a young girl who applies for a job as a theater usherette, hoping to someday get her big chance performing on the stage. She encounters Brad W. Morgan (Charles "Buddy" Rogers), a matinée idol and singer who is master of ceremonies at the local first run movie house. After taking an interest in her, Brad arranges in giving her a chance with an audition, and in the long run, she attracts much attention while Brad starts to lose his credibility. After Jane becomes engaged to marry Stu Randall (Lee Bowman), with a big wedding ceremony arranged to take place at the movie theater, it will be up to Brad to try to break into the theater to claim her.
The musical program features: "This Way Please?/ "Delighted to Meet You" (sung by chorus during opening credits); "This Way Please?" (voiced by Buddy Rogers on a record); "Is It Love or Infatuation?" (sung by Buddy Rogers and chorus); "Delighted to Meet You" (sung and tap danced by Betty Grable); "What This Country Needs is Voom-Boom" (sung and performed in comedic style by Romo Vincent, Jerry Bergen and Wally Vernon as Trumps, Bumps and Mumps); "This Way Please?"/ "Delighted to Meet You" (sung by Mary Livingston); "I'm the Sound Effects Man" (sung by Rufe Davis) and "Is It Love or Infatation? (instrumental during wedding ceremony). While this is a 1930s musical, much of the score, especially "Is It Love or Infatuation" (the big song plug here, particularly one big scene when there are multiple Betty Grable images on the movie screen within a movie screen to help promote her) plays at a slower tempo, giving the impression that this is a 1940s musical during the big band era.
The supporting cast includes Porter Hall as S.J. Crawford, the theater manager; Cecil Cunningham as Mrs. Eberhart, his secretary; and unbuckled, Akim Tamiroff seen briefly as a tartar chieftain on the movie screen in the theater; and James Finlayson, a familiar character actor who frequently co-starred in numerous Laurel and Hardy comedies for Hal Roach in the 1930s, appearing as Jim O'Toole, a policeman who is to give Fibber McGee and Molly a ticket for illegally parking their car where it shouldn't be, only to find himself agreeing to let them park on that spot with him minding the car, thanks to Molly. And speaking of character actors, there is Ned Sparks, in his usual droll manner, playing as "Inky" Welles, the "love interest" to Maxine (Mary Livingston), the head usherette, who wants to marry him. Classic television fans will be quick to take notice and recognize Rufe Davis (Floyd Smoot, the train engineer, from the 1960s TV sitcom, PETTICOAT JUNCTION starring Bea Benadaret and Edgar Buchanan), making his movie debut as a radio technician encouraged by Mr. Crawford to sing in front of an open mike, "I'm the Sound Effects Man," and true to his word, comes up with more sound-effect noises, ranging from duck sounds, dog fights, cows and factory whistles, plus much, much more.
While THIS WAY PLEASE is no cinematic masterpiece, this "B" musical-comedy, which runs at a swift 72 minutes, is a cinematic boost to the career of the very young Betty Grable. On a final note, the radio personalities of Fibber McGee and Molly would reappear in several likable comedies in the early 1940s for RKO Radio. Other than their one liner exchanges throughout the movie (Molly: "McGee, a man winked at me." McGee: "Ah, we all make mistakes"), the one thing that certainly stands out is Molly's contagious laugher. (**1/2)
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