Artist Jimmy Hudson (Cary Grant) is stuck in Mexico unable to pay his hotel bill. Meanwhile, Louise Fuller (Grace Moore) opera singer is stuck in the same town unable to return to the US ...
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Artist Jimmy Hudson (Cary Grant) is stuck in Mexico unable to pay his hotel bill. Meanwhile, Louise Fuller (Grace Moore) opera singer is stuck in the same town unable to return to the US due to visa problems. The solution, Hudson agrees to marry Fuller, in return for which she pays him $2,000, which allows her to return to New York to resume her opera career. Hudson and Fuller continue to meet and trade barbs, but it's clear they are falling for each other. A highlight is when Fuller joins a 5 piece band to sing "Minnie the Moocher", the Cab Calloway signature number. True love appears to be thwarted by Fuller's career obligations and divorce papers are exchanged. But in the end love is triumphant! Written by
"When You're in Love" is notable for two trivial reasons, neither of which brings any merit to the movie.
The first trivium is that silent-film star Louise Brooks appears in this film as a chorus girl. In 1929 Brooks had poisoned her Hollywood career, refusing to participate in the re-shooting of one of her silent films as a talkie. Eight years later, trying to recover her brief stardom, Brooks was desperate enough to strike a one-sided bargain with low-budget studio Columbia: former Denishawn dancer Brooks would accept a chorus-girl role in "When You're in Love", at a chorus girl's wage and indistinguishable from any of the other chorus girls. Columbia would circulate photos of Brooks in the chorus line, hoping to drum up publicity for this film with the angle of the ex-star beginning all over in the chorus. The back end of this deal was that Columbia promised to give Brooks a starring role afterwards. The chorus-girl angle did nothing to save the box-office of "When You're in Love", and the starring vehicle never came.
(I find Louise Brooks very sexy, but most of her fans seem very creepy. The Louise Brooks cult is determined to delude itself that Louise Brooks herself was identical to the character she played on screen. Most Marilyn Monroe fans are creepy too, for the same reason.)
The second trivium is that "When You're in Love" is the only film ever directed by screenwriter Robert Riskin. Riskin was the principal scripter on most of Frank Capra's best films: most of the distinctive touches that define Capra's movies are actually Riskin's creations. When Riskin resented that Capra got all the credit for their collaborations, Capra suggested that Riskin should try to direct a film himself. This movie was it... and a very bad directorial debut. In his autobiography, Capra was openly gleeful about the flop of Riskin's one directorial effort.
"When You're in Love" stars opera singer Grace Moore, which is part of the problem. Opera singers tend to be failures as movie stars. The success of Jeanette MacDonald was due much more to her sex appeal rather than to her singing voice. Ironically, one of the few opera singers to succeed in movies was Geraldine Farrar: a box-office hit in *silent* films. Grace Moore lacked Jeanette MacDonald's sex appeal and acting skills. Hedging their bets, the producers of "When You're in Love' have larded this film's score with music that's highbrow, lowbrow, middlebrow and everywhere else on the brow spectrum: some genuine opera, some operetta, some Jerome Kern. The most ludicrous moment occurs when Moore dresses up as Cab Calloway and sings 'Minnie the Moocher' with bowdlerised lyrics. It's not pretty, folks.
The plot, you ask? Nobody sees a movie like this for its plot. Well, if you insist. Grace Moore plays a successful opera singer, who - as an implausible publicity stunt - gets married in name only. Her husband is a charming ne'er-do-well, played by Cary Grant. Guess what happens in the last reel. Go ahead, have a guess. It really irritates me to see movies about a woman who falls in love with a completely irresponsible jerk because he's handsome and charming. This happens in real life too, but I don't need to see it in the movies.
"When You're in Love" is froth, utterly without substance. That's no crime, but the bubbles in this champagne have gone very flat indeed. I found this film tedious. Many of the musical numbers were extremely dull, and all of them were badly staged. Some character actors whom I've liked elsewhere (Henry Stephenson, Luis Alberni) give listless performances here. Robert Riskin was a brilliant screenwriter but this is one of his poorest efforts. Based on this one film, he shows absolutely no talent for directing, although perhaps he might have acquired the proper skills if he'd continued. (One of the greatest scriptwriters of all time, George S Kaufman, also directed only one film ... but Kaufman was a brilliant stage director.) I'll rate 'When You're in Love' precisely 2 points out of 10.
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