20th Century Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck had this as one of his prestige productions of the year. The directing gig naturally went to his personal favorite choice, Henry King, who was always first choice for the studio's leading productions. See more »
Alexander returns from World War I after it ended, which occurred in late 1918. Even allowing for a year or two's delay, the women he meets upon his return are wearing clothing from the wrong era - they are immediately dressed in late 1930s fashions (appropriate for the year the film was released) instead of the lower hemlines and low (close to the face) hat styles of the early '20s. Hemlines didn't rise to just below the knee until the mid '20s, and women's body silhouettes were mannish, with the bust and waistline de-emphasized, unlike the fitted suit worn by Alice Faye when she sees Alexander upon his return. See more »
The music that Tyrone Power "conducts" during the film's opening credits is the song "Marching Along With Time", which was ultimately cut from the film. The song, however, as sung by Ethel Merman, has survived as an outtake and can be seen as an extra feature on the DVD. See more »
I wouldn't want to put money on it, but I'm willing to say there must be at least 25 Irving Berlin songs in Alexander's Ragtime Band. This was the first of those Irving Berlin extravaganzas where a history of an era was told with his music, the others being Blue Skies and There's No Business Like Show Business.
After what happened to his score in Reaching for the Moon, Berlin demanded and got complete control in every film that he wrote or supplied the music for. And you will not hear one note of any other composer's music. Just listen to the background music and you'll see what I'm talking about.
The song Alexander's Ragtime Band is considered Berlin's first big popular hit and so a story was constructed around a group of itinerant musicians who when they hire girl singer Alice Faye make a huge hit with the selfsame Alexander's Ragtime Band.
So the film is about the lives and loves of Faye, Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, Ethel Merman, Jack Haley, etc. for an over quarter of a century. Except for Power, all these other folks are real talented musically and they contribute vocally with a lot of Irving Berlin old favorites. And Alice Faye and Don Ameche both sang a new tune Berlin wrote for this film, Now It Can Be Told. Faye's version is especially grand, one of her best movie songs.
Tyrone Power one of the finest of leading men in old Hollywood was unfortunately not blessed with a singing voice. Just hear him on a few bars of another Irving Berlin song in Second Fiddle and you'll see what I mean. He leads the band and it looks a bit ridiculous for him to be doing that and watching the others perform.
This film is the reason I've been long convinced that Darryl F. Zanuck hired John Payne, an actor who looked somewhat like Power and could contribute musically in films with Faye, Betty Grable and the rest of Fox female musical ladies.
Of course anyone who really loves Irving Berlin's music will watch this film and won't quibble about Tyrone Power not singing.
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