Irving Berlin baulked at the idea of a biopic about him as he felt it would be too personally intrusive. Thus, the idea to form a fictional story showcasing a large number of his songs was hatched. See more »
When Wally Vernon comes forward to do his specialty number, he passes Alexander twice, glancing at him both times. See more »
For viewers who like Irving Berlin music, this is a film to watch. His songs are really the main attraction. But the story, which encompasses a group of musicians and their career changes, has an interesting series of romantic plot twists that is intriguing.
The main character is Roger (Tyrone Power), a man who starts his career in a highbrow musical setting, but changes to more popular ragtime. The story is fictional, but Roger's character arc is inspired by the life of Irving Berlin.
A big-budget film that was in production for almost two years, "Alexander's Ragtime Band" received a huge promotional build-up in 1938. And it was well received by audiences. Sets are lavish. B&W cinematography is competent. Casting and acting are acceptable overall. However, Tyrone Power is the only major actor who lacks musical talent, and it shows. Both Don Ameche and Jack Haley add luster. Alice Faye is adequate.
The film is less constricted by plot than other musicals. But there's still a lot of dialogue. And, except for the title song and a quick version of "Easter Parade", the music is somewhat bland and uninteresting. I would have preferred more evocative music. The film's tone ranges from semi-bawdy to mushy romanticism.
This is a large-scale, Americana period piece film, with an accent on the music of Irving Berlin. It is old fashioned, both in plot and in style. It's technically well made. But to me it's too removed in time from current culture to be anything other than historically quaint.
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