After the preview in Los Angeles on 24 May 1938, there were sporadic openings across the United States before the national release on 16 August 1938. Some of these were 5 August in New York City, New York; 11 August in Boston, Massachusetts, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and San Francisco, California; 12 August in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Chicago, Illinois and Dallas, Texas; and 13 August in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 »
Despite the polish, it's pretty much what you'd expect and nothing more.
This film starred the top talent at Twentieth-Century Fox. Tyrone Power (who could not sing or play music), Alice Faye and Don Ameche star in this film directed by Henry King and featuring the music of Irving Berlin. Clearly it was a prestige film for the studio--a large budget film with high expectations for success.
The film begins with Power playing sophisticated music for a crowd of high-class folks. Only moments later, however, he's playing Ragtime music for a crowd in a bar--and it's obvious that he's torn between the world of society and popular music. Quite by Hollywood accident, the feisty Alice Faye is pulled into Power's band and the way she and Power meet and get along is very clichéd--you know, the misunderstanding that results in them becoming enemies and you KNOW they'll be in love sooner or later! She is a low-class dame and over time, Power is able to polish her image and make her a success--along with his band. On hand is another cliché--the nice-guy friend (Ameche) who loves the girl but demurs when his friend and the dame become a pair. You almost feel sorry for Ameche getting such a thankless role as the 'nice' friend...though I am sure his enormous checks from the studio more than made up for this! And then there's the final big cliché when Faye and Power break up--only, naturally, to be reunited by the film's conclusion. The only question is what, exactly, will happen in between--and there are certainly a lot of twists that occur in the interim in their parallel journeys. WWI, another woman (a younger and amazingly pretty Ethel Merman), marriage and bootlegging all are among the things the film explores during this portion. And if all this seems familiar, it is if you've seen many Fox musicals. This plot, with a few changes, was used in "King of Burlesque" and many other films with Alice Faye.
As for the film overall, it's pretty much what you expect from the studio--a lot of music (way too much, actually), a lot of polish and the best sets money can buy (Twentieth-Century Fox and MGM were the kings of such lavish productions). But, beneath all the polish, it is all formula and clichés--the sort of film that is pleasant but certainly not a must-see. Plus, oddly, the music, for the most part, isn't exactly Ragtime--often it's more the typical sort of musical numbers you'd see in just about any Fox production of the day.
By the way, in the WWI portion, I noticed that some of the soldiers were amazingly old and fat. Were we THAT desperate for men?! And get a load of those devil-girl dancers at about the 75 minute mark!
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