|Index||2 reviews in total|
At the conclusion of Paramount's ARTISTS AND MODELS (1937), following
lavish scale of musical numbers, the Yacht Club Boys tell their
manager, Mac Brewster (Jack Benny), "Hey Boss, have we got it. A great
idea for the show next year. The greatest Artists and Models ball ever
staged ..." thus, an opening for a proposed sequel. The following year
did provide the latest installment, ARTISTS AND MODELS ABROAD
(Paramount, 1938), directed by Mitchell Leisen. In spite of the return
of Jack Benny, the Yacht Club Boys, glorious models (and no artists),
it's very much a sequel in name only in the tradition to popular 1930s
musicals, namely MGM's "The Broadway Melody" (of 1936, 1938, 1940);
Warners' "Gold Diggers" (of 1933, 1935, 1937, in Paris) or Paramount's
own "The Big Broadcast" (of 1936, 1937 and 1938), many of which
consists of the same leading player(s) assuming different character
roles with plots bearing no connection whatsoever to the previous entry
This time Benny assumes the role of Buck Boswell, head of a theatrical troupe, stranded in Paris, denied passage back to the States, making every attempt returning to their rooms after getting locked out by proprietors until their large hotel bill is paid, while The Yacht Club Boys (Charles Alder, Jim Kern, Bill Mann and George Kelly) add humor and song as troupe members Swifty, Dopey, Jimmy and Kelly. Instead of Ida Lupino or Gail Patrick as Benny's co-stars, this time he's acquired Joan Bennett. Bennett's participation in this edition is that of Patricia Harper, an heiress engaged to the distinguished Elliott Winthrop (G.P. Huntley Jr.), whom she finds equally as dull as her existence. When she finds herself in a restaurant without any money to pay for her meal, she encounters Boswell (dressed in cowboy attire following dress rehearsals) for the loan of 3 francs. Believing her to be an American stranded in Paris, he invites her to join his troupe. Taking part of the masquerade and having her down-to-earth Texas oil tycoon father, James Harper (Charley Grapewin) accompany her, Pat soon finds herself having the best time of her life, much to the dismay of her social climbing Aunt Isabel (Mary Boland).
On the musical program, with music and lyrics by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin, songs consist of "Do the Buckaroo" (sung by cast); "You're Broke, You Dope/ Viva Paree" (specialty number written/performed by the Yacht Club Boys and troupe while strolling through the streets of Paris); "So Lovely" (sung by chorus); "What Have You Got?" (sung by Joan Bennett and Jack Benny) and "Viva Paree" (The Yacht Club Boys). Although the score is forgettable, only "So Lovely" the best song, is underscored during the opening and closing credits, and given the grand scale treatment for the 12 minute fashion show sequence set in the Palace of Feminine Arts, headed by Joan Bennett performing similar duties in modeling as she did in VOGUES OF 1938 (United Artists, 1037) starring Warner Baxter, minus the Technicolor.
As entertaining as ARTISTS AND MODELS ABROAD tries to be, it fails to recapture the fun and essence to the original due to its lack of specialty acts (highlighted by Louis Armstrong, Connie Boswell and Martha Raye), or character types (Ben Blue and Judy Canova). Interestingly, Phyllis Kennedy, seen as Marie the maid, close to resembling Canova and both features and mannerisms, but has little to do in regards to "comedy relief" participation. In both films, Jack Benny basically plays it straight, unlike the stingy "Jack Benny" character he developed and perfected on both radio and later television.
Emphasizing more on comedy structure than production numbers, highlights are few and far between in both categories during its 94 minutes. Bennett's notable exception to the rule of comedy has her helping the troupe sneaking back into their rooms by masquerading as troubled girl wanting to commit suicide by jumping off the roof, getting talked out of it by the hotel proprietress (Adrienne D'Ambricourt) who tells her she's too young. Her reply: "I'll wait till I'm older," before walking away. There's also a scene reminiscent to one of many comedy skits later used on Jack Benny's radio and TV shows where he asks for directions and getting the double talk from a double talker (played by Cliff Nazarro). Also taking part in the supporting cast are Joyce Compton (Chickie); Fritz Feld (DuBois); Monty Woolley (Monsieur Gantvoort); Andre Cheron (Count Brissard); Chester Clute (Mr. Simpson); and Francois, the horse.
Unseen on the television markets since the 1970s, ARTISTS AND MODELS ABROAD had resurfaced on video cassette in 2003 and later on DVD in 2006 from Nostalgia Family Video. Although not exactly a misfire since no further "Artists and Models" editions followed, it's interesting looking back at films such as this this with backdrops of famous Paris landmarks, and seeing Jack Benny before his television days and the blonde Joan Bennett shortly before changing a "girl next door" image to a dark-haired femme fatal-type. (***)
Here is a nice bit of froth, cheery and funny in light of its depression time frame. As we know, that seemed to be the main objective of the studios of that simpler time. The major star was Jack Benny, on hiatus from his radio show: the most popular radio show of the day. But, he interacts with the fine supporting cast as though it's an ensemble; just as he always did on his radio and television shows to come. The songs are good, the plot is charming, the comedy is deft and sparkling, and there are bonuses of French fashion designs, by real French designers of the day. Makes a nice historical lesson, as it were. If you like that sort of thing, that is.
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