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New York city in the 1920s: a singer struggles to keep her boyfriend from trouble. When she makes it to Ziegfeld, he heads for five years in jail. Lots of Faye and Jolson singing. The story is so close to the true story of Fanny Brice and Nicky Arnstein (Jules W. Arndt Stein) that he sued the studio in a case that was quickly settled out of court in his favor. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
In this early version of the Funny Girl story, Alice Faye as Rose Sargent simply shines in her performance. Alice's warm contralto voice was one of the easiest to take of any musical star from the Thirties. She's helped her by a collection of post World War I standards and a new song written by the 20th Century Fox songwriting team of Mack Gordon and Harry Revel, I Never Knew Heaven Could Speak.
Other than the names were changed to make them ethnically neutral, Alice, as Fanny Brice, sings a lot of ballads in her own style. Fanny Brice as a performer was nothing if not ethnic. Other than her famous standard My Man, in which Faye reprises her well, Brice's repertoire consisted of comedy numbers mostly with an accent to identify her Lower East Side of New York Jewish origins.
Still Alice in her goyish version of Fanny was real enough so that Fanny sued 20th Century Fox to stop the film. She and Darryl Zanuck reached an out of court settlement.
Tyrone Power is Hobart DeWitt Clinton(Nicky Arnstein), a name certainly waspy enough to disguise any ethnicity. It's Ty's third and final film with Alice Faye. Whether played by Power or Omar Sharif, the husband's role is a tricky one. He's a charming con man and you can't make him to weak or the audience will never understand why Faye is even bothering with him. Of course if you have the looks of Tyrone Power, it's easy. But you do have to have the talent to match which Power does. In the storyline at the beginning, Power is identified as having served in the American Expeditionary Force in France in World War I. Deliberately put there to make the audience empathetic with him. After all in 1939 there were certainly a lot of moviegoers who were veterans or in the families of World War I veterans.
Al Jolson was here and shares the spotlight with Faye in singing some of his old standards from that period. He was very good in his part as Faye's confidante and fellow performer. But Jolson with his ego did not like sharing the spotlight with anyone. His three 20th Century Fox roles were supporting or guest star roles and he hated it. Equally I might add that Alice Faye couldn't stand him.
Irony of ironies, back in the day Jolson himself got into a famous feud with Walter Winchell who was the creative genius behind Broadway Through a Keyhole. That film was a disguised version of his own courtship and marriage to Ruby Keeler and Jolson was the one doing the suing then.
Alice Faye is not Fanny Brice in the film, but I'm happy with her just being Alice Faye.
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