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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This film closely resembles the life of entertainer Fanny Brice, and Alice Faye even sings Brice's signature song, "My Man" in the film. According to Biography: Alice Faye: The Star Next Door (1996), Brice sued 20th Century Fox for $750,000. The studio benefited from the publicity generated by the lawsuit - the film became the highest grossing musical of 1939 - and eventually settled out of court with Brice for an undisclosed amount. It has also been alleged that Power's character resembles Nicky Arnstein. See more »
Entertainment careers, romance, and petty crime mix together to create a reasonably good film, based on the real life story of Ziegfeld star Fanny Brice and her attraction to gambler Nicky Arnstein. The script changes the names, and the two leads become Rose (Alice Faye) and Bart (Tyrone Power). "Rose Of Washington Square" is a thin story connected by numerous musical numbers.
The film has the look and feel of a long-ago era, specifically Vaudeville, with its eclectic mix of self-contained acts: singing, dancing, magic, and comedy. One lengthy segment features Rose singing in Washington Square, but interrupted by an unrelated act called "Igor and Tanya", an acrobatic performance not connected to anything else in the film. And then there's the stage performance wherein Rose and various dancers perform a dance that includes a magic act. As the dancing proceeds, each person brings forth a lit cigarette out of thin air, smokes it, then fetches another cigarette from out of nowhere.
This tribute to Vaudeville goes into overdrive with the appearance of entertainer Al Jolson, as character Ted Cotter. This character has little or nothing to do with Fanny Brice. I think the reason he's in the script is that he represents Brice's historical era. Jolson's inclusion ignites the plot, generating real pizazz into an otherwise lazy, dreary story. All bug-eyed and in black-face, and wearing white gloves, Jolson electrifies at the plush Winter Garden Theater, with his standard songs: "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby", "My Mammy", and "California, Here I Come".
Casting is mixed. Tyrone Power is surprisingly good. And I enjoyed William Frawley as a talent agent. But glamorous Alice Faye is not convincing as a stand-in for Brice. Faye does sing quite well, but I didn't care for any of her songs, with the exception of "My Man", Brice's signature number.
Costumes, hairdos, and prod design all seem to reflect well the early twentieth century era. B&W cinematography, sound effects, and editing are all competent, and pleasantly unobtrusive.
Without Jolson, the film would be average at best. But Jolson alone ups the entertainment value several notches, and that Vaudeville atmosphere is wonderfully nostalgic.
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