A penniless song writer, Larry Earl, is convinced he is going places in shown business, and convinces Mary, an assistant at an orphanage, to marry him. Fifteen months later they are still in love, but broke as Larry writes songs that won't sell and loses one job after another one. He stops to watch a group of newsboys singing and dancing, and decides to organize them into the greatest kid act to ever hit vaudeville. Mary persuades Proctor, a big theatrical manager, to book the act, and they are a big hit. Then Larry and his publicity agent, "Speed" King, launch a big publicity stunt---a talent train in which they travel across country holding auditions for young performers. Back in New York, Carlotta Salvini, an ex-OPera singer, brings in her talented fourteen-year-old-daughter, Jane, who has an amazing voice. Larry, to get the mother out of the way, offers Carlotta a forty-week vaudeville tour, and then goes to work to make a star out of Jane, by building Braodway's first all-kiddie ... Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
THE STAR MAKER (Paramount, 1939), directed by Roy Del Ruth, set in the early 20th century, stars Bing Crosby as Larry Earl, an unsuccessful songwriter who decides to settle down with his new bride, Mary (Louise Campbell) and take a 9 to 5 job, only to realize that his true calling is show business. On his way home, he comes across some urchins singing and dancing on the streets for pennies, nickels and dimes, and decides to take these street kids to turn them into professional entertainers. With the assistance of his loving wife, who also contributes to her husband's plans, Larry's troupe of children grows and grows, making the use of their talents in vaudeville and later, after child labor laws step in, presenting them on radio and still succeeding into making them world famous.
When THE STAR MAKER used to make frequent television revivals on the late-late show some 20 years or so ago, TV Guide used to present it in its listing with its brief synopsis as a biography on pioneer showman Gus Edwards. While not really a biography on Edwards, it is probably suggested on the impresario's life and career. As usual, Bing Crosby's pleasing personality, singing and chemistry with the young kids makes this worthy family entertainment. Aside from Louise Campbell as Crosby's Southern wife, there is that deadpan character actor Ned Sparks playing agent "Speed" King, who not only partakes in Earl's theatrical troupe, but the old grouch must deal with these restless and sometimes rowdy children. Amusing moments include having him surrounded by the kids and reading to them a kiddie story and constantly getting interrupted by questions, and another having Speed finding himself quarantined in a train compartment full of kids for ten days after being exposed with one with the chickenpox. Sparks' love/hate contribution with the children is as amusing as watching WC Fields' encounter with Baby LeRoy or any other Hollywood brat(s) - Grumpy on the outside but gentle on the inside.
THE STAR MAKER features a handful of old song standards, many written by Gus Edwards himself, sung mostly by Crosby, including: "Here Comes Jimmy Valentine"; "A Man and His Dream" (nice new song by Johnny Burke and James V. Monaco); "East Side, West Side" (instrumental); "If I Was a Millionaire"; "Go Fly a Kite"; "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now?"; "Sunbonnet Sue" (sung by children); "I Can't Tell Why I Love You," "He's Me Pal," "In My Merry Oldsmobile"; Ludwig Von Beethoven's "Symphony # 5 in B Minor" (sung by Linda Ware); "The Darktown Stutters Ball" (sung by Ware); "An Apple For the Teacher"; "School Days"; "The Waltz of the Flowers" by Peter Tchaikovsky (sung by Ware at Carnegie Hall); and "Still the Blue Birds Sing" (new song by Burke and Monaco, sung by Crosby and children).
THE STAR MAKER gives special screen billing to 14-year-old Linda Ware, making her movie debut, possibly Paramount's answer to Universal's singing sensation, Deanna Durbin. A good singer but not a convincing actress, Ware's career sadly didn't go very far after this. Also featured in the cast are Laura Hope Crews, Walter Damrosch as himself; Thurston Hall, Billy Gilbert and a very young Darryl Hickman as one of the dancing kids.
Long on songs and production numbers, and light on plot, THE STAR MAKER, while not as famous and popular as Crosby's other musical flicks, is still worth seeing, and then to sit back to wonder how good the movie itself would have been had it been a bio-pic on Gus Edwards himself, and the use of actual future performers he discovered appearing as themselves in songs and sketches that made them famous. (***)
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