Sent by her employers on an errand to the home of the wealthy Mrs. Vincent, Irene O'Dare meets Don, a friend of Bob, Mrs. Vincent's son. Attracted to Irene, Don decides to invest some money...
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Sent by her employers on an errand to the home of the wealthy Mrs. Vincent, Irene O'Dare meets Don, a friend of Bob, Mrs. Vincent's son. Attracted to Irene, Don decides to invest some money in Bob's latest venture, the "Madame Lucy" dress shop, in order to give Irene a job there as a model. She is very successful and Bob also becomes attracted to her. Smith, the manager assigns Irene and other models to display gowns at Mrs. Vincent's charity ball, but Irene ruins the gown she was to wear, and appears instead in a quaint blue dress that had belonged to her mother... and it is a big hit. A guest, Princess Minetti, places her as the niece of Ireland's Lady O'Dare, and Irene does not deny the relationship. Smith decides to set her up in a Park Avenue suite as the niece of Lady O'Dare, so that she can attend socially important gatherings wearing and displaying, of course, Madame Lucy gowns. A jealous model tells the truth to a newspaper columnist who writes an expose, which somewhat ... Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Anna Neagle was never one of my favorites. She was one of those oh-so-ladylike actresses that you just couldn't picture doing things us mere mortals do every day without thinking. However, in the early 40's, the British actress was Americanized for three musical films based upon old Broadway shows. "Irene" was the first of the three (followed by remakes of "No No Nanette" and "Sunny"), and by far the most charming. As the oh-so-Irish Irene O'Dare, Neagle becomes a superstar overnight when she shows up at a Long Island party wearing an old gown of her grandmother's (that salty old favorite May Robson) that has eyes all aglow. Dashing Ray Milland and her dizzy mother (Billie Burke) are instantly taken with her, and she is soon a celebrity. They believe her to be related to European blue-bloods, not realizing she is a simple working girl. Only Milland and his business partner (Roland Young as "Madame Lucy", the apparent designer of the "Alice Blue Gown") know the truth.
I was familiar with the score thanks to a recording of the 1973 revival with Debbie Reynolds; most of the songs are either cut or given minor arrangements, with the exception of "Alice Blue Gown" which is turned into a cute production number filled with a variety of different races wearing the outfit. Hattie Noel and the Dandridge sisters are given the bulk of the production number, while Neagle earlier sang it to her grandmother and sisters. Neagle's singing voice, while not bad, is no Jeanette MacDonald; It is hard to believe that she was one of Britain's most popular musical stars. Her acting, however, is pretty good, and she is most convincing as an Irish lass. Milland is handsome and quite charming; He is the perfect leading man. Billie Burke and Roland Young (reunited from the "Topper" series as well as several others) are good as well, and May Robson is always a delight. (The Broadway musical for those who are interested featured Monte Markham in the Milland role, and Ruth Warrick, Billy DeWolfe, and Patsy Kelly in the Burke, Young, and Robson roles respectively).
RKO went all out for the production design of the film, giving it a marvelous art deco look. It is equal in design to any of the Astaire/Rogers musicals, and just as charming. The only thing I disliked was the lack of music; I wanted a production number of the rousing title song which gets more attention as background music than as a musical number. Still, as a comedy with music, "Irene" is very well done, and being taken from that point of view makes it a film worth viewing.
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