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The only resemblance between this film and the Broadway musical and silent film of Lady Be Good from 1928 is purely coincidental. All that MGM took for this film was the title and two songs from the original Broadway score.
That being said this version of Lady Be Good about a pair of husband and wife songwriters is good entertainment. Robert Young and Ann Sothern are the married pair and it's the same old story of two who can't live and can't live without each other. In fact the story is told in flashback by Sothern on the witness stand to Judge Lionel Barrymore in her divorce hearing.
The rest of the score is written by those MGM contract writers Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. None of it is particularly memorable. However an additional song which brought this film its only Oscar caused some considerable controversy.
The year before Oscar Hammerstein, II saw newsreels of the Nazis marching into Paris and the sad faces of the French people who now had to endure the unendurable. He spent some considerable time in Paris and loved the city. So moved was he that he dashed off a song lyric and immediately called Jerome Kern to put some music to it. The result was the incredibly popular The Last Time I Saw Paris.
So popular was it that MGM I'm sure paid a pretty penny for the rights and to interpolate into Lady Be Good. Tony Martin and Lanny Ross and Kate Smith and the great concert singer John Charles Thomas had made some good selling records of The Last Time I Saw Paris. Ann Sothern sang it beautifully in the film, the last chorus with her voice over newsreels of the occupation.
The popularity of the song and the entrance of the USA into World War II no doubt influenced the vote of the Academy. Plus the fact that interpolated songs like this were not specifically banned. It was sheer coincidence that the six of the first seven winners were original songs written specifically for the film they were in.
The Academy rules were tightened up and now songs had to be written specifically for the film. So Sweet Leilani and The Last Time I Saw Paris remain the only two songs not written for the films they were in. By the way Jerome Kern fought for the rule change himself, saying he voted for Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer's Blues in the Night as the best song for 1941.
The other musical highlight is Eleanor Powell dancing to Fascinating Rhythm. On stage it was Fred and sister Adele Astaire who did it originally, but there ain't nothing wrong about the way Eleanor Powell cuts that carpet. Busby Berkeley directed the sequence and it's filled with his original touches.
One day maybe I'll see a theatrical production of George&Ira Gershwin's Lady Be Good. Till then this will do nicely.
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