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Show promoter Cartwright has stolen the songs that Frank wrote while he was in the big house. The boys go to Cartwright to get Frank credit for his work, and Cartwright has them arrested for extortion, of which they are innocent. Luckily, they are in the same paddy wagon as Pete and when his gang springs Pete, the boys are sprung. The only way that they can prove now that the songs are Frank's is to put on a show before Cartwright show 'Melody for You' opens. The boys and Patsy find a theater, paint the scenery and put all the kids in the neighborhood to work on the show. Pete Detroit makes sure that Cartwright's show does not open on the same night and that his cabs bring in an audience. Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
The "Kids" Actually Put On a Great Show-Despite the Lame Adult Finale
"Born to Sing" (1942) could be summarized as "The Bowery Boys Put on One of Those Garland/Rooney Shows". Basically it is a "Bowery Boys" feature with a neighborhood talent show tacked onto the end. But this is not as bad as you might think. The boys are represented by Leo Gorcey; as a character named Snap Collins, pretty much his standard Slip Mahoney stuff. The budget is a bit larger so the technical production elements are better-the cinematography/lighting actually has a nice flare and the production design is quite good.
But the best part is that the show is quite entertaining, at least until the super patriotic finale, out of place at best-drifting into pathetic several times, despite some slick staging and excellent use of lighting. This silly song features baritone Douglas McPhail who up to this point has looked totally embarrassed about appearing in the film. Overwrought as it is, the real problem is that it destroys the unity of the main production, which up to then had a lot of charm with the neighborhood children playing all the adult roles on the stage. Suddenly there is a group of actual adults inexplicably parading on stage like something out of "Triumph of the Will".
This was Virginia Weidler's last real chance to go from child to adult star, she made a couple other films during the war but nothing that had this much potential. But the grown-up Weidler just didn't have much charisma. In fact, she gets completely upstaged by another teenage actress/singer Beverly Hudson who has a lot more energy and personality than Weidler. Hudson's big number is good enough to justify watching the entire film.
"Born to Sing's" premise revolves around Patsy Eastman (Weidler) and her father, a songwriter who wrote a show while in prison. Much like "House of Wax", a greedy promoter steals the material. Snap and his friends try to pressure the promoter but are charged with extortion. Fortunately they meet a gangster named Pete Detroit (Sheldon Leonard) who is sympathetic and helps them open their show before the promoter can premiere his; with Pete going so far as to use his fleet of taxicabs to ferry unsuspecting drama critics from the promoter's show to the kid's show.
Watch for appearances by Darla Hood (Little Rascals) and Margaret Dumont (Marx Brothers). One notable scene for inclusion in "Blacks in Hollywood" has token black Eightball (Ben Carter) escorting Weidler (in black-face) to the jail to visit her father. They fool the guard by engaging in the extreme stereotypical behavior early audiences seemed to enjoy. Which makes the finale's attempt of rally all Americans (all races, faiths, and occupations) behind the war effort even more hollow.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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