7.9/10
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7 user

Mister Big (1943)

Passed | | Comedy, Music | 28 May 1943 (USA)
At the Davis School of the Theatre, run by Jeremy Taswell, where teen-age kids study drama and the serious arts, instructors Johnny Hanley and Alice Taswell are in love. The students, ... See full summary »

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(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Patricia
...
Peggy
...
Johnny Hanley
...
Alice Taswell
...
Jeremy Taswell
Robert Scheerer ...
Bobby (as Bobby Scheerer)
Richard Stewart ...
Genius
...
Muggsy (as Mary Eleanor Donahue)
...
Mrs. Mary Davis
Ray Eberle ...
Ray Eberle
Eddie Miller ...
Leader, Eddie Miller's Bob Cats (as Eddie Miller's Bob Cats)
Ben Carter ...
Ben Carter - Choir Leader (as The Ben Carter Choir)
...
Dancing Ensemble
Ben Carter Choir ...
Vocal Ensemble
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Storyline

At the Davis School of the Theatre, run by Jeremy Taswell, where teen-age kids study drama and the serious arts, instructors Johnny Hanley and Alice Taswell are in love. The students, including Donald, Patricia and Peggy, secretly want to become singers. Patricia's aunt, Mrs. Davis, owns the school and disapproves. Donald has written a musical comedy for the year's class play, which the students want to do; but Mrs. Davis has selected and insists they do Sophocles' "Antigone." Taswell agrees to let the kids do Donald's show. Donald manages to keep Mrs. Davis away on the day of the show, and when Broadway producers in attendance rave about Donald's play, she becomes a backer. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Music

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

28 May 1943 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

School for Jive  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

First appearance on film of Elinor Donahue (under her then name of Mary Eleanor Donahue) as "Muggsy." Fresh from vuadeville this then seven year old actress would later co-star on Father Knows Best as daughter Betty "Princess" Anderson as well as many other series and films. See more »

Quotes

Donald J. O'Connor, Esq.: Are you sure it'll work?
Patricia: I read it in a large and imposing book.
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Soundtracks

Rude, Crude and Unattractive
Written by Buddy Pepper and Inez James
Sung by Donald O'Connor and Peggy Ryan
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User Reviews

 
Enjoyable aside from some stunning racism
2 December 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

As a fan of musicals in general and Donald O'Connor in specific, I was all set to enjoy my first dive into the teen musicals he made with Universal in the 1940s. Mister Big turned out the be incredibly enjoyable in some respects, and incredibly cringe-worthy in others.

On the one hand, the performances are generally top-notch, the one-liners are that wonderful mix of hokey and enjoyable, and Donald wears some ridiculous clothing. (Am I the only person who wants to tell him to stop trying on his father's suits? They all look so big on him!) The entire movie is worth buying just for the opportunity to watch Peggy Ryan kick Donald O'Connor in the face in "Rude, Crude, and Unattractive"--the play violence is half the gimmick in their dancing, but that song goes above and beyond the usual. O'Connor's interpretation of Hamlet's soliloquy is likewise charming, and Gloria Jean's solos are a delight.

On the other hand, there are some painfully racist scenes--I'm honestly surprised the other reviews haven't mentioned them. There's an entire number in blackface, and a group of black children are allowed the opportunity to perform with the lily-white main cast in the final number...from a hayloft. Because, of course, people of colour performing in a stable-like setting doesn't imply that they're animal-like at all. Insert eye rolling here.

I'd love to see Mister Big and all the rest of the hep musicals released on commercial DVD someday in a proper boxed set. Even if they're imperfect, these films need to be preserved for study and enjoyment (because really, the less racist moments are worth watching multiple times). However, if the other titles in the O'Connor/Ryan/Jean catalogue contain such blatant racism as is found in this one, I can understand why Universal's been hesitant to put these to press.

My 8/10 rating is for the parts of the film that didn't make me cringe from the unrepentant blackface and marginalization of the blacks in the cast. Including those parts, my rating goes down significantly.


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