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S. Sylvan Simon
It's 1650 in New Amsterdam, and Brom Broeck, a young outspoken newspaper publisher is arrested for printing advanced opinions on the undemocratic rule of Govenor "Peg-Leg" Stuyvesant. While Brom is in prison, old "Peg-Leg" goes on the make for Brom's sweetheart. But, when "Peg-Leg" is forced to release Brom... Watch-out! Written by
Washington Irving, author of "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", was a prominent character in the stage version of this musical, where he was played by Ray Middleton; however, he was completely omitted from the film version. See more »
Knickerbocker Holiday was one of three feature films Nelson Eddy starred in after leaving MGM after his last starring role with Jeanette MacDonald in I Married An Angel. His first film was the highly successful Phantom of the Opera, the third was a disastrous original musical for Republic, Northwest Outpost. Falling somewhere in the middle was Knickerbocker Holiday.
It's not that it's a bad film, but nearly all the Kurt Weill-Maxwell Anderson score is eliminated and a whole lot of the biting satire in the book. Knickerbocker Holiday ran for 168 performances on Broadway during the 1938-1939 season and starred Walter Huston as Peter Stuyvesant, the famous one legged colonial governor of New Amsterdam, the last one before the British took over the colonies.
Walter Huston's famous talk/sing version of the immortal September Song is world famous. Why they didn't get Huston for the screen is a mystery, but why Charles Coburn as Stuyvesant tried to actually sing the song is frightening. Coburn was decidedly not blessed with a singing voice and he really looks bad next to Nelson Eddy. Coburn can best be described as bellowing the immortal ballad.
Eddy took the role of the young firebrand Brom Broeck, a part not unlike the one he did at MGM in Let Freedom Ring. He doesn't get to sing the immortal September Song. His songs are quite forgettable and most of them were written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn who certainly have a lot better work to their credit. In fact a ballad entitled It Never Was You was Brom Broeck's big number on stage and that was eliminated. I commend a recording that Judy Garland made of it for Capitol records in the fifties. She sang it also in I Could Go On Singing.
Playing Eddy's love interest is Constance Dowling who sings nice and who Coburn is also on the prowl for. In fact the September Song is his way of wooing her by saying he's not getting any younger. Her younger sister is Shelley Winters in one of her first screen roles. I also liked Ernest Cossart as their greedy father and Percy Kilbride as the timid jailer of New Amsterdam.
Sad to say for all involved it was a nice effort, but a lot of improvement could have made this a classic.
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