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Suzanna Foster and Franchot Tone star in entertaining zany musical comedy

9/10
Author: william walker (weezeralfalfa@yahoo.com) from United States
24 February 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This was, very unfortunately, Suzanna Foster's last Hollywood film, at the ripe old age of 21. One of the most talented film coloratura sopranos ever, and a strikingly good looking and talented actress decided to call it quits, being disappointed with the films and film roles Universal put her in after her starring role in Universal's big production of '43, "Phamtom of the Opera": probably the most prestigious musical in the history of this studio.

The other big name in this film is that of Franchot Tone, who had a long career both in films and on the stage, generally preferring the latter, especially as the years went on. His peak in film popularity probably was the '30s, when he was married to Joan Crawford for a while. 20 years older than Suzanna, he had a natural aristocratic bearing, exhibited in this film as Broadway producer Paul Renauld, which reflected his privileged Yankee upbringing.

Louise Allbritton, as Shella, Tone's apparent secretary and confident, was a forceful young actress who, like Suzanna, seemed more mature than her years would suggest. She had been a significant player in two musicals the previous year that included Suzanna: "Bowery to Broadway" and "This is the Life"... David Bruce, who plays Suzzana's boyfriend, Johnny, had a rather brief undistinguished film career....Jacqueline deWit, who plays Tone's long-divorced former wife, was a striking-looking brunette, with forceful stage presence who, true to her typecasting, plays 'the other woman', with limited screen time...Buster Keaton has a very small role as the short order cook at Johnny's Diner...Irene Ryan, who would later gain fame as 'Granny', in the hugely popular TV series "the Beverly Hillbillies", appears briefly periodically , in a small role as Tone's maid.

The abundant musicals consist of a mixture of easily recognizable classical pieces, sometimes with new lyrics by Jack Brooks, and 2 novel songs. "Market Place" is an operatic-sounding song which appears very early and is staged as a daydream. In my opinion, this is the performance highlight of the film. A ghost-like image of Suzanna emerges from Johnny's car, and sings and dances gaily while wandering through a street market, with occasional inputs by random others... The other novel song:"Once Upon a Dream" is heard about midway in the film. While Suzanne is dancing with Johnny, and Jacqueline(as Blossom) with Tone, Blossom wants to demonstrate her singing talent. Suzanna picks up the song for bit, then they alternate. Near the end, they compete to sing the highest note(Suzanna wins). I have no info on whether Jacqueline was dubbed by Suzanna....Excerpts from "The Nutcracker Suite" and "The Barber of Seville" were staged as night dreams. The latter is a rather bizarre performance, as Suzanna haltingly sings it while going through the procedures of an exclusive beauty parlor, including a vigorous massage, followed by redressing in her fashionable NYC wardrobe... Later, she sings "Brahms Lullaby" briefly to some orphan guests. In the finale, she is the stage star of a brief rendition of Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture". The parting shots of Tone, Shella, and Johnny, among others, in the audience, provides us with a strong hint as to how the back and forth romantic attachments throughout the film finalized. See the film to see what I mean.

The screenplay is corny, zany, and highly contrived, to say the least, rather like something you might see in "I Love Lucy". If that's what you like, you should like the dramatic aspects of this film, as well as the musical interludes, unless the constant complicated romantic dynamics wear too thin on you. Seems that Tone's character has been divorced for 20 years, and is quite popular with the women, but very changeable about with whom and when he might remarry. Thus, his female star in his next stage production gets impatient with his dalliance and leaves, providing a possible opening for Suzanna's character, Penny, or alternatively for Tone's ex-wife, Blossom, who shows up unannounced to claim the role before Suzanna has it nailed down. This is complicated by Suzanna's claim that she is Tone's unknown daughter by Blossom, initially confirmed by Blosson, for her own reasons. Tone 'knows' Suzanne is a fraud, but decides to play along with her ruse for a while, then is convinced she is genuine for a while. Meanwhile, Tone and Suzanna act flirtatiously with each other, both trying to alternately deny and promote their attraction. This is most dramatically enacted when they are alone at a lodge, before Johnny and Shella(Tone's secretary) show up. Meanwhile, Johnny keeps pressuring Suzanna to marry him and forget about a stage career. Shella also has marriage to Tone on her agenda. The audience thinks they know how things will turn out, and after a few more twists and turns, they are probably correct, as the finale scene suggests.

It's tragic that Suzanna saw this film as not up to par with what she expected, and decided to abandon Hollywood. I think she underestimated its appeal. At least, we are left with a few glimpses of her entertainment and musical talents at a still young age. This film was briefly viewable at You Tube. But, as of July, '13, when I rechecked it, is no longer viewable. Copyright problems?

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