Rosemary Murphy and Abie Cohen are the two lovers defined in the title. Their respective fathers and mothers are none too keen on Abie and Rosemary's oil-and-water romance, and get even less keener when the two are married by a Protestant minister, a marriage that is quickly done again by a Jewish rabbi and then again by a Catholic priest. The contrast between Yiddish and Celtic dialects and religious practices is also maintained. Providence lends a helping hand at the end to effect the reconciliation of the fathers to their respective children and the choice they have made. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"A phenomenon unique in the American theatre", to quote Edwin Bronner, author of The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre 1900 1975", the stage play, Abie's Irish Rose, was initially rejected by every manager, impresario and dogsbody on Broadway. Nevertheless, the play's author, Anne Nichols, had faith in her work, even though everyone else on Broadway from Cohen to Ziegfeld thought it stank and they were all marvelously correct. I would rate Abie's Irish Rose as the lousiest play ever commercially produced anywhere. But author Nichols didn't give a hang what all Broadway's experts from impresarios to ticket scalpers thought. She had faith in her play and decided to produce it herself! Signing up a cast of would-be thespians and nobodies, she persuaded a bottom-of-the-barrel director to take on the job and invested every cent she had in the world, namely a scanty $5,000. The play duly opened at the Fulton on May 23, 1932. The critics were derisively dismissing and the public obligingly stayed away. To keep the show going despite scanty ticket sales, Miss Nichols managed to twist the arm of Arnold Rothstein, of all people! Rothstein, a professional gambler, agreed to lend Nichols $30,000 in return for an interest in the production. The exact amount, varying from a 10% interest to 75%, depends on who you ask! Well, Rothstein was known as the lad on whom Lady Luck smiled from time to time, and she sure outdid herself with Abie's Irish Rose! No sooner had Rothstein invested his dough than the box office began to pick up. Mind you, Arnold was a good talker, and he had a lot of contacts, and maybe he persuaded a good few to take a look-see. And maybe they enjoyed the show. And maybe they told their friends. Anyway, receipts began to rise and they just kept on rising. Before the play was finally through on Broadway, five years later, eleven million people had paid twenty-two million dollars to watch Abie's Irish Rose! The show then went on the road. In the meantime, Miss Nichols sold the movie rights to Paramount. The film version, directed by Victor Fleming (who was later to helm Gone With The Wind) had a gala society premiere in New York at the Forty-fourth Street Theatre on April 19, 1928. That version, a silent, seems to have disappeared, but the 1946 re-make by executive producer, Bing Crosby, is still with us. The Fleming movie starred Buddy Rogers, Nancy Carroll and Jean Hersholt. The remake, a Bing Crosby Production released by United Artists, offers Joanne Dru as Rosemary and Richard Norris as Abie. It was directed by A. Edward Sutherland from a screenplay by Miss Nichols herself. As we might expect, it's very much a filmed stage play. This lack of cinematic quality in the over-talkative screenplay is not helped by Sutherland's consistently routine direction. One of the few exceptions to the Sutherland rule, is the circuitous tracking shot through the orange-decorated room which culminates in a long pause before J.M. Kerrigan enters. Dull close-ups and tiresome reverse angles don't stimulate interest either. The dialogue is some of the corniest, tritest, most sentimental and least believable I have ever suffered through. And as for the acting! With the sole exception of Joanne Dru's charming portrayal of the title role, it's as corny and exaggerated as the playing in an old-time farce. The worst offenders in the acting department are Michael Chekhov, J. M. Kerrigan, George E. Stone (who adopts a pseudo-Yiddish accent and whose make-up is as phony as that accent), Vera Gordon, Emory Parnell, Bruce Merritt (who is constantly standing around with a stupid grin on his immobile face), Louis Jean Heydt and others. And as for Richard Norris who plays Abie, a more callow, ineffectual, and wooden "pretty boy" would be hard to imagine. No wonder he was rarely heard from again! The plot developments are as corny, predictable and as heavily relying on co-incidences as the characters are uniformly pasteboard stereotypes. Even their religious attitudes are farcically simplistic. Few attempts have been made to open up the stage play and such little as there is, can only be described as inept. The stage curtain is plainly discernible between the Acts. And to top it all off before the final curtain descends, there enters a singing policeman who croons an Irish lullaby in Bing Crosby style! Miss Dru is attractively photographed and cinematographer William C. Mellor uses deep focus with ease. The music score is occasionally lively but other credits remain stolidly routine. Production values rate as extremely modest, using stock footage for example for all exterior scenes.
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