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I'LL BE YOURS (Universal-International, 1947), directed by William A. Seiter, is a pleasing little comedy starring Deanna Durbin in one of her final movie roles before her retirement from the screen by 1948. While the title might indicate a dramatic love story or possibly a title song, it's neither. Taken from the screenplay by Preston Sturges that developed into a 1935 motion picture, THE GOOD FAIRY, starring Margaret Sullavan, Herbert Marshall and Frank Morgan, with only connections between these two productions being the central character's name is Louise Ginglebusher who lands a job as an usherette at a movie theater; and that the man she likes happens to have a beard. For a Durbin movie, for a change, she's not an ambitious singer hoping for a singing career, but one with a talent for singing who helps those she befriends, even if she has to lie to do it.
The story opens with Louise Ginglebusher (Deanna Durbin), a small town girl from Cobleskill entering a train bound for New York City. While in the big city, she enters a café offering Hungarian goulash for 35 cents, but because the product is no longer available, Wechberg (William Bendix), its waiter, with an element of surprise of having a customer, offers her chicken sandwich instead to meet with her budget. Also in attendance is George W. Prescott (Tom Drake), a honest lawyer whose beard makes him distinguished, but not distinguished enough to win any cases. After acquiring a place to live at Mrs. Doogle's boarding house on 47th Street, Louise lands a job as a usherette for $25 a week at the Buckingham Music Hall (obviously a replica of Radio City Music Hall), whose manager, Mr. Buckingham (Walter Catlett), also from Cobleskill who had once been a high school classmate of her late father. With the help of Wechberg, whose ambition is to someday manage his own restaurant, invites Louise to attend a social function where he's to work as a waiter. Mistaking its host for a waiter, Louise is stunned to learn that J. Conrad Nelson (Adolphe Menjou) is not only the host but president of the Pan American Meat Packing Corporation. After passing herself off as one of the entertainers, and displaying her singing talent, Nelson talks terms into starring her in a musical show, but instead, asks him to appoint "her husband," George Prescott, as his local representative. As Louise fantasizes herself as Prescott's dream wife, further complications ensue as her lies soon get her into deeper trouble. Others seen in the supporting cast include: Franklin Pangborn (The Barber); Joan Fulton (The Blonde); Patricia Alphin and Nancy Brinckman (The Usherettes); Ida Moore (The Landlady); and John Hamilton (Chairman of the Board).
Interestingly for a Durbin movie, I'LL BE YOURS has more plot than music. Whatever songs presented, they're few and far between. The motion picture soundtrack is as follows: "The Cobleskill School Song" (sung by Walter Catlett and Deanna Durbin); "Grenada," "It's Dream Time" and "The Sari Waltz." Only the beautiful rendition of "It's Dream Time" gets the full treatment on a rowboat in Central Park with Durbin and Tom Drake, accompanied by unseen angel type voices heard only on the soundtrack. "The Sari Waltz" starts off in lavish scale with Durbin singing followed with her ballroom dancing with Drake at Wechberg's Garden Café French Cuisine. After a promising start with camera capturing them slightly from higher angle dancing on heart-shaped floor, it makes one wish this could have been longer developing into something special.
While Deanna Durbin displays her genuine flair for comedy, it's a shame she didn't get to display more to the fullest. Tom Drake, an MGM actor best known as "The Boy Next Door" to Judy Garland's MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1944), makes a fine counterpart of a struggling young lawyer who believes Louise should legally change her last name. Although gone for a long stretch following his introduction in the café near the start of the story, Drake's has much more to do during its second half, often competing against scene stealing support handled by William Bendix and Adolphe Menjou, who memorably played Durbin's father a decade earlier in 100 MEN AND A GIRL (Universal, 1937).
Formerly shown regularly on public broadcast stations in the 1980s, and displayed to video cassette in the 1990s, I'LL BE YOURS remained virtually forgotten until presented on Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: November 20, 2016) as part of its Deanna Durbin double feature movie tribute. Clocked at 93 minutes, I'LL BE YOURS is good, not great, light comedy entertainment with some music and character types to move it along. (**1/2)
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