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April Showers (1948)

Approved | | Musical | 27 March 1948 (USA)
A married couple who have a song-and-dance act in vaudeville are in trouble. Their struggling act is going nowhere, they're almost broke and they have to do something to get them back on ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview:
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Robert Ellis ...
Buster Tyme
Richard Rober ...
Al Wilson
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William Barnes
...
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Mr. Gordon
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Harry Swift
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Storyline

A married couple who have a song-and-dance act in vaudeville are in trouble. Their struggling act is going nowhere, they're almost broke and they have to do something to get them back on top or they'll really be in trouble. They decide to put their young son in the act in hopes of attracting some new attention. The boy turns out to be a major talent, audiences love him and the act is on its way to the top. That's when an organization whose purpose is to stop children from performing on stage shows up, and they're dead set on breaking up the act. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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MUSICAL COMEDY OF THE VAUDEVILLE DAYS! (original ad - all caps)

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Musical

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Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

27 March 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Esquece Teus Pesares  »

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Buster's "adult midget voice" is a voiceover from the incomparable Mel Blanc - the voice of Bugs Bunny. See more »

Connections

Referenced in You Bet Your Life: Episode #8.2 (1957) See more »

Soundtracks

The Stars and Stripes Forever
(uncredited)
Written by John Philip Sousa
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User Reviews

 
One midget too many.
6 September 2005 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

The 1957 film 'The Buster Keaton Story' was ostensibly a biopic of silent-film comedian Keaton, but went far out of its way to tell Keaton's life story inaccurately ... and came up with a fiction that wasn't even very entertaining. A vastly better film, 'The Comic' (1969), depicted the life and career of an allegedly fictional silent-film comedian but actually gave a largely accurate account of Keaton's adult life and career. The 1948 Warner Bros musical 'April Showers', conversely, would seem to have been inspired by Buster Keaton's adolescent years as a star performer in vaudeville. As Keaton's major work in the Hollywood studio system was done for MGM, I'm intrigued that someone at Warner Brothers knew enough about Keaton's early life to create this film ... especially in 1948, when Keaton's career was at a low ebb.

The official stars of this film are Jack Carson (excellent!) and Ann Sothern as married vaudevillains Joe and June Tyme. (Keaton's vaudevillain parents were named Joe and Myra.) The act isn't doing well, and the Tymes can barely afford to pay the tuition for their son Buster who's in military school. Eventually, Buster Tyme is reunited with his parents in a theatrical boarding-house. Young Buster is played by Robert Ellis, a teenaged actor previously unknown to me. What a dynamic talent! (Why didn't this movie make Ellis a star?) In the boarding-house, Buster goes into a rousing rendition of 'Are You from Dixie?'. He sings, he dances, he turns cartwheels. Ellis gives a good acting performance as well; he shows real chemistry in his scenes with Carson, as they affectionately address each other as 'Big Tyme' and 'Small Tyme'.

Naturally, Joe and June put Buster into their small-time vaude act ... and they swiftly become a big-time hit. (In real life, Buster Keaton was part of his parents' stage act almost from birth ... and he quickly became the act's star.) But just when times are changing for the Tymes, along come a bunch of do-gooders who want to keep children off the stage. There's an implausible and unfunny scene here in which Buster tries to defuse the do-gooders by pretending to be a midget, smoking a cigar and talking in a deep voice. It doesn't help that the 'midget' voice is badly post-dubbed, and is clearly supplied by Mel Blanc doing his usual Barney Rubble turn. At the edge of these proceedings, a real midget (actor Billy Curtis) only emphasises the tastelessness of this scene.

With Buster out of the act, Joe and June are back in the small time again. Joe's drinking starts to jeopardise the act and the family (as was the case with Joe Keaton's alcoholism). June Tyme encounters suave stranger Billy Shay (Robert Alda, in an unsympathetic role), who seems to have designs on June. The ending is predictable and unconvincing.

Modern audiences might have trouble believing this film's central plot device: namely, that a talented and eager performer would be kept off the stage merely because he's not an adult. Actually, 'April Showers' gets this right. In America's vaudeville era, there was a powerful organisation called the Gerry Society, dedicated to preventing children from performing before age 16. At one point, Buster Keaton's parents actually considered passing him off as a midget to escape the Gerries' scrutiny. The Gerry Society's power extended beyond vaudeville: in the 1940 Broadway musical 'Panama Hattie', Ethel Merman was supposed to sing and dance a duet with child performer Joan Carroll, but the Gerries prevented Carroll from singing or dancing ... so she had to march in tempo with the music while chanting the lyric.

'April Showers' is weakly directed by James V Kern, a former musical comedian (one of the Yacht Club Boys) who lacks a sure touch. This movie should have been helmed by Warners contract director David Butler, who is woefully underrated. I'll rate 'April Showers' just 5 points out of 10, despite Robert Ellis's dynamic performance.


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