Acrobat Eddie Marsh is in the army now. His first act is to become friendly with Kathryn Jones, the colonel's pretty daughter. Their romance hits a few snags, including disapproval from her... See full summary »
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Light bio-pic of American Broadway pioneer Jerome Kern, featuring renditions of the famous songs from his musical plays by contemporary stage artists, including a condensed production of ... See full summary »
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Encomium to Larry Hart (1895-1943), seen through the fictive eyes of his song-writing partner, Richard Rodgers (1902-1979): from their first meeting, through lean years and their breakthrough, to their successes on Broadway, London, and Hollywood. We see the fruits of Hart and Rodgers' collaboration - elaborately staged numbers from their plays, characters' visits to night clubs, and impromptu performances at parties. We also see Larry's scattered approach to life, his failed love with Peggy McNeil, his unhappiness, and Richard's successful wooing of Dorothy Feiner. Written by
Lena Horne's prerecording of "Where or When," a standard first heard in the 1937 Broadway show, "Babes in Arms," contains the verse, which was not used in the release print. Her complete rendition was first presented on the MGM Records soundtrack album. In the CD era, there are two offerings of Lena's full version: the soundtrack from Sony and a collection from Rhino, "Lena Horne at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: Ain' It the Truth." See more »
26-year-old Judy Garland plays herself set in a scene in which she would have really been around 10 years old. See more »
Musical Moments Salvage Weak, Inaccurate Story and Dialogue
To describe the 1948 WORDS AND MUSIC as a "whitewashed" version of the famous song-writing team Rogers and Hart is a gross understatement. Lorenz Hart (1895-1943) was a homosexual in an era when such was flatly unacceptable; the pressures of the closet drove him into a wildly self-destructive alcoholism that ultimately killed him. Richard Rogers (1902-1979)was Hart's polar opposite, a highly disciplined individual who had zero tolerance for Hart's extremes. Their friendship and working relation was stormy, to say the least.
Needless to say, there was no way on earth that 1940s Hollywood could approach these facts. What we get instead is the story of the brilliant but glitchy Hart (Mickey Rooney) who is disappointed in love by singer Peggy McNeil (Betty Garrett), never gets over it, and falls apart as Rogers (Tom Drake) and his wife Dorothy (Janet Leigh) look on in dismay. It's pretty much a lot of pap, but fortunately for all concerned the movie gives us a lot of music along the way.
Most of the music is the form of cameos by a wash of MGM's musical stars. Perry Como has unexpected screen presence; Lena Horne, saddled with the excessive gesticulation and odd costumes typically inflicted upon her during her Hollywood years, still manages to give truly memorable performances of "Where or When" and "The Lady Is A Tramp;" June Allyson does a charming "Thou Swell;" Gene Kelly and Vera-Ellen offer a memorable version of the jazz ballet "Slaughter on 10th Avenue." Other notables include Anne Southern, Cyd Charisse, and Mel Torme.
The big noise among the cameos is Judy Garland, who was battling MGM over withheld salary at the time and finally agreed to do two numbers to even out what the studio said she owed them. The result would be the final pairing of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in a motion picture, the two performing a charming duet of "I Wish I Were In Love Again," with Rooney clearly trying to break Garland up--and often succeeding. It's tremendous fun and followed by Garland's hard-belting and equally enjoyable "Johnny One Note."
Cameos aside, the primary cast is quite good with Rooney a stand out as Hart; one wonders at what performance he might have given if the script had been a no-holds-barred account. Granted, WORDS AND MUSIC is the sort film you watch for the musical moments rather than the plot--but when all is said and done it does what it does extremely well. Recommended, but primarily for musical fans.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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