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
Four Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart songs from the 1937 Broadway production of "Babes in Arms" which were showcased in this film hadn't been used in the 1939 Rooney-Garland-Busby Berkeley backyard musical. The numbers are: "I Wish I Were in Love Again," a duet by old pals Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in the party sequence; "Johnny One Note," Miss Garland's spirited follow-up at the party; Lena Horne's exuberant "The Lady Is a Tramp," which became a signature song for her; and finally, "Way Out West (On West End Avenue)," a comic ditty sung partially by 'Betty Garrett (I)', whose full prerecording can be found on the soundtrack CD from Sony. See more »
After an opening chorus "Oooo's" and "Ahhh's" to the music of the song, "Lover," Tom Drake says, "You have just heard some words and music written by Rodgers and Hart," even though we have heard no words. See more »
During the 1940's, MGM produced a number of All-Star musicals. The most notable being The Ziegfeld Follies, Till the Clouds Roll By, and Words and Music. The Ziegfeld film is most remembered for its comedy routines: Fanny Brice, Red Skelton, Victor Moore, and Judy Garland's satirical "The Great Lady Gives an Interview". The other two films are idealized biographies of Jerome Kern ("Clouds") and Rodgers and Hart ("Words"), of which the latter is far and away the more entertaining. The Kern film followed closely on the death of the revered composer and is too respectful for its own good. "Words and Music", on the other hand, benefits greatly from the presence of Mickey Rooney (as Larry Hart) and the always delightful Betty Garrett. But, most of all, it's the wide variety of songs that Rodgers and Hart produced that make it such a joy to watch. From June Allyson's lively "Thou Swell" (a highlight in her career) to the dramatic "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" ballet with Gene Kelly and Vera-Ellen (a forerunner of the sensual ballet's that Kelly performed in "An American in Paris" and "Singing in the Rain". And of course, there's the wonderful (and final) teaming of Rooney and Judy Garland (the amusing "I Wish I Were in Love Again").
From beginning to end, this is the best of MGM. Don't miss it.
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