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Paul Whiteman and Orchestra
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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
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 he is rejected by Joyce Harmon, Richard Rodgers attends a showing of Camille. This event is shown as taking place prior to the Broadway premiere of _A Connecticut Yankee_, even though the film was released in 1936 and the premiere of _A Connecticut Yankee_ took place in 1927. The clip from "Camille" is shown as if the picture were a silent film, when in fact "Camille" was (and is) one of Garbo's most celebrated talking pictures. See more »
Hollywood bio is salvaged by some nice musical stars...
If you have the patience to sit through one of Mickey Rooney's most frantic and hyperactive performances in which Larry Hart becomes a caricature, you'll be rewarded by some typically stylish MGM musical interludes with stars like Judy Garland, Lena Horne, June Allyson, Gene Kelly and Vera-Ellen. Perry Como and Mel Torme both have a chance to warble a couple of Rodgers & Hart tunes too.
The musical numbers have the glossy MGM touch but the main storyline is diminished by allowing Rooney to chew so much scenery that he ends up resembling a frantic wind-up toy--and he's less than convincing when he attempts the heavier melodramatics of the final scenes. He throws the whole picture off gear and makes us yearn for the music to start so we can see cameo turns by MGM's roster of stars. His only good moment is a song routine with Judy Garland that he does in typical Rooneyesque manner.
By contrast, the restrained and natural performances of Tom Drake (as Richard Rodgers) and Janet Leigh (as the girl who becomes his wife Dorothy) are a welcome relief. Betty Garrett does well to in a supporting role as Rooney's highly fictional girlfriend.
The only musical number which failed to charm me was the routine given Ann Sothern for the Garrick Gaieties number. A weak song with even weaker choreography. All of the other numbers are done in high style, especially Judy Garland's solo on the "Johnny One-Note" song and June Allyson's delightful "Thou Swell". Lena Horne also gets a chance to strut her stuff with "The Lady Is A Tramp".
Fans of MGM musicals will love this one--with reservations, perhaps, about its inaccuracies and Rooney's sledgehammer acting. A more serious attempt to play Hart is sorely needed--preferably with another actor in the part.
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