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"Look for the Silver Lining" (1949) is, admittedly, not renowned as one
of the great Technicolor musicals of all time. It is not usually
discussed in the same breath as "Cover Girl" (1944), "Easter Parade"
(1948), or "On the Town" (1949). But "...Silver Lining" is nevertheless
a first-rate musical entertainment, the only major biopic of the great
Broadway star Marilyn Miller, and the one film to fully employ the
bountiful assets of its star, June Haver.
Miss Haver began in films as a 20th Century-Fox contract player, appearing in small roles in "The Gang's All Here" (1943) and "Home in Indiana" (1944). She graduated to co-starring status, appearing as Betty Grable's sister (and stage partner) in "The Dolly Sisters" (1945). That was the role that established her as a bankable star, and she continued to perform, mostly in Technicolor, in Fox musicals for the remainder of the decade.
In 1949, however, June Haver was loaned to Warner Bros. for that studio's spectacular biography film of Marilyn Miller, 1920s' Broadway star par excellence. It was the role that Miss Haver would make her own. When she sings the Miller trademark song, "Who," she upstages Miss Miller (whose rendition is viewable on YouTube) and even invites comparison to Judy Garland's brief cameo as Miller in "Till the Clouds Roll By" (1946).
Ray Bolger co-stars as real-life dancer Jack Donahue and very nearly steals the show... but Ms. Haver swipes it right back, with her winning performances of "Sunny," "Shine on Harvest Moon," and the title song. She also dances en pointe in one of the ballet numbers, and shares a love duet with Gordon MacRae, "Time on my Hands."
"Look for the Silver Lining" was the high point of June Haver's career, a career that could have lasted much longer but for her decision, in 1952, to enter a Catholic convent and become a nun. She was not strong enough to endure convent life and eventually left with permission. But instead of resuming her promising movie career, she married Fred MacMurray, who had been one of her leading men, and was content to be a housewife and mother to their adopted twin girls.
I have read a lot about Marilyn Miller from Indiana to Broadway and it seems that she was indeed a great Broadway star, especially in the 20s. I think this is the best movie June Haver ever done, of her 15 she made,and the whole concept of the time, era, clothes and background seems to come to life, with an extra lift. MM was supposed to have been a perfectionist on stage and did not like anyone in the cast who was not the same. JH does not quite get this part correct but at least she has a damn good try. The supporting cast from Ray Bolger to Gordon Macrae are also good and overall a thoroughly entertaining musical. I eagerly watch for it to come on TV and I would not miss it for the world.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Marilyn Miller was a song and dance star of the 1920s. Her career was
short, as she died in her 30s after complications from sinus surgery.
This movie is based on her life, and appears to be fairly faithful,
although it apparently leaves out a couple of husbands. The full color
movie is fun to watch and has a number of fine musical numbers. But Ray
Bolger shows why he was one of the best entertainers.
Cute little (5'2") June Haver was in her early 20s, but had to play Miller starting as a 15 year old. Except for a rather mature face, she fit the part with her skinny legs and youthful exuberance. The story starts about 1913, her dad, mom, and two sisters are a successful Vaudeville act, and they aren't anxious to let the talented little girl join them. When the four were quarantined for several days with mumps, famous dancer Jack Donahue (Ray Bolger ) helps out. During his stage act he stops to ad lib, and invites little Marilyn on stage with him, and they dance. She was a hit, and joined her family act. She and Donahue became good friends and, in real life, married.
When she became a stage star, she did a role with Frank Carter (Gordon MacRae, with his superb baritone voice), and eventually, after his stint in the Army during the war, they married. While waiting for him for an opening night, and he didn't show up, after the performance she found he had died in a car wreck, driving to be with her.
She married another man, she had a successful career, and near the end when her sinus problems made her dizzy at times, she still looked for the silver lining. Charles Ruggles played her dad, Caro Miller, Rosemary DeCamp her mom, and her sisters were played by the twins, Lee and Lyn Wilde.
Look For the Silver Lining is a particular song favorite of mine and it
was the theme song of one of Broadway's brightest stars, Marilyn
Miller. Her own life, sad to say did not have too many sunny days in it
after that fateful night where she lost her first husband.
She died young from complications of a sinus operation in 1936 in the year when her producer/benefactor Florenz Ziegfeld had a biographical film about him. There was no mention of Marilyn's name in the film at all.
June Haver plays a winning Marilyn whom we see as a girl like Judy Garland, born in a trunk. Remember that Judy played Marilyn in Look for the Silver Lining. She was a child performer in a family of performers like the Gumm sisters. She met and fell in love with Frank Carter, a song and dance man who was killed in a car crash in New Jersey as the film shows. Carter in this film is played by Gordon MacRae in one of his earliest film roles.
Marilyn spent an extraordinary amount of money for a tomb for the late Mr. Carter who by all rights on his own would never deserve such a monument. It's one of the grandest in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx where Marilyn eventually joined him. It dwarfs such folks as former Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Irving Berlin who wrote Easter Parade for her and Clifton Webb in As Thousands Cheer.
In this film Marilyn has one other husband, Jack Donohue played by Ray Bolger who has some terrific dance numbers. That and two other marriages in real life didn't work out for her. One of her other husbands was Jack Pickford, brother of Mary Pickford who led quite a life of drink and debauchery and died young.
What's not shown is how hearty Marilyn partied in the Roaring Twenties. She was one wild child between marriages indulging in uncountable one night stands. It was said that in shows with her frequent co-star Clifton Webb, they'd split up the chorus boys, she'd take the straight ones and he'd go after the gay ones, many times their paths would cross.
One thing Marilyn never did was record. She adamantly refused record contracts, would not consider going to a recording studio to record the songs identified with her like Look For the Silver Lining, Who, and Easter Parade. She felt that sound alone could not capture the magic of a live performance, the dancing as well as the singing. Only those early sound films are the only record of her performing.
Marilyn Miller had an R, even an X rated life and Look for the Silver Lining does not remotely do justice to it. Still it's a tastefully done tribute to a very tragic star who found happiness in this world a most elusive thing.
Cherry10 could not have known Marylin Miller in the 60's. Marylin Miller died in April, 1936. She died after complications from sinus surgery. The movie only touches on this at the beginning when she became dizzy while dancing at the rehearsal. The movie takes some artistic license in presenting only "the sunny side of life" for Marylin, with the exception of the death of her first husband, Frank Carter. She actually went on to marry three more times. The movie succeeded in bringing an entertaining musical to the screen and did serve as a showcase for Ray Bolger. June Haver was able to keep up with him and did shine in her dance numbers.
Colorful but with only a cursory acquaintance with the actual facts of
Marilyn Miller's life this is an enjoyable musical but worthless as
June Haver is sunny and beautiful as the legendary star but misses giving any real sense of who she was. Charlie Ruggles and Rosemary DeCamp do what they can with thinly written roles as her parents and S. Z. Sakall does his usual charming sputtering and cheek slapping.
Gordon McRae, portraying perhaps the one character with any semblance to reality, Frank Carter, Miller's first husband sings wonderfully as always. The real standout is Ray Bolger who manages to inject some real feeling into his part and gets to showcase his talents well.
A very prettied up version of the facts this still is chock full of great songs well performed and on that basis a good show.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A mostly rather fanciful biop of early 20th century musical star
Marilyn Miller, who died at age 37 of complications from surgery
attempting to correct her sinus problem. This Warners Technicolor film
only suggests that something was wrong with her from a combination of
overindulgences and overwork. It would perhaps have been more
appropriate for Marilyn Monroe to star in such a biop, since her stage
name was inspired by the original MM, she would become Marilyn Miller
during her marriage to Arthur Miller, and she would die at about the
same age, having also suffered an unstable romantic life. However, June
Haver was an acceptable screen facsimile for a musical star whose most
effective medium was live performances rather than the few films she
made in the very beginning of soundies. Incidentally, June's romantic
life was also a mess during her too brief Hollywood years.
Being short, 23 y.o. June was fixed with pigtails in the first segment, to suggest she was an underage teenager when she joined the rest of her family in their vaudevillian act, correctly named The Columbians in the film. The actual MM was only 4 when she joined the act. Thus, she had 10 years of acting experience when she was asked to go single, around age 15-16, as indicated in the film. Also, as suggested in the film , the family sometimes had to flee authorities enforcing child labor or public school laws, although the solution was hardly as portrayed in the film. Impressive baritone Gordon MacRae, in his first film with a singing role, plays MM's first husband, who in contrast, was actually primarily an acrobatic dancer, more like veteran Ray Bolger: the 3rd lead in the film. Ray is given the name of Jack DonAhue, in remembrance of J. DonOhue, who was a dancer and dance instructor of this era. The real MM probably knew him, but he certainly didn't play the sort of role credited in this film, being 10 years younger than MM, not 22 years older, as was Ray relative to June.. The statements of several reviewers that MM married Donahue, either in the film or in real life are incorrect, although in the film, MM does express a desire to marry him. ... Gordon is given the name of the real MM's first husband: Frank Carter. As suggested in the film, their marriage did not long last, due to his fatal auto accident. However, this was actually earlier in her career than suggested in the film, giving Gordon more time to be in the film. In the latter part of the film, another forthcoming marriage is suggested, but bears no relation to MM's actual subsequent marriages. Thus, Ray serves as her only consistent friend and costar throughout the film, which provides an excellent opportunity to sample his inimical eccentric clownish dance style outside of his scarecrow costume("The Wizard of Oz").
The film begins with a stage performance by the rest of MM's family, dressed in Georgian costumes, to "Shine on Harvest Moon" and "Back to Baltimore". The actual Wilde twin sisters play the other 2 sisters in the family. After meeting Donahue, he invites Marylyn to try dancing with him, on stage and at a Christmas party. Throughout the film, June and Ray sometimes perform alone, and sometimes together. Gordon and June initially sing or dance to a backstage trial of the standard "Time on My Hands", then on stage he sings and she dances to "Just a Kiss in the Dark". Later, she asks him to marry her, but he first joins the army to fight the Huns. MM's father(played by Charles Ruggles) comically mistakes victory fireworks sounds for a Zeppelin attack.
Gordon's final musical performance is a half-hearted backstage trial of Jerome Kern's title song. June would sing and dance to this song(from "Sally") in a European setting, in the company of the inimical "Cuddles" Sakal. Judy Garland, who also played MM in the previous Kerns biop "'Til the Clouds roll By" , also sang this song, over a pile of dirty dishes. Both are good performances, if quite different. Remember that in this later stage of June's career, her singing was being dubbed. Judy's big production number in that film , to "Who?", is instead sung and danced to by Ray in his most elaborate solo performance. In the later part of this routine, he pours sand on a large drum-like cylinder to give a scraping sound when he danced. Fred Astaire repeated this device in the dance "I Wanna Be a Dancing Man" in the later released "The Belle of New York". June's equivalent big production number, again surrounded by a large bevy of men, would be the finale, sung and danced to "The Wild Wild Rose", followed by the title song.
June, a contract player with Fox, would again be loaned out to Warner for another nostalgic screenplay: "The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady". Gordon and Sakal would have more prominent parts in that film, and Gordon's singing was more impressive. Gene Nelson would replace Ray as June's primary dance partner and as a sometimes soloist. Again, June was the only significant female musical star, in contrast to most of her Fox musicals. I can't give a definitive answer to the question of which is the best of these two films. Clearly , some reviewers regard her performance in the present film as the best in her career. Most who so comment find Gordon's subsequent films costarring Doris Day more entertaining. I find these two ladies equally likable in their own ways. Doris's films tended to include more standards.
When June Haver finally got the top musical role of her career, it was Ray Bolger who stole the show. A more accomplished musical actress might have made this musical more than a routine, pleasant backstage story that is actually an incomplete bio of the great Broadway star. The production numbers are fine, the supporting cast is excellent and the technicolor glows--but it's never more than a routine musical with June Haver appealing as the talented singer/dancer who became a Broadway favorite and Gordon MacRae in fine voice as the man she loves but ultimately loses to an untimely accident. Not great, but worth seeing for Ray Bolger's inimitable way with a dance step in some show-stopping routines. Nice supporting players include Rosemary DeCamp, Charles Ruggles and S.Z. ("Cuddles") Sakall.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There's nothing wrong with this biopic, and frankly, I'm tired of
hearing about Judy Garland. Judy Garland was not in this film. Period.
End of that story.
This film has the feel of a rather templated musical biopic. Nothing wrong with that...other than that it doesn't tell the real story of Marilyn Miller. It's a nice musical...rather lavish, actually.
I think the issue here (note I didn't say problem) is that June Haver was a "good" actress, but not a "great" actress. As I watched the film, here and there I would think, "She's pretty good!" But other times I would think she was adequate. The worst scene in the film is when she learns her husband has been killed in an auto accident. The drama needed was a tad beyond Ms. Haver. But again, overall, she did "okay".
Ray Bolger is entertaining as real-life dancer Jack Donahue. Gordon MacRae does nicely as Miller's first husband. Charles Ruggles is delightful as Miller's father, and I enjoyed seeing Rosemary DeCamp as the mother.
It's a formula musical. Not outstanding, not bad. Middle of the road. Entertaining, but not true to life. Wonderful Technicolor. Nicely staged musical numbers.
You probably won't watch it repeatedly, but it's worth a watch one time as a regrettably forgotten musical.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The beautiful June Haver war a talented performer, but sadly, she lacks the on-screen magic to play Broadway's most beloved musical star of the 1920's. We today cannot comprehend the magic that was Marilyn Miller because all we have of her work are three early sound films that have showed little that made her so spectacular. Only one of them (the film version of "Sally") had such a moment, the color sequence where Miller went all out to perform the lively "I'm a Wild, Wild Rose". That song is the highlight of this extremely ordinary bio which only touches on her sometimes scandalous private life, totally overlooking her marriage to Jack Pickford (Mary's brother) and rumored affair with Florenz Ziegfeld. Haver handles the songs and dances nicely (singing a sweet version of "Look For the Silver Lining" and "Who?") but lacks fire. Ray Bolger is rather wasted as veteran Broadway choreographer Jack Donahue while Gordan MacRae makes little impression in his film debut. He would score better with Haver in "The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady" and a series of light-hearted musicals with Doris Day, entering film immortality as the star of two of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway hits.
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