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Three Little Words (1950)

Unrated | | Biography, Comedy, Musical | 12 July 1950 (USA)
The story of the successful Tin Pan Alley songwriting team of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby is told loosely and lightheartedly.




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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Mrs. Carter De Haven (as Gloria De Haven)
George Metkovich ...
Al Schacht
Harry Mendoza ...
Himself (as The Great Mendoza)


Song-and-dance man Bert Kalmar can't continue his stage career after an injury for a while, so he has to earn his money as a lyricist. Perchance he meets composer Harry Ruby and their first song is a hit. Ruby gets Kalmar to marry is former partner Jessie Brown, and Kalmar and Jessie prevent Ruby from getting married to the wrong girls. But due to the fact that Ruby has caused a backer's withdrawal for a Kalmar play, they end their relation. Written by Stephan Eichenberg <eichenbe@fak-cbg.tu-muenchen.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Unrated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

12 July 1950 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Drei kleine Worte  »

Box Office


$1,470,000 (estimated)


$2,800,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Vocals for Debbie Reynolds were dubbed by Helen Kane. See more »


The stills of the Marx Brothers (three rather than four) outside the opening of Animal Crackers (Broadway, 1928) is actually from The Big Store. See more »


Harry Ruby: I got plenty of tunes in me!
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References Animal Crackers (1930) See more »


Mr. and Mrs. Hoofer at Home
Music by André Previn
Danced by Fred Astaire, Vera-Ellen
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User Reviews

A Pair Of Normal Fellows
25 February 2008 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Three Little Words purports to tell the story of the fabled songwriting team of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby and for the film the unlikely team of Fred Astaire as Kalmar and Red Skelton as Ruby were brought in to star. It's a good thing the real Kalmar and Ruby had a lot more chemistry than Astaire and Skelton do.

But as in all these musical biographies of songwriters, it's the songs that are the real star. Kalmar and Ruby wrote some great ones, no doubt about it. Songs like Nevertheless, Thinking of You, Who's Sorry Now are still sung and will be sung for the next millennium.

Both these guys had their eccentricities, Kalmar fancied himself a magician and Ruby was a big baseball fan. Kalmar wanted to be Mr. Blackstone and Ruby would have swapped every song he ever wrote for a chance to play in the Major Leagues with any of the New York based teams.

Astaire is strangely lacking in dance routines in this film. They are confined to some vaudeville type numbers as befitting the fact that Kalmar was a song and dance man until a knee injury made him turn to writing. Red Skelton's antics were confined to some scenes on the baseball diamond where his good friend, the clown prince of baseball Al Schacht played by infielder George Metkovich provided some good humorous moments for Skelton.

Incidentally one big error in the film identified Al Schacht as a pitcher. Schacht was a catcher, his vaudeville partner was Nick Altrock who was a pitcher and a good one, but he's not in the film.

Arlene Dahl and Vera-Ellen play the women in the lives of Ruby and Kalmar. Vera-Ellen dances well with Astaire and her singing is dubbed by Anita Ellis.

Debbie Reynolds is in this in one of her earliest roles as Boop Boop a Doop singer Helen Kane who did introduce Kalmar and Ruby's I Wanna Be Loved By You. And Gloria DeHaven playing her own mother who died that year and she sings Who's Sorry Now.

Kalmar and Ruby also wrote Groucho Marx's theme, Hooray For Captain Spaulding. I'm still wondering why it was only confined to the two of our leads in rehearsal, why Groucho himself didn't appear. In real life he was a very close friend of Harry Ruby's. Kalmar and Ruby wrote the score for Duck Soup as well and later on they wrote Go West Young Man for Groucho in Copacabana.

The song Three Little Words was NOT introduced on Phil Regan's radio show. It was written by Kalmar and Ruby for the Amos and Andy film Check and Double Check where Duke Ellington and his orchestra played it with the Rhythm Boys singing. They also recorded the song with the Rhythm Boys who were Al Rinker, Harry Barris, and their lead singer, a fellow named Bing Crosby.

Kalmar had passed away when this film was released in 1950. Ruby went on after a fashion. Oscar Hammerstein, II helped finish a Kalmar lyric to a Ruby song that became A Kiss To Build A Dream On which was sung by Louis Armstrong the following year and was a big posthumous hit for half the team. And Harry Ruby wrote the famous television theme to The Real McCoys later on in the Fifties.

Other than their respective avocations for prestidigitation and baseball, Kalmar and Ruby were a pair of normal fellows and led pretty dull lives. But that's the problem when you try to do biographies of people like them. So relax and listen to some really great songs by a pair of normal guys.

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