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This is the second of two films Bing Crosby partnered with Jane Wyman
after their stunning success in Here Comes The Groom. This time
Paramount gave them color and Ethel Barrymore and the results are a
Bing's a successful stage actor who's about to marry his leading lady, Jane Wyman, when he discovers he's got a communication problem with his two kids. Daughter Natalie Wood wants to get into an exclusive girl's school and son Robert Arthur misreads some signals and starts crushing big time on Wyman.
Ethel Barrymore is headmistress of the school and she helps Crosby solve his daughter's problems. His son, after writing a love ballad for Wyman, is rebuffed and joins the Air Force. All is righted in the end and in the usual Crosby charming way.
Paramount gave Bing some good production numbers out of the Harry Warren-Leo Robin score. Bing sings I'll Si Si You In Bahia as a number from the show he's rehearsing and later sings The Live Oak Tree with the girls from the St. Hilary's School at their picnic. He also does a nice vaudeville patter number with character actor Ben Lessy called On the 10-10 from Ten-Ten-Tennessee.
The big hit is a duet with Crosby and Wyman called Zing a Little Zong which is a complete ripoff of the number he and Wyman did for Frank Capra in Here Comes The Groom. Well if they can't ripoff from themselves who can Bing and Jane ripoff from? The song was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to Do Not Forsake Me from High Noon.
Just For You is the title song and it's the one that Arthur writes for Wyman. A couple of numbers that Crosby recorded failed to make the cut, Spring Fever and A Flight of Fancy. The latter is heard as an instrumental background. It's one of my favorite Crosby songs and I wish it had been done in the film.
The story is sappy, but one doesn't expect War and Peace in a Bing Crosby musical. The color photography is excellent, Crosby and Jane Wyman are attractive and credible, and Robert Arthur and Natalie Wood play Crosby's problem kids competently. The real star for me, though, was composer Harry Warren. The old pro delivered 11 songs, most of high quality, including the catchy "Zing a Little Zong" and the title song, a beautiful ballad now forgotten. Ethel Barrymore is an added treat, giving the film a touch of class. All in all, this is better than dozens of better- known musicals and not a bad way to spend an hour and a half.
At the risk of being stoned I must admit to not being much of a Bing Crosby
fan. But I still enjoyed this minor musical. It is filmed in gorgeous
color and has some good routines - especially that one with the airplane -
wow! - but it's hard to forgive that nauseating number featuring singing and
dancing snobbish school-girls on the beach.
There are some terrific performances here. Robert Arthur is given one of his best roles as Bing's confused son, and he is both believable and touching as he falls in love with the much older Wyman. And Jane's a big surprise here too, singing well and looking stunning. And who could resist Natalie Wood in her early teens? But Ethel Barrymore was the highlight for me, although she seemed a little frail. The warmth and humanity she brought to all her roles is utilised beautifully here.
The costumes are magnificent, especially the multi-colored sequin gowns in the last scenes, and, although the ending is a little saccharine, this film is great entertainment.
We all knew Jane Wyman was wonderful with her melodramatic box of kleenex roles she did so well but what a flair for comedy... And her singing voice; what a surprise! As in many actors lives, art imitated life in this movie; Bing Crosby's wife Dixie Lee, was suffering from terminal cancer in 1952 and died before the end of the year. Bing shows a rare vulnerability we didn't see in his other films. And his talk to the soldiers in Alaska towards the film's end about being too late with his son; sounds like he was speaking to the 4 sons he and Dixie had. He wasn't a perfect father but he tried and did the best he could. Crosby seems preoccupied in this film; probably his wife's terminal illness and death had much to do with it. Crosby's widower character is in keeping with the angst he must have been feeling at this time. Natalie Wood and the actor who portrayed his son are wonderful; Ethel Barrymore-- what can I say about this great icon of stage and screen. Jane Wyman's character Carolina knows just how to keep Bing's character in line with love, adoration and resolve. Wyman fans will love this movie. 50 years later, the costumes, sets and glorious color seem very current; it's timeless!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Just for You" is a clean-cut film that combines music with romance, a
little comedy and a very light treatment of a family with some
problems. The story is OK, but the script just isn't quite believable
even for that day and age. What raises the score on this one though is
the music and three special scenes that show some terrific supporting
talent. Two are musical and one is a song and dance number.
Bing Crosby is a widower dad of two growing-up kids who haven't seen much of their busy dad who's a major theatrical producer. As Jordan Blake, Bing gives us some good songs, some dance steps and his shtick asides for which he was known on stage and in film. Jane Wyman is Carolina Hill, who's the star of Jordan's new show. The romance between the two is barely played out in the film, but understood. I don't know if Wyman could sing, or if the songs she sings in the film were dubbed. Bing has a number of good songs and one routine that stands out -- "Zing, Zing, Zing," is reprised a couple of times later in the film, including once with Wyman.
Young Natalie Wood (she was just 14 at the time of this film's release) plays Jordan's teenage daughter, Barbara. Robert Arthur plays 21-year- old son Jerry. Jerry has a crush on Carolina, and that's part of the serious side of the film, as well as the light comedy. The other part of the story is Barbara's longing to attend the prestigious St. Hilary's school for girls, and the wonderful Ethel Barrymore's role as head mistress of the school Alida de Bronkhart. .
The best comedy line in the film is when Bing has been assuming Barrymore as a "mechanic" in the employ of the school, only to find out she's the boss. He says to Barrymore, "You might not believe it, but my daughter isn't as stupid as me."
The credits don't list the dancers, and I can't tell who was who from the IMDb movie list of uncredited. But one long number with Wyman singing some strains of "Amor, Amor, Amor," had a dynamite dance routine with it. The scene was excellently choreographed and the dancers were outstanding. The male lead was exceptional. This added immensely to the entertainment value of this film. It's a nice clean, easy film for the whole family, but perhaps too slow for youth of today. The music and dance numbers are very good entertainment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In one of his best films, Bing Crosby plays a show biz dad, a
songwriter (Who can sing and even dance) widowed and left with two
children who barely know him. If this sounds somewhat
semi-auto-biographical, it's rather an ironic to his real life and
scandals that haunted his family long after he died. Son Robert Arthur
longs to be a songwriter himself, but pop Bing doesn't think he's ready
to drop out of college to take it up full time. Daughter Natalie Wood
longs for a relationship with him, but fears telling him, content with
her passing parade of nannies, the last of them a high society lush.
Realizing that he is losing the respect of his children, he takes the
summer off on an effort to patch up the estrangement. Crosby and Arthur
both fall in love with the leading lady of Bing's show, a wonderful
lady, played by none other than Jane Wyman who walks off with the film.
Best known for dramatic roles and her long run as the ruthless Angela Channing on "Falcon Crest", sings and dances like a dream, making me wonder how she would have been as Mama Rose or Mame. She sings one song as a jilted bride, at one point dancing with three reflections of herself. With Crosby, she gets into the act on the delightful "Zing a Little Zong" which turns into a production number. Crosby gets a great opening number, making it a shame that he never appeared in a book musical and whose stage appearances were reduced to concerts and variety shows. This is the most likable of his 50's musicals, far more enjoyable than the holiday favorite, "White Christmas".
That grand dame of all grand dames, Ethel Barrymore, threatens to steal every moment she's on screen as the life-loving but serious proprietor of a girl's school. The old ham she is reminds me of a more elegant Marie Dressler. Wood and Arthur are overshadowed by the adults, and even Barrymore can't take the top bow over the lovely Jane Wyman at her most feminine and desirable. Even with that Mamie Eisenhower hairstyle, she is truly sexy here, and it is easy to see why the young Arthur could have a crush on her.
With parallels to Bing's life, this has historical value. As a musical, it is quite different than most of what audiences got in the 1950's. The father/son relationship seems to be a less severe version of what Crosby went through with his own sons, and the fact that Bing's first wife Dixie Lee died the very same year makes it almost prophetic and certainly profound.
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