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Will Rogers Jr.,
Lon Chaney Jr.
Ray Henderson joins Buddy De Sylva and Lew Brown to form a successful 1920s musical show writing team. They soon have several hits on Broadway but De Sylva's personal ambition leads to friction as the other two increasingly feel left out of things. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
Forget The Inaccuracies And Remember The Wisdom of The Title Song
The Best Things In Life Are Free is once again the typical Hollywood musical biography where the main thing you come to hear are the songs. The output from DeSylva,Brown&Henderson certainly gives you enough material.
Buddy DeSylva came from a theatrical family and as played by Gordon MacRae was a man of ambition who enjoyed high living. Lew Brown who was actually born in Russia was a tough kid from the slums and Ernest Borgnine fresh from his Oscar in Marty certainly knew how to play rough characters. And the third member of the trio Ray Henderson is a family and home loving guy from the suburbs as written and played by Dan Dailey.
All three of these guys worked together and apart. It is not true as the film has it that Ray Henderson was an unknown who latched on by chance when he was visiting his sister-in-law to DeSylva and Brown. Henderson was already a composer of note when he made the two a trio.
DeSylva,Brown&Henderson as a team were together from 1926 to 1930 and wrote several Broadway shows and some early sound musicals. Another mistake shows them writing Sonny Boy for Al Jolson on the spur of the moment after a call from Jolie. Actually they wrote the entire score for The Singing Fool and then followed that up Jolson's third film, Say It With Songs.
The title song and The Birth Of The Blues are probably their best known work, but the rest of the score is like a step back in time to the Roaring Twenties. You'll find a lot here and so much more that may have been left on the cutting room floor.
I'm sure the trio did have the usual frictions that develop among creative partners. DeSylva in fact did leave the other two to become a film producer, first at 20th Century Fox and later at Paramount. In Star Spangled Rhythm, Walter Abel satirized him as B.G. DeSoto. DeSylva was the promoter of the career of Betty Hutton. The other two eventually went their separate ways.
Despite a more than usual amount inaccuracies, The Best Things In Life Are Free can't help being good with all the wonderful music these guys gave us. MacRae, Dailey, and Sheree North give us some really good musical performances, I only wish Dailey had some dance numbers for himself or at least some that made the final film. Acting wise Ernest Borgnine is memorable as the tough slum character who made it on Broadway.
There is also a very funny performance by former heavyweight contender Tony Galento as a bodyguard assigned to protect DeSylva after he runs afoul of gangster Murvyn Vye. Galento was certainly dedicated to his profession.
The film got one Oscar nomination for Lionel Newman for Best Musical Scoring and considering what Newman had to work with, maybe he should have won the award. The Best Things In Life Are Free is a great musical treat and reminder of the days when songs had real melodies.
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