IMDb > The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956)

The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956) More at IMDbPro »

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Release Date:
28 September 1956 (USA) See more »
John O'Hara's flaming portrait of the jazz age... and the guys and gals who made it Zing!
Ray Henderson joins Buddy De Sylva and Lew Brown to form a successful 1920s musical show writing team... See more » | Add synopsis »
Nominated for Oscar. See more »
User Reviews:
Historical inaccuracies aside I really liked it! See more (10 total) »


  (in credits order)

Gordon MacRae ... B.G. 'Buddy' De Sylva

Dan Dailey ... Ray Henderson

Ernest Borgnine ... Lew Brown

Sheree North ... Kitty Kane

Tommy Noonan ... Carl Frisbee
Murvyn Vye ... Manny Costain

Phyllis Avery ... Maggie Henderson

Larry Keating ... Winfield Sheehan
Tony Galento ... Fingers
Norman Brooks ... Al Jolson
Jacques d'Amboise ... Specialty Dancer
Roxanne Arlen ... Perky Nichols
Byron Palmer ... Hollywood Star
Linda Brace ... Jeannie Henderson
Patty Lou Hudson ... Susie Henderson
Julie Van Zandt ... Patricia Van Seckland
Larry Kerr ... Brewer
Charles Victor ... Andrews
Eugene Borden ... Louis
Harold Miller ... Percy - Theatre Critic
Emily Belser ... Photographer
Paul Glass ... Piano Player
Bill Foster ... Dance Director in Film
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Aladdin ... Studio Executive (uncredited)
Adelle August ... Chorus Girl (uncredited)
Robert Banas ... Newsboy (uncredited)
Lois Barnes ... Clara Bow-type (uncredited)
Francesca Bellini ... Dancer (uncredited)
Gail Bonney ... Woman in Back Row (uncredited)
Jack Boyle ... Dance Director (uncredited)
Paul Bradley ... Premiere Attendee (uncredited)

Barrie Chase ... Chorine (uncredited)
Juanita Close ... Telephone Operator (uncredited)
Tom Coleman ... Party Waiter (uncredited)
Richard Collier ... Pawnbroker (uncredited)
Clancy Cooper ... Bootlegger (uncredited)
Suzanne Dalbert ... Hostess (uncredited)
Harvey Daniels ... Usher (uncredited)
Barbara Darrow ... Brenda (uncredited)

Ann B. Davis ... Hattie Stewart (uncredited)
Lisa Davis ... Limp Party Girl (uncredited)
Denise De Lacey ... Silent Film Ingenue (uncredited)
Franklyn Farnum ... Theatregoer (uncredited)
Joseph Forte ... Man in Theatre Lobby (uncredited)
James Gonzalez ... Movie Director (uncredited)
Paul Grant ... Usher (uncredited)
Marcoreta Hellman ... Wardrobe Woman (uncredited)

Bill Hickman ... Moviegoer at Premiere (uncredited)
Bob Hopkins ... Broadway Character (uncredited)
Betsy Jones-Moreland ... Secretary (uncredited)
Claire Kelly ... Chorus Girl (uncredited)
Kenner G. Kemp ... First Nighter (uncredited)
Ethan Laidlaw ... Stagehand (uncredited)
Mike Lally ... Film Studio Technician (uncredited)
Peter Leeds ... Genius (uncredited)
Carl M. Leviness ... Theatregoer (uncredited)
Peter Mamakos ... Henchman (uncredited)
Thomas Martin ... Theatregoer (uncredited)
Natalie Masters ... Minor Role (uncredited)
Marjorie May ... Silent Movie Vamp (uncredited)

Frank McClure ... Party Guest (uncredited)
Patricia McMahon ... Party Girl (uncredited)

Barry Norton ... First Nighter (uncredited)
George Offerman Jr. ... Party Guest (uncredited)
Joe Ploski ... Bootleg Runner (uncredited)

Juliet Prowse ... Chorus Girl (uncredited)
Gordon Richards ... Butler (uncredited)
Mary Rodman ... Girl in Low-Cut Dress (uncredited)
Ric Roman ... Henchman (uncredited)

Marion Ross ... Nita Naldi-type (uncredited)
Cosmo Sardo ... Party Guest (uncredited)
Sam Schwartz ... Bootlegger (uncredited)
Steffi Sidney ... Dancer in Marathon (uncredited)
Rachel Stephens ... Society Reporter (uncredited)
Hal Taggart ... Script Supervisor (uncredited)
Larri Thomas ... Dancer (uncredited)
Mary Thomas ... Party Girl (uncredited)
Sally Todd ... Chorus Girl (uncredited)
Arthur Tovey ... First-Nighter (uncredited)
Billy Wayne ... Stagehand (uncredited)
Cecil Weston ... Wardrobe Woman (uncredited)
Yvonne White ... Minor Role (uncredited)
Barbara Wilson ... Chorus Girl (uncredited)
Ward Wood ... Henchman (uncredited)
Norma Yost ... Theresa (uncredited)

Directed by
Michael Curtiz 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
William Bowers 
Phoebe Ephron 
John O'Hara  story
Frank Tashlin  uncredited

Produced by
Henry Ephron .... producer
Original Music by
Leigh Harline (uncredited)
Cinematography by
Leon Shamroy 
Film Editing by
Dorothy Spencer 
Art Direction by
Maurice Ransford 
Lyle R. Wheeler 
Set Decoration by
Paul S. Fox 
Walter M. Scott 
Costume Design by
Charles Le Maire 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
David Silver .... assistant director
Art Department
John DeCuir .... art director: musical settings
Music Department
Earle Hagen .... orchestrator
Charles Henderson .... vocal supervisor
Bernard Mayers .... orchestrator
Lionel Newman .... conductor
Lionel Newman .... music supervisor
Herbert W. Spencer .... orchestrator (as Herbert Spencer)
Maurice De Packh .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Other crew
Rod Alexander .... choreographer
Bill Foster .... choreographer

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
104 min
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
4-Track Stereo (Westrex Recording System)

Did You Know?

Revealing mistakes: An establishing shot of Times Square in New York City, supposed to be taking place around 1930, clearly shows 1950s automobiles in the traffic.See more »
Here Am I, Broken HeartedSee more »


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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful.
Historical inaccuracies aside I really liked it!, 17 January 2011
Author: calvinnme from United States

I thought the chemistry among the three leads - Gordon McRae as Buddy De Sylva, Dan Dailey as Ray Henderson, and Ernest Borgnine as Lew Brown - was absolutely perfect even if not necessarily true. Probably the hardest thing to take at first is the excessively caustic nature of Borgnine's portrayal of Lew Brown until you get to know a little more about Lew, his background, and his friends and then things begin to make sense. There's a good contrast of personalities here - De Sylva civilized but selfish versus the street-wise loud and rude Brown who'd put it all on the line for a friend. Henderson's gentle family man play-for-keeps style versus De Sylva's flavor-of-the-month attitude towards women. I don't know if any of this was true, but as cinema I liked it.

Knowing something about the early talkie musicals and the composers behind them, some things did bother me. At one point the film has the three going out to Hollywood to work on the 1929 early talkie musical "Sunnyside Up". This was largely a homespun little film in the tradition of the early Fox musicals with even a harpsichord number included. Instead, what we see on the set is an elaborate fan-dance like number with a man in a tuxedo singing "If I Had a Talking Picture of You" accompanied by dancing girls with long red boas. This is not how I remember Charles Farrell singing this one. In fact, if there is one big complaint I have is that the songs are pure 20's but the choreography and tempo of the numbers are like something out of an MGM musical ballet with Gene Kelly that would have been popular at the time of the film's release - 1956.

The key to enjoying this film is to focus on the beautiful music, good performances, and the pleasant nature of the story. Do that and I think you'll like it. I don't think this was ever intended to be a serious biopic.

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