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The Gigolo Racket (1931)

Passed | | Short, Drama, Musical | 16 June 1931 (USA)
As a publicity stunt, a musical comedy star announces her engagement to a young man she believes is a gigolo, with whom she eventually falls in love.

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(story), (added dialogue)
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Cast

Cast overview:
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Helen Marlowe
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Storyline

George Burke is the head of Rialto Productions. Helen Marlowe sings a song for Mr. Burke, he likes it and wants publicity about it. Jerry Stevens is hired by Peter Mack to be Helen's gigolo for Peter Mack's publicity. This is to be a big publicity stunt. It turns out to be other than a publicity stunt for Helen and Jerry. Especially Jerry - Helen breaks her connection to Rialto Productions instead and finds out where Jerry went to. When she finds him, they decide to get married at sea. Written by Michael of lillym_325@yahoo.com

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Genres:

Short | Drama | Musical

Certificate:

Passed
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Release Date:

16 June 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Helen Morgan in The Gigolo Racket  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Trivia

Vitaphone production reels #1255-1256 See more »

Soundtracks

I Know He's Mine
(uncredited)
Music by Sam H. Stept
Lyrics by Bud Green and Herman Ruby
Sung by Helen Morgan
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User Reviews

 
Nobody Breaks Her Heart -- not this time, anyway
1 July 2012 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

Legendary torch singer Helen Morgan made a strong impression on moviegoers in Applause, a groundbreaking talkie feature from 1929, and again in the 1936 version of Show Boat, in which she reprised her Broadway role as the star-crossed Julie. However, neither one of these films could be called a Morgan vehicle as such, one that is built around her persona and talents. While she had the lead role in Applause and gave an excellent performance, director Rouben Mamoulian was, in a sense, the star of the show; when the film is discussed today it's usually because of his sophisticated and innovative use of sound. And although Morgan sings her signature song "Bill" in Show Boat, that film is essentially an ensemble piece. Therefore, a good reason to seek out The Gigolo Racket, a Vitaphone short from 1931, is that Helen Morgan is very much the main attraction. It's a snappy Pre-Code mini-musical with a fair quota of wisecracks and two good songs, and our leading lady is warm and appealing.

Morgan plays a famous stage star called Helen Marlowe. The opening scene is set in the office of a Ziegfeld-like producer named George Burke. Quips fly at a brisk pace; shown a new poster of Helen, Burke calls it dull and says he wants a new one so hot it'll have to be printed on asbestos. (And there are more zingers along those lines.) He and a press agent named Pete discuss various ways to publicize their star and her new show. Then, as if on cue, Helen shows up and sings a bluesy number entitled "Nobody Breaks My Heart." Afterwards, Pete suggests that Helen could get involved in a fake romance with a gigolo, strictly as a publicity stunt. Somewhat surprisingly, she is unfazed by the idea and readily agrees, but insists that marriage won't be part of the deal. Miss Marlowe comes off as someone who has been around the block a couple of times.

So, Helen and Pete go to a nightclub which seems to cater almost exclusively to wealthy, matronly ladies and their slick young escorts. In an amusing scene, they check out couples at other tables and make wry comments. Eventually, they pick out a handsome young buck named Jerry, who is sitting with a stylish older lady, and who just happens to be chatting about how much he admires the stage star Helen Marlowe. And suddenly, there she is, and she wants to meet HIM! Before you know it, they're an item. But after a few weeks, George Burke the producer decides its time to pay off Jerry and get rid of him. He attempts to do this in Helen's dressing room, while she's on stage singing another number, "I Know He's Mine," unaware of what's going on backstage. Jerry is insulted, tears up the check, and leaves. When Helen finds out, she suddenly realizes that she actually loves the guy, and takes off after him.

There are a couple more surprise twists before it's over, but that's the gist of The Gigolo Racket. Recently, when I recounted the plot to a friend who hadn't seen it, she observed it sounded "sordid." Well, yes, I guess it does, and yet somehow while the film is unfolding it doesn't come off that way. It plays like a shorter version of a Pre-Code Busby Berkeley musical, cynical yet funny and strangely innocent. Maybe that's because we know the plot is just a loosely assembled excuse to allow Helen Morgan to sing two songs, and what's wrong with that? By the way, the second song is especially good.

In keeping with the tongue-in-cheek tone, there is an inside joke at one point which will amuse film buffs. When the producer George Burke sits down to look at a newspaper, he opens it up to reveal a full-page ad, which he displays for the camera. By an amazing coincidence, the ad promotes a new picture produced by Warner Brothers, the company which released Vitaphone shorts such as this one. And the picture just happens to be a little something called The Public Enemy, starring James Cagney!


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