To be near the fella she loves, an English bareback rider dons dungarees and cap to pass as a boy stows away to America, gets caught, marries someone else...and finally ends up in the warm ...
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Sally was an orphan who got her name from the telephone exchange where she was abandoned as a baby. In the orphanage, she discovered the joy of dancing and has been practicing since. ... See full summary »
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William A. Seiter
To be near the fella she loves, an English bareback rider dons dungarees and cap to pass as a boy stows away to America, gets caught, marries someone else...and finally ends up in the warm embrace of her beloved. Such fluffy foolishness is the plot of sunny, the Broadway smash brought to screen life by the irresistible Marilyn Miller, recreating her stage success in the title role. The sparkling Jerome Kern - Oscar Hammerstein lotto hardback score includes who? and the title tune. And the lovely Miller socks' em over with her winning voice, exhilarating dancing skills band infectious good cheer. If this is your firs encounter with Marilyn Miller, prepare to be a fan.
Timing more than anything was responsible for Sunny's failure
Released at the end of 1930 just as the Great Depression began to really hit hard, audiences were no longer in the mood for light happy musicals such as Ms. Miller's first film, "Sally", which had opened just the year before.
That film had large helpings of music and really was a fine showcase for Marilyn Miller's dancing. What a difference a year made. People lost their taste for Cinderella stories and for musicals, so First National was forced to remove from "Sunny" what made Marilyn Miller so special - her ability to express herself through dance. What remains is a pretty decent comedy with some cute farcical situations, and Marilyn Miller holds her own. She actually comes across somewhat like a young Irene Dunne in the comedy parts, but if First National had been going for comedy, I doubt Miller would have been the centerpiece in the first place.
I'd say you'll really enjoy it if you watch it expecting a romantic comedy of errors punctuated by occasional music and just a little bit of dancing by Miller, but you'll be very disappointed if you loved Sally and are expecting more of the same. Also don't expect to see anybody that you'll remotely recognize other than perhaps Lawrence Gray, who plays the romantic lead opposite Marilyn Miller.
The plot is actually rather cute. Sunny is a bareback rider in an English circus who loves Tom Warren (Lawrence Gray), a wealthy American who is planning to return to the states to marry someone from his own station - basically an arranged marriage. He loves Sunny, but realizes it will never work and, furthermore, Sunny gives him no encouragement due to her pride. Meanwhile, her father wants her to marry the owner of the circus - someone Sunny describes as "a fish". Sunny sneaks on board the ship carrying Tom home to America - just to say goodbye - but winds up locked in a stateroom and can't get away before the ship sails. The stateroom is that of the unlucky Jim Denning, who has made a promise to his jealous girl to be true to her until he makes his fortune and can return for her. Sunny is discovered in the stateroom and now has double trouble - a scandal for being discovered in Jim's room, and the fact that she is a stowaway who must return to England as soon as the ship docks in America. Only marriage to an American citizen can fix both problems - but who will be the lucky groom? And that's only the first 45 minutes or so.
I'd recommend this one if you like the early talkies and know that this film only qualifies as a musical in the barest of terms.
Interesting note about the cast - Joe Donahue, who plays Jim Denning here, got the job primarily because of Marilyn Miller's campaigning for him after Joe's older and famous brother Jack, who was slated for the role of Jim Denning, died. Joe never really went over with audiences and had a very short movie career, but he has had a very long life. Born in 1903, at the time I am writing this, he is still alive at the age of 107.
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