Too bad for presidential hopes of banker T.K. Blair; his party feels he has too little flair for savoir faire. But at a medicine show, the party bosses find Blair's double: huckster Doc Varney. Of course, they scheme to make Varney T.K.'s public spokesman; at first, he even fools Blair's girlfriend Felicia, providing a romantic complication. As election eve approaches, the conspirators face the problem of what to do with Varney...who has difficult decisions of his own to make.Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
George M. Cohan who in the first decade of the last century was as the title of one of his songs and biography The Man Who Owned Broadway was considered old fashioned by 1932. Still as a performer he had considerable box office and he responded to the pleas of Jesse L. Lasky to come over to Paramount to make his sound motion picture debut. But the songs were to be written by a pair of relative newcomers Rodgers&Hart.
It's come down in show business legend how Cohan barely dealt with them while The Phantom President was in production. He thought they were second rate songwriters and truth be told Cohan thought just everyone else was second rate next to him. He had that kind of ego. But he had the talent to back it up and truth be told the songs that Dick and Larry wrote for this film were truly second rate.
The musical format of this film was song patter, no individual numbers that could have been hits were written for The Phantom President. The patter format worked well in Love Me Tonight and Hallelujah I'm A Bum, but many song hits came from Love Me Tonight and Hallelujah I'm A Bum boasted You Are Too Beautiful from that score. Nothing like that comes from The Phantom President. Maybe Cohan could have written a better score, in fact he was given one number to be interpolated.
But The Phantom President is first rate political satire with Cohan playing a double role, a cold fish millionaire who is running for President of the USA and a carnival medicine show man that his political handlers recruit to go out and do the campaign as he's got a personality the voting public will warm up to.
The political end works well, but carnival Cohan starts cutting in on millionaire Cohan's time with Claudette Colbert a former president's daughter and someone who the millionaire thinks would be a great first lady. He takes some drastic action.
The four handlers are well cast also, George Barbier, Louise Mackintosh, Sidney Toler, Julius McVickers are all familiar enough in roles that are suited to all of them. And of course we have Jimmy Durante who is gloriously himself with some interpolated material for him as well in the song Schnozzola.
There are so many performers whose salad days were well before talking motion pictures were invented that we should be grateful that at least we can see something of what Broadway saw with George M. Cohan. And his dancing style; well you can see why James Cagney was cast in the autobiographical Yankee Doodle Dandy.
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