This movie shows the idealized career of the singer Al Jolson, a little Jewish boy who goes against the will of his father in order to be in showbiz. He becomes a star, falls in love with a... See full summary »
Alfred E. Green
Polio breaks out in Rio de Janeiro, the serum is in Santiago and there's only one way to get the medicine where it's desperately needed: flown in by daring pilots who risk the treacherous weather and forbidding peaks of the Andes.
The funny story of mad but kind and chivalrous elderly nobleman Don Quixote who, aided by his squire Sancho Panza, fights windmills that are seen as dragons to save prostitute Dulcinea who is seen as a noblewoman.
HALLELUJAH I'M A BUM (Lewis Milestone, 1933) ***1/2
I'm not much of a fan of musicals but have always been partial to the stylish, sophisticated and sometimes dazzlingly experimental examples of the genre that emanated during the early years of Talkies - the Lubitsch films, Rouben Mamoulian's LOVE ME TONIGHT (1932) and also the delightful French films of Rene' Clair.
To these I can now add this Al Jolson vehicle directed by one of the great exponents of American cinema (at his best during the 1930s, though he continued to work steadily till 1962). This was only my 3rd Jolson film - not counting THE JOLSON STORY (1946), the first of two biopics made while he was still living!; the others were his history-making debut THE JAZZ SINGER (1927), the pioneering Sound picture, and ROSE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE (1939) - actually, his penultimate film, by which time he had been relegated to supporting roles!
Anyway, the film under review here is something of an oddity in that, not only does it present such humdrum fare as the Great Depression through the eyes of a cheerful tramp and his 'colleagues', but it also makes use of rhyming dialogue (whch in the trailer included on the DVD is ballyhooed as a new fad, but it obviously couldn't last!) which was perhaps intended as a natural lead into the songs; in fact, rather than by official screenwriter S.N. Behrman (adapting a Ben Hecht story), these lines were written by lyricist Lorenz Hart! Unfortunately, however, the print utilized for the MGM/UA DVD is quite battered with the soundtrack coming off rather muffled as a consequence!!
Still, its essential quality remains intact: while the plot may seem dated and even fanciful today (both its romanticized view of unemployment and the hero's eventual decision to 'reform' on account of a woman), atmosphere and characterization are as charming as ever: Jolson, dubbed by his cronies "The Mayor Of Central Park" truly comes off as larger-than-life here, but he's matched by the great Silent comedian Harry Langdon (in his only notable Talkie role) - as one of Jolson's pals, a politically-savvy street-cleaner named Egghead(!) who's picked on by the other tramps because he has a job - and Frank Morgan as the real Mayor of New York (whose life Bumper, the Jolson character, had saved during a protest).
The film also involves a three-way romance between Jolson, Morgan and lovely leading lady Madge Evans: she's the latter's girlfriend but, having incurred his distrust, leaves him intent on committing suicide; she's saved by Jolson and, now an amnesiac, Evans is cared for by him who, in order to pay the rent of her new lodgings, even asks his friend Morgan for a job in a bank!; however, noticing Morgan's own concern about his missing girlfriend, Jolson tries to console him...until he realizes just who she is, after which he decides to re-unite the two of them and himself goes happily back to a life on the streets!
Many films have dealt with the theme of the Great Depression but this one's certainly its most original treatment while also being, along with the marvelous screwball comedy MY MAN GODFREY (1936), one of the very best.
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