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The daughter of a struggling musician forms a symphony orchestra made up of his unemployed friends and through persistence, charm and a few misunderstandings, is able to get Leopold Stokowski to lead them in a concert that leads to a radio contract.Written by
Herman Seifer <email@example.com>
How many have heard of Shirley Temple? How many have heard of Judy Garland? Now, how many have heard of Deanna Durbin? You may be surprised to learn that Deanna Durbin at the time this film was released was more popular than either Temple or Garland, made more money than either, saved her studio from going broke, and had as much merchandise marketed in her name as either. Then why is she all but forgotten today? Because she simply announced that enough is enough and walked away from the so-called glamorous life of a Hollywood star to live in France as a nobody. But we can be thankful that before she made such a fateful decision, she starred in a few classic movies that showcased her magnificent voice.
"One Hundred Men and a Girl" is a wonderful family-type film to share with others. Made during the Great Depression, it gave the audience an optimistic view that those out of work would find jobs, or as the New Deal spin-doctors put it, "Prosperity is just around the corner." Patsy (Deanna Durbin) attempts to put her unemployed father John Cardwell, played to perfection by the marvelous actor Adolphe Menjou, back to work as a trombone player. She tries to convince classical director Leopold Stokowski to put her father in his orchestra but to no avail. While returning a pocketbook her father found to a wealthy society matron (Alice Brady), she misunderstands a joke as a serious proposal to offer a radio contract to her father if he can get an orchestra together composed of his out of work musician friends. The rich lady's husband John Frost is brought into the deal when his wife suddenly leaves for an extended vacation in Europe. The rest of the film revolves around Patsy getting it all together by persistence and unknowingly giving the story to the media. For viewers, it's fun all the way.
There is also an assortment of gifted character actors to add mirth and merriment to the proceedings, to name a few: Eugene Palette, Mischa Auer, and one of the funniest men in the movies Billy Gilbert. Of particular note is a hilarious performance given by Frank Jenks as a singing cab driver with a penchant for opera who appreciates Deanna's talent.
A bonus is all the fantastic classical music played by Stokowski and his orchestra. Stokowski was everyone's ideal of what a conductor should look like and sound like. Disney recognized this and put him in "Fantasia." Stokowski was largely responsible for bringing classical music from its long hair ivory tower status to make it accessible to the average American. All this plus the enchanted singing of Deanna Durbin. Who could ask for anything more?
A postscript: Keep your eye on the feather in Deanna's hat.
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