This send-up of ragtime song and dance begins in 1915 San Francisco when society boy Roger Grant decides to pursue popular rather than serious music.This send-up of ragtime song and dance begins in 1915 San Francisco when society boy Roger Grant decides to pursue popular rather than serious music.This send-up of ragtime song and dance begins in 1915 San Francisco when society boy Roger Grant decides to pursue popular rather than serious music.
After what happened to his score in Reaching for the Moon, Berlin demanded and got complete control in every film that he wrote or supplied the music for. And you will not hear one note of any other composer's music. Just listen to the background music and you'll see what I'm talking about.
The song Alexander's Ragtime Band is considered Berlin's first big popular hit and so a story was constructed around a group of itinerant musicians who when they hire girl singer Alice Faye make a huge hit with the selfsame Alexander's Ragtime Band.
So the film is about the lives and loves of Faye, Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, Ethel Merman, Jack Haley, etc. for an over quarter of a century. Except for Power, all these other folks are real talented musically and they contribute vocally with a lot of Irving Berlin old favorites. And Alice Faye and Don Ameche both sang a new tune Berlin wrote for this film, Now It Can Be Told. Faye's version is especially grand, one of her best movie songs.
Tyrone Power one of the finest of leading men in old Hollywood was unfortunately not blessed with a singing voice. Just hear him on a few bars of another Irving Berlin song in Second Fiddle and you'll see what I mean. He leads the band and it looks a bit ridiculous for him to be doing that and watching the others perform.
This film is the reason I've been long convinced that Darryl F. Zanuck hired John Payne, an actor who looked somewhat like Power and could contribute musically in films with Faye, Betty Grable and the rest of Fox female musical ladies.
Of course anyone who really loves Irving Berlin's music will watch this film and won't quibble about Tyrone Power not singing.
- Sep 30, 2006