New York city in the 1920s: a singer struggles to keep her boyfriend from trouble. When she makes it to Ziegfeld, he heads for five years in jail. Lots of Faye and Jolson singing. The story is so close to the true story of Fanny Brice and Nicky Arnstein (Jules W. Arndt Stein) that he sued the studio in a case that was quickly settled out of court in his favor.Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
This film closely resembles the life of entertainer Fanny Brice, and Alice Faye even sings Brice's signature song, "My Man" in the film. According to Biography: Alice Faye: The Star Next Door (1996), Brice sued 20th Century Fox for $750,000. The studio benefited from the publicity generated by the lawsuit - the film became the highest grossing musical of 1939 - and eventually settled out of court with Brice for an undisclosed amount. It has also been alleged that Power's character resembles Nicky Arnstein. See more »
WARNING: This is a politically incorrect film. Deal with it and understand the context or just skip it altogether--I could certainly understand why you might skip it. Just know ahead of time that through much of the film, one of the stars performs in black-face (yikes!!). However, it IS a part of our history and is a pretty good film, so I would hate to see everyone just disregard it completely.
The film begins with Alice Faye working with partner Al Jolson. They are both struggling singers and have hopes of making it big on Broadway. The path for Jolson is pretty smooth, and he's soon discovered and becomes the toast of the town. As for Faye, in the meantime, she falls for a no-good pretty boy (Tyrone Power) and her route to the top is a bit slower and filled with pitfalls.
Both Faye and Jolson sing a huge number of songs. Jolson's act may surprise and offend a lot in the audience, after all his shtick was singing in black-face! But despite his politically incorrect act, he was in top form here--singing many of his all-time great songs that are still pretty enjoyable today. As for Faye, with her rather husky voice, she is a bit of a surprise, as today it's a bit harder to see her appeal. I mean that while she isn't bad at all, she also isn't all that great when she sings--though she was a huge box office star in her day.
You might swear that you've seen this before...especially if you've seen FUNNY GIRL. While many of the details have been changed, the plot of ROSE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE is essentially the story of Fanny Brice and her scum-bag lover, Nicky Arnstein. However, Twentieth-Century Fox decided to do this without the permission or royalties to Ms. Brice--resulting in a lawsuit and subsequent settlement. The most egregious bit of "literary license" is having Faye sing a close variation of Brice's hit song "My Man". While much of this information is on IMDb about the background for the film, I could clearly see the similarities....and differences. While Alice Faye looks and acts nothing like Fanny Brice, Tyrone Power is much closer to Arnstein--though, like in FUNNY GIRL, he's a bit sanitized. In ROSE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE, he's more of a man who unsuccessfully juggles and connives--not an outright crook like the real Arnstein, but more like a lovable schemer who essentially means well. As for the rest of the film, it's a Vaudeville extravaganza--leading to Alice Faye and Al Jolson going to work for Mr. Ziegfeld. Brice, as you may know, was a huge star with Ziegfeld despite (or perhaps because of) her very ethnic singing and "unconventional looks" (a nice way of saying ugly). She sure didn't look or sing like Faye, but otherwise there sure are a lot of similarities--except that in the end, Faye waited for her lover to return from prison, whereas after already serving a stretch in Sing Sing and bound for Leavenworth, Ms. Brice thankfully divorced Arnstein.
Very watchable and enjoyable but also a rather sleazy exploitation of Ms. Brice AND a disturbing case of minstrel-itis!
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