Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 1948. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Story by Guy Bolton, Jean Holloway, Adaptation by Ben Feiner Jr., Screenplay by Fred F. Finklehoffe. Cinematography by Charles Rosher, Harry Stradling Sr.. Produced by Arthur Freed. Music by Lennie Hayton, Conrad Salinger. Production Design by Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin Smith. Costume Design by Helen Rose, Valles. Film Editing by Albert Akst, Ferris Webster.
Like Till The Clouds Roll By, this film is a musical biopic of a popular American composer whose life is made complete fiction for the Hollywood screen. You don’t even need to do research to figure it out, either: just look at the two films and notice how they both seem to be about the same person. This rather mundane musical drama tells the story of Richard Rodgers (Tom Drake) and his experience writing music with the enigmatic and entertaining lyricist Lorenz Hart (Mickey Rooney). More proof that the story was pretty much made up: Hart was gay in real life, but in this film his personal sorrows are made to be the result of a failed romance with Betty Garrett. It also features Judy Garland playing herself at a Hollywood party, and she’s sober! (Okay, that’s mean). Rooney tries to be captivating as the manic Hart but the role is shallow and unlikable, rendering his performance little more than furious hand waving. It doesn’t help that Drake is such a complete drip as Rodgers (who didn’t have that very interesting a life to begin with considering he was nothing but a success) that the story is a total bore and the musical numbers seem more like lifesavers than diversions. When the huge, star-studded cast is singing, however, the film really comes alive, bringing to life Rodgers and Hart’s best and most marvelous tunes with glorious gusto. Mel Tormé smoothly sings ‘Blue Moon’, Lena Horne sings ‘The Lady Is A Tramp’, June Allyson sings ‘Thou Swell’ and Garland belts out two numbers beautifully, ‘I Wish I Were In Love Again’ in duet with Rooney (their last onscreen appearance together) and the marvelous ‘Johnny One Note’. Gene Kelly also appears doing a marvelous dance sequence with Vera-Ellen. It is thanks to these talents and the fact that the story involved Rodgers’ beautiful music and no one else’s that this film has survived as long as it has, for otherwise it wouldn’t be worth remembering at all.