Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 1941. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Story by Jack McGowan, Screenplay by Jack McGowan, Kay Van Riper, John McClain. Cinematography by George J. Folsey, Oliver T. Marsh. Produced by Arthur Freed. Music by George Bassman, George Stoll. Production Design by Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Adrian. Film Editing by Fredrick Y. Smith. Academy Awards 1941.
MGM never met a stage musical they didn’t disembowel, and this adaptation of Gershwin’s Broadway hit is a prime example. Rewriting the narrative, gutting half the score and adding a Jerome Kern song (which they then submitted for Oscar consideration and it won), the result isn’t as entertaining as Girl Crazy, an equally unfaithful treatment of a Gershwin show, would be. Robert Young and Ann Sothern play a songwriting team and married couple whose professional and personal lives can’t seem to line up. When they first started working together after she revealed to him that she had a knack for adding words to his songs, it led to them tying the knot, but his treating success like a trip to Pinocchio’s island results in her dragging him to divorce court. Their separation immediately makes him furious with envy over her friendship with a popular crooner but it also results in them reuniting to create the hit title song (which is truly wonderful), but after a banquet celebrating their accomplishments inspires them to get back together, they are once again unable to compose. It’s an adorable premise but without the likes of Noel Coward writing it, the process feels a bit overwrought. There aren’t enough musical numbers to keep it fully buoyant, but apart from the title song there is some wonderful dancing by Eleanor Powell as Sothern’s best friend and a terrific performance of “Fascinatin’ Rhythm”.