Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 1943. Twentieth Century Fox. Screenplay by Robert Ellis, Helen Logan, Richard Macaulay. Cinematography by Charles G. Clarke, Allen M. Davey. Produced by Milton Sperling. Music by David Buttolph. Production Design by James Basevi, Boris Leven. Costume Design by Helen Rose. Film Editing by Barbara McLean. Academy Awards 1943.
It’s the turn of the century and four singers perform for coins in a saloon, then get themselves fired when the quality of their work draws too many patrons away from the bar. Leader of the pack John Payne tells the others not to give up even though Jack Oakie and June Havoc are fed up with show business, while Alice Faye is ready to follow Payne to the ends of the earth even though he shows no signs of sealing the marriage deal with her. Payne makes them famous on San Francisco’s Barbary Coast with street performances that are lucrative thanks to local establishments paying the group money to perform far from their doorways, which Payne then transforms into ownership of a number of entertainment venues throughout the city. It’s not enough to conquer his own world, though, he longs to break into Knob Hill aristocracy and sees his chance when a society gal with an old name and a thinning wallet (Lynn Bari) catches his eye. Rejected by the man she loves, Faye goes to England and becomes a singing sensation (despite the fact that her style of singing could only be popular in the forties) while Payne descends into the bitterness of a poor choice of matrimony. The plotting is routine and uninspired but the colours are bright and a number of songs are catchy (including the Oscar winning “You’ll Never Know”). Faye particularly makes the film go by easily with her marked sincerity.