5 May 2002 | Ron Oliver
Kudos For Miss Love & Miss Dressler
A troupe of musical comedy performers travel about the country, forever CHASING RAINBOWS of success & happiness.
This early MGM musical, considering its age and the obvious limitations brought on by the new sound technology, does a fair job in entertaining its audience. Although the film features a song that would become a classic ('Happy Days Are Here Again' by Milton Ager & Jack Yellen) it is on the strength of a couple of its performances that its modest success is based.
Pert & pretty Bessie Love is wonderful as a sweet young singer who adores her leading man. She is completely natural with the microphone and exhibits a tender talent which was never allowed to grow to its full potential in talking films. While good throughout, the scene in which she dissolves into hysterical laughter upon hearing some emotionally devastating news is absolutely frightening in its power.
As her love interest, Charles King doesn't fare nearly so well. This is largely due to the fact that his romantic trials & tribulations - involving women other than Miss Love - are of no interest whatsoever and his reaction to them show his character to be both shallow & immature, critical character flaws in a film's hero. King was among MGM's very first musical stars, but his movie career would be very brief, lasting only from 1928 to 1930, for a total of six films.
Playing the stage manager, Jack Benny is the emotional calm point around which the activity swirls. He has very little to do besides move the plot along. His brotherly interest in Miss Love seems platonic and Jack is left out of the film's romantic action.
While not given top billing, Canadian Marie Dressler steals the film as an aging comedienne with too much past. Using her large, homely face & shapeless body to great advantage, she grabs the viewers' attention and never lets go. At this point in her career Dressler was right on the cusp of gaining enormous personal success and within a year she would become Hollywood's biggest star. Even in such a relatively routine role, such as she fills here, Dressler reveals the tremendous heart & common touch which would be the secret to her celebrity. (For an extra chuckle, pay close attention during the opening long shot where the cast sings the last few bars of 'Happy Days' - just to the right of center screen is the Marvelous Marie, swaying across the stage with elephantine grace.)
Appearing as a drunken wardrobe lady, the ubiquitous Polly Moran makes another appearance as Dressler's sidekick. Short, spunky & buxom, Polly was always fun to watch - but never more so than when teamed with Marie.
In a small role, George K. Arthur plays Benny's gynandrous assistant; an important silent comedy star for MGM, this Scottish-born actor would soon sink into talkie anonymity.
It should be noted that the film's original Technicolor sequences - including several songs and the entire conclusion - are now completely missing.