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  • This picture should have had it all...a great cast, a first rate studio, and one hit song. What went wrong? In her autobiography, Ginger Rogers says she was loaned out by RKO while she was making Flying Down to Rio (riding her bicycle between studios). She goes on to say that the songs they gave her were awful and she demanded better. Given her choice of songs (rejects from other pictures) she chose "Did You Ever See a Dream Walking." Wise became a huge hit and is still heard to this day. "Dream Walking" was the song used in the huge 'flesh & feathers' production number at the end of the movie. Unfortunately, they could/should have dispensed with the rest of the film. Ginger and her equally reliable co-stars, Jack Oakie, Jack Haley and Thelma Todd, tried valiantly to shine, but ultimately were all but entombed in the wooden film. The script lumbered aimlessly along, going nowhere in particular. Even luscious Thelma Todd was saddled with a role so thin it could have been played by any blonde.

    Rarely shown, this feature is almost legendary because of its unavailability. I waited for decades to see it and finally found a 16mm print for sale on e-Bay. Sadly, the print quality was bad that at times the players features seemed to be washed off their faces. I reluctantly returned it to the seller. Indeed there may be no decent prints of it in existence. A friend borrowed a 16mm print from Universal Pictures (before the 2008 studio fire consumed their 16mm library) and he said that even their print was substandard. I notice the director, Harry Joe Brown only directed two more pictures after Sitting Pretty. Small wonder. He had been, and continued to be, a successful producer up into the 1960's.

    Long a fan of Miss Rogers, as well as rest of the cast, I really expected to love this movie. The final production number, built around the "Dream Walking" song, is truly amazing. It is the closest imitation of Busby Berkeley's work I have seen to date. Ginger is truly jaw dropping in her black sequined dress. It is, however, too little too late to save the picture. Fortunately upon completing Sitting Pretty, Ginger rode her bicycle back to RKO and embarked on one of Hollywood's most legendary careers. She would be sitting pretty for a very long time! Luckily the rest of the cast also emerged unscathed.
  • A strong candidate for restoration, this little musical contains more than a few virtues, something that can't be said about many of the more celebrated efforts of the genre. The songs are pleasant (I Wanna Meander With Miranda), cleverly staged (Good Morning Glory), humbly touching (You're Such A Comfort To Me), and the movie even climaxes with a spectacular production number (Did You Ever See A Dream Walking?) which is the only pseudo-Berkeley number I know that manages to out-Berkeley Berkeley himself. There are nice supporting turns from Thelma Todd, Gregory Ratoff and Lew Cody, a couple of scenes are laughing-out-loud-funny (our ambitious songwriters in the offices of agent Ratoff and producer Cody for two sly instances), what more could you want from a cheap little programmer?

    Our stars, Jack Oakie and Jack Haley, play two young songwriters who go to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune, Oakie the aggressive smart aleck while Haley plays the sympathetic sap. The female lead is Ginger Rogers, not a particularly big part (it probably couldn't be as she was simultaneously filming FLYING DOWN TO RIO at the time, traveling back and forth to her respective studios by bicycle) but she does well in it as she did well in pretty much everything during these years. The final 'Dream' production number was the first time that Ginger ever received the full-scale glamor treatment in a film. It balanced her introduction, a decidedly non-glamorous kick in the pants.

    SITTING PRETTY is a nice surprise, delivering fine entertainment from a source in which you wouldn't have expected very much.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When I last saw "Sitting Pretty" in the very early 1970s at a local film club (they used to play obscure films back then) all I could remember about it was Ginger Rogers being a dream walking in this feathery feminine outfit heading a chorus girl ensemble in a routine that out Berkeleyed Busby Berkeley!!! In fact Berkeley may have even got a few ideas from this movie. "Fashions of 1934" released later in the year had a similar routine, "Spin a Little Web of Dreams" which featured near nude chorus girls in ostrich feathers. Seeing that her two co-stars were Jack Haley and Jack Oakie I thought no wonder Ginger had so many complaints about the way her career was progressing at this time, although being a workaholic she would do whatever assignment was thrown at her. Seeing this movie again was a really nice surprise, it was just terrific, plenty of catchy songs, just the right amount of comedy and even the annoying, bratty kid (Jerry Tucker) was soon shown the background.

    Pete (Jack Haley) and Chick (Jack Oakie) realise that with their talent for song writing they should be in Hollywood. They are picked up by an eccentric gentleman who seems to be head of a big Hollywood studio but they later find out that even though he was once a big time executive he now resides in the State Mental Institution. Director Harry Joe Brown dug really deep to give this programmer lots of pep and the musical numbers are put across with a lot more imagination than some of the big As ("Going Hollywood" eg). "Good Morning Glory" starts with Chick and Pete at the piano, then neighbours in different villas take up the chorus (sort of like "Sunnyside Up") - a mother and baby, a gay couple(!!!), the Pickens Sisters (a Boswell Sisters clone act), a milkman, a postman and at the very end, Dorothy (Ginger Rogers) as she alights from the taxi. With an obviously near naked group of girls in silhouette, it is easy to see this was a pre-code musical.

    Dorothy has a yen for Chick but Pete is the steadier. Chick soon "goes Hollywood" after he writes "Blonde, Blase and Beautiful" for temperamental star Gloria Du Val (Thelma Todd - where would movies be without her!!) who convinces him to ditch his "dead weight" pals but without Pete's influence he resorts to his old drinking ways. The film is chock full of songs, another nice one that Pete and Dorothy sing at the piano "You're Such a Comfort to Me". Chick finally comes to his senses and they are then taken up by a rival director (Kenneth Thomson, the villain from "The Broadway Melody") when they are all on a drinking spree. The finale is "Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?" with Dorothy, now of course the star, duet-ting with Arthur Jarrett (a reedy tenor who was kept busy in a lot of musicals at that time).

    As well as Lew Cody doing great work as a harassed producer, the ending, in keeping with the movie is a real surprise. Give "Sitting Pretty" a chance - I'm sure you'll like it!!!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Jack Oakie was a very funny comedian within his narrow range. He usually played a blowhard of slightly below-average intelligence, with a high opinion of his own prowess but who lacked the ability to deliver the goods. (It's a shame that Oakie never got a crack at the role he was born to play: Aubrey Piper in George Kelly's 'The Show-Off'.) For some reason, Oakie was cast several times as a songwriter: in 'June Moon', 'Tin Pan Alley' and here in 'Sitting Pretty', a semi-musical.

    Jack Oakie (music) and Jack Haley (lyrics) play a would-be songwriting team; Haley has no illusions about his own talent, but he thinks Oakie's a genius... and Oakie agrees. Why is it that movies about songwriters always make a bigger deal of the composer than the lyricist? Anyway, the magnum opus of this pair of Jacks is a pity of a ditty called 'I Wanna Meander with Miranda', which gives you some idea of their career aspirations.

    These guys live in New York City, which in 1933 was probably the best place for songwriters to live. They stupidly decide they'd have a better chance of selling their songs if they moved to Hollywood. Lacking the dough to buy tickets on the Super Chief, they decide to hitch-hike all the way to La-La Land. Alleged hilarity ensues. Along the way, they pick up vivacious young Ginger Rogers, who can sing and dance a treat. See where this is heading?

    SPOILERS COMING. Part of the problem with 'Sitting Pretty' is that the songs written by the two Jacks - meaning, of course, the songs written by Paramount's music department, and attributed to these fictional characters - are *intentionally* bad, but never quite reach the level of camp humour. Then, when the two Jacks write a genuinely impressive song - 'Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?' - we have difficulty believing that these no-hopers could ever achieve such a masterpiece. Ginger Rogers is a knockout in a sequined outfit, while Arthur Jarrett (who?) warbles in falsetto.

    Jack Haley is in the best singing voice of his career here, although he has some trouble with lyrics ... made worse because he's playing the man who allegedly wrote them. He sings one song quite well but can't seem to remember whether it's about Lazy Lowdown Liza or Lowdown Lazy Liza. Oakie does a very convincing job of faking his piano-playing.

    There's some humour along the way to the (obvious) payoff, but most of it is predictable or contrived or both. Lew Cody is very good as a drunken Hollywood director, and Thelma Todd is briefly impressive as a conniving actress. The final gag (in which Ginger explains why she can't marry Haley) is weak. I'll rate this movie just 7 out of 10.
  • Jack Oakie and Jack Haley are songwriters who want to hit the big time. They hichhike their way to Hollywood. Along the way, they meet Ginger Rogers. This musical comedy lives virtually in obscurity, which is a shame. Oakie and Haley make for quite a pair and are very funny. The songs are very snappy and clever, and the movie even features a Busby Berkeley-like musical number. I could have rewatched this. This is my new favorite discovery. This short review barely scratches the surface of the charm of this forgotten gem.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Why does everybody say good morning? Why can't they say bad morning, rotten morning, or something else?" So asks song writer Jack Haley, the lyricist part of a team where another Jack (Oakie) writes the music. This leads into the film's first big musical number, a fun ditty called "Good Morning Glory" which features the very obscure singing trio, "The Pickens Sisters" (no relation to Slim) and ends up with every day workers going around greeting each other. The two Jacks are off to Hollywood to try their luck as song writers. Along the way they encounter perky Ginger Rogers (who is fixing a car from underneath upon their first meeting) and her pesky kid brother Jerry Tucker and become determined to make her a star. This leads to a song they write just for her ("Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?") which is one of many rather obscure 1930's songs to end up in the 1981 musical spoof of 30's musicals, "Pennies From Heaven".

    Thelma Todd plays a temperamental starlet who gets to say such great lines like "You could be had" and in a response regarding somebody she doesn't like, "He's like a bat. He gets in my hair!" Obviously, this isn't far from "42nd Street" except that it becomes "Let's film a movie!" rather than "Let's put on a show!" Gregory Ratoff may not have the same sex appeal as Warner Baxter, but this is seen through the song writer's eyes rather than the producers or actors. It's actually a closer cousin to the same year's "Going Hollywood" where Bing Crosby got rid of a temperamental star (Fifi D'Orsday) to introduce film goers to a newcomer (Marian Davies). This however goes into a bit more detail of how movies are made and even uses rhythmic song and dialog to dramatize it.

    For the record, other movie musical songs which ended up in "Pennies From Heaven" include "Yes Yes, My Honey Said Yes Yes" ("Palmy Days", 1931), "Love is Good For Anything That Ails You" ("Hit Parade of 1937"), and of course the title song. The production number of "Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?" is as elaborate as anything that Busby Berkley would do over at Warner Brothers around the same time where ironically Ginger got to introduce "We're in the Money". She would become a bonafide star the very same year by dancing with Fred Astaire on screen for the first time in "Flying Down to Rio" over at RKO making her one busy dancing traveler in 1933.