10 August 2019 | SimonJack
A wonderful wacky comedy with some very good singing
Every now and then, one comes across an unknown or unheard-of film that is a real gem. This 1934 Paramount picture, "Melody in Spring" clearly is such a gem. Although billed as a musical, it is without question a comedy first and foremost.
Lanny Ross and Ann Sothern are fairly new to film, as John Craddock and Jane Blodgett. Sothern had been uncredited in most of her 10 films before this, and this was her first significant role. Ross had been in just three shorts before this, but has the male lead and major role in this film. Paramount gave them some tremendous support in two seasoned and prolific performers - Charles Ruggles and Mary Boland as husband and wife - Warren and Mary Blodgett, parents of Jane. Both had solid careers in silent films that carried over into the sound age. They were especially good in comedy.
And one thing that may have held this film back with audiences was its billing as a musical. It is clearly a comedy first and foremost. It does have music, all in singing, and it's a major departure from the standard form of musicals to that time. In a way, it's a peek at the form that the latter great musicals of the mid-20th century would take. Instead of the revue format, in which a variety of music and dance numbers are featured, with a loose plot that ties them together, the musical plays that became great hits were regular stories that had the characters singing and dancing in parts of the story.
This movie has no staged song and dance numbers. There are no dance numbers at all. The music in this film is all singing. Ross has a superb tenor voice, and some of his numbers or parts are a cappella, with little or no musical accompaniment. There are two songs with choruses. One is the Swiss Milking Song and the other is a bouncy tune that Ross leads jail inmates and guards in singing.
One wonders why Ross didn't stay in Hollywood, but he made only four more films after this one. He was actually trained in the law profession but gave it up to pursue a singing career in 1929. He was very popular on radio. He sang for numerous programs and had his own show for years on CBS. An interesting tidbit about Ross was his high school years where he excelled in track sports, and then his years at Yale University where he was one of the nation's top athletes in track and field and where he also was a soloist with the Yale Glee Club.
Ross's Craddock is a very likable and outgoing person in "Melody in Spring." He and Sothern have very good chemistry in this film, and Sothern is superb in her smiling and doting demeanor and looks in the scenes when Ross sings to her.
But, now for the comedy. Warren Blodgett is an irascible, eccentric millionaire who is something of a kleptomaniac. He doesn't consider it stealing but "collecting" to take bed knobs, signs, or any other items for his collection. He has bed knobs from sleeping places visited by George Washington, Queen Elizabeth and others. He seems to spend more time and energy adding to his collection, which he proudly labels and displays around his home, than he does in his business. But then, he apparently is the dogfood king, whose name is on every dog biscuit and "puppy pretzel."
In one scene, Warren Blodgett is listening to the hour-long radio show his company sponsors. At commercial time, the announcer says, "Do other dogs avoid your dog? Is your dog a social failure? Then, buy Blodget Puppy Pretzels, and buy them now."
The story is quite wacky, with Jane's parents not caring for Craddock after an altercation with him early in the film. He and Jane first meet in a small town where the George Washington Inn of 1770 is located. Then, they meet again when he shows up at the Blodgett's, trying to land a job singing on the Blodgett radio hour. The story moves back and forth between John and Jane together, and Warren trying to snitch souvenirs, with Mary constantly on his trail. The story takes them across the pond to Paris and then to Switzerland. The Paramount sets were very good, especially those of the Swiss village, countryside and scenery. Of course, the places, town and mountains are fictitious Alpine names.
This is one very funny, somewhat wacky, and entertaining film, with some very good singing. Apparently, this was a box office disappointment to Paramount. But it won't be a disappointment to anyone today who enjoys good comedy and entertainment. I highly recommend "Melody in Spring" for many good laughs. Here are some sample lines.
Blonde in Washington's bed, "Well, if you woke up in the middle of the night and saw a man with a look in his eye, what would you do?" Warren Blodgett, "It's a lie. There was nothing in my eye."
Warren Blodgett, "The best hotel is Die Lustigen Glocken. The picturesque Swiss inn is famous the world over for its herd of Algauers. Mary, are you listening?" Mary Blodgett, "Yes, dear. I heard every word you said. You were talking about the Algauers." Warren, "Right!" Mary, "I remember them very well - charming people. We met them last year in Nice, wasn't it?" Warren, "They are cows." Mary, "Why, Warren, they're very nice people." Warren, "It's a breed." Mary, "Oh, you mean it's breeding." Warren, "I mean Algauers are cows." Mary, "Why Warren, I didn't know you disliked them so much." Warren, "The Swiss Algauers are cows" Mary, "Oh, well, they're probably not related at all."