24 April 2006 | bkoganbing
A Last Ditch Effort
Taking a look at the screen credits of Ruby Keeler and you'll find that Go Into Your Dance is not only the only film she did with her husband Al Jolson, but after five films, her first away from Dick Powell. She did two more subsequent to Go Into Your Dance with Powell, but after only one more film at Warner Brothers, she only made three more prior to retiring from the screen and settling down as wife and mother. Of course Keeler did make a comeback in the Sixties and I well remember seeing her and Patsy Kelly in that Broadway revival of No No Nanette.
What Go Into Your Dance really was meant to do is try to save the Jolsons marriage which was in free fall by then. Al's egomania didn't make him the easiest person to live with and within a few years Keeler called it quits. For the rest of her life she would never answer one question about life with Jolson.
Warner Brothers did assemble a good cast for them. Al plays an irresponsible, egomaniacal entertainer, no stretch in the casting department. He's walked out on too many a show as his sister Glenda Farrell tells him, no producer will hire him. Never mind says Jolie, he'll produce his own with a new dancer he's discovered, Ruby Keeler.
Producing costs money and that means going to gangster Barton MacLane whose trampy wife wants to resume her show business career. Jolie gets the money and the wife played by Helen Morgan. But his problems are only beginning.
Bobby Connolly did the dance direction and I have to say pinch hit admirably for Busby Berkeley. The big hit song of the film was Jolson singing and Keeler dancing to About a Quarter to Nine. It was nicely staged and worthy of Berkeley in every sense of the word as Berkeley gave Jolson that awful Going' to Heaven on a Mule in Wonder Bar. In this film the chorus of male dancers and Jolson all turn to blackface for a minute. Jolson also does the finale title song in blackface as well.
Unfortunately not only does Jolson do blackface, but in this film, not once, but twice he rubs the head of black actor Fred "Snowflake" Toone for good luck. That particular bit of tastelessness kept Go Into Your Dance off the television screens for decades. I remember seeing it on WOR TV's million dollar movie as a lad in the Fifties, but never again until recently.
The real pity is that we were also deprived of seeing Helen Morgan sing as well. Her alcoholism had gotten pretty bad at this point, but she was one of Broadway brightest stars. She sings The Little Things You Used to Do in her typical poignant fashion. It would have really been great to see her co-star with Jolson in a film, but that was not to be.
Go Into Your Dance is quite a museum piece of a film and if you're not into Jolson, I would urge you to see it for Helen Morgan.