26 December 2018 | boblipton
Surprisingly Good Gower Gulch Musical Biopic
Stephen Foster songs are no longer part of the Great American Songbook, but for more than a century they were. Movies like this were inevitable. What was less inevitable that it would come from a Poverty Row Producer like Mascot and be so good.
Certainly director Joseph Santley does a good job. He is one of the many directors who came into the movies, turned out good work, and rarely rose out of the Bs. Here he offers good performances and set-piece camera set-ups that are quite lovely. While none of the actors are great. they are certainly up to the rigors of their roles, and it is a bizarre pleasure to see William Frawley playing Edwin Christy.... and playing him as William Frawley.
In this modern age we sneer at artists like Foster because they accepted the standards of their era, instead of the superior standards of our era. Even with that proviso, and understanding that Foster's commercially successful music didn't make him a wealthy man, because he would typically sell a song for $30, and glad to get it, because copyright enforcement was virtually non-existent.
So why was his music so popular that when I was taught the piano as a child, several of his songs were still standards? Their simplicity was one reason. The tune could be picked out with a single finger. However, their original popularity was due to the same sort of thing that made Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL and Sha-Na-Na's doo-wop so popular: nostalgia. In the tumult of the 1850s, with the industrialization of the North, many of the new urban population yearned for a simpler, rustic existence, and Foster's songs gave it to them, three minutes at a time.