16 February 2007 | tonstant viewer
A Forgotten Gem from the Assembly Line
OK, if you haven't seen "42nd Street" or "Footlight Parade" or the first few Gold Diggers movies, this is probably not where to start. OTOH, if you have those virtually memorized (and many do), there is much here to enjoy.
The moguls of Old Hollywood were gambling men not only in their work, but at play as well. They had an abiding interest in horse racing, which accounts for the preposterous number of pictures set at the track which seldom made money but made the "suits" happy.
The horrified WASP establishment froze out any participation by movie folk in Los Angeles area race tracks, so the high rolling execs founded a track of their own across the border in Agua Caliente. So there's some documentary interest here in seeing where the Hollywood elite went to play and, more importantly, bet.
It's tough to put together a musical where She can barely sing or dance and He not at all, but this movie manages it. Plenty of crackling Julius Epstein dialog is kept moving briskly by Lloyd Bacon, one of the better straw bosses on the Warners prison farm.
Edward Everett Horton, more assertive here than with Fred Astaire, Glenda Farrell, Leo Carillo and Luis Alberni keep the proceedings airborne, and Hermann Bing hits a lifetime peak of sublimity trying to spell "rhododendron" through his gargling Austrian accent. How Judy Canova got into all this I don't know, but her cameo leaves quite an impression. I also brood about Dolores del Rio jumping off the high diving board in platform wedgies. Aren't you supposed to be barefoot for that?
There's only one musical hit, "The Lady In Red," and if you've ever seen Bugs Bunny in drag, you already know it. For those who OD'd on platinum blondes in other Busby Berkeley production numbers, they're all brunettes here. George Barnes and Sol Polito turn in some gorgeous camera work, and Orry-Kelly outdoes himself with some of the costumes.
This is a fun, feel-good picture that was made in a hurry and turned out a lot better than it had to be. It's good for smiles, and maybe a lot more.