17 August 2020 | MartinHafer
How much you enjoy this will certainly depend on whether you wanted a musical or a comedy.
Rodgers and hart musical
I love W.C. Fields films. This was THE reason I watched "Mississippi"...to see and hear Fields. However, I've hesitated for some time because I really LOVE Fields but am not exactly a huge fan of musicals....especially comedy musicals. "Mississippi" certainly is a comedy musical with a romantic subplot as well. As a result, often the comedy certainly is secondary...well, perhaps tertiary, as there's also a plot involving a Quaker and his perceived manliness. Some folks like this sort of thing, but like the Laurel & Hardy films "March of the Wooden Soldiers" and "The Devil's Brother", I am a bit cold about this sort of hodgepodge...so my hopes for "Mississippi" were rather low.
The story is set mostly on a riverboat filled with entertainers (much like in the movie "Showboat"). Fields plays the captain of the ship (though he calls himself 'The Commodore') and has a few funny interludes here and there. But the main plot involves Tom Grayson (Bing Crosby)...who is engaged with Elvira. However, when Grayson is challenged to a duel over nothing of great importance, he refuses. After all, he's a Quaker AND the matter simply didn't seem worth killing a man over anyway. Well, in antebellum Southern society where Elvira lives, a man isn't a man unless he blows another man's brains out over the least little afront and so she breaks the engagement because Grayson is supposedly a coward. This provides an opportunity for Lucy (Joan Bennett), as she secretly loves Grayson...but she's being sent off to a girls finishing school and he's headed for a job on the riverboat. In the meantime, aboard the boat, the Commodore begins telling everyone that Grayson is the notorious Colonel Steele...a singing killer!!!
While towards the end of the film Crosby doesn't act very Quaker-like, I was surprised that I enjoyed this film and it's various plots. The singing wasn't great, even if the songs were by Rodgers & Hart, but the two subplots were pretty enjoyable. It's well worth seeing...though I would have preferred all Fields and nothing else! By the way, I am pretty sure today that many would be offended by this film. It depicts a highly idealized view of the South and slavery. It also has Fields using a pejorative slur that IMDB won't even allow me to write in this review! A word that was perfectly acceptable back in 1935...but certainly not in 2020. I say watch it...but just be aware of this.