30 April 2002 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Joe DiMaggio, stick to your day job
I can enjoy a truly brainless musical if it has some snappy songs and an interesting cast. "Manhattan Merry-Go-Round" is a brainless movie with a few dull songs, and guest appearances by celebrities who (mostly) don't show up long enough to do anything interesting. Some great character actors are in this film (James Gleason, Luis Alberni, Moroni Olsen): they've given wonderful performances in other movies, but in "Manhattan Merry-Go-Round" they merely go through the motions.
Here's the plot: some deeze-dem-doze gangsters take over a record company (WHY?), and they strong-arm several celebrities into making recordings. The head gangster is played by Leo Carrillo, who usually played funny crooks. In this movie, he isn't funny. The gangsters manage to round up some interesting "guest stars" to perform for their record company, including Cab Calloway, Louis Prima, Gene Autry and cowboy comedian Max Terhune. All these lads are solid show-biz professionals, but in "Manhattan Merry-Go-Round" none of them do anything interesting. Cab Calloway was usually a dynamic performer, but in this movie he's almost comatose.
The one and only interesting scene in this movie occurs when the gangsters kidnap Joe DiMaggio, of all people. They prop him in front of a microphone, and force him at gunpoint to sing "Have You Ever Been Lonely?" (An interesting choice of song for the future husband of Marilyn Monroe.) DiMaggio wasn't much of an actor, and this movie proves he's no singer. Joltin' Joe croaks his way slowly and painfully through his big number. It's fascinating to watch and listen to Joe DiMaggio's performance ... but fascinating only in the way that a train wreck is fascinating.
Some musicals are so inept, they become enjoyable on an "Ed Wood" so-bad-it's-good level. "Manhattan Merry-Go-Round" is just awful. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Nowhere near this film, I hope. I'm rating this movie one point out of 10 ... it would be batting .000 without DiMaggio's weird performance.