12 April 2013 | blanche-2
a short excuse for lots of music
James Melton and Patricia Ellis star in "Melody for Two," a second feature from 1937. Running about an hour, it's packed with music, notably the song "September in the Rain," which had its debut in this film.
Melton plays bandleader Tod Weaver whose band has an exciting new contract with a large nightclub. Right before the band opens, Weaver has a fight with songwriter Bill Hallam and fires him. The songwriter leaves, taking his music with him. This leaves the band with nothing.
The band's singer, Camille Casey (Ellis) convinces Hallam to let the band use his music for a fee but under another name. Hallam goes along, and the band is a big hit. Hallam, however, tells a gossip columnist what he did and, as far as Weaver is concerned, makes him look foolish. In another fit of temper, Weaver quits the orchestra and is blackballed from future employment. Camille becomes the band leader.
Feeling sorry for Tod, Camille haggles with the NBA (National Broadcasting Association) and gets a contract for Tod with a small club. Tod's manager decides they need a gimmick, so they hire blond women for the band. They're not a success until a janitor (Eddie "Rochester" Anderson) tells them they're old-fashioned and need some heat -- in the form of swing music.
Melton has a kind of scrappy delivery and though pleasant looking, wasn't a leading man of the Nelson Eddy variety. He had, however, a beautiful Irish tenor that can be heard in the title song, "September in the Rain," and "Macushula," while Ellis sings "An Excuse for Dancing" and "A Flat in Manhattan." Melton became an opera star shortly after this film and worked at the Metropolitan Opera. Despite the lyric timbre of his voice, he did Pinkerton in "Madame Butterfly," and several other heavy-ish roles, though his major role for the Met was one very suited to him, Tamino in "The Magic Flute." In those days, it seems like lyric voices took on meatier roles. He was a perfect Mozart tenor, though I'm unclear what else he did besides Tamino.
Not really recommended, but Melton made other films, and if you get a chance to hear him, do so.