This is an interesting little movie. It's a studio musical/comedy/romance/drama meant to showcase Italian opera singer Nino Martini. There aren't too many films from the old studio days that showcase opera, a sort of high-brow cultural pursuit. Lots of flicks about Broadway hoofers and Tin Pan Alley songsmiths, chorus girls and crooners, but rarely serious opera vocalists, foreign languages and all. RKO builds the film around the Italian tenor, and Martini is likable on-screen, his imperfect grasp of the English language endearing. I don't recall seeing him in any other movies.
The story isn't something you see every day. An Italian tenor, new to America and on his way to Hollywood, is taken in by crooks who con him into playing a crucial part in a robbery. The tenor sings at a society party, thinking it'll break him into Hollywood. But his captivating performance is meant to serve as a distraction while the crooks snatch the loot. The authorities know the singer is involved in the theft, but nobody knows what he looks like out of his "Pagliacci" costume. The only way to identify the mysterious tenor is by his distinctive voice.
This creates an interesting situation. A fugitive of the law, Nino can roam around Hollywood unrecognized, but he dare not sing. If caught he may face a prison sentence, and if he squeals on the crooks he may face much worse. He finds himself unable to pursue his dream of stardom because he must conceal his extraordinary talent.
Meanwhile the police round up suspects and make them sing, searching for "the voice". It's like when the king's men went around testing the glass slipper in "Cinderella", hoping to find the maiden whom it would fit. The singer befriends an aspiring composer (Joan Fontaine), who helps him get work as a movie extra in a musical production, where it becomes evident that Nino's talent would far outshine that of the star tenor. How long can Nino keep his voice a secret? Can he continue to deceive the girl he cares about? Will guilt get the better of him? What would happen if he comes clean?
As I said, it's an interesting picture. Something a bit different, and it's got music, romance, and a little internal drama, though the whole thing is handled rather lightly. Nino Martini comes off well as the hero who tries to set things right. The guy can sing, too. Joan Fontaine is very young and very pretty. Who wouldn't want to sing arias to her? Alan Hale does a good job as the buffoonish music-loving detective, with Grant Mitchell as the frustrated district attorney. Alan Mowbray is the pompous maestro who doesn't want Nino's talent to go to waste behind bars, Billy Gilbert provides sneezy comic relief, and Lee Patrick is Joan Fontaine's pal.