23 October 2016 | TheLittleSongbird
Good Grace Moore vehicle? Yes. To see Cary Grant and Robert Riskin at their best, look elsewhere
The premise for 'When You're in Love' had a lot of potential, Grace Moore was a likable singer/actress who achieved some success as a film star but that was short-lived, Cary Grant was one of the cinema all-time greats and Robert Riskin was a brilliant screen-writers.
Any film also, and there's plenty of them around, that tries to give opera (a medium that has been a lifelong passion, but sadly its appeal has become generally increasingly more limited over the years) more popularity and make it more accessible is worthy of some credit. Somehow however, despite some very good things, 'When You're in Love' falls short of its potential.
Moore herself is sexy and a very likable and charming screen presence. She also sings very well, especially in "Sibonay". Though "Vissi D'Arte" doesn't sound right for her voice (prefer a bigger and richer voice for Tosca) and doesn't feel right within the film either. 'When You're in Love' doesn't see anywhere near the best of Grant, but his customary urbane charm can be seen in bucket loads and he and Moore do share a sweet chemistry. Aline MacMahon comes very close to stealing the film, her good-nature and sass reminding one of Eve Arden.
'When You're in Love' is beautifully shot and sumptuously designed. The music is wonderful, whether pre-existing or written especially for the film, and along with Moore the star of the film, with "Sibonay", "Your Song" and "Minnie the Moocher" coming off best. Choreographically, "Minnie the Moocher" is energetic and enormous fun, by far the best musical number in staging and choreography, and Moore certainly does let her hair down. The scene in the cabin is a lovely scene too.
On the other hand, Riskin's talent as a screen-writer is not matched at all by his direction, showing that there was a reason as to why this was the first and only time in the director's chair. Stylistically it's fine, but too much of it dramatically and pulse-wise screams of inexperience and too many of the musical numbers are staged indifferently or bizarrely (so much so that the exuberant "Minnie the Moocher" feels overblown in comparison), Schubert's "Serenade" is an insulting mix of both especially. The story seemed like it would work on paper, but too much of it is bland and implausible with the final act and ending taking a turn for the worse in lack of momentum of ridiculousness.
There are scenes and decisions that begged for explanation as to why they happened, especially why "Serenade" was staged the way it was, the placement of "Vissi D'Arte" and much of the pivotal romance, but they never came. While the chemistry itself is sweet, 'When You're in Love' is written in such a flat way (no sparkling bubbles here in this script, just a lot of substance-less froth that becomes dull, strange and too sugary) that one is never fully invested in the romance itself.
In conclusion, works well as a Grace Moore vehicle and anybody wanting good music will not be disappointed. There are far better examples of Grant and Riskin's talents elsewhere other than here however. 5/10 Bethany Cox