31 October 2006 | fwmurnau
Great cast undone by poor writing and direction
Movie fans who think great stars are enough to make a film great should see EVERYBODY SING. MGM threw together this vehicle for an assortment of wonderful performers they had under contract, but bad writing spoils it.
The following year the same studio would do everything right in THE WIZARD OF OZ, also with Garland and Burke, but here they do everything wrong. A stupid plot, bad dialog, and a director who doesn't know how to tone down veteran stage performers for the camera make for a shrill and charmless musical. Humor here consists of everybody yelling at each other, belting out third-rate songs and then reprising them. (Oh no! Here comes THAT lousy number again!)
Legendary stage and radio comedienne Fanny Brice's inexperience in films is painfully apparent. She gives a performance which would work on stage, but in camera close-up she comes across as hammy and annoying -- bugging her eyes, over-inflecting her lines, and making goofy faces.
Billie Burke, so funny and charming in THE WIZARD OF OZ and other films, is overbearing and shrieky here. Allan Jones, a handsome and likable young tenor, is wasted; in 1938, with operetta going out of style, the movie business no longer had a place for singers like him and Deanna Durbin.
The one reason to watch this is to witness the beginnings of the girl who the following year would blossom into the greatest musical performer in the history of film: Judy Garland. Even Judy is too loud and frantic here -- she's still Frances Gumm, vaudeville's "Little Miss Leatherlungs", with her mother hissing from the wings, "Louder, Frances! Smile, baby! Bat your eyes!!" But there are a few moments where Judy's musical phrasing or reading of a line take your breath away -- she's not yet the unique genius she would become, but she's getting there.
Garland fans should definitely see this, to see her in her "diamond in the rough" stage -- but you'll be in no hurry to see it again.