Rhythm on the River (1940)

  |  Comedy, Musical

Rhythm on the River (1940) Poster

Popular songwriter Oliver Courtney has been getting by for years using one ghost writer for his music and another for his lyrics. When both writers meet at an inn, they fall in love and ... See full summary »


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1 October 2016 | TheLittleSongbird
| Was a great hit on release- not at all hard to see why
A film starring Bing Crosby, Mary Martin and Basil Rathbone, with a screenplay co-written by Billy Wilder and directed by Victor Schertzinger promised so much. The good news is that it delivers on all the goods.

There are better film musicals out there than 'Rhythm on the River', ones with songs that are so easy to remember, timeless and have become standards or had truly lavish production values and choreography to die for. Not saying that 'Rhythm on the River' didn't have those things, just that other film musicals did even better in that regard. There actually is not anything wrong with the film, and it was a great hit on release and the appeal is entirely justified.

'Rhythm on the River' is a handsome-looking film, beautifully photographed and while the costumes and sets are not exactly spectacular they are hardly cheap either. While none of them are standards as such, the songs are pleasantly good and in the case of the best of them pretty exquisite. Wasn't entirely crazy on "Tiger Rag", but certainly really dig the title song and especially the sublime "Only Forever".

Schertzinger's direction is more than amiable, and the script is very engaging and witty especially with the chemistry between Rathbone and Oscar Levant. The story is somewhat thin and predictable, but this doesn't really matter when there is so much fun and charm and the chemistry between the performers is so good, not just the endearing one between Crosby and Martin but even more so between Rathbone and Levant.

All the acting is fine. Crosby is relaxed and charming and as ever sings an absolute dream. While Martin proves that it is a mystery as to why she didn't make it bigger in films as she is clearly enjoying herself, radiates and has a beautiful voice. Rathbone has a comedic character that is quite a departure compared to his usual roles, and he is a joy, in fact he's never been funnier and one wishes that he showed his comedic chops more because he proves that he certainly has them. Levant is suitably amusing.

On the whole, fun and charming film and not hard to see why it was a hit. 9/10 Bethany Cox

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