8 January 2000 | stryker-5
"This Is No Time To Think!"
Gordon Miller is a Broadway producer with not much cash and even fewer scruples. He has ensconced the young cast of his new show in a large New York hotel, and is feverishly rehearsing them for opening night. Along comes the young writer Glenn Russell, and it transpires that the kid can sing ...
A frivolous, fizzing little musical from RKO Radio, "Step Lively" doesn't even pretend to be sensible. The frenetic farce is augmented by workmanlike songs from Cahn and Styne, two numbers standing out as better-than-average - "Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are" and "As Long As There's Music". Both are staged impressively.
"Come Out" gets the full production treatment, with Gloria De Haven heading a floorshow-style ensemble. "As Long" is the big finale, with two pieces of silver-screen magic. Gloria walks down a beam of light, and the chorus line have striking black-and-white gowns which enable them to 'disappear' impressively.
The sets are fun. Glenn walks Christine home to her brownstone, and the couple is tracked by a neat crane shot. When Glenn runs out of the hotel, we see him sprint away from the camera, down the sweeping staircase, across the lobby and out through the revolving door. Now that's what I call a set.
Frank Sinatra had made his name fronting the big bands, and now he was making the transition to independent actor-singer. He is good in the role of Glenn, the jeun-naif, but clearly lacking the poise of later years.
Gloria De Haven (Christine) began her movie career eight years before this film, appearing as Paulette Goddard's sister in Chaplin's "Modern Times". She was still showing up in TV movies two years ago. How many actors working today have resumes dating back to the silent era? She is pretty and engaging as Christine, the romantic lead.
"Step Lively" is a curiously old-fashioned musical. It is almost as if RKO was trying to hark back to its heyday of a decade earlier, and the 'come on kids, let's rehearse a show' approach. Compared with "Meet Me In St Louis", it seems a cinematic dinosaur, and yet both were made in the same year.
Verdict - A light-hearted, if light-headed, musical that was already old-fashioned in 1944.