13 November 2006 | daneldorado
Two Sisters from Boston (1946)
"Two Sisters from Boston" (1946) is an amusing mix of romance, comedy, and music. MGM's Pasternak unit skillfully hedged its bets by offering opera (Wagner and Liszt are represented, but in English), music hall ribaldry, and plenty of "cheesecake" -- i.e., feminine legs on display.
Kathryn Grayson and June Allyson play two Boston sisters from an upright Back Bay family. The family isn't poor, but the paterfamilias (a suitably dour Henry Hayden) is notoriously stingy. One of the sisters -- Abigail, played by Miss Grayson -- is allowed to go to New York to study opera. But her skinflint uncle doesn't give her enough expense money to pay her rent, so Abby takes a part-time job in a Bowery saloon, where she stars as "High C" Susie, singing with Spike (Jimmy Durante) in low-comedy skits.
Word gets out, and the outraged Bostonians travel south to New York to check out the rumors for themselves. There, the younger sister Martha (June Allyson) confronts Lawrence Patterson Jr. (Peter Lawford), son of the opera impresario, and demands to know what's happened to her sister. Lawrence Jr. is clueless, but he is instantly smitten with Martha, and from that point on he makes it his business to see that her sister Abigail gets an opera audition.
There is a lot of sly humor involved -- Jimmy Durante, in probably the best role of his career, covers for both Abigail and Martha in between hilarious bits on the stage of his Bowery auditorium. Ben Blue, who early in the film shows up at the saloon and heckles Durante during his act, turns out to be a staid butler at the Patterson mansion. Durante recognizes him and discovers that he has amnesia except when he is drunk. In a hilarious scene, Blue slowly gets in his cups, then blurts out to the startled Patterson family: "She's High C Susie! She's the Belle of the Bowery!" and points directly at Abigail, who's about to audition for the opera. But Martha is standing right next to Abby, and she declares to the shocked gathering that SHE, not Abigail, is the true "Belle of the Bowery." Now she has to prove it.
All this, plus at least three operatic arias by the great Danish baritone Lauritz Melchior, and a happy operatic debut by young Abigail. Lawrence Jr. attends Martha's game attempt to substitute for the Belle of the Bowery, sees through the artifice, and falls deeply in love with her. At the end, Abigail is seen singing gloriously on stage in full operatic regalia, while Lawrence Jr. and Martha are nuzzling in the box seats.
And a great time was had by all.
Dan Navarro -- firstname.lastname@example.org