9 April 2010 | bkoganbing
It's Still Got That Hi Dee Hi And Boop A Doo
In a different perspective of the plot for Lady For A Day, Warner Brothers gave Doris Day one of her best musical films in Lullaby Of Broadway. They even tributed Busby Berkeley somewhat in the finale number.
The story involves Doris as a young performer who has spent her childhood in the United Kingdom with money sent to her by her mother who she believes is a famous Broadway star. That's in the past tense unfortunately mom who is played by Gladys George now sings in a cheap cabaret in the seamier parts of Greenwich Village.
But Doris is such a good kid that everyone tries to keep the illusion going from former vaudeville colleagues Billy DeWolfe and Anne Triola to S.Z. Sakall whom they now work for as butler and maid. She even gets involved with rising new Broadway performer Gene Nelson. But she also innocently almost breaks up S.Z. Sakall's marriage to Florence Bates. Now there's a couple to contemplate about.
In her memoirs Doris Day said that S.Z. Sakall in real life was the same lovable uncle type that he played so well in films. And yes no one could resist pinching those cheeks either.
Gene Nelson sad to say came along just a half generation too late to become a major film star. He had the moves and he had the talent, possibly he was not a creative individual in the way that Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly was. I think he was in their league as a performer and he'd be as known as they are today if he had that creative talent that they did which is why they've become the legends they are. Maybe Nelson never got the chance they did. Anyway this was his only lead in a major motion picture and it didn't make him a star because musicals were on the downside.
Gladys George has only a few scenes, but she really makes them count when she's on screen. One of her more memorable characters in earlier years was the Texas Guinan like performer in The Roaring Twenties who carries a torch for James Cagney. When that film ends she's singing in a dive and her character could be an extension of Panama whom she played in The Roaring Twenties.
As often as not for Doris Day films Warner Brothers reached into their trunk catalog and in this case got the title song and another standard written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me. Here though they outdid themselves for Doris and Gene using stuff like Somebody Loves Me and Just One Of Those Things. When you've got George Gershwin and Cole Porter contributing to the score the rest doesn't even matter.
Watching the finale number which is the title song, sung by Doris and danced by Gene Nelson and a chorus it plays very similar to the choreographic sequences in Golddiggers of 1935 where Lullaby Of Broadway was introduced. No kaleidoscopic overhead shots that characterized those old Warner Brothers musicals from the Thirties are here, but in all other respects they seem to have copied Mr. Berkeley well.
Lullaby Of Broadway has a nice backstage plot, it's a throwback to their musicals of the Depression in many respects and it provides Doris Day with many opportunities to display singing and dancing talents. And it holds up well today.