Variety (Dec 1941)

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FILM REVIEWS Wednesday, December 3, 1941 Babes on Broadway (FILMUSICAL) Motro-GoMwyn-Mayer releaso of Arthur Freed production. Stnrv MIckoy Rooney, Judy Garland; featuniH Fay Balnter. Vtr- einia Weldler, Ray McDonald, Richard Quino, Alexander WooUeott. Directed by Busby Berkeley. Screenplay by Fred PInklehoffo and Elaine Hynn' from story by Flnkleboffe. Boni^s by E, Y. Hnrbure. Burlon Lnne, Ralph Freed, RoRCr Edcne and Harold J. Rome: camera, Lostor White; editor. Fredrick Y. Smith. Pre- viewed In Projection Room. N. Y., Dec. 1, '41. Running time: 121 .MIN8. Tommy Wllllanifl Mickey Rooney Penny Morris Judy Garland M\M JonoA Fay Unlnter B:irbnni Jo.... .Vlri;lnli\ WoUller Rp.y Laml>ert Rny MoDnnnld 3Iorton Hammond............Richard QuIno Mr. Stone Donald Meek Alexander Woollcotl .Hy HlmMlf Kick Luis AlbernI Thornton Reed Jnmea GleaflOn If all the energy used by Mickey Rooney in making "Babes on Broad- way' could be assembled in one place, there would be enough to sus- tain a flying fortress in the strato- sphere from Hollywood to New York a-^d return, non-stop. And there ir>v?ht be some left over. Teamed with Judy Garland in a fllmusical which is very similar to their previ- ous efforts, -'Strike Up the Band' and 'Babes in Arms," Rooney is as fresh as the proverbial daisy at the end of two hours of strenuous theatrical calisthenics. He dances, sings, acts and does imitations—dozens of them. Film should do as well as its prede- cessors at the boxoffice—which was very good. the matter of sheer, movement, "Babes on Broadway' is the most restless young thing which has come to the screen in many months. There isn't time to catch one's breath from the opening moment when Alexander Woollcott delivers a lec- ture on youthful talent, to the closing fsdeout of Mickey and Miss Garland giving their all in one of these Metro production, numbers, where the stage, the scenery, -tiie actors and some of the audience are doing a gigaotlc revolution around the camera. In between, there is related a story about young performers battling for their 'chance' on Broadway. Fred FInklehoffe has devised the plot, which he and Elaine Byan have a:':apted into a Script ot sufticient elasticity to introduce a massive street carnival, where refugee Brit- ish children speak over the short- wave to their parents; a stupendous minstrel show, and hundreds of iois- cellaneous yoting America, ranging from seven to 19 years. It is about youth in such numbers and diversity that the occasional glimpse of Donald Meek, in the character of an east Eide settlement house superintend- ed, is a visual oasis. • ."^usby Berkeley directs this sort of tiung about as well as anybody. Various production numbers are on the elaborate scale. There's a song csUed 'Hoe Down,' by Roger Edens and Ralph Freed, which is stmg, danced, acted and interpreted by the children in sundry bucolic make- up. 'How About You?' by Freed and Burton Lane, has a catchy lyile and easy melody which shoulti cany it into general popularity. Plucked from the Broadway production, 'Sing Out the News' of several years ago, Harold J. Rome's 'Franklin D. Roose- velt Jones' is- revived by Miss Gar- land as an appropriate minstrel »;^Tiber. ^2oth Rooney and Miss Garland, the dnld wonders , of some years back, are fast outgrowing, at least in ap pearance, this type of presentation. Which depends entirely on the ah's end oh'8 that spring from watching pr^codotis children. Fay Bainter and Jimmy Gleason lend an adult touch to the proceed- ings. Some Clever dancing is done by Ray. McDonald, and Virginia 'Weldler handles a bit ot human IH' tc.est convincingly. There was one little English boy, n not-given, whose voice quiv- cicd when making believe that'he was taUdsg'to the folks back home. Strangely, nis 'brief scene is what is remembered most vividly from "Babes on Broadway.* FliTi. that Samuel &o}dwyn's director and writers have to support 'Ball of Fire." It's sufficient, however, to provide quite a few chuckles and, with Bar- bara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper as marquee bait, it should insure exhibs welcome moolah in the till. Gag on which the whole thing is based is Cooper's professorial efforts to write a learned piece on slang for an encyclopedia. He needs, lor re- reach purposes, someone whos hep to the last syllable of the linco and brings into a sanctum, where he and seven colleagues are working on the encyclopedia, a burlesque stripper, Barbara Stanwyck. She upsets and excites the eight old men in the ex- pected manner. Much of the dialog is rapid-fire slang, plenty labored, but frequently good for laughs. Pic will hook all kinds of audi- ences, from Jitterbugs up, for at least a partially-favorable response. Scenes of eight professorial gents being led astray bv a 42d street peeler has the solid human in- terest base to create pleasant re- actions from the fliwer-trade. They'll also enjoy sequence with Gene Krupa and his band. The more conservative will get a bang out of being initiated to.some solid new slang. But none of them will get all the fun out of the pic he feels he's entitled to because of the very obviousness of it all. That telegraphing ahead by the plot for a reservation makes the 110 minutes a long pull and about 20 minutes out of the film would help plenty. Casting is meticulously perfect to make every character a caricature of itself. Cooper Is in the familiar "Mr. Smith-John Doe" role of the brainy guy who's not quite his sur- roimdihgs until near the end, when he wises up in time to snatch victory from the smart boys. Miss Stanwyck, as the girl who refuses at the finale to marry her gangster b.f., be- cause she's fallen for the simple goodness of Cooper, is likewise in a familiar part that she can play for maximum results. She sings one tune, 'Drum Boogie,' in mild manner. A field day for the character brigade, practically everyone in the cast but the pair of stars falls into that category. Cooper's seven co- professors are each good for a laugh, although, collectively, they tend to become wearisome. They include Oscar Homolka, Henry Travers, S. J. Sakall, Tully Marshall, Leonid Kin- sky, Richard Haydn and Aubrey Mather. Allen Jenkins is a garbage man whose thirst for knowledge, created in radio 'quizzolas,' leads him to call on the encyclopedia-compilers. Dana Andrews, Dan Duryea, Ralph Peters and Alan Rhein are ot Bliss Stan- wyck's gat-and-get-'em mob. An- drews is particularly effective as the leader. Super-hoke, tongue-in-cheek tech- nique employed is a creditable try al something different. It's unfortiuiate. for that reason, that it doesn't come off entirely successfully, although no exhib need worry about the film's potency to be 'yum-yum' at the b.o ' Herb. Miniature Renews ■Babes on Broadway' (M-G) (Musical). Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland continuing whera they left off 'Babes In Anns.' Good commerce. 'Ball of Fire' (RKO). Barbara Stanwyck-Gary Cooper in wackfer comedy that should click for moderately good grosses. ■Yoa're in the Army Now* (WB). Jimmy Durante, Phil Silvers and others in a very . entertaining army comedy. The Vanishing Virglnlanf (M-G) (Songs). Frank Borzaga human touch at best. Will get critical and word-of-mouth at- tention. '.■ II Through the Night' (WB). Kc !er involving destruction of Nozi spy ring operating in heart of N. Y. points to good b.o. 'Dr. Ktldare's Victory" (M-G). Ijatest Ayres - Barrymore pla okay for dualers. 'Steel Against the Sky' (WB). Tecious romantic item with some comic dressing. Slow biz indi- cated. 'The Body Disappears' (WB). Tepid comedy about invisible bodies is grooved for lower end of duals. 'SiDg for Tonr Sapper' (Col). A poor comedy romance with songs that will find it tough get- ting anywhere. 'Sealed Lips' (U). Entertain- ing cop-gangster programmer, with fresh slants from formula. Good dual supporter. Taxcdo Janctlon' (Rep). Best of the Weaver Bros. & Elviry series, okay for the hinterland trade. ^ BALL OF FIRE BKO release of Samuel Goldwyn prO' dnctlon. sura Qoiy Cooper and Barbara tVanivyck; features Oscar Homolka, Dana Anilrcwo, Dan Duryea, Henry Wavers. S, Z. .Sakall, Tully Marahall, Leonid KInskey, Richard Haydn, Aubrey Mather, Allen Jen- kl.ns and Gone Krupa and Hie Orehestra. D'cccted by Howard Hawks. Screenplay by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder from original by Wilder and Thorana Monroe. Oiinora. Orenc Tolnnd; editor, Daniel Man- dell. Previewed at RKO Proctor. Now Rochalle. N. Y,, Dec. 1, '41. Runnlni time, 110 MUt'S. Prof, Bertram Potta Gary Cooper Sv^rpuBs O'Sheo Barbara Stanwyck Prof. Gurkakoft Oscar Homolka P.-of. Jerome Henry Travera Prof. Magenbnioh..... 3. J. Saitall Prof. Robinson Tully Marshall Prof. Quintana Leonid KInskey Prof. Oddly Richard Haydn Prof. Peasiam Aubrey Mather Garbage Man Allen Jenklna Joe Lilac Dona, Andrews Su'-e Pastrami Dan-Duryea Asthma Anderson....... Ralph Peten Ulsa Uragff. i Kathleen Howard Miss Totten Mary Field J.awy«r i Charles Lane UcNeary Charlea Amt *Boraeface' ....Alan Rheln Gone Krupa and HIa Orchestra A simple gag is hardly enough on which to string 110 minutes of film. And that's all—one /unny situation— You're in the Army Now (wrrH MUSIC) . Warner Bros, release of Ben Stoloff pro- ducUoD. Features Jimmy Durante, Jane Wyman, Fhir Slivers, Reels Toomey, Don- ald MacBrlde, Joseph Sawyer, Oeonte Meeker, William Uaade, Clarence Kolb, Matty Malneck orchestra and Navy Blues Sextet, Directed by Ixwls Seller, Story and adaptaUon, Paul Gerud Smith and Georxe Beatty; film editor, Frank Magee; phot^Kraphy, Arthur Todd. Tradeshown In N. T., Nov. 28, '41. Running time, 1l> JimS. Jeeper Smith Jimmy Durante BUas Dobson .....'...Jane Wyman Breezy Jones Phil Sllven Captain Rndclirro Regis Toomey Colonel Dobson Donald MacBrlde Captain Austin Gcorgo Meeker Sergeant Madden Joseph sawyer Sargennt Thorpe William Haade General winthi-op '.Clarence Kolb General Phllpot Paul Harvey Lt. Col, Rogera Paul Stanton Army Doctor • John Maxwell Delia EtU McDanlel "The Navy'^lues Sextet * Matty Malneck Orchestra Though it is a bit corny In spots and lays the slapstick on heavily, with some gag sequences stretched too far, here is a comedy of soldier life that completely entertains. The masses are its meat and good boX' office is certain. Picture makes no pretense about being anything but an all-out com- edy except for a production, number, not elaborate, which employs the Matty Malneck band, the Navy Blues Sextet and some lesser in- dividuals.- Song is 'I'm Glad My Number Was Called,' vocaled in bit fashion mostly by Durante, William Haade and others. The production number into which it V9 fitted also includes an. acro- batic and other dance bits, as well as a tap routine by the Navy Blues Sextet and a half dozen lads, but principally the army camp show serves as a background for laughs. One of the funniest scenes is the one in which Durante Is dolled up as an Apache dancer and mixes into a routine in which he gets socked around plenty. He's trying to escape from a sergeant who has murder in his heart and takes refuge on the stage in the costume of the gal Apache dancer 'belonging to the act. Durante goes to town on the clown- ing, slapstick and other means ot comedy, but while he's busy as a bee, many others contribute importantly to the numerous laugh-producing se- quences. Among these is Phil Sil- vers, who works with Durante as a team selling vacuum cleaners. Others include Joseph Sawyer, tough top sergeant; Donald MacBride, a colonel whose toes are forever being tramped on by Durante, figuratively; end lessers. The story Job by Paul Gerard Smith, an old hand at the vaudeville- writing game, and George Beatty Is excellent and, it some of the gag altu- atlons are stretched a little too far or the slapstick gets out ot hand, it may be the fault ot the director, Lewis Seller. Dialog is surefire all the way, and.where it concerns Du- rante it is well suited to his maimer ot pertormibg. , Durante and Silvers, trying to in- terest a recruiting officer in a vac- uum cleaner, accidentally get them- selves enlisted. As 'ljuck privates. With the action focused mostly on Durante, they become guardhouse regulars as result of getting them- selves into, one ]am after another. Regis Toomey, and Jane Wyman carry the romantic interest, which necessarily is played away down. Finish is unique, with Durante and Silvers as graying old men sitting over a chess game and talking about themselves when they were soldiers. In another shot on the finish, both are sitting at a huge piano with their normal sizes reduced to that of chll' dren through trick photography. Ben Stoloff, who produced, has spared no expense in getting what he wanted, the wild tank ride in it self probably having cost a lot Char. Vanishing Virginian (WITH SONGS) Hollywood, Dec. Metro-Goldwyn-Mnyer release of Frank Borzage (Edwin Knopf) production, di- rected by Borznge. Features Frank Mor- gan, Kathryn Grayson, Spring Bylngton, Natalie Thompson, Douglas Newland, Mark Daniels, Elizabeth Pattenon, Screenplay by Jan Fortune, based on book by Rebecca Yancey Williams; camera. Charles Lawton; editor, James L. Newcom. Tradeshown In L. A„ Dec. 2. '41, Running time, 101 If INS. Robert Yancey Frank Morgan Rebecca Yancey Kathryn Grayson Rosa Yancey Spring Bylngton Margaret Yancey Natalie Thompson Jim Shirley Douglass Newland Jack Holden..K..,.' Mark Daniels Grandma Bllinbeth Patterson Caroline Yancey Juanlla Qulgley Joel Yancey Scotty BeckUtt Robert Yancey. Jr Dickie Jones Uncle Joah ; Leigh Whlpper Aunt Emmellne Louise Beaven John Phelps.., A J, M. Kerrigan Mr. Regard Harlan Brlggs Marcia Marahall Katharine Alexander The Vanishing Virginian' is the Intimate biography of an Old Do- minion family, steeped in the basic traditions and spirit of American pioneer stock, respect for laws, and close relationship of family—both of which are fundamentals in the foun- dation and success ot the .United States as a place to live in. Scripter Jan Fortune and director Franic Borzage have combined to unreel a deeidedly human and American tale of small-town life—a prestige picture tor the industry at this particular time, with likely moderate grosses for metropolitan bookings, with more] chance to catch stronger coin in the ■mailer communities—but due for fa- vorable comment in all spots. Proper •xploltatlon may unearth surprise grosses, aspeeially in midwest key titles, Rebecca Yancey Williams' biog- raphy of her fatiier and family from leiS to 1B29 details the staunch Americanism and family loyalty of a Vii«lnlan of old stock. Imbued with honesty and patriotism as the public prosecutor, he still has the closest Intimacy with bis family ot wife and five children—coddling, the wife's idiosyncrasies, while artfully watching the individual careers of his youngsters. Despite wifely op- position, he feels it his duty to serve the people through 10 terms, until the time finally comes when he is defeated tor reelection. Instead of being shocked by the setback, Yan- cey laughs it off with the remark that a fine family and a multitude of. friends constitute the greatest victory tor ^ man during his lifetime, Borzage imbues the story with rich humanness, rolling along at a lei- surely thoiigh consistently interesting pace. Dramatic moments come with- in the various biographical episodes, which neatly dovetail together through deft scripting and editing, Borzage has dearly delineated the various characters in rich etchings— with no overtones apparent There's Frank Morgan in an excellent por-) trayal of the honest prosecutor, fear- less American and blustering father ot the family flock who tempers his discipline with a keen understanding ot both his wife and vari-aged chil- dren. Spring Bylngton is the moth- erly wife who tries unsuccessfully to bend her husband, but still respects and loves him for holding command. Kathryn Grayson and Natalie Thompson are the two .ingenue daughters—steered Into musical careers by Yancey, but marrying re- spective sweethearts in short order. Juanita Qulgley, Scotty Beckett and Dickey Jones are the mischievous and trouble-making youngsters of the family, while Leigh Whlpper and Louise Beavers are the loyal colored retainers in the house- hold. Cast Is one of the most com- petent lined up by the Metro front office, with every member effectively delivering In individual assignment Miss Grayson, whom Metro fig- ures on grooming tor ingenue-star rating, has a strong supporting spot here, and along the way sings a few numbers, including the Strauss clas- sic. The World Was Made for You,' 'Evening by the Moonlight,' 'Bill Bailey,' ana a Negro hymnal. All songs are briefly-footaged, with the last three with chorus backgrounds. Sets, costumes, and . photography capture the'spirit of the old domin- ion town of Lynchburg most effec- tively. Walt. All Through the Night (Vr.ITH SONGS) Warner Bros, reteaee of Hal B. WalUe (Jerry Wald) production. Stara Humphrey Bogart; features Conrad Veldt, Kaar«n Verne, Jane Darwell, Frank McHugh, Peter Lorrc; JudltK Anderson. Dlractcd by Vin- cent Sherman. Screenplay by Leonard Splgelgnss and Edwin Gilbert; story by Leonard Q, Rosa and Leonard Splgelgasa; caxnera, Sid HIckox; editor, Rudl Fehr: ■ongs, Johnny Mirce^, Arthur Schwartz, Lillian Goodman. Tradeshown In K. Y,, Dec, 2, '41, Running time, 107 MIN8. Gloves Donahuo.'........ ,Humphrey Bogart EalL Ebbing Conrad Veldt Leda Hamilton Kaaren Verne 'Ma* Donahue Jane Darwell Barney Frank McHugh Louts Jackie C. Gleason Madame Judith Anderson Pepl Peter Lorre Max CaluccI .- Barton MacLane Banablne William Demarest Stelndorft MarUn Kosleck Anton Hans Srhumm Mr. Miller Ludwig Stossel Mrs. Miller., ,'..T.Irene Scldner Annabelle Jean Ames Smitty .Ben Welden Deacon .Sam McDanlel Forbes James Burke . Gripping espionage meller, with Humphrey Bogart .and a few strong supporting names for marquee dress- ing, should come through with solid though not smash b.o. returns. Best suited for nabes and all subsequent situations where it will profit Need tor considerable trimming from length of 107 minutes is indi- cated, with ample opportunity for cutting. Somewhat on the lurid side and with the Nazi menace motif of fa- miliar timber, shortcomings are com- pensated for by fast-moving contin- uity which smartly builds susi>ense and hold attention: Comedy touches infrequent but pointed. Yam highlights three bad boys, with Humphrey Bogart this time working on the side of law, order and liberty in trying to clean up a nest of Nazi spies and fifth-column- ists. Two other toughles are sinister, soft-spoken I<orre and immaculate, Iron-nst-in-velvet-glove Nazi agent Veidt, both first rate. Locale Is New York city. Bogart, as retired mobster turned blgtlme gambler. Is easy to take. Projected against background of Nazi beatings and murders, U. S. gangsters look like Sunday school kids fight- ing over marbles, (^hase end gun- battle in Central Park, scraps in the warehouse district, the mystery girl In Hlistress, emphasis, on danger to American institutions from foreign conspirators add up to elementary but surefire audience appeal. Casting is a big'asset, with Jane Darwell as Bogart's mother, Frank McHugh, Judith Anderson and Wil- lUm Demarest prominent. Kaaren Verne, femme lead, fills the bill nicely and pleasantly lyarbles two songs in a nitery aeiiuence. One, as yet unpublished, Is 'All Through the Night,' by Johnny Mercer and Arthur Schwartz; the other, 'Cherie, I Love You,' is by LiUlan Cioodman. Sid Hickox's camera work is okay. Mori. Dr. Kildare's Victory Metro production and rolenso. Features Lew Ayres, Lionel Barrymore, Ann Ayars, Robert Sterling, Drected by Major W. s. Van Dyke, 2i1_ Screenplay by Harry Ruskln and Willis Goldbeck from story by Joseph Harrington, based on oharactors ci-oated by Max Brand; camera, William Daniels; edi- tor, Frank E. Hull. Tradeshown In N. Y., Dec. 2. '41. Running time, 02 .MINy. Dr. James Klldan....; Lew Ayi-es Dr. Leonard Qllelsple Lionel Barrymore Cynthle 'Cookie' Charlea Ann Aynra Dr. Donald Wlnthrop Robert Sterling Annabelle KIrke Jean Rogera Molly Byrd..... Alma Kruger Dr. Walter Corow Walter Klngsford Nurse Parker Nell Craig AVIIIIo Brooks Kdward Gargan Sally ;Marle Ulnks Mike Ryan Frank Orth Conovor George H. Beed Samuel Z. Cutler Barry Nelson CIIRord Genet ; Eddie Acult T.,eo Cobb Gus Schilling Arnold blMncer .Stuart Crawford Mr. Hubboll. William Bakewell Mra. Hubbell Charlotte Wyntera Latest Kildare stanza, first to be directed by W. S. Van Dyke, 2d, though not as interesting as some which have preceded it, is adequate supporting fodder. Withdrawal of Laralne Day from tills series, fol- lowing her cinematic demise, for more imiiortant studio assignments will not dent following established by Ayres-Barrymore combo to any appreciable extent But introduc- tion ot new heart Interest for the young medico, even if not leading Infmediately to the altar, is needed quickly to maintain audience re- sponse. Script for this episode is much too wordy, lacks sufficient motivation, and lapses too frequently into un- eventful hospital politics and sub- plots between sporadic bursts ot ac- tion. Basically, yarn hinges on a territorial dispute between two hos- pitals which have an agreement not to muscle in on each other's pa- tients. When an interne protege ot Dr. Kildare's brings a glamour girl with a chunk of 'glass imbedded in her heart to the hospital he's dis- missed though her life is saved be- cause the gal was found in oppo- sition territory. Ann Ayars, Introduced as a much- publicized screwball glamour gal, turns on lots of heat She makes an indecisive play for Kildare and bows out at finale, saying she'll be back for another grab at him. Mild flirta- tion thus projected is inconclusive and so far Ineffective as substitute for Day-Ayres' romantic interludes, though it can be strengUiened. Dr. Gillespie's shrewd medical analyses ami sharp political ma- neuvering continue intriguing while Ayres delivers standard competent performance. Robert Sterling, as the interne, shows promise as a per- sonable juve lead, though still need- . ing additional polish. Jean Rogers, in subordinate role as Sterling's girl friend and Alma Kruger are other standouts. Mori. Steel Against the Sky Warner Bros. releoM of Edmund Oralng«r production. Features Lloyd Nolan. Alexia Smith, Craig Stevens, Geiie Lockhart. Ed- ward Bills, Walter Catlett and Edward Brophy. Dlracted by A. Edward b'uther- land. Story, Maurice Hanllne and Jess* Losky. Jr.; adaptation, Paul Gerard Smith; dim editor. Doug Gould; photography. Jamea Van Trees. Tradeshown In N. Y.. Nov, 28, '41. Running tlm^ SS MINS. Rocky Evans...- Lloyd Nolan Helen Alexia Smith Chuck Evarui Cmlg Stevens John Powera Gene Lockhart Pop Evans Edward Ellla Prafessor Sampson Walter Catlett Bugs Howtrd da Sllva Pete Evana Edward Brophy Myrt Julie Bishop Backgrounded against bridge- building and three brothers who work 'high up,' as the scenario calls it, 'Steel Against the Sky' is ineffec- tiial, romantic drama which tries hard to be timny at tinies, but doesn't succeed so well in that direction, either. Below-averaige business is likely. The story, ordinary as to con- struction, concerns three brothers one of whom has l>een a black-sheep but redeems himself by becoming a good bridge mechanic. He falls for his older brother's girl friend and bad feeling results. It is removed when one of them saves the other's life. Paul Gerard Smith's adapta- tion of the Maurice Hanline-Jesse Lasky, Jr., story is routine and the dialog lacks strength. The direction fails to add much except that the scenes ot bridge con- struction and the highlighting of the dangers facing structural workers provide an effective- background tor a slow story and weak plot Bridge- building scenes are well photo- graphed. A. Edward Sutherland di- rected and James Van Trees was be- hind the camera. Edmund Grain- ger's production is fair. Lloyd Nolan plays the member of the Evans' brood who's superintend- ent on the span-constructing job, (Contlni^ed on page 18)