HERE COMES THE GROOM...with a couple of French war orphans in tow. Bing Crosby plays the title role, a journalist returning from years working in post-WWII France with hopes of marrying his old flame (Jane Wyman) and adopting the children (Jacky Gencel and Beverly Washburn). It's essential that Crosby and Wyman marry within five days of his return to the States, or the children will be sent back to France. There's just one hitch: Wyman is set to marry her multimillionaire boss, played by dashing Franchot Tone.
That doesn't begin to cover the overstuffed plot. Wyman's costar in 1944's THE DOUGHGIRLS, Alexis Smith, plays Tone's kissing cousin who is secretly in love with him and resents Wyman. Wryly funny Robert Keith, who plays Crosby's newspaper publisher boss, conspires with Crosby to help Smith steal Tone from Wyman so that Crosby can have Wyman for himself.
The cast includes great character actors H.B. Warner, Ian Wolfe, and Adeline DeWalt Reynolds as Tone's wealthy aunt and uncles, while James Barton and Connie Gilchrist are Wyman's tough-as-nails parents. Charles Lane and Neal Dodd (more on Dodd here) are also in the film.
The film is very laid-back about plot progress, taking time out here and there for diverse specialty numbers by Anna Maria Alberghetti (playing a war orphan, in her second film) and a raucous group including Louis Armstrong, Dorothy Lamour, and Phil Harris. Armstrong and Co. just happen to be on Crosby's plane when he heads back to the United States with the children.
Although the film has a lot of ground to cover plotwise, it's amiable fun and has a breezy, witty script, which also manages to keep Crosby likeable despite a past history of having been commitment-phobic. Robert Riskin and Liam O'Brien were Oscar-nominated for Best Story.
The film is particularly notable for its classic Oscar-winning Best Song, "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael. In addition to being a great tune, the song is used well to move the story forward and depict the bond between Crosby and the children, and especially to establish Crosby and Wyman's longtime previous close relationship. Wyman doesn't appear until half an hour or so into the movie, but when she and Crosby launch into the song for old time's sake, it's a quick way for viewers to see their comfortable way with one another and be assured they would make a good couple.
The actors are all wonderful and make the film good fun. Particular kudos go to Franchot Tone and Robert Keith. Tone's "other man" role was written and played in a refreshingly non-cliched manner...no milquetoast "Ralph Bellamy" type here. One wonders at the end just which woman got the better deal. Keith is quite amusing, particularly in his one-sided telephone scenes, and tosses off some great one-liners. 1951 was a banner year for Keith, who also turned in fine performances in the dramas I WANT YOU and FOURTEEN HOURS.
HERE COMES THE GROOM was produced and directed by none other than Frank Capra. (I remember reading in his autobiography years ago that he shot Crosby and Wyman singing "live" during filming, rather than having them lip synch to a playback.) It was shot in black and white and runs 113 minutes.
HERE COMES THE GROOM is available on both video and DVD. The DVD is a "twofer" pairing HERE COMES THE GROOM with Crosby and Wyman's 1952 film JUST FOR YOU.
Fans of this film may enjoy visiting the Jane Wyman Official Family Website, the Anna Maria Alberghetti website, and the Beverly Washburn Official Website.
November 2014 Update: HERE COMES THE GROOM is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.