Sunday, March 07, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Garden of the Moon (1938)

GARDEN OF THE MOON is a rather plodding, overly long Warner Bros. musical about the extended conflict between an obnoxious nightclub manager (Pat O'Brien) and an up-and-coming orchestra leader (John Payne).

The talents of those involved, including director Busby Berkeley and songwriters Harry Warren, Johnny Mercer, and Al Dubin, cannot overcome a poor script which runs out of new ideas after the first 20 minutes.

O'Brien is given a one-note role to play as John Quinn, the hardnosed, calculating manager of Hollywood's most popular nightspot, the Garden of the Moon. When Rudy Vallee's orchestra has to cancel an engagement due to a bus crash, Quinn hires the relatively unknown Don Vicente (John Payne) and his orchestra to fill in.

The Vicente Orchestra is an immediate hit despite Quinn's attempts to sabotage the appearance and end the contract when he learns Vallee's orchestra is once again available. The entire film consists of the ongoing battles between Quinn and Vicente, right up till the last minute of the movie.

Margaret Lindsay is a bright spot as the Garden of the Moon's publicist, who falls for Vicente; she brings a nice energy to the part, but like most of the cast she really doesn't have a whole lot to do. She becomes exasperated with Quinn and sympathizes with Vicente, over and over again. Payne sings a few songs when he's not battling O'Brien; Payne got a break being cast as Vicente when Dick Powell turned down the part.

The Vicente Orchestra members include Jerry Colonna and Johnnie Davis, but once you've seen a few minutes of their schtick, that's enough; unfortunately, like everything else about the film, they repeat the same types of routines endlessly.

Mabel Todd has a couple of scenes as the Garden of the Moon's vocalist who is a pawn between Quinn and Vicente. It's never clear why Quinn hired her for his posh nightclub in the first place, as her singing voice isn't very impressive and her demeanor doesn't seem to be in keeping with the surroundings.

The cast includes Melville Cooper as the Garden's headwaiter, Isabel Jeans (GIGI) as the wife of a chewing gum magnate, and Penny Singleton (BLONDIE) as Quinn's brunette secretary. Granville Bates and Edward McWade add some mild humor as Quinn's penny-pinching bosses. You can spot John Ridgely, in one of his many early bit parts, as a sound engineer. Columnist Jimmie Fidler is one of the film's best assets, as he is personable, and his scenes are among the most interesting in the film.

Despite Berkeley's direction, there are no large production numbers, simply sequences with the orchestra playing in the nightclub. The orchestra's biggest number is the very strange GIRLFRIEND OF THE WHIRLING DERVISH.

GARDEN OF THE MOON was shot in black and white and runs 94 minutes.

This film has not had a video or DVD release, but it can be seen in the library of Turner Classic Movies.

The trailer is here.

Update: This film is now available from the Warner Archive.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older