Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934)

Singing waiter Buddy Clayton (Dick Powell) is an almost-overnight sensation as a radio crooner. Buddy wants to marry his girlfriend, Peggy (Ginger Rogers), but Buddy's radio bosses frown on the idea, believing it will ruin his popularity with his TWENTY MILLION SWEETHEARTS -- the women in the national radio audience who each believe Buddy is singing just to them.

Like last night's Dick Powell movie, HARD TO GET (1938), the film is pleasant, though not particularly special -- until Powell gets the chance to sing a great new song by Harry Warren. Out of the blue Buddy's friend Pete (Allen Jenkins) produces the music for a song he wrote "with Harry Warren and Al Dubin." Buddy sits down at the piano and introduces the world to "I'll String Along With You," and it's pure movie magic.

The film is also distinguished by an early film appearance by the wonderful Mills Brothers, who sing two numbers and back up Powell on a third song.

Otherwise the film's storyline is fairly humdrum. As Buddy's agent, Pat O'Brien plays his trademark loudmouthed jerk, a character only slightly less obnoxious than he portrayed in the last film in which I saw him, GARDEN OF THE MOON (1938). Ginger sings one song and duets briefly with Powell on a reprise of "I'll String Along With You," but her character tends to stay in the background reacting to the goings-on. Powell comes off the best of the trio, playing a nice guy who gets plenty of singing time; besides "I'll String Along With You" and his Mills Brothers number, he also sings Warren and Dubin's "Fair and Warmer."

The three leads in this film were all very hard-working actors in the early '30s. O'Brien, Powell, and Rogers were cumulatively in a whopping 17 films in 1934. Rogers' 1934 tally included her big hit with Fred Astaire, THE GAY DIVORCEE.

The supporting cast includes Grant Mitchell, Henry O'Neill, and Joan Wheeler. Watch for George Chandler and Charles Lane as reporters; speaking of hard-working actors, Lane and Chandler tallied up 18 film appearances between them in 1934!

TWENTY MILLION SWEETHEARTS was directed by Ray Enright. It runs 89 minutes.

A side note: 15 years later "I'll String Along With You" was used in a different Warner Bros. musical about an agent and a new singing star, MY DREAM IS YOURS (1949), starring Doris Day.

This film is not out on DVD or video, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer here.


Blogger munkb said...

Dear Laura
I enjoyed your reviews of the classic films.
"My Dreams is Yours" is a loose remake of this film.
Frank Biondo

7:11 PM  

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