Friday, July 11, 2014

Tonight's Movie: She's Back on Broadway (1953) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

SHE'S BACK ON BROADWAY (1953) is a colorful and entertaining musical available from the Warner Archive.

Virginia Mayo stars as Catherine Terris, a movie star whose career is stalling out. Needing a career boost and an influx of cash, Cathy decides to return to her Broadway roots, starring in a new musical called BREAKFAST IN BED -- directed by her one-time love, Rick Sommers (Steve Cochran).

Rick is nursing old wounds about Cathy leaving New York for Hollywood, and he's also got a girlfriend (Patrice Wymore) who's a featured dancer in the show. Rick and Cathy work through their issues under the nervous eye of producer John Webber (Frank Lovejoy), who has a lot of money on the line. The show must go on!

First it's probably good to make clear that SHE'S BACK ON BROADWAY isn't one of the finer musicals ever filmed, particularly as the score by Carl Sigman and Bob Hilliard can best be described as pedestrian. It's all fairly familiar, and the actual plot of the Broadway show never quite becomes clear to the viewer.

That said, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It has a terrific cast, a solid "show biz" story, excellent hoofing, and some eye-catching design. Those such as myself who enjoy the cast and musicals will probably have a good time watching it too. It's congenial company which moves along at a nice pace and doesn't overstay its welcome.

The movie was a reunion for Mayo and Cochran, who had previously costarred in the classics THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946) and WHITE HEAT (1949). This time around they're in much lighter fare, but they're still a good team with some nice chemistry -- though Wymore is so sympathetic in her devotion to Cochran's character that one almost feels she should end up with him.

I really enjoyed the chance to see both Mayo and Wymore do some good dancing. I've seen many of Mayo's '40s films but have needed to start catching up with more of her '50s work. Her singing was dubbed by Bonnie Lou Williams, who also handled the singing for Mayo in SHE'S WORKING HER WAY THROUGH COLLEGE (1952).

Gene Nelson is the top-billed male star but he's around strictly for the song and dance numbers, playing the lead opposite Mayo in the Broadway show. A Mardi Gras number danced by Nelson, Mayo, and Wymore near the end of the film is notable not only for their dancing but for the excellent design, with colorful, uniquely decorated balloons all over the stage.

Patrice Wymore, who passed away earlier this year, was in several early '50s Warner Bros. musicals, as well as the Errol Flynn Western ROCKY MOUNTAIN (1950), after which she became Mrs. Errol Flynn.

Like Wymore, Virginia Gibson appeared in a number of early '50s Warner Bros. films; here she plays one of the most prominent dancers in the show. Gibson would go on to appear as Liza in SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954). She passed away in 2013.

SHE'S BACK ON BROADWAY was directed by Gordon Douglas and shot in Warnercolor by Edwin DuPar. It runs 95 minutes. The supporting cast includes Larry Keating, Paul Picerni, and Nedrick Young.

The print is perfectly acceptable, though individual scenes are overly grainy and not as sharp as the typical Warner Archive release; other scenes, such as the Beverly Hills opening, look terrific. (I wonder if Mayo's home in the movie still exists? The exterior, which appears to have been shot on location, is gorgeous.) There are no extras on the disc.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.


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