Sunday, February 01, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Old Man Rhythm (1935) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

The great American composer Johnny Mercer makes a rare screen appearance in OLD MAN RHYTHM (1935), one of two Mercer films just released by the Warner Archive.

OLD MAN RHYTHM has been released in a one-disc, two-film set along with TO BEAT THE BAND (1935). Mercer plays a supporting role in each film; in OLD MAN RHYTHM he's a college boy who sings in several group musical numbers -- which he cowrote!

OLD MAN RHYTHM is a lightweight 75-minute diversion but I have to say I rather enjoyed it. College life, as depicted in the film, consists of riding on Streamline Moderne trains, living in swanky Art Deco dorms, and roasting hot dogs while singing Johnny Mercer tunes with co-eds who include the likes of Betty Grable and Lucille Ball. Who could resist?

The plot is a bunch of silliness about Johnny Roberts (Charles "Buddy" Rogers) wanting to marry a gold-digging co-ed (Grace Bradley) instead of the sweet girl (Barbara Kent) preferred by Johnny's dad (George Barbier).

Dear old Dad's judgment is actually correct, and to make sure Johnny does the right thing, Dad decides to enroll as a college freshman and help ensure that true love's course runs smoothly.

The plot doesn't really matter too much, but the invidual scenes and settings are fun. My favorite number was the hot dog roast where everyone sings "Boys Will Be Boys." It's quite a lovely scene, worthy of watching again.

There are a few other big numbers, including one with Betty Grable tap dancing in ballet toe shoes (?!).

Comic relief is covered by Eric Blore and Erik Rhodes of the Astaire-Rogers movies, along with Donald Meek.

While Grable is front and center several times, Ball can be seen numerous times among the crowd of students. The girls also include Lynne Carver (A CHRISTMAS CAROL) and Kay Sutton (THE SAINT IN NEW YORK).

Bess Flowers has a speaking role as a secretary. The cast also includes John Arledge and Evelyn Poe.

OLD MAN RHYTHM was directed by Edward Ludwig. It was filmed in black and white by Nicholas Musuraca.

The print on the Warner Archive DVD looks terrific. Fans of RKO's great-looking "B" movies of the era will probably enjoy this one too.

Look for a review of the other film in the set, TO BEAT THE BAND (1935), at a future date. (Update: Here is the review of TO BEAT THE BAND.)

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


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