Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Million Dollar Baby (1941)

MILLION DOLLAR BABY opens with Harry Warren's jaunty "I Found a Million Dollar Baby in a Five and Ten Cent Store" playing over the opening credits, and from there on it continues to provide an entertaining viewing experience.

The movie reunites a few members of the cast of FOUR DAUGHTERS (1938). Wealthy Cornelia Wheelwright (May Robson) learns that decades previously, her father had cheated a business partner. Although the statute of limitations has passed, Cornelia determines to make restitution to the partner's granddaughter, with the help of attorney Jim Amory (Jeffrey Lynn). The granddaughter, Pamela (Priscilla Lane), is a dime stork clerk whose life is turned upside down when she receives a check for a million dollars.

MILLION DOLLAR BABY is one of countless movies from Hollywood's Golden Age which isn't particularly remembered today, but it's the kind of well-crafted light diversion which the studio system of the era could turn out on a regular basis.

Lane and Lynn were regular costars; in addition to MILLION DOLLAR BABY and the three films in the FOUR DAUGHTERS series, they appeared together in three films released in 1939: YES, MY DARLING DAUGHTER, DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS, and THE ROARING TWENTIES.

I've now seen at least half of Priscilla Lane's 22 movies, and she's always an enjoyable leading lady, who mixes sweetness and sincerity with a dash of sauciness and determination. This was one of several films handsome Jeffrey Lynn appeared which were in released in 1941, but his career was cut short by WWII service and after 1941 he was absent from the screen for the next seven years. His most notable postwar movies were Deanna Durbin's final film, FOR THE LOVE OF MARY (1948), and the classic A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1949). Most of his postwar career was in television.

The movie has a solid supporting cast, starting with Ronald Reagan as Pam's pianist boyfriend. Residents at Pam's boarding house include Helen Westley, Lee Patrick, John Qualen, and Johnny Sheffield (TARZAN). The cast also includes George Barbier, Walter Catlett, Nella Walker, Herb Vigran, Pedro de Cordoba, and John Ridgely. Joan Leslie's older sister, Mary Brodel, is credited with a bit part by IMDb. The band singer is played by Nan Wynn; you can read more about her in my post on PRINCESS O'ROURKE (1943).

This film runs 100 minutes. It was shot in black and white by Charles Rosher. Rosher would go on to do remarkable Technicolor work at MGM on films such as YOLANDA AND THE THIEF (1945) and SCARAMOUCHE (1952). He was a two-time Oscar winner, for SUNRISE (1927) and THE YEARLING (1947), and was nominated four more times, including for SHOW BOAT (1951).

MILLION DOLLAR BABY was directed by Curtis Bernhardt. His films include MY LOVE CAME BACK (1940), which starred Jeffrey Lynn, MY REPUTATION (1946), and HIGH WALL (1947).

MILLION DOLLAR BABY has not had a VHS or DVD release. It can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, where it next airs as part of a run of Million Dollar Comedies on September 11, 2009. The other titles being shown that night are BREWSTER'S MILLIONS, MAN WITH A MILLION, and ALWAYS TOGETHER.


Blogger Unknown said...

I love Priscilla Lane! Always glad to read that someone else likes her. I'd love to visit the Lane Sisters Archive at Simpson College in Iowa.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'd sure enjoy seeing that archive too. :)

Thanks for dropping by!

Best wishes,

9:30 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I've not seen this one yet, but I agree that Priscilla Lane is always very engaging and delightful to watch.

4:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Million Dollar Baby is a fun movie. Thank you for Tweeting the link to this review.

10:27 AM  

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