Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tonight's Movie: My Wild Irish Rose (1947)

Dennis Morgan stars as Irish tenor Chauncey Olcott in MY WILD IRISH ROSE, which is pleasant and colorful, if a bit too slow-moving in spots. Morgan is in fine voice, and he shares the screen with two attractive leading ladies, Arlene Dahl and Andrea King.

The film depicts Olcott's slow (too slow!) rise to fame, as well as his courtship of flame-haired Rose Donovan (Dahl).

Andrea King plays Lillian Russell, an actress previously portrayed on film by Alice Faye. King plays Russell as brassy but kindhearted; the film is livelier when she's on the screen. King had costarred with Morgan in GOD IS MY CO-PILOT in 1945.

Morgan sings a great many songs, and a viewer's liking for the film may thus depend in part on a liking for Irish tunes! Since I like both Morgan and his voice, I found it mostly enjoyable, although weakly scripted.

The film's final sequence, featuring the title song, is very well done. I believe the pretty little girl Morgan sings to in this number is his real-life daughter, Kristin. According to Morgan's IMDb entry, she appeared in the film when she was eight years old. (As a side note, I love knowing that Morgan and his wife Lillian had been married for 61 years when he passed away in 1994.)

Viewers may want to be aware that the film depicts the era of minstrel shows, and in accurately depicting this entertainment tradition, it includes several scenes with performers in blackface.

As is the case too often in Warner Bros. films of the '40s, the film is frequently weighted down by the leaden "humor" of the male supporting cast, which includes George Tobias, Alan Hale (Sr.), Ben Blue, and George O'Brien. Shaving 10 or 15 minutes of these scenes from this 101-minute film would have made a better movie.

The supporting cast includes Sara Allgood as Olcott's mother and William Frawley as a famous Irish tenor whose voice gives out. Peggy Knudsen and Penny Edwards appear in show sequences.

MY WILD IRISH ROSE was directed by David Butler, who directed several other Dennis Morgan movies. Butler also directed a number of Doris Day films, including CALAMITY JANE (1953) which I think is one of her best movies.

MY WILD IRISH ROSE was recently released on DVD-R by the Warner Archive.

This film can also be seen on TCM, which has posted the trailer online.

For more information and photos, please visit the Official Andrea King Website.


Blogger panavia999 said...

I love minstrel shows in old movies. I will definitely watch out for this. I love Swanee River with Don Ameche as Stephen Foster and Al Jolson as the famous minstrel singer E.P. Christy.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Moira Finnie said...

I loved this movie as a child, and have always had a crush on Dennis Morgan (no, I can't explain why, he was just nice). I am particularly fond of the scene when Morgan sings "Mother Machree" to Sara Allgood, who plays his mother in the theater with only the cleaning ladies in the audience, as well as the scene when William Scanlon (played with considerable irritable zest by William Frawley) passes the torch of "Irish tenorship" to Chauncey.

Even as a kid, the historically accurate blackface sequences recreating the Christy's Minstrel Shows have invariably made me uncomfortable. I have long thought that when these films are broadcast they should be accompanied by a warning about the content. I would not like them to be censored but I would also prefer that people know what they are about to see and can put it into the context of the period--especially if they are watching it with children who may not know about this era.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I've loved Dennis Morgan since seeing THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944) and THREE CHEERS FOR THE IRISH (1940). What a charmer -- that smile! CHEYENNE is another I liked -- he was surprisingly at home in a Western.

It's been a couple years since I heard it, but if I remember correctly, Ken Barnes had some insightful comments on minstrel show traditions in the commentary for HOLIDAY INN.

Best wishes,

6:19 PM  

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