Wednesday, April 24, 2002


An RKO variation on a Warner Brothers "Gold Diggers" movie; a weak male lead drags the proceedings down, but some of the songs are fun and it offers a rare chance to see Milton Berle in a movie role. Jack Oakie is a down-on-his-luck songwriter who is living beyond his means in a spacious, high-rise, art deco apartment with his partner, pianist Berle. They are on the verge of being evicted, even though Ann Miller is doing her best to plug their songs. A "hillbilly" from Arkansas (Bob Burns) who has been taking mail-order songwriting lessons from Oakie comes to New York to finish his lessons in person. He thinks he's a total flop, but it turns out that he writes and sings great songs in his sleep. Oakie discovers this and starts publishing his songs, taking full credit for them. Meanwhile, Miller is in love with Kenny Baker (a real-life radio singer); her sister, the wonderful Helen Broderick, falls for the hillbilly, who himself is sweet on Miller. In the end, Oakie's cheating is exposed, but he makes good all around (rather improbably) and all the romances fall into place.

The songs are clumped at the beginning and end, leaving long dry patches in the middle filled with lame comedy and far-fetched plot twists. Neither Oakie nor Burns are personable enough to carry the picture, and Baker is a bland romantic lead, though Berle is good and the femmes are fine. Victor Moore, whose schtick is slow, bumbling talking, plays a producer who helps Oakie hit it rich. The impressive apartment looks like a leftover from an RKO Astaire/Rogers movie. Of course, Ann MIller gets to tap--her best scene is the opener where she impulsively tap dances during a radio show and steals the audience's attention. "Take a Tip from a Tulip" is the catchiest song, and the finale, "Speak Your Heart," sung by Jane Froman (a real-life singer whose life story was brought to the screen by Susan Hayward in WITH A SONG IN MY HEART), would be worthy of being included in a real "Gold Diggers" film.

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