Wednesday, August 21, 2002


This is an interesting variation on the backstage musical, kind of a noirish melodrama with some vaudeville routines and songs thrown in. Ida Lupino is a working-class wife with an unambitious and potentially abusive husband. She is guardian of her kid sister (Joan Leslie) and wants her to be able to escape the life Lupino feels trapped in. A second-rate vaudeville team, Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson, comes through town one night and Leslie decides to run off with Carson, who is not only charmed by her but also thinks she has talent. Lupino is not happy at first, but then realizes she can use the situation to help not only Leslie but herself, and she accompanies her sister and the team on the road. Eventually, she turns Morgan and Carson against each other as Leslie begins to achieve some level of stardom on her own.

This was Morgan & Carson's first movie together and they're pretty good, given that it's much heavier drama than they would eventually be known for. They have a good rapport already and Morgan is especially charming. Carson does a nice job with his dark descent, ending, rather shockingly, in suicide (one of two suicides in the movie). Lupino is also good as her single-minded pursuit of Leslie's success blinds her to anything else. Joan Leslie is the weak link here; she's fine in the earlier scenes, but doesn't quite have what it takes to come off believably as a breakout Broadway star in the movie's one big musical number. The happy ending for Leslie feels contrived and artificial, and it's yet another movie with the moral that women should give up their careers to make their men happy--or if they're really unhappy, they should just die. The atmosphere, especially in the beginning and end, feels noirish, although it otherwise doesn't really fit the genre.

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