Wednesday, September 11, 2002


This is a cute little comedy (not quite a musical, although there are several songs performed) with 30's bandleader Kay Kyser and his Kollege of Musical Knowledge band. I'd seen one previous Kyser movie, YOU'LL FIND OUT, which as I recall was about spies and seances, but that was quite a while ago. This one, from 1939, was his first movie, and it has a premise full of self-referential fun: a studio head hears Kyser's popular radio show and has the idea to bring Kyser and his band to Hollywood to appear in a movie. When he sees Kyser's plain appearance, he realizes that he's not cut out to be a romantic leading man, as the role calls for, and he tries to get Kyser to bow out. However, Kyser catches on and instead plays along until he gets the producer to agree to buy him out of his contract.

The first half is quite funny and moves along at a good speed. As the plot thickens in the middle, it bogs down a bit, but there are pleasures to be had all along the way. May Robson is delightful as Kyser's earthy grandmother; Edward Everett Horton is one of the screenwriters; Adolphe Menjou is a studio boss; Lucille Ball is an ambitious starlet. The funniest scene involves a screen test with Kyser, playing a gondolier, romancing Ball. He has ridiculous makeup, including huge hoop earrings, a loose toupee that flaps around, and a patently fake mustache that winds up on Ball's face during a kiss. The plot actually ends at around the 80 minute mark and the last ten minutes is a recreation of a real Kyser radio show. His famous sideman, Ish Kabibble, is deadpan fun. The musical highlight is a weird number where they all dress up like animals and sing a song about a fox and a dog, and there's even an early OZ reference courtesy a singing scarcrow!

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