Friday, February 24, 2012

I’LL GET BY (1950)

William Lundigan is a song plugger who has written his own song that his boss won't publish; when he's assigned to deliver a record of the new hit "Chattanooga Choo Choo" to a radio station, he accidentally breaks it and instead tries to palm off a copy of his song on DJ Steve Allen. The ploy doesn’t work and Lundigan is fired so he starts his own song publishing company and Texan Dennis Day sells him "Deep in the Heart of Texas." It doesn’t sell either, but the two become partners and soon Greenwich Village pianist Danny Davenport sells them a song called "I'll Get By." When a sister act (June Haver and Gloria DeHaven) who sing with Harry James' orchestra records it, it becomes a hit. Lundigan and Day become successful and date the sisters, though a misunderstanding over who gets to sing a newly discovered Gershwin song leads to a falling-out between Lundigan and Haver. The boys get drafted, the girls sign up to do USO shows, and just as Lundigan and Day are about to be shipped overseas, Haver forgives Lundigan—and the Germans surrender on the same day.

This Fox musical is a remake of the earlier TIN PAN ALLEY with John Payne and Alice Faye. Both movies use real songs from an era (the first film from the teens, this film from the 30s & 40s) in the service of a fictional story. We get to hear songs like "Taking a Chance on Love," "McNamara's Band," and "I've Got the World on a String," and indeed the musical numbers are the best moments in the otherwise bland and predictable film. I like Lundigan, but he's not called upon to do much here. The Irish tenor Day, known for his radio and TV work as sidekick to Jack Benny, comes off much better since his character is allowed to have a personality. Thelma Ritter has a supporting role as a secretary, and there are cameos from Reginald Gardiner, Dan Dailey, and Jeanne Crain, all of whom play themselves. The Gershwin song that Haver loses to Crain, "Yankee Doodle Blues," is absolutely ridiculous, but most of the other tunes are fine. [FMC]

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