Monday, May 06, 2013


This very cute romantic musical is set at the Braley estate on Long Island and begins on a fine June morning. On the patio, Mary Jane, the youngest Braley girl, is arguing with her on-and-off boyfriend Stacy; they sing "Spring Is Here," a "carpe diem" song in which he lets her know that, at 16 going on 17, she's in danger of getting "old and crusty." In the dining room, Betty gets yelled at by Mom and Dad about coming home too late ("Are you in training to be a night watchman?")  They're anxious to marry her off to her long-time boyfriend Terry, but at the party last night, she got bored with him and went off for a moonlight drive with dashing Steve. Terry tries to get her back by singing her a love letter ("Sincerely Yours") and she sings back that she'll use the song the next time she sees Steve. Mary Jane suggests that Terry act "bad" to get Betty's attention, so at a party that night, he flirts outrageously with several women, including Betty's mom, but his behavior winds up sending Betty back into Steve's arms. However, Mr. Braley throws Terry out of the house, and that gets Betty's juices flowing, and when Steve arrives to elope, she winds up back with Terry.

An early screen musical by Rodgers and Hart, this seems to be a little-seen rarity, and it's worth seeking out. As moviemaking, it's nothing special, with stagy, static camera takes, but there is some clever dialogue, the songs are appealing—"With a Song in My Heart" went on to become a standard—and the actors are all energetic and seem to be having fun, especially Frank Albertson as Stacy and Inez Courtney as Mary Jane (pictured above right). In most romance films, we know who's going to wind up with the girl, but here neither character seems coded as the obvious winner. Top billing goes to the handsome and hearty Lawrence Gray as Steve, which would normally make him the hero, but even though he doesn't really have any major flaws of character, he loses out in the end. Alexander Gray (no relation) is Terry and, as he's not as attractive or chipper as Steve and comes off as a bit stodgy, we would expect him to lose out, but he doesn't. Bernice Claire (pictured with Alexander Gray) is fine as Betty, and Louise Fazenda and Ford Sterling are excellent as the parents. Among the standout scenes: Mr. Braley dragging a marriage proposal for his daughter out of the oblivious Terry; the first song in which Stacy sings that "Spring is the time for love in Vitaphone plays"—a reference to the Vitaphone Company, the talkies division of Warner Bros. which made the movie; Terry kissing everyone at the party; and the next-to-last song, "What’s the Big Idea" in which Stacy expresses his randiness to Mary Jane, and she replies, "The way you use your hands/You're a traveling man." Overall, a delight for fans of early musicals. [TCM]

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