Friday, July 10, 2015


What this early sound musical lacks in technique and originality it makes up for in energy and acting.  Mike Fall, Happy Winter, Joe Spring and Pete Summer make up a tight little jazz combo called the Four Seasons (get it?) and they're the big draw at a little café called the Beef & Beans. One night as they return to the large one-room apartment they share, Mike stops to help a young lady in distress. Fredericka Joyzelle, known as Freddie, an immigrant from the small European country Aregon, is fighting off an unwanted suitor and pangs of hunger when Mike finds her on the stoop to their building. He takes her upstairs and when the group finds out she plays the violin, they warm to her at once (even, eventually, the eternally scowling Happy), offering to let her stay with them. She becomes their manager and gets them a much better gig at the Little Aregon, and soon she and Mike are dating. But when Prince Nicholaus from Aregon visits New York and bestows a friendly kiss on Freddie in public, Mike becomes jealous. Soon, however, the two have smoothed things over, the band is the toast of the town, and the owner of the Little Aregon redoes his café into a fancy night spot and calls it Club Joyzelle in honor of Freddie. But the prince's plan to attend the grand opening makes Mike jealous all over again and he quits the band.

The predictable plot is about the only real negative here, and the fact that the stretching-out of the narrative makes the movie last about 15 minutes longer than it should have. Otherwise, this is pretty fun. The four actors playing the band—John Herron as Mike, Ned Sparks as Happy, Jack Oakie as Joe, and Guy Buccola as Pete—have a very believable rapport, and look like they're genuinely having fun playing music. I would have sworn that they were all playing their own instruments, but apparently the songs (written by Oscar Levant and Frank Loesser) are actually performed by Gus Arnheim and His Coconut Grove Ambassadors. Herron falters as the romantic male lead, which is partly the fault of the script which makes him a whiny little bitch, but the other lead, Betty Compson, is only fair, so we can concentrate on the solid performances of the supporting players. Oakie and Sparks are reliable pros, but Buccola, in a relatively small role, is fine—it's a shame he never made another movie. In addition to the band, there is also good work from Joseph Cawthorn as the café owner. There is interesting use of overlapping dialogue, which may have been a directorial choice, or may have been accidental as this was an early sound film, and the first one made by RKO. A little too long but fun. Pictured from left are Herron, Compson, Buccola, Oakie and Sparks. [TCM]

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