Wednesday, August 12, 2015


This film opens as though it's going to be a peppy, carefree B-musical, but if you are a credit watcher, you'll see that it's based on a novel by W.R. Burnett, whose other novels and stories were adapted as noir-type crime movies, including SCARFACE, THE BEAST OF THE CITY and HIGH SIERRA, so be warned. The setting is the dance hall at Paradise Park, called Danceland; Cesar Romero is the charming but arrogant owner; William Henry is the young piano player who longs to write a symphony; Carole Landis is the new singer for the band. The night before she starts, Landis meets cute with Romero when she complains about the noisy late-night crap game Romero is involved in next door to her hotel room—she winds up joining the game and winning all the money. Soon, however, there are misunderstandings and entanglements: Landis is romanced by bland but nice guy J. Edward Bromberg; Romero tries to make her jealous by paying attention to June Storey, a gold-digging waitress; Henry is sweet on Storey, but we see she'll kiss anyone, and soon even her mild-mannered boss (Charles Halton) is hitting on her. Storey is inclined to hang out with the piano player when she finds out he has a little money saved up—to go to New York to try and sell his symphony—but after he gives it to Romero to help him out of a tight spot with some gamblers, she loses interest. In the end, Romero comes up with a scheme involving a dance contest with a big cash prize that he hopes will set everything right with everyone.

I assume based on Burnett's reputation that the original novel, titled The Giant Swing, was a bit more hard-boiled than this film turned out. As it is, the movie's tone is awkwardly situated between romantic comedy and gambling melodrama—but it's never very funny or very dramatic. The romance between Romero and Landis is played ambiguously, to the point where I was a little surprised that they walked into sunset together at the end. The threats against Romero (pictured above, standing over Henry) are blandly presented and, partly due to Henry's bland performance, the piano player’s storyline is absolutely forgettable. Romero and Landis are fine, though without much chemistry, and it was nice to see Bromberg playing something besides an ethnic type. Landis sings a couple of so-so songs, one with the unusual title, "There’s a Lull in My Life." [YouTube]

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