Monday, January 25, 2016


I would guess this is one of the earliest sound films to use the device of a dream to trigger a bizarre plot. In the small town of New Rome, Eddie Cantor is expelled from town for taking the side of some impoverished shanty-town folks against crooked politicians. While trekking off into exile, he falls asleep and dreams he's in ancient Rome. A slave, he is sold to David Manners, a good-natured sort who is in love with Gloria Stuart. The three wind up fighting corruption in Rome, personified by Edward Arnold (always a reliable figure of corruption) and Verree Teasdale as the Emperor and Empress. There are several pleasures in this pre-Code musical; some are the one-liners sprkinled throughout. When Cantor tells Arnold about Mickey and Minnie Mouse, he replies with incredulity, "A mouse has a sweetheart?" When Cantor is surrounded by hungry lions, he says he'd like to feed them and a young woman replies, "You will!" Some strange Busby Berkeley production numbers enliven the proceedings: Cantor, in blackface, sings "Keep Young and Beautiful" (the same song Annie Lennox resurrected on her first solo album Diva) in a sprawling beauty spa; Ruth Etting (the singer Doris Day portrayed in LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME) sings "No More Love" surrounded by busty Goldywn Girls, in chains and naked except for their long, long Barbie doll hair strategically swirled around their torsos. Another song is called "Put a Tax on Love." When Cantor (pictured at right between two guards) wakes up from his dream, he manages to foil the real-world villains of New Rome, and the final number is a utopian song that finds all the poor people living communally in the streets of the town. Billy Barty has a bit part as a shrunken Eddie Cantor, and Lucille Ball and Paulette Goddard are among the Goldwyn Girls—though I didn’t catch them. [DVD]

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