Thursday, April 29, 2010

So, my father never made "The Desert Song" but he made three other movies.

The first was Stars Over Broadway (1935), a prototypical Hollywood musical of the era, it had something for everyone, from original music by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, to "Carry Me Back to the Lone Prairie," to the operatic aria "Celeste Aida," which came as the dramatic climax to the film. There's a charmingly risqué, quintessentially 1930's number with Jane Froman, choreographed by the crown prince of over-the-top production numbers, Busby Berkeley, called "At Your Service, Madame." Even world heavyweight boxing champ Jack Dempsey makes an appearance, as himself at his New York restaurant, in the scene that opens the movie. Pat O'Brien gets top billing, and the movie also features Frank McHugh, Jean Muir and Frank Fay.

The plot was not unusual for its era, with its rags to riches story, bumpy love affairs, lavish nightclub numbers and crackling (for its time) dialogue. A down-on-his luck theatrical agent (O'Brien) discovers a singing hotel porter (Melton) and takes one last shot at the big time by investing his last dime in the new protégé. As success carries them both to the top, the agent watches sadly as too much high life threatens to ruin his 'investment'. (Prohibition had ended a few years earlier.) The singer eventually comes to his senses, goes to Europe to study, comes back a changed man, and ends up with a triumphant debut at the Metropolitan Opera.