Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Roxie Hart (1942)

Next up, we have a fun film from 1942, the comedy Roxie Hart, starring Ginger Rogers, with Adolphe Menjou and George Montgomery!

Coming Up Shorts! with… I’ll Be Skiing Ya (1947)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 7 minutes, 25 seconds)

Popeye tries to teach Olive how to skate at a winter resort, and skate instructor Bluto has other ideas. A lot of fun here, from Popeye’s ridiculous skating, to all the skiing stunts they do. Popeye and Bluto’s rivalry is certainly the source of most of the fun here, and the gags all work well enough. With Jack Mercer voicing Popeye, things certainly sound right here, and it was a lot of fun (and laughs)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

After one gambler kills another, two reporters come walking into a bar. The older and more experienced reporter is lamenting the type of murderers they have today, and is reminded by some music playing of the case of Roxie Hart nearly fifteen years earlier. As he tells the story, we find that a man has been killed by Amos Hart (George Chandler). However, reporter Jake Callahan (Lynne Overman) doesn’t think it to be anything big. He catches Roxie Hart (Ginger Rogers) sneaking back into the apartment, and convinces her to take the rap, promising her fame and publicity, which could only help her career. She goes along with it, and they are able to hire lawyer Billy Flynn (Adolphe Menjou) to take her case. At first, she gets a lot of publicity, plus the attentions of reporter Homer Howard (George Montgomery). Soon, though, another woman commits murder, and Roxie becomes yesterday’s news. However, she gets everyone’s attention by announcing she is pregnant, and the trial finally happens, as all the craziness ensues on both sides. But will Roxie be freed, or hung?

Roxie Hart, as you can guess, is based on the 1926 play Chicago. It quickly became a silent film in 1927, then this version came along in 1942 (and, of course, Bob Fosse got ahold of it and turned it into a Broadway musical in the 1970s, which was made into a movie in 2002). The 1942 film is different than the other films, mainly because it was the only one made during the period that movies were censored due to the Code. It had originally been considered as a vehicle for Fox star Alice Faye, but she was pregnant and had to turn it down. Ginger Rogers, fresh off a new contract with RKO Studios which gave her more freedom in choosing her movies (even allowing her to do movies for other studios), wanted the role, and so she got it.

Right from the start, the movie gives you an idea of what is to come, with this dedication: “This picture is dedicated to all the beautiful women in the world who have shot their men full of holes out of pique,” and then follows up with several newspaper headlines of women getting away with murder in a ridiculous fashion. I would definitely say that the movie is very much over-the-top in style, with performances to match, especially from the constantly gum-chewing Ginger Rogers. From the “catfight” in prison (with Ginger fighting another prisoner with the sounds of cats fighting in the background) to some of the random dancing, to the trial itself, this movie is just so much fun! The movie can and does emphasize the press and the power of fame, as the main reason for her taking the rap for her husband (instead of being the killer herself). Watching the trial, and how everybody always has to get in the photograph is always hilarious (especially Ginger, who is awake and smiling for one photo, even though she supposedly just “feinted”). I can’t say enough positive things about this movie, as it is one I have always enjoyed! I know the over-the-top style may put off some, but I still give this movie some of my highest recommendations!

This movie is available on DVD from Twentieth Century Fox.

Film Length: 1 hour, 14 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Tom, Dick And Harry (1941)Ginger RogersThe Major And The Minor (1942)

One Hundred Men And A Girl (1937) – Adolphe Menjou – You Were Never Lovelier (1942)

The Chocolate Soldier (1941) – Nigel Bruce

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