Next up, we have an early talkie musical, the 1929 film Glorifying The American Girl starring Mary Eaton.
Gloria Hughes (Mary Eaton) has long wanted to be in the Ziegfeld Follies, but she has failed to get in so far, and has been working as a song plugger in the music department of a store. She works with Buddy (Edward Crandall), who loves her and their friend Barbara (Olive Shea), who loves Buddy. At a company picnic, Buddy proposes to Gloria, but she refuses, stating that the stage is her first love. A pair of performers at the picnic, Miller (Dan Healy) and Mooney (Kaye Renard), pick a fight, and Miller decides to go with Gloria as a new partner when he sees her dance. They start traveling together as a team, bringing along Gloria’s mother (Sarah Edwards), although Miller has certain designs on Gloria which she doesn’t agree with, resulting in the team almost breaking up. However, when Miller finds out she might have a chance at a Ziegfeld show, he tries to make up with her and offer her a five-year contract where they split everything 50-50, which she accepts at her mother’s urging. They come back to New York, where they audition for Ziegfeld’s director, who turns the team down, but Gloria, determined to make good, tries to show what she can do, and is hired. Buddy and Barbara had met them at the train station, but Barbara had been left behind and ended up in an accident and sent to the hospital. When Buddy found out, he came to her, and they ended up as a couple. Meanwhile, Gloria had the show to do.
Most of what I learned about this movie, I learned from the recent Blu-ray’s commentary by Richard Barrios, who wrote A Song In The Dark: The Birth Of The Musical Film. Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. was a famous theatrical producer, mainly known for putting on the Ziegfeld Follies from 1907 through 1927. With the Follies, he was indeed known essentially for “glorifying the american girl” (which would actually become the slogan of the Follies in 1922). In 1925, Paramount made a contract with Ziegfeld to use his name and the slogan for a silent movie. Obviously, we’re talking about a musical talkie from 1929, and not a silent film, so it’s safe to say that the movie suffered through a number of cast, director and script changes over the years. Production on the movie only really picked up steam after the success of the 1929 MGM musical The Broadway Melody. They cast actress Mary Eaton, who was coming off the Marx Brothers comedy The Cocoanuts, had been a Ziegfeld star herself for four years. However, troubles continued to plague the movie, and they brought in Rudy Vallee, Helen Morgan and Eddie Cantor to add more star power for the movie. Sadly, by the time it was released, the market had been flooded with many backstage musicals by that point, and the film flopped. Of course, it didn’t help that the movie had been highly publicized, resulting in everyone knowing that production had been jinxed.
As a fan of a lot of the classic movie musicals, many of which feature stories of vaudeville performers trying to make it big, it’s hard not to have heard of Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (especially when you’ve seen any combination of the movies The Great Ziegfeld, Ziegfeld Girl or Ziegfeld Follies). So I admit, seeing Ziegfeld’s name advertised on the cover, combined with it being an early talkie musical (an era I haven’t seen much of for the genre, a fact I am trying to rectify), this was a movie I wanted to try. To a large degree, it was about what I expected. The dancing was only so-so, which, from what I have seen, seems to be typical of the early talkie musicals, and the music itself was fairly forgettable. I would say at least two of the actors were rather wooden in their performances, but at the same time, they were VERY minor characters, so that is easy to live with. The main disappointments were the more downbeat nature of the film, poor editing to end a song and a comedy skits in the “show-within-a-show,” and the fact that neither the conniving dance partner nor Gloria’s leech of a mother get their comeuppance. All that being said, I did still enjoy the movie! Even if his comedy skit as “Moe The Tailor” was cut short (not to mention being a little out of place in an otherwise more serious movie), Eddie Cantor was one of the best moments of the movie. And the movie was interesting from a historical perspective, as one of the few remaining movies with any parts filmed in two-color technicolor to still survive. Of course, being a pre-Code film, it does have a few instances of minor swearing, and a few outfits that, from a distance, might give the impression of nudity, but it’s still minor stuff. This movie may not be a frequent viewing, but it’s still enough fun to make it worth recommending!
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber. Their transfer makes use of the UCLA restoration, and it looks fantastic! Sure, there are some scratches here and there, and the two-color technicolor sections don’t look great (but, according to the commentary by Richard Barrios, that was due to how it was filmed), but the movie’s restoration makes it worth seeing! The movie is one hour, thirty-six minutes in length.
Note: For the December 3, 2019 Kino Lorber Blu-ray release of this movie, it has been reported that there are audio issues on some (but not all) Blu-ray players, with sound playing only on left speaker, and Kino will be offering a replacement program (however, the replacements won’t be ready until about February or March 2020)
My Rating: 6/10