BORN TO DANCE
(director: Roy Del Ruth; screenwriters: Jack McGowan/Sid Silvers/based on a story by McGowan, Silvers, & B.G. DeSylva; cinematographer: Ray June; editor: Blanche Sewell; music: Cole Porter; cast: Eleanor Powell (Nora Paige), James Stewart (Ted Barker), Virginia Bruce (Lucy James), Una Merkel (Jenny Saks), Sid Silvers (Gunny Saks), Frances Langford (Peppy Turner), Raymond Walburn (Captain Dingby), Alan Dinehart (James McKay), Buddy Ebsen (“Mush” Tracy), Juanita Quigley (Sally Saks); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jack Cummings; MGM; 1936)
“Pleasantly breezy musical romantic comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Roy Del Ruth (“Broadway Rhythm”/”The West Point Story”/”He Married His Wife”) directs this pleasantly breezy musical romantic comedy that follows three sailors on shore leave in NYC. The slight plot of boy gets girl and girl gets part is almost a reprise of either 42nd Street or On the Town. It’s noted as the film where Eleanor Powell showed off her tap dancing ability, and in her third film role became recognized as cinema’s best dancing star from the years 1935 to 1943. “Born” is also known for all its wonderful Cole Porter tunes such as “Rolling Home,” “Rap-Tap on Wood,” “Hey, Babe, Hey,” “Entrance of Miss Lucy James,” “Love Me, Love My Pekinese,” “Easy to Love,” “Swingin’ the Jinx Away” and especially the showstopper “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Jimmy Stewart sings “Easy to Love” in a duet with Powell (whose singing voice was dubbed by Marjorie Lane) in the moonlit Central Park, and even if he couldn’t carry the tune it somehow works because of the actor’s charm. Jack McGowan, Sid Silvers & B.G. DeSylva provide the original story.
When the submarine carrying sailors Gunny Saks (Sid Silvers), “Mush” Tracy (Buddy Ebsen) and Ted Barker (James Stewart) arrives in the port of NYC after a four-year absence, the squat Gunny plans on visiting his wisecracking wife Jenny (Una Merkel). She’s someone he hardly knows and hasn’t seen in four years, as they were hastily married at that time after entering a marathon dance contest and she has kept it a secret that they have a 3 ½ year old daughter named Sally. The sailors accompany Gunny to Jenny’s workplace, where she’s the manager of a Lonely Hearts Club and has just taken in a newcomer to the city, Nora Paige (Eleanor Powell), who is an aspiring dancer. Ted falls for Nora, and all seems groovy. But the next day Broadway star Lucy James (Virginia Bruce) visits the boat for publicity shots for her new play Great Guns and when her pet pekinese falls overboard Ted jumps into the water to rescue it, and Lucy’s scheming press agent/producer James McKay (Alan Dinehart) sees a great publicity angle in getting gossip stories out there about Lucy now romancing the gob who saved her dog. Ted goes to dinner with Lucy as a favor to McKay for getting Nora an understudy job for Lucy. When their date makes headlines, it leads to an angry Nora not wanting to see Ted. Nora then goes on for Lucy after she has a temper-tantrum over further publicity with Ted, and as Peppy Turner (Frances Langford) sings “Swingin’ the Jinx Away” Nora tap dances on board an art-deco battleship. At last, it reunites Ted with Nora and Gunny learns he’s a father (but not before he re-enlists for another four years), and Mush, who is rejected by singing star Peppy, leaves the Navy to become a dancer in the Broadway show.
REVIEWED ON 4/28/2008 GRADE: B