HIS BUTLER’S SISTER (aka: MY GIRL GODFREY) (director: Frank Borzage; screenwriters: Samuel Hoffenstein/Betty Reinhardt; cinematographer: Woody Bredell; editor: Ted Kent; music: H.J. Salter; cast: Deanna Durbin (Ann Carter), Franchot Tone (Charles Gerard), Pat O’Brien (Martin Murphy), Akim Tamiroff (Popoff), Alan Mowbray (Jenkins), Hans Conreid (Reeves), Florence Bates (Lady Sloughberry), Sig Arno (Moreno), Walter Catlett (Kalb), Evelyn Ankers (Elizabeth Campbell), Frank Jenks (Emmett), Elsa Janssen (Severina), Andrew Tombes (Brophy), Iris Adrian & Robin Raymond (Sunshine Twins); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Felix Jackson; MCA Home Video; 1943)
“Trivial musical comedy.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Frank Borzage (“7th Heaven”/”A Farewell to Arms”/”Moonrise”)directs this trivial musical comedy without distinction. It’s never funny and never smart, and the script is a mess. Writers Samuel Hoffenstein and Betty Reinhardt mold it into an adult Cinderella tale for Universal’s most popular star Deanna Durbin, but can’t decide until it’s too late if she should be a careerist or romantic.
Durbin’s songs include “In the Spirit of the Moment,”“When You’re Away,” the “Nessun Dorma” aria from Turandot with music by Puccini and a medley of Russian folk songs. The “Sunshine Twins” sing “Is It True What They Say About Dixie?”, as they give an impromptu tryout for a role in a famous composer’s show while on a train to NYC (actually the liveliest scene in the pic).
Aspiring young singer Ann Carter (Deanna Durbin) is from a small town in Indiana and goes by train to Manhattan in the hopes of auditioning for acclaimed Broadway musical composer Charles Gerard (Franchot Tone). Ann’s arrival surprises half brother Martin Murphy (Pat O’Brien), someone his kid sister hasn’t seen in years. He in turn surprises her that his Park Avenue residence is owned, by coincidence, by music composer Charles Gerard and that he’s the butler and not the millionaire he led her to believe he was. The ambitious Ann talks her way into being the maid, and schemes to get the composer to hear her sing.But brother foils all her attempts to sing, telling her Charles gets upset with all those who try to take advantage of him when he’s relaxing at home and are not auditioning by his request at the studio.Though Ann obeys her brother’s orders, things change when Charles instead develops a romantic interest in her and she suddenly forgets her career ambitions and falls madly in love with him.Complications develop in this budding romance and before the predictable outcome comes about of true love winning the day, things are suddenly resolved in such a rash way that it leaves one wondering what the writers were thinking when they had the love birds jump through such absurd hoops to come together again.
This is a second-rate Durbin vehicle that’s poorly written (its biggest fault) and suffers because O’Brien and Tone are too stiff for their jovial calling parts. Nevertheless it should please Durbin fans because even if the story is a dud at least she gets a chance to showoff some of her charms, which are indeed magnificent to behold.
REVIEWED ON 2/19/2011 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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