SHOW BUSINESS(director/writer: Edwin L. Marin; screenwriters: Dorothy Bennett/Irving Elinson/Joseph Quillan/from the short story by Bert Granet; cinematographer: Robert de Grasse; editor: Theron Warth; music: Constantin Bakaleinikoff; cast: Eddie Cantor (Eddie Martin), George Murphy (George Doane), Joan Davis (Joan Mason), Nancy Kelly (Nancy Gay), Constance Moore (Constance Ford), Don Douglas (Charles Lucas); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Eddie Cantor; RKO; 1944)
“If you’re ever going to dig an Eddie Cantor film, this one might be it.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Edwin Marin (“Johnny Angel”/”Nocturne”) directs this lively musical comedy that covers the years 1914 to 1929, as four vaudevillians struggle to make it to Broadway’s Palace. It’s based on the short story by Bert Granet and written by Dorothy Bennett, Joseph Quillan and Irving Elinson. If you’re ever going to dig an Eddie Cantor film, this one might be it.
In 1914, at the Miner’s Bowery Theater, womanizer hoofer George Doane (George Murphy) coaches singer Eddie Martin (Eddie Cantor) from the wings to overcome hecklers and win the $10 first prize. They celebrate at Kelly’s Café, an actors’ hangout, where the boys meet fellow singer/dancer entertainers and sisters Constance Ford (Constance Moore) and Joan Mason (Joan Davis) and their agent Charles Lucas (Don Douglas). The gathering is interrupted when George’s jealous showbiz girlfriend Nancy Gaye (Nancy Kelly) shows up and forces George to leave. Feeling a kinship with Eddie, George asks Eddie that night to join his burlesque act when it goes on the road. In Maine, George dumps Nancy and finds Connie in New York in the same café they met. The ambitious George wants to advance to vaudeville, and the sisters partner with the boys. The act is a hit. On the road, Joan proposes to Eddie and George proposes to Connie, but both their offers are rejected. After saving $5,000, the big hearted George gives the dough to Nancy when he learns that she has been involved in a car accident. Soon after Constance accepts George’s proposal. George fails to arrive on time as his wife gives birth because Nancy, who was appearing in the same theater, purposely took a wrong turn when driving him there, and the baby dies. Constance suspects the worst and divorces George. The foursome go through World War I apart. Ziegfeld, after the war, books Eddie and Joan for his Follies. When he finds out that George, whom he hasn’t seen in awhile, is down-and-out in San Francisco singing for drinks, he travels there and brings George back by pretending to need his help because he’s an alcoholic. In New York, on opening night, they appear together in the Ziegfeld Follies, and George sings “It Had to Be You” with Connie in the audience. It ends on a happy note with a double wedding held for Eddie and Joan and George and Connie.
The period film is semi-autobiographical of Eddie’s career and gives one a rough idea of what it was like back then to be in vaudeville. It’s too bad the plot gets in the way of the music, because this moderately entertaining film could have been more fun without such a cornball story. Cantor is at his best when he sings “Curse of an Aching Heart”, “Whoopee” and “Dinah”, the latter performed in blackface, but when Cantor acts … oy vai iz mir!
REVIEWED ON 6/30/2006 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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