SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT (aka: BATTLING HOOFER)(director: Victor Schertzinger; screenwriter: based on a story by Victor Schertzinger/Austin Parker; cinematographer: John Stumar; editor: Gene Milford; music: C. Bakaleinikoff/songs by Victor Schertzinger; cast: James Cagney (Terry Rooney), Evelyn Daw (Rita Wyatt), William Frawley (Hank Meyers, publicist), Mona Barrie (Stephanie Hajos), Gene Lockhart (B.O. Regan), James Newill (Orchestra Soloist), Philip Ahn (Japanese houseboy); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Zion Myers/Victor Schertzinger; Grand National Films; 1937)
“Cagney is a treat to watch as he spoofs, hoofs and romances.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Victor Schertzinger (“Rhythm on the River”/”One Night of Love”/”Love Me Forever”) wrote the tunes and directs this amiable musical satire on Hollywood, that’s wittily adapted by Austin Parker from a story Schertzinger wrote. It was made by the fledgling Grand National Pictures, a low-budget indie studio soon to be defunct in 1940. The film was re-titled as Battling Hoofer and re-issued in 1947 by Screencraft Pictures. It was the second of Jimmy Cagney’s films for the Poverty Row studio (the first being the acclaimed Great Guy–1936), a studio where the star waited out his winning verdict in a lawsuit that cancelled his Warner contract over a dispute about choosing his own projects with better material. Though the production values pale considerably from what the star was used to getting at Warner Bros. and the music is forgettable, Cagney is a treat to watch as he spoofs, hoofs and romances.
Popular New York bandleader and hoofer (Terry Rooney) treks to Hollywood to be the leading man in a picture. But he has differences with the unscrupulous blowhard Hollywood producer of Galore Pictures, B. O. Regan (Gene Lockhart), who tells him he’s no good even though the producer knows he’s damn good (Lockhart’s character was thought to be a spoof on Jack Warner). Terry disappears from Hollywood after finishing the film, thinking he made a bomb, and elopes on a tramp steamer with the featured singer with his band, Rita Wyatt (Evelyn Daw, a 20-year-old South Dakotan opera singer, who only made one more film before returning to work in theater and opera), and the two honeymoon in the South Seas. The film turns out a hit, as Terry discovers when he returns to Manhattan. He’s thereby offered a big contract as long as he’s single. The fun is supposedly in seeing how the couple carry off the ruse (they married under Terry’s real name, Thaddeus McGillicuddy) and how his new stardom puts a strain on his marriage (a publicity hoax that has Terry engaged to his pompous leading lady-Mona Barrie).
The best musical number in Something to Sing About is set aboard a ship, where Cagney dances with his old vaudeville mentors Johnny Boyle and Harland Dixon. The tunes include Cagney and the Three Shades Of Blue singing “Any Old Love,” “Right or Wrong,” “Loving You,” “Out of the Blue,” and Daw stylishly singing “Something to Sing About.”
REVIEWED ON 11/13/2008 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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