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STEP LIVELY (director/writer: Tim Whelan; screenwriters: Warren Duff/Peter Milne/based on the play by Allen Boretz and John Murray; cinematographer: Robert De Grasse; editor: Gene Milford; music: Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn; cast: Frank Sinatra (Glen Russell), George Murphy (Gordon Miller), Adolphe Menjou (Wagner), Gloria DeHaven (Christine Marlowe), Walter Slezak (Joe Gribble), Eugene Pallette (Simon Jenkins), Anne Jeffreys (Miss Abbott), Wally Brown (Binion), Alan Carney (Harry), Grant Mitchell (Dr. Gibbs); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Fellows; RKO; 1944)
“Without the Marx Brothers, the music improves but the comedy proves witless.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An unnecessary and only so-so remake of the marginally successful Marx Brothers’ Room Service in 1938. Without the Marx Brothers, the music improves but the comedy proves witless. It’s noted as the film where Frank Sinatra received top-billing for the first time and receives his first screen kiss. There are four songs from Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, one having the wickedly inane Styne lyric “A kiss from my sister doesn’t bring on a blister.” The best songs are “As Long As There’s Music,” “And Then You Kissed Me,” and “Some Other Time.” It’s based on the play by Allen Boretz and John Murray and written by Warren Duff and Peter Milne. Tim Whelan (“Higher and Higher”/”Sidewalks of London”/”Two’s Company”) does a workman-like job directing.

Scamming destitute Broadway producer Gordon Miller (George Murphy) is living like a king, on the cuff, in a luxury Great White Way hotel for months, with a troupe of 22, as he waits for a backer of his newest play. Miller’s brother-in-law Gribble (Walter Slezak) is the hotel manager, who is under fire when his grouchy boss Mr. Wagner (Adolphe Menjou) audits the books and discovers that Miller owes $1200 and demands that he be evicted. Gordon’s woes mount when aspiring country bumpkin playwright Glen Russell (Frank Sinatra) arrives from Illinois to see how the $1,500 he gave as his share to produce the show he wrote is doing and decides to stay and make sure the show goes on. It all hinges on getting would-be backer Jenkins (Eugene Pallette) to get his client, a mysterious wealthy benefactor, to put $50,000 in the show. Also involved in the madcap plot to put the show on are Miller’s leading lady Christine (Gloria DeHaven) and Wally Brown (reprising the Harpo role) and Alan Carney (reprising the Chico role), as the duo assist Miller in all the chicanery. The show going on Broadway boils down to granting the unknown financier’s demand of his mistress Miss Abbott (Anne Jeffreys) getting a starring role in the musical, getting away with a false suicide attempt to avoid hotel eviction and the discovery that Glen’s singing can put the show over.

At least Step Lively is, indeed, lively.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”