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STREET GIRL (aka: Barber John’s boy) (director: Wesley Ruggles; screenwriters: Jane Murfin/based on the story “The Viennese Charmer” by W. Carey Wonderly in Young’s Magazine; cinematographer: Leo Tover; editors: Ann McKnight/Wm. Hamilton; music: Oscar Levant & Sidney Clare; cast: Betty Compson (Frederika “Freddie”Joyzelle), John Harron (Mike Fall), Jack Oakie (Joe Spring), Ned Sparks (Happy Winter), Guy Buccola (Pete Summer), Joseph Cawthorn (Keppel), Ivan Lebedeff (Prince Nicholaus of Aregon), Doris Eaton (nightclub singer), Gus Arnheim and His Ambassadors (themselves); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: William LeBaron/Wesley Ruggles; RKO; 1929)
“It’s at best moderate entertainment.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first official released film from RKO is this musical melodrama. It’s based on a Young’s magazine story by W. Carey Wonderly entitled “The Viennese Charmer.” Director Wesley Ruggles (“Bolero”/”No Man of Her Own”/”I’m No Angel”) and writer Jane Murfin try to give it an uplifting adult fairy tale theme. Aside from being a rarely seen movie and the subject of two remakes-That Girl in Paris (1936) and Four Jacks and a Jill (1941)-it’s at best moderate entertainment.

A struggling jazz quartet called the Four Seasons that consists of Happy Winter (Ned Sparks) on violin, Joe Spring (Jack Oakie) on clarinet, Pete Summer (Guy Buccola) on accordion and guitar, and Mike Fall (John Harron) on piano and trumpet, play for little money in a Lower East Side dive in Manhattan. To help make ends meet, the boys share a cramped apartment. One evening while returning from the deli, Mike saves a young woman from being assaulted by an aggressive man who won’t take no for an answer. After getting rid of the creep, Mike invites the woman to join the boys for a meal when he learns she hasn’t eaten for two days. The foreign girl with a thick accent is nicknamed Freddie (Betty Compson), and mentions she’s a violinist from Aregon who recently got fired from her waitress job for breaking a dish over her boss’s head. The boys discover she’s not only broke but homeless, and after she impresses them playing a tune on Happy’s violin they invite her to stay the night. Incidentally, the misnamed Happy is a bloke who is always grumpy. Freddie ends up being a roommate, hanging a sheet to separate her from the boys, and proves she has a talent for housekeeping. Also, back in her homeland she lets it be known that she was a talented violinist who once played for Prince Nicholaus (Ivan Lebedeff) himself. Freddie shows her business skills by acting as manager for the Four Seasons and charming old Mr. Keppel (Joseph Cawthorn), the nearby Little Aregon restaurant owner, into hiring the boys to play for more money than they got in their previous gig.

Soon Mike and Freddie fall in love and make marriage plans. But when Prince Nicholaus makes an unexpected visit to America, and a festive dinner is arranged for him at the Little Aregon, Mike gets jealous when the pompous Prince kisses her after she plays a violin number for him and when the kiss hits the newspapers he quits the quartet. It leads to the climax, as we are left wondering if Mike will reconcile with Freddie in time for the gala opening of Keppel’s new expanded more elegant restaurant.

Freddie’s homeland was originally Austria, but changed in the film to the fictional Aregon. Also of note, Compson could play the violin and in her solo of “My Dream Melody” that’s her playing for real. The early talkie features a lot of stiff acting from everyone but an irrepressible impish Oakie and is too corny for me, but for those who like such lightweight innocent and sweet feel good tales it’s at least competently done.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”