(director: Norman Taurog; screenwriters: from a play The Admirable Chrichton by J.M. Barrie/based on a story by Benjamin Glazer/Horace Jackson/George Marion Jr./Francis Martin; cinematographer: Charles Lang; editor: Stuart Heisler; music: Harry Revel /Mack Gordon; cast: Bing Crosby (Stephen Jones), Carole Lombard (Doris Worthington), George Burns (George), Gracie Allen (Gracie), Ethel Merman (Edith), Leon Errol (Hubert), Ray Milland (Prince Michael Stofani), Jay Henry (Prince Alexander); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Benjamin Glazer; Universal Home Video; 1934)

” … a forgettable bore.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A fluffy musical-comedy by Peter Pan playwright J. M. Barrie that’s a variation of his The Admirable Crichton — it alters the ending to make it a happy one. It’s directed by Norman Taurog (“The Big Broadcast of 1936”), who never gets around to telling a good story but instead has popular radio crooner Bing Crosby singing lame songs throughout. Two of his better numbers were “May I” and “Love Thy Neighbor,” but unfortunately he didn’t stop there. Along with Bing, there’s such future luminaries in supporting parts as Carole Lombard, Gracie Allen, George Burns, Ethel Merman and Leon Errol. It had possibilities of being at least mediocre, but goes under when it chooses not to focus on the more interesting character actors and instead stays with the underwhelming Bing, who has limited range as an actor (in other words, he can’t act). The all too familiar story of the rich heiress falling for the poor gob she initially detested, turns out to be a forgettable bore with stereotyped wooden characters in the lead.

Wealthy spoiled heiress Doris Worthington (Carole Lombard) invites her society cronies on a yacht cruise, including suitors she can’t choose between–Prince Alexander (Jay Henry) and Prince Michael Stofani (Ray Milland). While the elites party and drink Doris picks on lowly deck hand Stephen Jones (Bing Crosby), who is assigned to take care of her pet bear. Every time there’s a shot of Stephen, he’s belting out a feeble song and making merry. This gets Doris’s goat, and she fires him. But before he can get off at the next port, Doris’s drunken Uncle Hubert (Leon Errol), engaged to Doris’s best friend Edith (Ethel Merman), capsizes the yacht into a reef in the heavy fog. Shipwrecked on an isolated tropical Pacific island, the wealthy can’t manage on their own. The fired Stephen refuses to take orders from them and when they refuse his orders to do manual labor, he eats like a king while they go hungry. For comic relief George Burns and Gracie Allen pop up as naturalists residing on the other side of the island doing research, and do their familiar dumb Gracie routine–which I’ve always found more grating than funny. As one expects, the heiress and the gob (who is not just a gob but a college grad and an architect) will fall in love by the end; that is, after Doris rejects both her oily fortune-hunter phony aristocratic suitors and realizes that Stephen is for real and will be the boss in their family.

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