posted 09/19/05 07:32 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
This 1934 film does not rank very high in Crosby film lore. The only redeeming factors are that it has excellent songs and takes place at Princeton University in New Jersey.
Miriam Hopkins stars as a Philadelphia night club dancer who witnesses a gang murder while performing, and tries to hightail it to New York, but only has enough fare to get as far as Princeton. While walking through the campus, she hear's Bing's character playing piano and peeks in to see him snacking on cake. Being very hungry, she knocks on his door and tells him her tail of woe. Bing enlists his buddy upstairs to help disguise her as a boy, and hide her from the gangsters. It is a very thin plot and most of the acting is not that great either.
A love quadrangle ensues with the Hopkins character being smitten with Bing's character, and Bing's character is already engaged to a hometown girl (played by Judith Allen). When Bing finds out the Princeton Dean has been sent a telegram exposing that he is hiding a woman in his room, He goes to the Dean's home, and meets the Dean's daughter, played by Kitty Carlisle. Bing is immediately smitten with her. When she finds out that Bings writes the songs for the University musicals, they migrate to the piano and duet with "Love In Bloom" and "Straight From The Shoulder, Right From The Heart". Later in the film we hear "I'm Hummin', I'm Whistlin', I'm Singin'". "Love in Bloom" was the first time Bing introduced an Academy Award nominated song in a movie, something he would do more often than any other artist. The song also charted to the number one position for six weeks. "Straight From The Shoulder, Right From the Heart" also charted up to the number sixteen position.
Although this film did well at the box office, it was a noticable step backwards from Bing's previous two films, "We're Not Dressing" and "Going Hollywood", both of which had much better story lines and supporting casts. Bing would struggle with his next film as well, "Here Is My Heart", before rebounding with "Mississippi" and then never looking back.
Crosby and Carlisle seemed comfortable with each other on screen, and complimented each others' voices in their duets. And there really were some talented members of the cast, namely Henry Stephenson who played the Dean, George Barbier who played Bing's college buddy's dad, and Lynne Overman who played the Hollywood talent agent. If the names do not mean anything to you, they were in many films of this era. Also with a small part was Matt McHugh, brother of Frank McHugh (Father O'Dowd in "Going My Way"). Matt would show up again in "The Bells Of St. Mary's" as the sports store clerk who sells Sister Benedict the boxing book.
We are all used to hearing Bing poking fun at his singing talents in his later films. This film may contain the earliest such instance. When Carlisle asks Bing to sit at the piano and sing some of his songs, Bing replies, "Remember, you brought this on yourself".
Bing also did a short radio version of this story with Joan Blondell, which is available on Totem records, if you can find it.
It is Bing, and the songs are all top notch. And as most of us have said, we'll take our Bing anyway we can get him.
posted 09/19/05 09:04 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Another fine review, Jim. But I feel you've sold Bing short in claiming that he "struggled" with "Here Is My Heart" (the Movie of the Month back in February '02), a gem of a film IMO, with top drawer character actors, and an early showcase for Bing's deftness as a comic actor, which is on display throughout. And the songs--"June In January", "Love Is Just Around the Corner", and "With Every Breath I Take"--weren't too shabby either. In fact, Gary Giddins dedicates four pages of glowing approval to HIMH in "Pocketful of Dreams", citing favorable reviews of the period from Time, the New York Daily News, Variety, and the Los Angeles Examiner.
To each his own . . . but I felt a rebuttal was in order!
posted 09/20/05 01:44 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Certainly, I'm not putting down the music in HIMH, which is great, just like in SLMN. And I'll even agree it has some pretty funny moments. But I still submit that the story line is weak and the acting strained. In other words, they looked like they were acting.
To Each His Own, if Bing had only recorded that song. But Eddy Howard, and also The Ink Spots, turned out a couple of very nice versions.
posted 09/20/05 02:45 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Jim, I'm compelled to maintain that, to my sensibilities at least, the acting in HIMH is surprisingly loose and fresh, even after 70+ years--particularly in comparison to typical film acting of the period. Bing stands out, especially in his apparent pastiche, in some scenes, of silent era comics. His impersonation of a waiter is quietly hilarious, for example.
As for someone reviewing a Crosby film on a whim every now and again in the future, as you suggest, I hope you'll be that someone more often than not, as you've been by far the most consistent, thorough, and faithful Movie of the Month reviewer over the years. I'll be happy to contribute as one of the "two cents worth adders"--that's a much easier job!
posted 09/21/05 01:59 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Here are some extracts from the contemporary reviews.
Crosby, in the role of a chivalrous senior, gives a nice acting performance and sings as only he can.
(Los Angeles Evening Herald Express, August 1, 1934)
It is indeed a strange group of characters that are introduced during the hectic proceedings in the film version of last season's play, She Loves Me Not. Mixed up with Princeton students are the university dean, his daughter, a fiery-tempered cabaret dancer, a couple of cool gunmen and an energetic motion picture press agent and his persistent camera men....As on the stage, this adaptation is a swift-paced piece of hilarity, with occasional romantic interludes during which Bing Crosby and Kitty Carlisle contribute some tuneful melodies.
(Mordaunt Hall, New York Times, September 8, 1934)
Crosby is most of it (plenty for the gate). He looks better than ever (somehow his stature has been built up although the faintest suggestion of embonpoint doesn't quite jell with a Princeton undergrad), but he acts intelligently and sings those tunes.
(Variety, September 11, 1934)