Ameche had already played the man who gave us the telephone and now he was to have an even more difficult task as one of America's premier songwriters, Stephen Foster. The problem was that Foster was a drunk, treated his wife and child badly, never provided for his family, and died at a
young age (37) in the charity ward at Bellevue Hospital in New York. He'd earned a good deal of royalty money from 1849 through 1860 but drank it all away and died a pauper. The last song he wrote is not in this film. It was "Beautiful Dreamer" and was composed a few days before his death. The
screenwriters considered the true story, then threw most of it away in order to fashion a more commercial biography. Ameche falls in love with the South and with southerner Leeds (the truth is that Foster's wife was, like him, from Pittsburgh) in Kentucky. He begins writing songs, and sells one of
them to Jolson (as the famous minstrel man E.P. Christy, who did, in fact, make Foster famous). During the War Between the States, Ameche is accused of being a sympathizer to the Gray cause. He travels to New York with Leeds and child in tow, goes off on more toots than a railroad engine, and she
leaves him. Jolson is about to give a performance with his troupe when he learns that Ameche has died of drink and so he does "Swanee River" for a tearful audience. Other songs by Foster are "My Old Kentucky Home," "Ring the Banjo," and "Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair" (sung by Ameche). Jolson
gets to sing the aforementioned classic "Swanee River," plus "Oh, Susanna," and "Camptown Races." The Hall Johnson Choir sings "Old Black Joe" and "Here Comes the Heavin' Line." Foster's "Suite for Small Orchestra" is also heard. Musical director Silvers and director Lanfield wrote "Curry a Mule,"
William Davis wrote "Gwine down the River," and Hall Johnson wrote "The Mule Song." The score was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to STAGECOACH. Good production values, nice acting, but a flawed and untrue script.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Ameche had already played the man who gave us the telephone and now he was to have an even more difficult task as one of America's premier songwriters, Stephen Foster. The problem was that Foster was a drunk, treated his wife and child badly, never provide… (more)