This colorful, tuneful screen biography of Jerome Kern (nicely portrayed by Robert Walker) commences on the opening night of "Showboat" and flashes back to the brilliant composer's beginnings as a struggling songwriter. After depicting Kern's early collaboration and friendship with
arranger James I. Hessler (Van Heflin), the film follows Kern as he journeys to England, where, he's been told, the best songwriters are, and where he finds both his first success and his future wife (Dorothy Patrick). Following his return to the US to write a new show, Kern and his beloved are
married, and smooth sailing follows until Hessler takes ill. Hessler's daughter, Sally (Lucille Bremmer), is up for a role in a big musical, but she loses it when the producers insist that Marilyn Miller (Judy Garland, whose scenes were directed by husband Vincente Minnelli) be cast, breaking
Sally's heart and her father's will to live, resulting in his death. Consumed by guilt, Kern searches the Southland for Sally, finds her in a Tennessee nightclub, and is relieved to learn she has used her adversity as motivation for success. The film then comes full circle to the Kern-Oscar
Hammerstein II collaboration that produced their classic adaptation of Edna Ferber's Showboat. Kern died while this film was being made, but it seems likely that he would have approved of the way his songs are used, though he might have wondered whose story they were trying to tell. A bevy of MGM
stars, among them Tony Martin, Lena Horne, June Allyson, Dinah Shore, Van Johnson, and Cyd Charisse, perform Kern's stellar tunes, and Frank Sinatra provides the film's big finale with his rendition of "Ol' Man River." Were it not for all this wonderful music, however, this overblown picture would
be a huge yawn. Songs, all by Kern, include a mini-version of "Showboat" (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II) featuring "Make Believe" (sung by Kathryn Grayson, Tony Martin), "Cotton Blossom" (chorus), "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" (Lena Horne), "Ol' Man River" (Caleb Peterson), "Who Cares if My Boat
Goes Upstream?" (Martin), and "Life Upon the Wicked Stage" (Virginia O'Brien). Other songs include: "Till the Clouds Roll By" (lyrics by P.G. Wodehouse, sung by June Allyson, Ray McDonald), "Howja Like to Spoon with Me?" (Ed Laska, sung by Angela Lansbury), "The Last Time I Saw Paris"
(Hammerstein, sung by Dinah Shore), "They Didn't Believe Me" (Herbert Reynolds, sung by Shore), "I Won't Dance" (Otto Harbach, Hammerstein, sung by Van Johnson, Lucille Bremer), "Why Was I Born?" (Hammerstein, sung by Horne), "Who?" and "Sunny" (Hammerstein, Harbach, performed by Garland, chorus),
"All the Things You Are" (Hammerstein, sung by Martin) and "One More Dance" (Hammerstein, sung by Bremer), "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (Harbach, sung by Cyd Charisse, Gower Champion), "Yesterdays" (Harbach, sung by chorus), "She Didn't Say Yes" (Harbach, sung by the Wilde Twins), "Look for the
Silver Lining" (Buddy De Sylva, sung by Garland), "Leave It to Jane," "Cleopatterer" (Wodehouse, sung by June Allyson), "Long Ago and Far Away" (Ira Gershwin, sung by Grayson), "A Fine Romance" (Dorothy Fields, sung by O'Brien), "The Land Where the Good Songs Go" (Wodehouse, sung by Bremer), and
instrumentals on "Kalua" and "Polka" from the "Mark Twain Suite." The finale featured Frank Sinatra reprising "Ol' Man River." Background songs by Kern and his various lyricists were "I Dream Too Much," "Cat and the Fiddle," "Crickets Are Calling," and "In the Egern of the Tegern Sea" (words by
Wodehouse and Guy Bolton). Other tunes used under action were "The Touch of Your Hand," "'Twas Not So Long Ago," "Go Little Boat," "You Never Knew About Me," "You Are Love," "La Jeunne Fille," "Siren's Song," "Sun Shines Brighter," "Pal Like You," and "Passionate Pilgrim."
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This colorful, tuneful screen biography of Jerome Kern (nicely portrayed by Robert Walker) commences on the opening night of "Showboat" and flashes back to the brilliant composer's beginnings as a struggling songwriter. After depicting Kern's early collabo… (more)