Monday, February 21, 2011
Ginger Rogers Film Review #4: Follow The Leader
Run Time (approximate): 76 minutes.
Directed by: Norman Taurog.
Screenplay by: Gertrude Purcell and Sid Silvers.
Based on the play "Manhattan Mary" by: William K. Wells, George White, Lew Brown, Buddy G. DeSylva and Ray Henderson.
Also Starring: Ed Wynn (as Crickets), Stanley Smith (as Jimmy Moore), Lou Holtz (as Sam Platz), Lida Kane (as Ma Brennan), Ethel Merman (as Helen King), Bobby Watson (as George White), Donald Kirke (as R. C. Black), William Halligan (as Bob Sterling), Holly Hall (as Fritzie Devere), Preston Foster (as Two-Gun Terry), James C. Morton (as Mickie), Tammany Young (as Bull), Jack LaRue (as a gangster), William Gargan (as a gangster), William Black (as Bill Black), Dick Scott (as Richard Scott), Jules Epailly (as Gaston Duval), Charles Henderson (as C. Henderson), and Sid Silvers (as uncredited extra).
Ginger's Character: "Mary Brennan"
Ginger 'Screen Time': approx. 13 min, 06 sec. (17.2% of the film)
Ginger Tunes: None
Gingery Goodness Factor (1-10): (4.0) - This movie is primarily a 'vehicle' for Ed Wynn, whom I think is somewhat funny, but really more silly (guess it depends on how 'silly' a mood you are in at the time...) but it's generally a 'pedestrian' role for Ginger as the love interest - no singing and just a little bit of dancing in a 'rehearsal'...weird they didn't ever show her performing, as that was her line of work, and basically the main plot... again, no real 'close-up' shots, and the 'fuzziness' of the copy reviewed just doesn't do Ginger justice...hence the mediocre GGF rating.
GingerFilm Ranking: #4 of (4) Reviewed
Film Quality (1-10): (7.0) - Pretty 'intact', a few 'hops' here and there... the overall picture is a bit fuzzy... audio not bad. overall, pretty fair for the age.
Available From: eBay (maybe)
Huey's Review for Gingerology: Ginger's fourth film again finds her in a 'supporting' role, although the story line generally centers around her character, Mary Brennan. Mary yearns to become a stage star, and even has a few 'prospects' to break into it, including one from the neighborhood hustler Sam Platz (Lou Holtz).
Meanwhile, a waiter in Ma Brennan's (Lida Kane) restaurant, who is named Crickets (Ed Wynn), accidentally knocks out a gangster who has brashly wandered into the establishment. Well, come to find out this dude was running from the local 'gang', called The Dusters; when they find out Crickets clocked this dude, they proclaim him the Leader of The Dusters (or Grand Poo-bah, or whatever). Well, to show their appreciation, The Dusters assign Crickets to secure a starring role for Mary, who is dear to them for some reason (hey, it's Ginger, right?) - and if he doesn't succeed, The Dusters will dust off Crickets.
So, Crickets must set up a 'tryout' for Mary, and then somehow get her to 'replace' the star of the show, Helen Kane (Ethel Merman). Of course, Sam is still trying to land a role for Mary as well, so he and Crickets predictably keep running over each other in their endeavors. Crickets somehow ends up setting up Mary with the 'understudy' role, which flies all over Mary's beau, Jimmie Moore (Stanley Smith), who is a sax player in a local watering hole. His thinking is that when she gets rolling in the biz, she will leave him far behind, thus is not very supportive of her (in other words, he's a gooberhead...).
Meanwhile, Crickets kidnaps (in theory anyway) Miss Kane, so there will be no doubt that Mary hits the stage that night. But when he nabs the wrong dame, he resorts to Plan B, and just enters Helen's apartment and ties her up, and proceeds to knock himself out in the process... anyway, Mary does indeed go on that night, and of course receives rave reviews. She is presented with an opportunity to do a six-month gig in Paris, which, after a bit of thought (mainly worrying about her status with Jimmie (but she is not THAT worried)), she accepts. Time passes, and Mary returns triumphantly from La Paree back to the old neighborhood... and the wrap-up of this little tale happens shortly thereafter.
Again, this movie is basically a 'vehicle' for Ed Wynn to do his shtick, which is OK in short doses, but wears pretty old after awhile. Other scenes are obviously vaudevillian in nature, with varied results. Ginger is worth watching as usual, but overall this one was unfortunately a bit of a step back for her resume...
Favorite Ginger Line(s) / Moment(s): Well, there are really not too many moments FOR Ginger... her dialogue is quite 'pedestrian', and no singing gives few chances for her to 'shine'... I guess the early scene where Mary and Jimmy talk about their future may be the most we see and hear from her. As far as 'Screen Caps' go, honestly, they are just too dang fuzzy...I will post a few below, but just not too detailed... Here's a good 'indicator' of the 'distance' they used for the scenes...I think there are one or two spots where you can actually see the whites of Ginger's eyes... otherwise, they are just black dots. So, here are a few, but sorry for the lack of clarity... Below we have Mary and Jimmy hashing out the 'big picture', and how she is about to become a humongous star whilst he toots his horn to no avail...
...Mary realizing that Crickets is working the director pretty dang hard in order to land her the understudy role...
...so she does a short little dance - which gets me to thinking, WHY didn't they (Paramount, that is) ever get Ginger to crank out a 'full routine' of the Charleston in one of these films? Texas State Champ - hel-LO??? ...just one of those 'make ya go hmmmm...' issues, y'all...
...The dude from Paris with the proposal for Mary - Crickets sees this as a chance to proclaim himself Mary's manager (hey, he DID get her the 'first' gig and all...) and proceed to run through a tired old vaudeville routine with the French dude...
...Jimmy and Mary having small talk after her return form the Paris gig...hmmm...wonder what happens to these two...
Again, sorry for the fuzzy pics - sad that the movie wasn't shot with more 'close-up' views - but I guess these guys were still learning the 'nuances' of cinematography. Here are a few 'promo' pics from books which y'all have probably seen, but just in case...
...and yes, the first pic at the top of the post is from the second pic directly above this, not a screen cap - (BTW, I love her hair here... has a bit more 'poof' to it, and the curls seem to be curling in a most beguiling way :-] ).
Other Reviews: "Ginger Rogers and Stanley Smith are supposed to carry the love interest, but they seldom get a chance to do much, and Lou Holtz horns in whenever he can find a vacant inch of film." -Zit's Weekly
"Ginger Rogers is a hit with her sex-appeal voice. Worth seeing if you admire Ed Wynn enough." -Movies
"Miss Rogers is attractive in her part. It is a film that has been adroitly directed by Norman Taurog, who has made the most of both camera and microphone possibilities." -The New York Times
From Ginger: My Story: "Ruth Etting was supposed to play the part of Helen King, a musical comedy star, but at the last minute she was replaced by another young woman. A few weeks prior to shooting this film, Mother and I had gone to a movie theater in White Plains. The emcee introduced Ethel Zimmerman, a new singer who would do some songs with her accompanist, Al Siegel. She strode forcefully to the front of the stage and began to sing. She was sensational; her voice was clear and brilliant and every word could be heard in the far reaches of the theater. And now here she was in the same movie with me with a shortened name, Ethel Merman."
--- This movie was Ed Wynn's first 'talkie' film.
--- Ethel Merman made her screen debut in this film, as a last minute replacement for Ruth Etting.
--- When this movie was released, Ginger and Ethel were starring nightly in the Broadway musical Girl Crazy.
--- Although Ginger did not sing in this film, one of the tunes from Queen High was 're-cycled' in instrumental form, "Brother, Just Laugh It Off".
--- Additionally, the film uses a few bars of the tune, "We Can't Get Along" from Ginger's 'short' feature, "Office Blues", which was released about a month before this film.
GingerFilm 'rankings' through FOUR reviews:
#1: Queen High;
#2: Young Man of Manhattan;
#3: The Sap from Syracuse;
#4: Follow The Leader.
...As usual, this is based SOLELY on the "Gingery Goodness Factor", and to a lesser extent the "Ginger Screen Time" and the "GingerTunes"...it's pretty 'subjective', but by no means all that scientific...