Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

"You'll never know"

HELLO FRISCO, HELLO - Despite my love of musicals and growing up seeing those MGM classics at afternoon matinees, I am not too hot on the 20th Century Fox musicals, apart from those '50s Monroe ones obviously or the blissful CALL ME MADAM. The '40s though saw the great popularity of those Alice Faye and Betty Grable movies, often featuring Carmen Miranda for the booming South American market (when the European market was closed due to WWII), with titles like DOWN ARGENTINE WAY - and of course we love THE GANG'S ALL HERE with those delirious numbers.

1943's HELLO FRISCO HELLO is one I had not seen until now and I must say I loved every minute of it. Alice Faye headlines as sweet singer Trudy Evans, part of a quartet including John Payne, Jack Oakie and June Havoc (the real Dainty June from GYPSY).   Oakie and Havoc are joyous in their comic musical numbers. John Payne plays his ambitious, social climbing saloon keeper well enough. The opening number "Hello, Frisco, Hello" going right on into "You'll Never Know" is beautifully staged. This became Alice Fayes signature song - and it proves so nostalgic for me as my mother used to sing it when we were young, I imagine she saw it on release at the time.  Lynn Bari is the snappy society dame from Nob Hill who comes between Payne and Faye, as he marries Bari for entry to her world while she drains his money with her Opera House. But the story is secondary to the songs and stars. Ward Bond is also in attendance, and its nicely put together by Bruce Humberstone, with that great plush Fox '40s look. A programmer then, but a good one, capturing that honky-tonk vaudeville era nicely.

I kept waiting for that earthquake to strike but it does not appear here, as we follow the fortunes of our leads ... Payne (one of those '40s guys like John Hodiak or the young Guy Madison) wants to leave the Barbary Coast outfits he runs and neglects Trudy who obviously loves him - Faye is delicious here, her character is so appealing and she looks marvellous in those outfits and hats - and her rich voice makes the most of those songs like the cod-Irish "Anyone here seen Kelly?" and that great Harry Warren number "You'll Never Know" which is used three times with different meanings.

Alice Faye is at her best in her last major musical for Fox - then Grable took over and a decade later it was the latest Fox blonde, one Marilyn Monroe. Alice is gorgeous here in Technicolor close-ups and she wears period costumes more convincingly than most other actresses; its her film all the way and is still a delight. Her voice was so unusual - low, sultry and smooth, and it fits the music here perfectly, Payne's character is a bit of a louse, one kind of waits for him to lose everything in that earthquake, but it does not play out like that.
Now for Fox's THE DOLLY SISTERS to catch up with, though Faye is not in that.

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