Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Vincent Youmans & Irving Berlin wrote standards for her to perform. Flo Ziegfeld produced her shows. She starred in early 2-strip TechniColor Talkies of her hit shows SALLY/29 and SUNNY/’30. Her scandal-ridden marriage to Mary Pickford’s drug-addicted brother was novelized in THE GREEN HAT, a sensational bestseller that became A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS/’28 with Greta Garbo, John Gilbert & Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.* After her early death, Judy Garland & June Haver played her on screen. And what a galumphing cliché-ridden waste of a bio-pic Warner Bros. made of her life & career! Haver dances well, but when she tries to be temperamental, she’s a pain, and certainly no spellbinder on stage. As her first husband, the very young Gordon MacRae is a natural in his first big role, but his big dramatic moment has him spanking his misbehaving spouse. Yet the film is a must-see for the great Ray Bolger who plays Miller’s mentor & eventual dancing partner Jack Donohue. When he wasn’t wearing scarecrow makeup, Bolger's personality could be a bit off-putting. But his musicality & ‘eccentric’ dancing are the stuff of legend, and he got too few chances to let ‘er rip. And rip he does. Especially in Jerome Kern’s ‘Who’ which has been tricked up into a comedy dance ‘numbo’ that should be as celebrated as Donald O’Connor’s "Make ‘Em Laugh’ in SINGING IN THE RAIN/’52.
CONTEST: *Figure out the tru-life relationship between Fairbanks & Miller to win our usual prize, a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of the NetFlix DVD of your choice.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: At odd, but persistent moments here, Bolger looks like a musical caricature of Jeff Goldblum. And how neatly his oddly-cadenced footwork matches up with Goldblum’s oddly-cadenced line readings. (BTW: The real Jack Donohue wasn’t 20 years older than the real Marilyn Miller, but ten years younger. He was also her third husband and went on to a career helming the likes of Sinatra & Red Skelton in Hollywood! Yep, a much odder story than you’d guess after seeing this film.