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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

CAN’T HELP SINGING (1944)

This large-scale Musical Western was the only TechniColor project for Deanna Durbin; and just as well since the process tended to accentuate the inner dumpling in her facial structure. A hurdle that the shadings & gradations of tone in b&w studio photography more easily finessed. But that’s only half the problem on this full-rigged project, impressively shot on some spectacular locations, but with neither the story nor the score to make it worth all the bother. Durbin, the headstrong daughter of a Washington Senator, runs off to marry a handsome fortune hunting soldier, but winds up posing as the wife of a comic Russian (Akim Tamiroff) and possibly affianced to a California gold baron (Thomas Gomez). Naturally, she winds up singing her way to tru-love with reformed con-man Robert Paige. It sounds like a lot of action to squeeze into 90 minutes; plus a passel of Jerome Kern/’Yip’ Harburg songs. Alas, the songs are no more than pleasant; the comedy is laborious; and the leading man was quickly demoted back to B pics. Durbin’s hunt for suitable grown up material would continue for a few more years.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Durbin's previous pic, CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY/’44, sounds much more interesting; a dark tale from noir specialist Robert Siodmak with Deanna playing a shady chanteuse & Gene Kelly a rich wastrel. But, as with ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL/’37, the best of her early pics, it’s not currently available in any format.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Lyricist ‘Yip’ Harburg used a more personal voice when he revisited the West (with composer Earl Robinson) in CALIFORNIA/’47.

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