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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE (1937)

The life & career of Jessie Matthews, Britain’s top musical-comedy film star in the ‘30s, took a turn right out of A STAR IS BORN when she let her husband, comic actor Sonnie Hale, take on directing chores. This, the first of his three-and-out attempts, made on the strength of Matthews’ fast-ebbing popularity, signaled the beginning of the end of her leading lady days, and gives a pretty choppy idea of how to put one of these comic romances together. (If only he’d given his editor a bit of movement to cut on, he just might have gotten away with it.) To his credit, Hale improves as the film goes on and the little love triangle between Matthews and her two romantic rivals makes a serviceable structure for hanging the music on. She’s a struggling singer/dancer in Paris who meets-cute at the food market with a food-snatching dog & his nice owner, a struggling inventor with a concave chest. It’s love; or t’would be if not for his French garret-mate, a struggling actor with a tiny talent and an equally concave chest. (Thank the Lord, Matthews, though thin, is also pleasantly bosomy.) Various romantic complications and song cues ensue, even a good new tune for Jessie to sing (‘Looking Around the Corners for You’) before we suffer thru her radio infotainment show and wait for Tru-Love to triumph over assertive behavior. No big production number, instead a ‘swellegant’ floor-show routine with a Pop-Up male chorus. And just as well since Matthews comes off best in intimate settings. If a cleaner DVD than the current Rank/VCI version ever shows up, it might even win a few fans.

DOUBLE-BILL: Matthews is probably best seen in an ensemble piece like THE GOOD COMPANIONS/’33, or in EVERGREEN/’34 with its clever story gimmick & some first-rate Rodgers & Hart songs.

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