Extremely frustrating. A dead-on-arrival near-musical for B’way’s Marilyn Miller, the Florenz Ziegfeld star who introduced scores from the likes of George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Vincent Youmans & Cole Porter. More dancer than singer, and more charmer than either, Miller only made three films, two early Talkies (SUNNY/’29; SALLY/’30) and this. So, bizarrely, now that sound films were getting up on their feet, Miller barely dances at all. Not much in the way of song or charm either in this romance taken from a concurrent German film (IHRE MAJESTÄT DIE LIEBE/’31* - see bonus poster). Director William Dieterle & lenser Robert Kurrle try to give this a bit of pace & movement, but it’s very blah stuff with co-star Ben Lyons, scion of a ball-bearing manufacturer, forced to choose between Miller’s nightclub barmaid and a position at the family firm. Fortunately, a couple of complicating factors figure in: Leon Errol as Lyons’ much married uncle; and, in his first sound feature, W. C. Fields as the girl’s decidedly inappropriate father. Fields, out of the Hollywood scene since 1927, returns all but fully formed, and stealing every scene he’s in. He also adds just a bit of juggling when given the chance. Fields fanciers take note, the great man is back. Others should give this a pass. Perhaps Miller’s gifts are better glimpsed in the earlier stage transfers.
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: *That German film came loaded with future Warner Bros. talent: director Joe May and Francis Lederer & S. Z. Sakall in the cast.
DOUBLE-BILL: Miller, only 37 when she died, was played by Judy Garland in the highly fictionalized Jerome Kern bio-pic TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY/’46 (her segments directed by then-husband Vincente Minnelli), and (sort of) by Greta Garbo in A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS/’28 from the infamous Michael Arlen novel THE GREEN HAT.