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Hallelujah I'm a Bum [VHS]

4.1 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews


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Product Details

  • Actors: Al Jolson, Madge Evans, Frank Morgan, Harry Langdon, Chester Conklin
  • Directors: Lewis Milestone
  • Writers: Ben Hecht, S.N. Behrman
  • Producers: Joseph M. Schenck
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, HiFi Sound, NTSC
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • VHS Release Date: September 1, 1998
  • Run Time: 82 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0792837118
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #363,141 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

This offbeat musical was certainly a departure for director Lewis Milestone, featuring rhyming dialogue and an excellent score by Rodgers and Hart. The film stars Al Jolson as Bumper, mayor of the hobos, a man who would rather sleep in the park than get a job. But after he saves the real mayor's amnesiac girlfriend June (Madge Evans) when she tries to drown herself, he falls in love with the woman and even contemplates the possibility of gainful employment. Product Details Edition: Vintage Classics Number of Tapes: 1 Rating: Not Rated Film Country: USA Sound: HiFi Sound, Stereo Sound UPC: 027616623430

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert M. Fells on August 12, 2002
Format: DVD
This film is from a wonderful but short-lived era in Hollywood during 1932-33 when the studios encouraged experimentation with the musical genre. The first musical films of the early talkie era, circa 1928-31, tended to be stage-bound, static and boring. For a time, theaters even advertised that certain films having musical-sounding titles were in fact not musicals because people were avoiding them!
In 1932, director Rouben Mamoulian at Paramount made LOVE ME TONIGHT - and why hasn't THAT film ever come out on video? - and Lewis Milestone at United Artists made BUM. Ironically, both films had scores written by Rogers and Hart. Filming of the Mamoulian project, starring Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald, seems to have gone smoothly enough. But BUM seemed to be a jinxed film from the start. Roland Young originally played the mayor but became sick or otherwise unavailable so his many scenes had to be refilmed with Frank Morgan in the role.
Evidently, BUM was completed in 1932, but preview audience reactions were so bad, major refilming was needed. It sounds like a nightmare. When the second version was finally released in 1933, it was a commercial failure and UA and Al Jolson agreed to drop plans for two more films.
None of these problems are apparent watching the film today. The film is fresh and inventive and for once Jolson has plenty of elbow room to sing his heart out. Even his acting, a weak point in all Jolson films, is quite good here. Jolson complained that Milestone made him repeat scenes endlessly but the director seems to have been getting the self-consciousness out of Jolson's acting style. It worked!
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Format: DVD
This musical gem demonstrates why Al Jolson was called the greatest entertainer of all time. He's brilliant as singer, comic, and dramatic actor.
Director Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front) also makes this one of the most purely cinematic musicals of the 30s. From the rapid-fire cuts to the virtuoso camera angles and tracking shots, Hallelujah I'm a Bum is a feast for the eyes. The DVD transfer does full justice to the film's visual qualities with an excellent picture quality.
But given that 3/4 of the movie consists of Rodgers and Hart's wonderful score, it's a pity that MGA/UA has over-processed the sound on the DVD. Apparently in an effort to reduce any hint of tape hiss, the soundtrack has gone through a noise reduction process that removes the high frequencies and results in a deadened, distorted sound compared to the earlier VHS and laserdisc releases. Hart's great rhyming couplets just don't sound the same!
If you have the excellent laserdisc edition of Hallelujah I'm A Bum, you can skip the DVD release. If you have the VHS edition and are looking for better picture AND sound quality, you'll get only one of those ingredients here.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart had just scored a critical and popular success with 1932's Love Me Tonight. They used their new leverage with their next film, Hallelujah I'm A Bum, to push further their idea of rhyming dialogue and more integrated songs. The movie starred Al Jolson and was a poignant tale of a happy-go-lucky bum who falls for a woman he rescues from a lake who has amnesia, only to lose her to a good friend of his who had been her lover. Despite the film's many charms, it was just too unusual and probably too bittersweet. It didn't do well at the box office. As a result, Rodgers and Hart were consigned to the fate of all the other Broadway songwriters who had come to Hollywood when the Depression cut the legs off much of the Broadway theater; they were given piecemeal assignments with the songs altered, cut, changed or dropped at the whim of the producers. Within a year and a half the pair had fled Hollywood, returned to Broadway and created a stunning series of hit musicals until the partnership finally came apart in 1943.

Bumper (Al Jolson) is a cheerful, resourceful bum, the leader of the Central Park lay-abouts. He has his standards, too. His friends call him the Mayor of Central Park, and among those friends is Mayor Hastings, the real mayor of New York City. Hastings keeps a mistress, June Marsden (Madge Evans), whom through a mistaken series of events he believes is being unfaithful. She tries to explain, he says he no longer wants to see her, and so she wanders to Central Park, jumps off the bridge into the lake and is rescued by Bumper. She has amnesia. Bumper falls for her, and falls hard. He even gets a job at a bank so he can take care of her. But Hastings realizes how much he loves June and how wrong he was about her.
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Format: DVD
This unusual film is a must for several groups of fans: Musical lovers will need to own this because it is a "lost" musical written by Rodgers and Hart (Thats Dick and Lorenz in a cameo as the photographers in the cornerstone scene), Harry Langdon fans (I am one) will love this because it is his best sound role (those who thought that he was a spent force by the '30's will be very pleased and very surprised by his relaxed and absolute command of his role and spoken/sung lines. He was very good here. Why didn't Hollywood use him more?), Jolson fans will need this because he was at his best here. It is not a great movie but it IS an unusual find and well worth a viewing. Includes the theatrical trailer.
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