but it's not a particularly great one. The life of Jerome Kern is tosssed out completely and instead we have his music. Okay. Fine. Great music, anyway. And with all of these stars, who needs a story?
But we have June Allyson, smiling so wide her mouth is all that you pay attention to. She can't sing, but she dances passably. I'll pass her by.
Lena Horne, nailing herself to Hollywood's racist cross yet again (her scenes in films could be spliced out when the films in question played Southern theatres. Shame), has some wonderful moments. Her "Why Was I Born" is majestic. She spits the words out at you, but in such glorious voice that you don't mind wiping your face afterward. She's an angry woman but hey, it's MGM circa 1945/6 and it's the best gig she's going to get right then.
Van Johnson and the ghastly Lucille Bremer cut up the rug in "I Won't Dance" and it's Bremer's best moment on film, though no one realizes it yet and she'll be gone from the Metro roster soon enough. Bremer can do anything with the exception of being a presence onscreen. Like Turner and Lamarr, she's pretty, but what is she doing here? Still, it's her best moment and for that we should pay attention.
Like most all-star event/films, it's a mess, and Richard Whorf directs it. The script writers had no idea what to do with the story line and they let the neophyte director take the hit. And with the exception of the songs, the director takes the hit right between the eyes.
Vincente Minnelli directs Judy Garland in her sequences, and if you watch the film, you will see that Minnelli should have handled the rest of the story as well. Garland's "Look For The Silver Lining" and "Who?" are standouts in an otherwise overblown musical. Briefly, Garland is re-teamed with her "The Clock" costar, Robert Walker, but he, obviously, has other things on his mind and so does Garland. They don't mesh here.
Two performers are completely wasted. The first is Dinah Shore, singing "The Last Time I Saw Paris" wearing a wig that was left over from "The Harvey Girls" or "Meet Me In St. Louis". The song isn't great and Shore's appearance only makes it worse. The second is Frank Sinatra, wearing a white tuxedo, amidst white pillars, with an orchestra dressed in white.......and he's singing "Ol' Man River". For starters, the only white person that could ever pull this off was Judy Garland, years later. But Sinatra singing this song, this exquisite, powerful, majestic song, all dolled up in MGM finery and fruit cakey-ness, is a slap in the face to Jerome Kern and what he was trying, brilliantly, to do with "Show Boat".
It's a fanciful, colorful, MGM musical, but by no means anywhere near their greatest output.