Musical Monday: Three Little Words (1950)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Three Little Words” (1950) — Musical #280

three little words


Richard Thorpe

Fred Astaire, Red Skelton, Vera-Ellen, Arlene Dahl, Keenan Wynn, Gloria DeHaven, Debbie Reynolds, Carleton Carpenter

Set in the early 1920s, the movie is a biographical film about Tin Pan Alley songwriters Bert Kalmar (Astaire) and Harry Ruby (Skelton).
Kalmar and his partner Jessie Brown (Vera-Ellen) have a vaudeville act, but he has ambitions of being a magician. After failing at that, Brown and Kalmar have a successful routine until Bert hurts his knee and can’t dance for a year.
Bert hears a song written by Harry Ruby and the two team up to write more music together, eventually writing popular songs, music for films and Broadway plays.

-Actress Gloria DeHaven makes a cameo playing her mother, Flora Parker DeHaven. Flora acted on stage and screen with her husband Carter Davis during the 1920s.
-Songwriters Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar were friends with Fred Astaire, who played Bert Kalmer, during his vaudeville days. Kalmer died in 1947, before the film was made but had agreed to it before his death. Ruby died in 1974. 

The real Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar.

The real Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar.

-Arlene Dahl plays real life actress Eileen Percy. Percy was in films 1917 to 1933. In the film and in real life, Percy and Harry Ruby were married from 1936 until her death in 1973.
-In the film Jesse Brown and Bert Kalmar marry. They did in real life as well but eventually divorced.
-The real Harry Ruby makes a cameo in one of the baseball scenes with Red Skelton.
The dress worn by Gale Robbins in the “All Alone Monday” number is the same dress worn by Ann Miller in the “Girl on the Magazine Cover” in Easter Parade (1948).
-Debbie Reynolds has a cameo in the role of real life actress Helen Kane. Kane dubs Reynolds’s singing.

Debbie Reynolds dressed as Helen Kane with Carleton Carpenter singing "I Wanna Be Loved By You."

Debbie Reynolds dressed as Helen Kane with Carleton Carpenter singing “I Wanna Be Loved By You.”

-Vera-Ellen is dubbed by Anita Ellis

-Gloria DeHaven plays her mother in the film. B
-Debbie Reynolds acts in the role of Helen Kane-who was later the voice of Betty Boop. Reynolds’s singing voice is dubbed by Kane.

Notable Songs:
-“All Alone Monday” sung by Gale Robbins. My favorite song in the film. Though 1930s recordings of the song I came across later were more upbeat and happy sounding, Robbins sang it with a bluesy and mournful feel.
-“Three Little Words” sung by Fred Astaire. The title song isn’t sung or written until the very end of the film but it is the most memorable and leaves you humming after the movie is over.
-“I Wanna Be Loved By You” sung by Debbie Reynolds who is dubbed by Helen Kane, who originated the song. Personally, Kane’s voice grates on my nerves but it is a memorable and famous song.

My Review:

Though parts of this film are fictional-such as the conflict between Bert Kalmer and Harry Ruby- is a good movie as far as biographical pictures go. In many biographical films, the love interest is made up of several different people that the main character had relations with during their career. The love interest also sometimes different name to protect the real life person-examples of this could be Jayne Mansfield’s character in the “George Raft Story” who is supposed to be Betty Grable, or Evelyn Keyes’s character in “The Al Jolson Story,” who is supposed to be Ruby Keeler.
In comparison, both men in this movie were represented with wives that they were involved with in real life.
I also liked the added cameos of people like Gloria DeHaven who plays her mother in the film.
My only beef is that the clothing worn by the female leads isn’t period appropriate and looks more suitable for 1950 and not the 1920s.
In all, “Three Little Words” is an excellent mix of gorgeous Technicolor, excellent dance numbers with Vera-Ellen and Astaire, comedy from Red Skelton and catchy songs.

Red Skelton, Vera-Ellen and Fred Astaire in "Three Little Words"

Red Skelton, Vera-Ellen and Fred Astaire in “Three Little Words”

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