Musical Monday: “The Helen Morgan Story” (1957)

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.

Tthe-helen-morgan-story-movie-poster-1957-1020431163his week’s musical:
The Helen Morgan Story” –Musical #481

Studio:
Warner Brothers

Director:
Michael Curtiz

Starring:
Ann Blyth, Paul Newman, Richard Carlson, Ed Platt, Gene Evans, Alan King, Cara Williams, Virginia Vincent, Juanita Moore, Leonid Kinskey
As themselves: Rudy Vallee, Walter Winchell, Jimmy McHugh

Plot:
Biographical musical film on the life of singer Helen Morgan. The film starts with Morgan (Blyth) starting out her career dancing at a carnival show that is managed by Larry Maddux (Newman).
Morgan becomes famous, going from nightclub singer to Broadway star. Along the way, her alcoholism and on and off relationship with Maddux torment her.
Morgan hits rock bottom, broke and drunk. The movie ends with Morgan healthy and being honored by celebrities and Walter Winchell.

Trivia:

Ann Blyth and Paul Newman in a publicity still for "The Helen Morgan Story"

Ann Blyth and Paul Newman in a publicity still for “The Helen Morgan Story”

-Ann Blyth had a lovely singing voice but was dubbed by singer Gogi Grant.
In an interview, TCM Primetime Host Robert Osborne asked Ann Blyth why she was dubbed.
Blyth told Osborne she figured Warner Brothers wanted a different sound so chose Grant. When Blyth was researching the role, she listened to a record of the real Helen Morgan and her voice was actually more soprano and not very strong. But Grant was popular at the the time, and she figured the producers thought that would help promote the movie.
The critics felt Blyth’s voice would have worked better in the film.

 

-“The Helen Morgan Story” was Ann Blyth’s last theatrical film.
In an interview with Robert Osborne, she said the parts just weren’t there anymore. She later was offered the lead in “The Three Faces Of Eve” which Joanne Woodward won an Academy Award for.

-Peggy Lee, Susan Hayward, Jennifer Jones, Judy Garland, Patti Page and Doris Day were all considered for the lead.

-Doris Day turned down the role of Helen Morgan, because she thought the hard drinking character would hurt her career. Day had similar concerns before she portrayed Ruth Etting in “Love Me or Leave Me” (1955), according to her autobiography.

-The same year, five months before the film was released, Polly Bergen portrayed “Helen Morgan” on television on “Playhouse 90.” Bergen won an Emmy for Best Lead Performance by an Actress.

Notable Songs:
All of the songs are performed by Gogi Grant and are well known, including:
-“Can’t Help Loving that Man of Mine” from “Show Boat”
-“Bill” from “Show Boat”
-“The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else”
-“Someone to Watch Over Me”
-“Somebody Loves Me”
-“You Do Something to Me”
-“Why Was I Born?”

For comparison of Helen Morgan and Gogi Grant’s voices, both singing “Why Was I Born?” –

Helen Morgan:

Gogi Grant who dubbed Ann Blyth: 

My Review:

The real Helen Morgan

The real Helen Morgan

Fifty-seven years later, I’m upset that Ann Blyth was dubbed by Gogi Grant.
Blyth said she thought Warner was looking for a different sound, but Blyth would have sang the songs well.

Also, the real Helen Morgan’s voice matched Blyth’s voice more than the belting, Judy Garland-Like Grant’s voice.
Obviously as the story of Helen Morgan’s life is a bit fabricated.

Morgan was married three times, which wasn’t shown in the film. She also died of liver failure due to alcoholism in 1941, yet the film unsurprisingly painted a happy ending.

The Helen Morgan Story” isn’t a great movie, but it isn’t bad either. It is simply a run-of-the-mill sad, torch singer biopic that was characteristic of the 1950s. This time it was just Ann Blyth in the lead role, rather than Susan Hayward.

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2 thoughts on “Musical Monday: “The Helen Morgan Story” (1957)

  1. Great review,and thanks for the two recordings which illustrate perfectly why the beautiful voice of Ann Blyth should have been used as it was so much closer to the sound of Helen Morgan.
    But this is typical of Hollywood when it came to biopics. They weren’t too concerned about the true story.
    I’m familiar with that lovely song,Why Was I Born, as sung by Irene Dunne in the film version of Sweet Adeline.
    At least Helen Morgan got to recreate her most memorable role in the 1936 Show Boat.
    I didn’t know Polly Bergen had played Ms Morgan on TV.

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    • Thanks for stopping by and reading! 🙂
      I know dubbing is typical in Hollywood (even now), but it just seems like such a waste that they cast a singer…and then dub her. It was clear they wanted a Judy Garland sound, but I think it just really hurt the movie.

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