Musical Monday: Born to Sing (1942)

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.

bornThis week’s musical:
“Born to Sing” –Musical #507

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Edward Ludwig

Starring:
Virginia Weidler, Ray McDonald, Leo Gorcey, Douglas McPhail, Rags Ragland, Sheldon Leonard, Henry O’Neill, Margaret Dumont, Darla Hood, Joe Yule, Charles Lane, Richard Hall, Lester Matthews

Plot:
The day ‘Snap’ Collins (Gorcey) is released from reform school, he and his friends Steve (McDonald) and Steve (Nunn) find Frank Eastman (O’Neill) who has just tried to commit suicide. The three young men revive him just as his teenage daughter Patsy (Weidler) comes home. Eastman reveals that music he composed while he was in prison was stolen by producer Arthur Cartwright (Matthews). The teens work to put on a show so Eastman can get the credit that he deserves.

Trivia:
-Originally a vehicle for Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, according to TCM host Ben Mankeiwicz

Virginia Weidler with her father, played by Henry O'Neill, after he tried to commit suicide in "Born to Sing."

Virginia Weidler with her father, played by Henry O’Neill, after he tried to commit suicide in “Born to Sing.”

Highlights:
-Darla Hood’s film appearance.

Notable Songs:
-“Here I Am, Eight Years Old” performed by Darla Hood
-“Two A.M.” performed by Ray MacDonald and Virginia Weidler

My Review:
This film is a very similar formula of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney musical made around this time. The two Garland/Rooney films I particularly feel it mimics are “Babes on Broadway” (1941) and “Strike Up the Band” (1940).
“Born to Sing” has the same equation of down on their teens with a “Let’s put on a show!” idea to solve all of their financial problems. Somehow, their shows always look as lavish as an Florenz Ziegfeld produced musical– better sets or costumes than I have ever seen in any community theater show.
A few things that really stood out to me as a rip off of previous Rooney/Garland plots:

-The boys come across a deserted building that was once used for Nazi rallies in the United States. Naturally they convert this into a performance space.

Child piano performer Richard Hall.

Child piano performer Richard Hall.

-Richard Hall plays an overly serious child prodigy musician in both “Born to Sing” and “Babes on Broadway.” In both films, people see how little he is and doubt him until he blows them away at the pino.
-“Born to Sing” and “Strike Up the Band” both have large, comedic Conga numbers. Mickey Rooney dresses up like Carmen Miranda in “Do La Conga” and “Born to Sing” features Beverly Hudson singing “I Hate the Conga.”
The big finale was directed by Busby Berkeley, which you think would be great, but it was garbage. The last eight minutes is the Berkeley directed “A Ballad for America” performed by operatic sing Douglas McPhail, who is also in the Garland/Rooney film “Babes in Arms.” I like opera music, but McPhail is dull in every film I have seen him in. On top of his dull singing style, the song is also just plain bland. Several shots in this Berkeley filmed number were fairly reminiscent of the “Forgotten Man” number from “Gold Diggers of 1933.”

Virginia Weidler and Ray McDonald plead for help from a gangster in "Born to Sing."

Virginia Weidler and Ray McDonald plead for help from a gangster in “Born to Sing.”

The saving factor of “Born to Sing” was that my favorite child actress, Virginia Weidler, is a grown up young woman in the film. Sadly, there is not enough Weidler to keep me happy.
The other main notable factor in this film is seeing Darla Hood perform. Hood previously acted in the Our Gang/Little Rascals films. She sings a song called “Here I Am, Eight Years Old” (And my life is already over), which is rather sad and poignant coming from the perspective of a fading child actor.
While “Born to Sing” isn’t a bad movie, it is just a shame that it feels like it’s pages torn out of scripts from other Garland/Rooney films and pasted together.
If this truly was going to be another Garland/Rooney extravaganza as Mankiewicz said in his introduction, I wonder if there would have been some more thought put into the plot.

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3 thoughts on “Musical Monday: Born to Sing (1942)

  1. The moment I saw the poster at the beginning of your review, I started reading the cast names…the majority of them sounded very familiar. Then I realized they all played supporting parts in Garland/Rooney pictures! I’ve never heard of Born to Sing, so thanks for introducing it! I’m curious to see it now, even if it’s a rip-off of the classic Judy/Mickey musical style.

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  2. My sister and I use to sit and watch movies on Saturday afternoons. Now we are both in our mid 60’s. She buys and buys and has huge collections that she is leaving to the family. We always comment about one of the few things that changes with men through the years, their ties. Also,when you sit and watch the movies from the 20’s, 30s, 40’s,even 50’s and 60’s now …you are watching examples of what have become antiques in today market. A collector or movie designers dream. They will never make movies of such fine quality and morals and true talent using TRUE imagination because computers did not exist then. This is a wonderful site,(:

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  3. TCM showed BORN TO SING for the first time in seven or eight years on their wonderful STARRING VIRGINIA WEIDLER night in November. Hopefully they will schedule it again sooner rather than later.

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