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:
Higher and Higher (1943) – Musical #563
RKO Radio Pictures
Michèle Morgan, Jack Haley, Frank Sinatra, Marcy McGuire, Mel Torme, Leon Errol, Mary Wickes, Dooley Wilson, Barbara Hale, Dorothy Mcguire (uncredited)
Cyrus Drake (Errol) is broke and hasn’t paid his servants in seven months. To make some money, he hatches a plan that his maid Millie (Morgan) should pose as his daughter (that he hasn’t seen in years) and marry a rich husband so the household can benefit from his wealth.
-Frank Sinatra’s first acting role in a full-length film. Prior to this, he only appeared in brief singing parts. His character’s name is “Frank Sinatra.”
-Michele Morgan is dubbed by Martha Mears
-Mel Torme’s first film
-Based on a 1940 Broadway play
-The film was shown in combat areas during World War II
-“It’s a Most Important Affair” performed by Mel Tormé, Marcy McGuire, Paul Hartman, Grace Hartman,
Michèle Morgan dubbed by Martha Mears, Dooley Wilson, and Ivy Scott
-“I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night” performed by Frank Sinatra and Dooley Wilson
-“I Saw You First” performed by Marcy McGuire
“Lower and Lower” was the title New York Times critic Bosley Crowther hilariously gave his Jan. 22, 1944, review of this film. And he wasn’t wrong.
The film opens with the hired help of a wealthy man joyously singing about their employer’s big plans for the evening. They’re happily ironing, cooking and preparing white carnations. I thought “Oh this will be a fun one!” And that was the last truly happy thought I had about this film.
When I saw that Leon Errol was in the billing, I was wary. He often gets on my nerves in the Lupe Velez “Spitfire” films. While wasn’t as irritating here as he is in the Velez films, he didn’t help the film either.
The musical has potential as a Cinderella story, but the character of the maid is so dizzy and annoying that it’s not funny. I really love actress Michèle Morgan, but the role she had to play was annoying. At one point, her character has a fit on the dance floor and shouts “No! No! No!” and shakes out all her hair pins. By the end of the scene she’s a mess: losing her hair style, dress and shoes.
If you are a Frank Sinatra fan, who is featured here in his first acting role and is named Frank Sinatra, you will probably be disappointed. He is rarely on screen, but does sing five songs during that number. This is also the first film of another crooner: Mel Torme.
We also get one tune from Dooley Wilson, who is my favorite character in this film. Unfortunately, his screen time is limited.
It’s also unclear and a little misleading who the Prince Charming of this Cinderella film is. It starts off as Frank Sinatra, but that relationship is a little complicated. Then (spoiler) Morgan ends up with someone different all together.
I swear I read that this was a charming movie but I really found it annoying.