Musical Monday: The Singing Marine (1937)

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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
The Singing Marine – Musical #238

Studio: Warner Bros.

Director: Ray Enright

Starring:
Dick Powell, Doris Weston, Lee Dixon, Hugh Herbert, Jane Darwell, Allen Jenkins, Jane Wyman, Larry Adler, Marcia Ralston, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Veda Ann Borg, Henry O’Neill, Addison Richards, Eddie Acuff, Berton Churchill, Ward Bond (uncredited), Richard Loo (uncredited), Sam McDaniel (uncredited), Bert Moorhouse (uncredited),

Plot:
Bashful Marine Bob Brent (Powell) is too shy to date or converse and is most comfortable when he’s singing. His Marine buddies send him to New York to perform in an amateur radio contest, especially because his voice makes their girlfriends swoon. Bob travels with singing hopeful Peggy Randall (Weston), who he likes but is too bashful. When Bob becomes a big hit as the “Singing Marine,” his Marine friends find that he has become a snob and not willing to go back to his military life.

Trivia:
• Doris Weston’s first film role
• Screenplay by Delmer Daves
• Musical numbers created by Busby Berkeley
• Frank Borzage was initially set to direct this film, but Ray Enright took over when Borzage went to MGM.
• “The Singing Marine” was one of Warner Bros.’s most successful films of 1937.
• In the credits, Henry O’Neill’s name is spelled O’Neil.

Highlights:
• Harmonica player Larry Adler
• Lee Dixon’s tap dance number to “The Lady Who Couldn’t Be Kissed”

Notable Songs:
• “You Can’t Run Away from Love Tonight” performed by Dick Powell
• “‘Cause My Baby Says It’s So” performed by Dick Powell
• “The Lady Who Couldn’t Be Kissed” performed by Dick Powell and Doris Weston
• “I Know Now” performed by Doris Weston
• “The Song of Marines” performed by Dick Powell

My review:
Boyish crooner Dick Powell was one of Warner Bros. top stars. By 1937, he was no longer co-starring with Ruby Keeler, who was his leading lady in seven films.

“The Singing Marine” (1937) is the third and last film in an unofficial military series of musicals that starred in. The other films were “Flirtation Walk” (1934), where Powell is at West Point and “Shipmates Forever” (1935), where Powell is in the Navy.

Powell plays his usual role: a regular role guy gets a big head, and his friends no longer want to be associated with him. He sings several songs along the way and redeems himself in the end by helping out someone in need.

Doris Weston and Dick Powell

Powell’s leading lady was a Hollywood newcomer Doris Weston in her first film. Weston’s character and real-life parallel here. Weston started in the Major Bowes Amateur Hour and performed in nightclubs. In the film, she botches a radio audition in a radio hour but then performs in a night club show. Weston is likable and was cast for her resemblance to Ruby Keeler. However, for being a singer, she only has a few songs in the films.

Several of the other Warner Bros. regulars appear in the film: Hugh Herbert with his mixed-up comedy, including playing a dual role as his sister, Clarissa. Old standby Allen Jenkins plays one of Powell’s fellow Marines, and Jane Wyman appears in an early, uncredited role as a girl watching Powell perform.

The film also features two other performers: dancer Lee Dixon and harmonica player Larry Adler. Adler has few lines but plays his harmonica throughout the film, including an impressive rendition of “Tiger Rag.” Lee Dixon isn’t one of Hollywood’s most well-known tap dancers and was only in nine feature films and shorts. Dixon performs only one tap number in this film, but his dance to “The Lady Who Couldn’t Be Kissed” is fabulous.

“The Singing Marine” may not be Powell or Warners Bros.’s best musical film, but it’s fun and filled with catchy tunes written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. I dare you to watch this and not get “‘Cause My Baby Says It’s So” stuck in your head.

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