Musical Monday: Hitting a New High (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:
Hitting a New High (1937) – Musical #634

Studio:
RKO Radio Pictures

Director:
Raoul Walsh

Starring:
Lily Pons, Jack Oakie, John Howard, Eric Blore, Edward Everett Horton, Eduardo Ciannelli, Luis Alberni, Vinton Hayworth, Leonard Carey

Plot:
Suzette (Pons) as ambitions to be an opera singer, but finds herself singing in Jimmy James’ (Howard) night club jazz band in France. She meets Corny Davis (Oakie), who is the assistant of eccentric rich man, Lucius B. Blynn (Horton), who is always looking for a new singing to promote. Corny tells Suzette to meet them in Africa, where they are heading on Safari. Suzette poses as Oogahunga, the Bird-Girl with a beautiful voice. Lucius brings Suzette/Oogahunga back to the United States to make her an opera star. At the same time they arrive in New York, Jimmy James and his band arrive in New York City, planning on Suzette to sing with his band.

Trivia:
• Last leading lady film role for Lily Pons. She appeared in one last film as a specialty act as herself in “Carnegie Hall” (1948).
• The film lost money for RKO and hurt Jesse Laskey’s position as a producer.
• Working title was “It Never Happened Before.”

Notable Songs:
• “I Hit a New High” performed by the chorus
• “Let’s Give Another Chance” performed by the chorus
• “Je suis Titania” performed by Lily Pons

Awards and Nominations:
• John Aalberg was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound, Recording

Lily Pons in “Hitting a New High,” dressed as Oogahunga, the Bird-Girl

My review:
Oh how I suffer sometimes to write these reviews.

And this is one of those times.

I’ll put it bluntly – “Hitting a New High” (1937) is a stupid, irritating film. When Jack Oakie (whose antics sometimes drive my batty) is the least irritating character, there is a problem.

If you read the plot above and thought, “What?” – that’s how I felt the whole time.

Pons plays a night club singer with opera ambitions, so Jack Oakie’s character “discovers her” as the exotic bird girl of Africa and brings her back to the states so they can build her up with her bizarre discovering, as well as “teaching her English.” Of course, there is a mix-up, when someone who already knows Suzette is in the states.

If the plot itself sounds weird and irritating, it gets worse.

Opera singer Lily Pons sings/speaks in high pitched opera notes in a quick bird-like manner when she is communicating as a “native.” It’s just terrible.

This is the last of three films opera singer Pons made, and as she ends on this note, I say, “Thank goodness.” I’ve made it known in my reviews of the other two films that I didn’t care for her singing or her films, but “Hitting a New High” is by far the worst of the three.

The best part is a night club part that involves the chorus and not Lily Pons – she does these high pitched noises like she’s a bird. It’s terrible and hurts your ears.

Interestingly, this film was directed by Raul Walsh, known later for films like Bogart’s breakout film “High Sierra” (1941), war film “Objective Burma” (1945), or the gangster picture “White Heat” (1949).

But at this part of Walsh’s directorial career, he was directing several musicals, such as “Going Hollywood” (1933) or “Artists & Models” (1937).

The only part of this film that didn’t irk me was a brief nightclub act with the chorus singing and dancing to “I Hit a New High.” John Howard is also nice to look at.

But really – unless you’re a gluten for punishment, I am warning you against watching this one. Edward Everett Horton doesn’t even make it worth it. And if you have seen this one, I’m here to commiserate. We probably should start a support group for those who have watched “Hitting a New High.”

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