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:
Sing You Sinners (1938) – Musical #671
Bing Crosby, Fred MacMurray, Donald O’Connor, Ellen Drew, Elizabeth Patterson, John Gallaudet, William Haade, Irving Bacon, Paul White, Tom Dugan, Chester Clute (uncredited), Gwen Kenyon (uncredited)
The three Beebee brothers Joe (Crosby), Dave (MaCMurray) and Mike (O’Connor) live with their mother (Patterson). The brothers have a musical act, but don’t work steadily. Dave is the main contributor to the family as he works as a mechanic, and supporting his family keeps him from marrying Martha (Drew). Mike is young and Joe can’t hold a job. Realizing he’s holding the rest of his family back, Joe heads to California for a job … but instead gambles on holding a race horse.
• Working titles were “The Unholy Beebees” and then “Harmony for Three.”
• Performed on the Lux Radio Theater in 1940 and later again in 1945.
• Don Ameche and Mickey Rooney were originally going to star in the film but were replaced by Fred MacMurray and Donald O’Connor.
• The racetrack scenes were filmed at Santa Anita Racetrack in California.
• Several of Bing Crosby’s horses are featured in the film.
• The first film where Ellen Drew was credited by this stage name and not Terry Ray.
• Fred MacMurray plays Bing Crosby’s older brother, though MacMurray was five years younger.
• Donald O’Connor was signed to a contract at Paramount after this film.
• Hearing Fred MacMurray sing.
• Irving Bacon’s seal presentation.
• “I’ve Got a Pocketful of Dreams” performed by Bing Crosby, Fred MacMurray and Donald O’Connor
• “Don’t Let the Moon Get Away” performed by Bing Crosby
• “Laugh and Call It Love” performed by Bing Crosby, Fred MacMurray and Donald O’Connor
Crooner Bing Crosby was a heartthrob on the radio and in films; first appearing in an acting role in feature films in 1933.
But his roles were relatively formulaic. Full of music and romance, the female character would fall in love with Crosby as he sing in the films.
But in 1938, Crosby had a departure from this type of film with SING YOU SINNERS. The film is considered Bing Crosby’s breakthrough role and critics say this is when Bing Crosby was taken more seriously as an actor.
SING YOU SINNERS follows three brothers, the Beebees, Joe (Crosby), Dave (MaCMurray) and Mike (O’Connor) live with their mother (Patterson). The three brothers are very different. Joe is a loafer who focuses on fun and a quick, “sure thing” when it comes to making money. Dave is a hard worker who is the breadwinner of the family. Dave hopes to marry his girlfriend Martha, but doesn’t feel he can marry and leave the family since he supports them financially. And then there’s the youngest, Mike, who works but also just wants to be a kid. Joe realizes he’s bringing down the family, so he moves away to California. They believe he’s working, but he is once again trying to make a quick buck by investing in a race horse.
While Crosby still croons, this is a more serious and dramatic role for him. And while he does try to woo Ellen Drew’s character of Martha, Crosby doesn’t end up with the girl. Crosby’s biographers said he was happy that he didn’t have a love interest in SING YOU SINNERS and that it was Fred MacMurray who got the girl in the end.
This film is also fun because of the ensemble acting of the brothers. You don’t think of Fred MacMurray, Bing Crosby and Donald O’Connor as a trio, but they work well together. The film was originally supposed to star Crosby, Don Ameche and Mickey Rooney, but I’m glad Ameche and Rooney ended up being unavailable. In the film, the brothers have a singing act and my favorite part of this film is when MacMurray, Crosby and O’Connor sing together. Their voice blend well, and I always love to hear MacMurray sing.
Fred MacMurray having the opportunity to sing is one of my favorite parts of this film. While known best for his dramatic and Disney roles, and “My Three Sons,” MacMurray started his career as a musician and sang with a band. In some of his earlier films, he sang and I always love when he gets to.
SING YOU SINNERS was also an important role for 13-year-old Donald O’Connor. This was O’Connor second credited role and where he got to act throughout the film.
This role was also important to Ellen Drew, who until this time acted under the name Terry Ray and was often cast in uncredited roles. This was her first role where she was credited under her stage name, Ellen Drew.
Elizabeth Patterson plays the mother of the three sons, and it is always a highlight for Patterson to be in any film role.
There are other interesting tidbits in the film and it begins in a fun way, with the actors walking down the street and their character names superimposed in front of them. Also Irving Bacon does a hilarious seal impersonation.
While this film was a turning point in Bing Crosby’s career, and allowed him a more dramatic role, SING YOU SINNERS is still fun and has some great songs.