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:
Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round (1934) – Musical #682
Jack Benny, Gene Raymond, Nancy Carroll, Patsy Kelly, Ralph Morgan, Sydney Howard, Mitzi Green, Sydney Blackmer, Shirley Grey, Sam Hardy, Shirley Grey, William Boyd, Carlyle Moore Jr.
Themselves: The Boswell Sisters, Jimmy Grier and His Orchestra, Jean Sargeant
When someone is murdered on ship, the plot looks back 48 hours before the murder when a cruise ship is boarding. Some of the passengers include the entertainers led by Chad Denby (Benny). The ship passengers includes the show’s leading lady Sally (Carroll) and her brother (Moore) who have gambling debits, and a jewel robber (Raymond).
• Last film appearance of the singing sister trio, The Boswell Sisters.
• Last feature film for Mitzi Green until 1940.
• Originally titled Transatlantic Showboat, but was renamed when the new version of “Show Boat” was being planned.
• The “Grand Hotel” skit was previously performed on Jack Benny’s radio show in 1932.
• Reissued in 1942 as “Keep ‘em Laughing” and it was shortened to 72 minutes.
• Nancy Carroll doing a Greta Garbo impression and Mitzi Green impersonating Zasu Pitts.
• Mitzi Green doing a George Arliss impression.
• “It Was Sweet of You” with the girls jumping clothes through a painting and then wearing nude body suits and being thrown around. Then the women are seemingly floating/being thrown around on their own.
• “Rock and Roll” performed by Mitzi Green and the Boswell Sisters
• “If I Had a Million” performed by the Boswell Sisters
• “It Was Sweet of You”
The plot of this film is as wobbly as a ship at sea, and is overall not memorable.
But what is memorable are the songs and musical performances.
Visually, this is a pre-code art deco shipboard mystery. Someone is killed at the beginning of the film, and we leap back 48 hours leading up to this moment. But you practically forget about that murder at the beginning, because the plot is muddied with what makes this film fun—Jack Benny radio gags and songs.
First, I was excited to see the Boswell Sisters in a film, as I enjoy many of their recordings. In their song, in their song “Rock and Roll,” it is supposedly the first time the phrase was said on in a film.
Former child actress Mitzi Green also does a spot on impression of George Arliss. Jack Benny, Patsy Kelly and Nancy Carroll also do a skit of “Grand Hotel” which is fun.
The most wild number is “It Was Sweet of You,” which was a take on Busby Berkeley numbers. The girls are dancing, then leap through a photo and are not as clothed anymore. Then they are swung around by dancing men. It’s wild.
I wanted a bit more mystery and intrigue mixed with music, but the musical numbers were the biggest highlight of this film.
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