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:
Somebody Loves Me (1952) – Musical #457
Betty Hutton, Ralph Meeker, Robert Keith, Adele Jergens, Billie Bird, Sid Tomack, Henry Slate, Nick Adams (uncredited)
Themselves: Jack Benny
Biographical film on entertainer Blossom Seeley (Hutton) and her rise to fame and her marriage to performer Benny Fields (Meeker). The film begins in 1906 the night of the San Francisco earthquake and goes through the 1920s.
• Betty Hutton’s last film under contract with Paramount Pictures, who she had been with since the start of her career in 1942. This was also Hutton’s last major film.
• Ralph Meeker was dubbed by Pat Morgan, and Barbara Ames dubbed the singing voice of both Adele Jergens and Bea Allen. Sid Tomack’s singing voice was dubbed by Le Clark, and Henry Slate’s singing voice was dubbed by Jack Baker.
• Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields said the film was “99 3/4% accurate.” The real Seeley and Fields were married from 1921 until Fields’s death in 1959. Seeley and Fields had a career resurgence in night clubs thanks to the interest in the film, “Somebody Loves Me.”
• Jack Benny’s first feature film appearance since 1946.
• The story was adapted for the Lux Radio Theater, co-starring Hutton with Gene Barry and airing on April 27, 1953.
• First film appearance of Nick Adams, who plays an uncredited role as a Western Union delivery boy.
• Ralph Meeker was borrowed by Paramount Pictures from his home studio of MGM for the film.
• For the role of Benny Field, the studio originally wanted Robert Alda, and Betty Hutton wanted Frank Sinatra, according to Hutton’s autobiography.
• Betty Hutton met her future husband, choreographer Charles O’Curran, on the set of this film.
• Jack Benny’s appearance
• “Toddling the Todalo” performed by Betty Hutton
• “Smiles” performed by Betty Hutton
• “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” performed by Betty Hutton
• “Love Him” performed by Betty Hutton
Singer Ruth Etting said Blossom Seeley “had a way with a song” and Benny Fields is often dubbed the first American crooner.
Their story is told — in a rather bland way — in the 1952 musical “Somebody Loves Me.”
Betty Hutton plays Seeley in this fictional biographical film and Ralph Meeker plays Fields. The film shows Seeley’s rise to fame, meeting and falling in love with Fields, and Fields and Seeley’s division as he doesn’t want to be Mr. Blossom Seeley.
Hutton is generally a dynamite performer and Blossom Seeley was supposed to be the tops, but somehow this film comes off as run-of-the-mill. The songs are great, the Technicolor glitters, and Edith Head styled some great costumes. But somehow it is like flat champagne. That’s to say that it’s not bad and is fairly enjoyable to watch, it’s just lacking something.
Sure, it would be easy to blame Ralph Meeker for this. Meeker, who is better known for his tough guy film noir roles, landed the lead. It is certainly ridiculous that his singing voice is dubbed by Pat Morgan, who has a much deeper voice. But while Meeker looks a bit ridiculous pantomiming singing, he’s still kind of cute. But it does take away from the song “Somebody Loves Me.”
The film is filled with great songs, especially Hutton’s performance of “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans.”
But it’s not Meeker’s fault that this film feels fairly run-of-the-mill. Nor is it Hutton’s. I think it’s just that it mirrors so many other musical biopics of this era, such as Look for the Silver Lining.
Maybe it’s because the life and careers of Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields seems more exciting than what was put on screen. Seeley retired in 1936 to give way to Fields’s career, but in 1952, she recorded three records. Fields and Seeley also performed in night clubs around this time and became regulars on The Ed Sullivan Show until Fields’s death in 1959.
Maybe it’s also because Hutton is a bit more subdued in this film, which she notes in her autobiography. The role was a bit more adult than her other zany films, and she didn’t sing in quite her usual loud manner.
I should note, Hutton does appear in black face during the number “Dixie Dreams,” which is unfortunate.
This film did make me a bit sad watching too, because I knew Hutton’s bright feature film career pretty much came to a close after this one. She was in one more film in 1957 (a non-musical), but she left Paramount after this film and never recaptured the same fame she once had.
It’s hard to put my finger on why this perfectly enjoyable film is just flat. It’s missing charm, salt or fizz that would bring some life on this otherwise bland picture.
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Great review, as always, Comet… there’s a lot going on here. I always get a little sad about Betty Hutton whenever i read about or think of her— one only needs to see the interview she did with Robert Osborne…. and then hear his comments about same, afterward, or before… to have a lot of compassion for her.
Thank you again for your very good article!
I’d hoped that this one would be better — I enjoyed Blossom Seeley in Blood Money and Broadway Through a Keyhole, and was looking forward to learning more about her. I can’t imagine Ralph Meeker in a musical — not after Kiss Me Deadly!
Poor Ralph Meeker – he really did give it his all! I feel like maybe he wouldn’t have seemed so out of place if such a deep voice had dubbed him! It wasn’t the worst film … just really lacking somehow. Maybe it just needed Dan Dailey instead, I don’t know! haha