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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.
This week’s musical:
“Night and Day” –Musical #101
Cary Grant, Alexi Smith, Jane Wyman, Donald Woods, Ginny Sims, Selena Royle, Eve Arden, Dorothy Malone, Henry Stephenson, Alan Hale, Sig Ruman, Carlos Ramírez
As themselves: Mary Martin, Monty Woolley
Fictional biographical film of songwriter Cole Porter.
Cole Porter and his wife Linda Lee
-Cole Porter is a celebrated songwriter who was active from post-World War I teens through the 1950s. He was born in 1891 and died in 1964.
-Warner Brothers chose “Night and Day” to mark the studio’s 20th anniversary of sound films, according to an Oct. 4, 1946, article in the Montreal Gazette.
-“Script writers had a hard time finding crisis in his life to sustain a storyline,” according to a mention of the film in his Oct. 16, 1964, Associated Press obituary in the Gettysburg Times.
-Footage shown of Roy Rogers singing “Don’t Fence Me In” is from the Warner Brothers film “Hollywood Canteen” (1944)
-Ray Heindorf and Max Steiner were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.
-Eve Arden as a French performer, simply because it’s ridiculous.
-Mary Martin cameo
-“Night and Day”
-“I’m in Love Again” performed by Jane Wyman
-“Let’s Do It” performed by Jane Wyman
-“You Do Something to Me” performed by Jane Wyman
-“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” performed by Ginny Simms
-“Don’t Fence Me In” footage of Roy Rogers
-“Begin the Beguine” performed by Carlos Ramirez
Cary Grant as Cole Porter and Alexis Smith as Linda Lee in “Night and Day”
There were about 10 years between my first and second viewings of this film. I didn’t find it any better.
Starring Cary Grant and filmed in gorgeous Technicolor, you know you are about to hear some fantastic music going into this film. It’s basically Cole Porter’s Greatest Hits.
But the celebrated songs by Porter can’t save this film. The ridiculous story line of the highlighly fictionalized biography is just a dud. The fact that the biography is fictionalized isn’t surprising. Musical Monday has highlighted the “fictionalized musical biography” many, many times before now.
The San Francisco News said in a review, “This is no more the story of Cole Porter’s life than a two-cent stamp is of Washington.” LIFE magazine said “Film About Cole Porter’s Life is an Example of What’s Wrong with Hollywood Musicals,” saying the numbers were tasteless, the dialogue forcefully recreated from real conversations and a timeworn plot. I can’t say that I disagree. But a made up life story is more forgivable if it is at least entertaining and enjoyable. “Night and Day” is just fairly painful.
Even Cole Porter said, “If I could survive that, I can survive anything,” after the premiere of the film.
Some of the scripts of these biographical films, such as this one, are reviewed by the topic person-Porter did not die until 1964- and the 2011 William McBrien Porter biography discusses Porter reading over the script. With any of these biographical films, I’m not sure how much say the subject matter or their family members have in the script. Maybe it is simply that they don’t want the film to be accurate and their private lives on display.
However, there are almost too many inaccuracies to list in a brief review.
In the film, Alexis Smith plays Porter’s wife Linda Lee Porter, Porter’s wife from 1919 until her death in 1954. It is rare for the romantic lead in a biographical film, to be based off of a real person. Many times, the romantic lead is made up or a mix of multiple people. An example of this is Evelyn Keye’s character in “The Al Jolson Story.” It is obvious that she is supposed to be Ruby Keeler, but her character is named something different. Probably because Keeler was still alive and didn’t want to be associated with the film.
Though Porter and Linda were married, the culture of 1946 and the Hays Production Code prevented the prevented the film from giving the true nature of their relationship and marriage. Porter and Linda’s marriage was more of a marriage of convenience. Porter was gay and his marriage to Linda gave a heterosexual appearance during a time when homosexuality was not as accepted. The marriage gave Linda prominence in society.
Monty Woolley, Jane Wyman and Mary Martin’s brief role are probably the only highlights of the film. Woolley and Martin play themselves, as they were connected with Porter in real life.
It’s not the highly inaccurate plot that makes “Night and Day” bad. “Yankee Doodle Dandy” is also fiction but is an entertaining film. It’s really just that the fictionalized premise is terrible and often downright ridiculous.
The only thing thing “Night and Day” has going for it is the music. In that case, buy some of Cole Porter’s songs instead.
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