|Hooray for Love (1935)
Run time: 72 min
Genres: Comedy | Musical
Director: Walter Lang
Writers: Lawrence Hazard, Ray Harris
Stars: Ann Sothern, Gene Raymond, Bill Robinson
Young would-be producer Doug Tyler meets singer Pat Thatcher twice, and makes the wrong impression both times. But Pat’s father, the Commodore, easily cons Doug into mortaging his ancestral home to invest in a show. When the producers abscond with Doug’s money, the show must close before it opens, unless one of the three can come up with a miracle. Written by Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Release Date: 14 June 1935 (USA)
'Hooray for Love' is the great title of this goodish B-musical (and of one poor song near the closing). The best assets of this so-so show are its three African-American performers: the great Fats Waller, the great Bill Robinson, and the very talented (and pretty) dancer Jeni Le Gon. In recent years, Ms Le Gon's career has received much attention in retrospective: oddly, she received far too little attention (and far too few film appearances) during her prime years as a dancer. This can't be entirely down to racism, as other black performers were working steadily during that period.
I've never understood why Bill Robinson was nicknamed Bojangles. Some other tap dancers (such as Buck and Bubbles) wore double-plate tap shoes which created a jangling syncopated sound. But Robinson always performed in single-plate tap shoes which gave a clear crisp tone to his expert footwork. He's in fine form here, doing some of the best dancing of his career without the need to simplify his steps so that some lesser partner (such as Shirley Temple) can keep up with him. Jeni Le Gon shows her own expertise, easily keeping step with Robinson. Le Gon appears briefly in male garb, like Eleanor Powell.
As usual for films of Hollywood's classic era, there are some treasures in the cast here. Pert Kelton is less annoying than usual, speaking in a normal voice (for once). She performs a dance number which is intentionally inept, to good effect. Lionel Stander is good here, but would have been better if he weren't lumbered with an accent more appropriate for Gregory Ratoff or Leonid Kinskey. But the real find is Thurston Hall. A prolific character actor who appeared in literally hundreds of films, Hall usually played blustering millionaires. Here, he plays a Vitamin Flintheart-style "ack-torr" of the old school, and he practically steals the movie. Why didn't Hall get more chances like this? Georgia Caine, as a Margaret Dumont-style dowager, is excellent here in her scenes with Hall. (I kept waiting for some reference to 'Hall Caine'.)
The plot of this musical is nothing much. I was surprised to learn that Bradford Ropes worked on the dialogue of this movie. Ropes, a former chorus boy and stage actor, wrote the backstage novel that inspired the film '42nd Street': he was an expert at realistic showbiz dialogue and cynical wisecracks. I can't imagine what he contributed to this lacklustre movie. At least one cliché was avoided here: for once, we see a chanteuse (Ann Sothern) who has to clean up her own dressing room, instead of relying on a chucklin' black maidservant.
One of the delights of films from Hollywood's studio era is the frequent tendency for some obscure actor to be given a piece of business or a line of dialogue which makes him stand out. Here, an actor named Monte Vandergrift (who?) has precisely one line of dialogue … but his delivery earns him one of the biggest laughs in the movie.
The songs? Forget it. They're all pretty bad, but Waller, Robinson and Le Gon transcend their weak material through sheer force of talent. Also, we get a chance to study Fats Waller's fingerwork on the keyboard … but not while he's playing his trademark 'stride' piano style. There are minor pleasures throughout 'Hooray for Love', and I'll rate this movie 5 out of 10.
I found this movie in the 1970s and it usually played on or around Thanksgiving. I love Vintage movies like My Man Godfrey and this one. It is a totally underrated movie with one of the nicest casts around. Ann Southern, Gene Raymond, Bill Robinson and Jeni Le Gon. Guess you wonder who Ms. Le Gon was. She was a woman from Chicago that was not formally taught Tap but could mimic the moves until she got a role in the movie. She and Bill Robinson does a really crisp dance together. I saw this lovely woman on television about 10 years ago. She explained how she got the part.
What I really like is the chemistry of Gene and Ann and the little loose plot and the music. When Ann Southern Sings "I'm in Love All Over Again", it kind of pulls at my heart. Actually, I want to find this movie, I really do because for some reason it hasn't been back on television in about 15 years or better!
You have to wait till near the end to see the Bojangles number, with a brief appearance from Fats Waller, but the wait is painless. Ann Sothern stars on the strength of her singing, of all things…