Sunday, November 30, 2008

IF I'M LUCKY (2oth Century-Fox 1946) Fox Home Video

Lewis Seiler’s If I’m Lucky (1946) is a rather perplexing musical comedy in that it occasionally forgets itself by infusing more than a hint of serious undertone to the otherwise lighthearted proceedings.

The first half of the George Bricker, Robert Ellis, Edwin Lanham, Helen Logan, Snag Werris screenplay plays like a screwball comedy. But the middle portion of the film shifts to a deadly serious story about political corruption. In the final reels, the fluff factor in musical entertainment returns, leaving the darker aspects of the tale unresolved before the final fade out.

The story begins in earnest with talent agent Wallingham ‘Wally’ Jones (Phil Silvers) wiring his dispersed band of musicians and singers back into the fold with the promise of a theatrical gig. Wally is sincere, but the promise turns sour almost from the moment his telegrams have been sent.

When the troop of entertainers, including band leader Earl Gordon (Harry James) and singers Linda Farrell (Vivian Blaine) and Michelle O’Toole (Carmen Miranda) arrive, they discover that they’ve all given up steady paying jobs for the benefit of being unemployed yet again. A reprieve, however, is not far off.

Crashing the campaign of political hack, Darius J. Magonnagle (Edgar Buchanan) for the price of a free weenie and soda, Wally and his troop decide to resurrect Darius’ chances of having his campaign speech heard by entertaining the other freeloaders who have simply come to eat Magonnagles’ food and bolt out the front door.

The rouse works. The freeloaders stay and Magonnagles becomes a hit with his constituents. One problem: Magonnagles is actually a no good rummy and a stooge for Marc Dwyer (Frank Fenton); a fat cat invisible puppet master whose only interest in seeing Magonnagles made state governor is to also see that his own graft keeps flowing under the radar of voters after the next election. Meanwhile, Magonnagles latches onto the idea of taking Wally and his troop on the road to spread his message through their entertainment.

The dividends pay off for all concerned. However, when Dwyer takes notice of a new find by the troop – winsome crooner, Allen Clark (Perry Como), he decides that Magonnagles is expendable. Dwyer shifts his clout from Magonnagles to Clark who accepts the invitation, believing that he has been chosen because his late father was a great man who did great things for the state.

However, when Allen realizes that he will be expected to bend to the will of Dwyer’s political machine or risk being run out of town along with the rest of Wally’s gang, Allen does the only thing he can to save both his face and their careers; he exposes Dwyer and his cohorts for the pack of frauds that they are.

With so much talent on tap it’s somewhat ironic that not all of it gets exploited to the fullest potential. Apart from one utterly spellbinding production number, ‘The Bacuda’, Carmen Miranda is utterly wasted on this outing. Furthermore, although the B&W photography is fine – even stunning at times – there is something to be said about Miranda being tailor made for the Technicolor screen. So too does comedian Phil Silvers get pushed aside after the first few reels in favor of shifting the film’s focus on an exposé and critique of American politics.

That would be fine and dandy if If I’m Lucky were a melodramatic offering about political posturing as, say ‘Mr. Smith Goes To Washington’, ‘All The King’s Men’ or ‘Advise and Consent.’ It's not! This is supposed to be a musical; one that all but forgets as much midway through, before returning to more lighthearted and tragically misguided fare for the final fade out.

Vivian Blaine and Perry Como make for a winning combination, but their musical repertoire is depressingly limited to rehashing the title song ‘If I’m Lucky’ until we, as the audience, come to believe we would be even luckier if someone had written more songs for them to sing. In the final analysis, If I’m Lucky is an anomaly to the careers of everyone involved in its production. It’s a musical – in part; a melodrama – in part; but a rather convoluted mess as a whole.

Fox Home Video’s DVD exhibits a rather stunning, if inconsistently rendered, image. The tonality throughout this B&W feast is superbly rendered. However, there are portions of the film which appear to have been sourced from less than the original camera negative. These portions are grainier than the rest of the film with more obvious age related artifacts present.

Worse, the image tends to wobble on occasion, inviting more than a hint of edge enhancement to disturb fine details. The audio is presented in both re-channeled stereo and original mono. Extras include an excerpt from ‘Sing With The Stars’ featuring Carmen Miranda, an isolated score track, stills gallery and the original theatrical trailer.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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