Saturday, June 23, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: ROSE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE

1939 was the year that belonged to "Gone With The Wind". The movie swept the country and many other movies in that year got forgotten with the passages of time. One such movie that is largely forgotten today is a little 20th Century Fox film called "Rose Of Washington Square". MGM is known better for their splashy and extravagent musicals, but 20th Century Fox had a secret weapon in their actress and stunning vocalist Alice Faye.

In the movie, Faye played Rose - a character so close to the real life of actress Fanny Brice that she sued 20th Century Fox for $750,000. They letter settled out of court. It is so funny that the studio did not even try to cover up that the movie was based on Brice's life. The character had a good-looking con man husband (Tryone Power) who goes to jail on a bond fraud. The lead character is headlining with the Ziegfield Follies, and the film featured Brice's signature song "My Man". 20th Century Fox did some odd things in the 1930s and 1940s and this movie was one of them. Another oddity is why they never allowed their biggest musical star Alice Faye make more records.

Rounding out the cast was Al Jolson - at one time he was the world's greatest entertainer. However, by 1939 his movie career was over, and any appearance he would make would be basically as Al Jolson. There is a corny sub plot about a man who is paid to drink so he can heckle Al Jolson as part of his act, and there's Al himself in blackface with white lips up on stage singing.



Nevertheless, the real story concerns the codependent relationship between Rose and Bart, her crooked husband. But it's Tyrone Power, and what woman wouldn't have loved him - in fact, what woman didn't love him in 1939? He was the number 2 box office star. He portrays the likable but sleazy character very well. In the beginning of his career a few years earlier, he did romantic comedy, then did a string of films where he was a cad, then played soldiers, and after the war, did everything - he was a young man who found himself in "The Razor's Edge," played against type in "Nightmare Alley," and period-pieced his way through Fox until his contract finally ended. In 22 years as a star, he really did every genre, and did them beautifully.



There's lots of music in this movie and a HUGE build-up to the song "My Man" before Faye ever sings it. When she does, it's not the Streisand version, but rather a torch song, sung in Faye's low, rich voice. Jolson was a terrific performer though apparently extremely egomaniacal and difficult to work with. He sings his standards: "Mammy," "California Here I Come," "Toot-toot-Tootsie," "Rockabye Your Baby," etc., and he's great. The movie was not the "Gone With The Wind"or "Wizard Of Oz" of 1939, but if you like great music and the wonderful Alice Faye, then this movie is for you...

MY RATING: 9 OUT OF 10

1 comment:

  1. "Rose of Washington Square" used to pop up on television quite often when I was a kid - so often that I used to confuse it with every other Alice + Tyrone movie (used to have the same problem with Jimmy Stewart + June Allyson flicks). What stands out for me is "My Man". Alice wrapping that shawl around her by the street lamp. Good stuff. I'd love to see it again sometime.

    ReplyDelete