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Saturday, 11 August 2012

Words & Music (1948) - Star of the month... Gene Kelly

'Words and Music' is a 1948 MGM musical directed by Norman Taurog and starring Tom Drake as  Richard Rodgers and Mickey Rooney as Lorenz Hart with Betty Garrett, Janet Leigh, Ann Sothern, Perry Como and Marshall Thompson.
June Allyson sings 'Thou Swell' with the Blackburn twins

Produced by Arthur Freed and loosely based on the lives and music of Rodgers and Hart, 'Words and Music' features guest appearances from Judy Garland, June Allyson, Lena Horne, Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Vera-Ellen and Mel Tormé.

The film tells the story of Rodgers & Hart from their first meeting through a mutual friend Herb (played by Thompson), to the death of Lorenz Hart. Intertwined are the woman they loved, including Peggy Lorgan McNeil (played by Garrett), Joyce Harmon (played by Sothern) and Dorothy Feiner (played by Leigh).

Watch the trailer:

Musical program

The film's musical program features 17 Rodgers & Hart's most memorable songs, including:
  • "Main Titles: Lover" - MGM Chorus
  • "Manhattan" - Mickey Rooney, Tom Drake & Marshall Thompson
  • "Way Out West" - Betty Garrett
  • "There's a Small Hotel" - Betty Garrett
  • "Mountain Greenery" - Perry Como & Cyd Charisse
  • "Where's That Rainbow?" - Ann Sothern
  • "On Your Toes" - Cyd Charisse & Dee Turnell
  • "This Can't Be Love" - danced by Cyd Charisse & Dee Turnell
  • "Thou Swell" - June Allyson with Ramon Blackburn & Royce Blackburn
  • "The Blue Room" - Perry Como (with Cyd Charisse)
  • "With A Song in my Heart" - Tom Drake
  • "Where or When" - Lena Horne
  • "The Lady is A Tramp" - Lena Horne
  • "I Wish I Were In Love Again" - Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney
  • "Blue Moon" - Mel Tormé
  • "Spring Is Here" - Mickey Rooney
  • "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" - Gene Kelly & Cyd Charisse
  • "With a Song In My Heart" (Reprise) - Perry Como

Song: "I Wish I Were In Love Again" - Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney

Song: "Johnny One Note" - Judy Garland

Song: "Manhattan" - Mickey Rooney

Song: "Thou Swell" - June Allyson

Song: "The Lady Is A Tramp" - Lena Horne

Song: "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" - Gene Kelly & Vera-Ellen

Song: "Mountain Greenery" - Perry Como & Cyd Charisse

Deleted songs

The following songs were either deleted or shortened for the final release of the film:

  • Gene Kelly & Vera-Ellen singing "Falling in Love With Love"
  • The complete version of Betty Garrett singing "Way Out West (On West End Avenue)" - the footage of the extended version is lost
  • Betty Garrett singing "My Funny Valentine"
  • Perry Como singing the song "Lover" - footage from this song are featured in the film's trailer and on the 2007 Warner Bros. DVD
  • Perry Como singing "Your Nearer" - footage from this song is featured on the 2007 Warner Bros. DVD
  • Perry Como singing "My Heart Stood Still"
  • Perry Como singing "I Feel at Home With You"
  • An extended version of "Manhattan", sung by Mickey Rooney, Tom Drake & Marshall Thompson
  • An extended version of "On Your Toes/The Girl Friend/ This Can't Be Love"

Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney in their last musical
number together "I Wish I Were In Love Again"

Did you know...

  • This was the last time Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney appeared in a film together
  • The film was very expensive to make, and barely recouped it's production cost, despite it being a successful film
  • Richard Rodgers reportedly disliked everything about this film, except for the casting of Janet Leigh as his wife
  • Judy Garland was paid $100,000 for this film (the equivalent of what she owed MGM for medical calls) - by the end of the film, she had paid back her studio debt, but made nothing
  • Although Judy Garland's two songs are sung at the same party, both songs were filmed four months apart - look closely and you'll notice Judy's  longer hair and slight weight gain in "Johnny One-Note"
  • Lena Horne's scene was specially filmed in a way to enable the scene to be cut from some Southern states without impacting the storyline
  • This was the second of producer Arthur Freed's series of Broadway composer biography films

Goofs & flubs...
  • The song "Mountain Greenery" did not feature in the 1928 production of "Garrick Gaieties" as indicated in the film

Closing remarks

Gene Kelly & Vera-Ellen in 'Slaughter on 10th Ave'
'Words and Music' is yet another composer biography film of the 1940s. Although it's not the best one, it is still entertaining and jam-packed with enough MGM stars to excite any movie goer. 

The film contains many inaccuracies and should be viewed as a fictional story loosely based on the lives of Rodgers & Hart.  For example, due to strict Hollywood censorship regulations, the film is unable to present Lorenz Hart's homosexuality, and instead portray's Hart as a bashful and secure bachelor unable to find a wife.

The ending is a disappointment - it virtually cuts off without giving sufficient closure to the story and illness of Lorenz Hart.

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