I caught up with a nifty little pre-code called "Crooner" on TCM the other day. Because I am pretty mad for the pre-code era of Ann Dvorak, I checked it out and have to admit, it was quite fun (if you're not expecting too much).
"Crooner" is just a Warner Brothers quickie (clocking in at 67 minutes), but it has a few sly tricks up its sleeve. The story centers on Ted Taylor, a struggling dance band leader who can't seem to land his group steady employment.
|David Manners as a crooner who is modeled after the real crooner, Rudy Vallee|
As the good ladies of Gypsy sang, ya gotta have a gimmick, and Ted's band had none. When his vocalist can't perform, Ted attempts to fill in, but his voice is weak. A passing customer (Guy Kibbee, having fun on the dance floor with a lovely young lady) hands him a megaphone and the rest, as they say, is history. Mocking the rise of Rudy Vallee and his type, "Crooner" takes Ted from the depths of obscurity to the heights of fame and back again.
|Ted's a sensation with the ladies. |
It's only a matter of time before he finds it hard to be faithful
David Manners as Ted is pretty nifty. I admit not being too familiar with his work and he does a neat job of playing the big-headed celebrity who needs a pin prick in his inflated ego to bring him back down to earth. His quick turn from a rather nice fellow to an insufferable bore is amusing. Five minutes with some British society chaps and he's sipping tea with an extended pinky. He also cheats (with the always slinky Claire Dodd) on his way-to-nice girlfriend Judy, played by Ann Dvorak.
|Poor Judy. Ted's success means suffering for her|
I don't know what it is about this actress that fascinates me. Making the most of a bland role, she has enough star twinkle to hold the screen.
|Judy comforts Ted, that lying son of a so and so|
Dressed in delicious Orry-Kelly plaids and stripes, she plays the part of the smiling and supportive girlfriend, but there is always an undercurrent of a rogue electric wire simmering beneath the surface. When she finally let's the stuffed shirt Ted have it, she demonstrates what sets her apart - a breathless, female fire that explodes like an emotional slap. Since the film purrs along at breakneck speed, it is only a moment in the film. And sadly, hers was a career made up only of those few fine moments in a string of mediocre films.
|Ted thinks he has the chops for opera; |
Judy's face says it all. Her ears might be bleeding.
But, "Crooner" is good pre-code fun. Ted's effect on the female population is overwhelming, with only one gal in the nightclub immune to his charms:
On the other side of the fence so to speak, he receives a fan letter form a fellow in jail. Ken Murray, as the promoter who pushes Ted to fame only to lose Ann to him, gets the last word on the whole crooner phenomenon.
|Ken Murray as the promoter who propels Ted to fame gets Judy to agree to marry him, but he knows her heart belongs to Ted (that rat).|
When Ted's fame is eclipsed by the next hot singer, (someone named Bang Busby, a sly nod to Bing Crosby), he throws a drink at the radio. Darn those crooners!
|Ann's face graced the sheet music from the film|