Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

ON YOUR TOES

Eddie Albert and (Vera) Zorina
ON YOUR TOES (1939). Director: Ray Enright.

"Russian art is always morbid." -- Vera.

Phil Dolan Jr. (Eddie Albert), a childhood hoofer who had an act with his parents, now wants to be a composer. To this end he hooks up with Ivan (Loenid Kinsky), a Russian composer  who helps him work on his ballet, "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue." He meets his old friend, Vera (Vera Zorina), now a ballet dancer, and she encourages the mild-mannered man in his work. He winds up dancing in his own ballet, unaware that two Russian hit men have confused him with someone else, and are planning to kill him at the climax. This is a textbook example of how not to make a film out of a hit Broadway musical (which was successfully revived in the 80's). First you hire two leads who can't sing, then cut out each and every one of Rodgers and Hart's tunes (one or two play in the background and that's it), then cobble together a screenplay that makes the movie resemble more a typical dopey musical of the period than anything else. "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" was performed much more successfully nine years later in Words and Music, the Rodgers and Hart biopic. There's some mild suspense involving the hit men, but mostly the movie is more tedious talk than music and comedy, with mostly unfunny shtick from the players. Accomplished ballet dancer Zorina [I was an Adventuress] was getting the build-up from Sam Goldwyn, and the film's credit reads "Zorina in On Your Toes." Talk about making somebody a star before they're a star! That said, Zorina has a pleasing personality and gives a capable performance, but her career was derailed when she was replaced in From Whom the Bell Tolls by Ingrid Bergman. Albert is okay, but James Gleason and Queenie Smith as his parents, as well as Erik Rhodes [Charlie Chan in Paris] as the temperamental ballet star, Konstantin, make a bigger impression, as does a charismatic Donald O'Connor playing Albert as a boy. Gloria Dickson has little to do as a flirtatious patron of the arts, but boisterous Alan Hale is all over the movie as the head of the ballet troupe.

Verdict: Aside from a couple of moments this is basically a waste. *1/2.
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