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

Thursday, March 16, 2017


ALICE FAYE: A LIFE BEYOND THE SILVER SCREEN. Jane Lenz Elder. University Press of Mississippi; 2002.

Alice Faye is one of the few movie stars who walked away from it all when she was still at the top of her game. Faye appeared in several musicals, became a queen of Hollywood, then longed for more of a private life and a successful marriage, and also itched for a chance to show off her acting chops in more serious pictures instead of the "technicolor twaddle" (as Bernstein's "Trouble in Tahiti" would put it) she was usually offered. Fay gave a very good performance in her last picture under the studio system, Fallen Angel, although author Elder writes that most of Faye's best scenes were left on the cutting room floor and Linda Darnell got most of the screen time. (I have a much higher opinion of Preminger's picture than others do.) Furious and disheartened, Faye left the studio and did a radio sitcom with comedian husband Phil Harris [The High and the Mighty] instead, making a brief "comeback" in the second musical version of State Fair (the conditions of the filming as described herein are reflected in Faye's face in the movie) and then a cameo in Won Ton Ton, as well as a stint on Broadway. Faye's first marriage was to handsome crooner Tony Martin [Music in My Heart], but the fact that they never had much time to spend together, the disparity in their success levels, and Martin's "causal romances" caused Faye to divorce him. Although Harris was also alleged to be a ladies man, he was rather homely compared to Martin; perhaps Faye felt he would be less likely to stray. In any case, their marriage lasted for decades. Still, Faye's career we not free from scandal, such as the early rumors of an affair with her mentor Rudy Vallee [The Palm Beach Story] that dogged her for quite some time. Faye appeared in such snappy musicals as King of Burlesque and On the AvenueAlice Faye: A Life Beyond the Silver Screen is an excellent biography that sets the scene for each period in just enough detail, describes the supporting players in Faye's life without going on too much about them, and is very well-written and researched.

Verdict: A fine job. ***1/2.

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