British Musicals of the 1930s (Network)

British Musicals of the 1930s (Network)

Robert Tanitch reviews four musicals on a double-disc DVD set

BLOSSOM TIME (1934). An operetta about Franz Schubert’s life in Vienna in the 1820’s presents problems because very little is known about his private life. In the film the composer sells his piano to buy a pretty dress for a pretty girl he loves. But she loves a count. It’s all a lot of fictional nonsense, but it was one of the most popular British films of 1934 and the reason for this was Richard Tauber, one of the great singers of the 20th century, was playing Schubert and singing.  (Tauber was 42 when he made it. Schubert never owned a piano and died when he was 31.)

OVER THE GARDEN WALL (1934). Bobby Howes in the 1920’s and 1930’s was one of the most popular musical comedy stars in the West End. At 39 he was a bit old to be cast as the juvenile lead.  Here he’s naughty Bunny, a big boy, who flirts with the aid of a huge supply of shuttlecocks and then elopes with an extremely naive 17-year-old girl. This innocent, no-sex-please-we’re-British farce badly needs some god songs.

EVERYTHING IS RHYTHM (1936).  A dance band leader pretends to be a hotel waiter and finds the woman he is courting is actually a Ruritania princess. Harry Roy is not as funny as he thinks he is. (The princess was played by a Princess who was Roy’s wife in real life.)

MR. CINDERS (1934). Rich girl masquerades as a house maid and falls in love with Cinders, the poor relation, who is treated like a menial. Clifford Mollison and Zelma O’Neal, neither of them in the premier league, play the roles which Bobby Howes and Binnie Hale created on the West End stage in 1929. The book is an inversion of the popular fairy tale. Cinders has two fatuous step brothers, played by the Western Brothers. The musical has Vivian Ellis’s most famous song, Spread A Little Happiness.

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