Something to Sing About (1937)

Something to Sing Aboutsomething to sing about poster
Directed by Victor Schertzinger
Written by Victor Schertzinger and Austin Parker
1937/USA
Zion Meyers Productions

First viewing

Terrence ‘Terry’; Rooney: I’ll stand up here and let you stick pins in me, but one more tickle, and I’m going to tear off one of your legs and wrap it around your neck for a scarf.

It’s always fun to watch James Cagney dance, and that’s the highpoint of this otherwise unremarkable musical flop.

Terry Rooney (Cagney) is a Manhattan band-leader/hoofer who has gotten the call from Hollywood to make a picture.  He bids farewell to Rita (Evelyn Daw), the band’s vocalist, to a swing version of Wagner’s Wedding March.  Terry has the usual trials and tribulations in adjusting to Tinsel Town and then gets nothing but discouragement on his work from the producers who secretly think he’s terrific but want to keep his price low.

After Terry finishes the picture, he marries Rita under his real name and they go on a long honeymoon on a tramp steamer to the South Seas.  When Terry returns, the picture has made him a star.  The studio doesn’t want a married star so the couple reluctantly agree to keep the marriage secret.  This leads to a number of misunderstandings and quarrels, of course.  With William Frawley as the studio’s overzealous press agent.

Something to Sing About 1

Cagney can do very little wrong in my book and he’s even better when he is dancing.  He’s sensational in a couple of the musical sequences.  Unfortunately, most of the musical sequences feature the singing of Evelyn Daw and her trained operatic soprano voice — not a good match for the swing band she accompanies.

James Cagney made Something to Sing About for Grand National Pictures during one of his many contract disputes with Warner Bros.  Grand National had been better known for its B pictures previously.  This big-budget box-office fiasco caused the studio’s eventual demise in 1940.  According to IMDb, Grand National Pictures head Edward L. Alperson had previously paid $25,000 for the rights to the perfect James Cagney vehicle, Angels with Dirty Faces, and was literally begged by staff producer Edward Finney to film that property first but inexplicably went forward with this instead.  Angels with Dirty Faces, of course, was released by Warners in 1938 with Cagney to great acclaim.

Something to Sing About was Oscar-nominated for its score by versatile writer/director Victor Schertzinger.

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2 thoughts on “Something to Sing About (1937)

  1. I have to say that Cagney’s First National foray was pretty bad……the films looked cheap and were cheap. If I were Cagney, I would have just stayed home and waited until the Warner Brothers’ contract negotiations were settled. This film reminds me of those films starring formerly popular stars who were on the decline (Kay Francis, comes to mind). Not a star in Cagney’s crown.

    • Probably Cagney welcomed the chance to get out of the gangster groove and do a little hoofing for a change. This, unfortunately for the studio, was not exactly cheap. It came in over schedule and over budget for $900,000 – a fair amount in those days. But it does look kind of cheap.

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