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.
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.