Stand Up and Cheer!
Directed by Hamilton MacFadden
Fox Film Corporation
The President decides to improve morale during the Depression by creating a Department of Amusement headed by Secretary Lawrence Cromwell (Warner Baxter). Cromwell selects Mary Adams (Madge Evans) to run the Children’s Division, and they promptly fall in love. Meanwhile, some wicked industrialists are trying to sabotage Cromwell’s efforts to cheer up the nation.
The plot is an excuse for a variety review and , aside from the “Baby Take a Bow” number with Shirley Temple and James Dunn, this movie is a godawful mess. The routines progressively grow worse and worse until we are left with “Broadway’s Gone Hill-Billy”, a truly awful sketch involving Stepin Fetchit and a live penguin voiced by a Jimmy Durante impersonator (!!!), and the “We’re Out of the Red” finale. Yes, these are every bit as bad as they sound.
The ability of James Dunn to overcome this dreadful material led me to look up his biography. I really thought he was wonderful in 1931’s Bad Girl and was wondering what became of him. It turns out that it was the old story of alcoholism rendering a talented actor unemployable. Dunn did have a comeback in 1945’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn which earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar but he retreated again into obscurity.
Website dedicated to James Dunn: http://rememberingjimmy.com/about-james-dunn/biography/
Excerpts from Stand Up and Cheer! – Scenes with Shirley Temple – “Baby, Take a Bow” starts at 4:43