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A hat-check girl (Betty Hutton) rescues a tramp from drowning. But the tramp (Barry Fitzgerald) is actually a millionaire who now anonymously provides the girl with a luxury pad and a bank account to match. It all seems swell enough, but romantic complications ensue when her boyfriend (Don DeFore) re-enters the picture, none too pleased at her new situation.
This may be a featherweight plotline, but it's all that's needed for The Stork Club (1945), a light musical comedy starring the then-popular, now often-overlooked Betty Hutton. The Stork Club came in the middle of a string of popular Hutton comedies and musicals such as And the Angels Sing (1944), Here Come the Waves (1944), Incendiary Blonde (1945), Cross My Heart (1946), and The Perils of Pauline (1947). Released just after Christmas, 1945, The Stork Club features songs by several top artists of the day - Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn, Jay Livingston, Ray Evans and Hoagy Carmichael, whose song "Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief" (written with Paul Francis Webster and performed by Hutton) is the movie's musical highlight.
Producer and co-writer B.G. "Buddy" DeSylva was best known as a songwriter himself, having penned songs like "California, Here I Come" and "Look For the Silver Lining" as well as the hit Broadway musical Good News, which was the basis for two motion pictures. In the 1930s he turned to producing theater, then movies, finding success with Shirley Temple vehicles. As a Paramount executive, he guided films from Billy Wilder and Leo McCarey, whose Going My Way (1944) won the studio's first Best Picture Academy Award. When DeSylva stepped down as Paramount production chief, his first independently-produced project was The Stork Club, which Paramount distributed. (DeSylva would go on to co-found Capitol Records.)
The New York Times' Bosley Crowther wrote of this movie, "A bright and beribboned Christmas package was opened at the Paramount yesterday to reveal a purely frivolous donation, but one which is good for lots of laughs." Betty Hutton, he wrote, was positively "tom-boisterous."
Hundreds of photos were taken of the real Stork Club in New York in order to make the sets authentic. Some say that the owner of the Stork Club, Sherman Billingsley, lobbied to get this film made and perhaps partially financed it as a giant advertisement. He's played on screen by Bill Goodwin, who is best-remembered as the announcer on the George Burns and Gracie Allen radio program.
Cinematographer Charles Lang had been nominated for six Oscars® when he started shooting The Stork Club. By the time he retired in 1973, he had amassed 18 nominations over his career, winning for A Farewell to Arms (1932). Humorist/actor Robert Benchley, here playing a lawyer named Tom Curtis, died of a cerebral hemorrhage a month before The Stork Club opened. He would appear in two more films posthumously.
Producer: Harold Wilson, Buddy G. DeSylva
Director: Hal Walker
Screenplay: Buddy G. DeSylva, Jack McGowan
Cinematography: Charles Lang
Film Editing: Gladys Carley
Art Direction: Hans Dreier, A. Earl Hedrick
Music: Robert Emmett Dolan
Cast: Betty Hutton (Judy Peabody), Barry Fitzgerald (Jerry B. Bates), Don DeFore (Sgt. Danny Wilton), Andy Russell (Jimmy Jones), Robert Benchley (Tom P. Curtis), Bill Goodwin (Sherman Billingsley).
BW-98m. Closed captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold