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Just one of the many musical offerings from MGM in 1944, Meet the People featured a number of people that the public wanted to meet, including talented ingenue Lucille Ball who was rapidly becoming famous for her beauty and charm, long before she won acclaim for her talents as a comedienne on American television. The lead actor was the popular Depression-era song and dance man Dick Powell. Having starred in several streetwise musicals for Warner Brothers, such as 42nd Street (1933) and Footlight Parade(1933), Powell was perfect as the blue collar working man and playwright who insists that the star of his musical show gets to know Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public.
The American people got to meet a whole new side to Dick Powell in 1944, one that meshed perfectly with the new filmmaking style known as film noir. Powell's other two 1944 offerings, Murder, My Sweet and Cornered, proved without a doubt that he had indeed transformed from a crooner into a tough guy who wasn't afraid to fight dirty. Audiences loved the new Dick Powell, but they still accepted him in musicals.
Director Charles Reisner started in the film business during the First World War as a screenwriter and comedy performer, working for movie studios such as Keystone, Vitagraph, and others. He was the associate director for Charlie Chaplin's A Dog's Life (1918), The Kid (1921), The Pilgrim (1923), and The Gold Rush (1925), playing nasty villains in the first three. He also appeared as an actor in a number of silent features in the 1920's. A director from the mid-1920s on, he specialized in comedy, working with Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields, Marie Dressler, the Marx Brothers, and Abbott & Costello. In 1928, Reisner co-directed Steamboat Bill, Jr. with Keaton.
The producer for Meet the People was E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, a former owner of an electrical appliance business before turning to writing songs and librettos for stage and film during Hollywood's talkie boom in 1929. Working in collaboration with such composers as Vernon Duke, Arthur Schwartz, Jerome Kern, and Harold Arlen, Harburg wrote lyrics to "I'm Yours," "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," "Thrill Me," "It's Only a Paper Moon," "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady," "Old Devil Moon," "If I Only Had a Brain," and "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead." He won an Academy Award for the lyrics to "Over the Rainbow" in 1939 for MGM's The Wizard of Oz.
Director: Charles Reisner
Producer: E.Y. Harburg
Screenplay: Ben Barzman, Sol Barzman (story), S.M. Herzig, Louis Lantz (story), Fred Saidy
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Editor: Alex Troffey
Music: Lennie Hayton
Cast: Lucille Ball (Julie Hampton), Dick Powell (William "Swanee" Swanson), Virginia O'Brien ('Woodpecker' Peg), Bert Lahr (The Commander), Rags Ragland (Smitty), June Allyson (Annie).
by Scott McGee