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Alice Faye made her film debut with George White's Scandals (1934), and, as these things often work in Hollywood, it happened because she was in the right place at the right time. Faye had been working as a chorus girl and dancer on the east coast for a couple of years and had recently changed her name from Alice Jeanne Leppert to Alice Faye. She chose "Faye," she later said, simply because she "liked the name, and it went well with Alice."
She soon got a job in New York with "George White's Scandals," one of the city's premier revue shows, headed by burlesque producer George White. In short time, Rudy Vallee heard her sing and offered her a spot on his popular radio show; the audience loved her and a singer was born.
When Vallee and George White signed a deal with Fox for a film version of the "Scandals" with Vallee playing the lead, Faye ended up getting an even bigger break. Originally she was to go along with the company to Hollywood and sing one song in the picture; little did she dream she would get the role of the leading lady! The role was supposed to have been played by Lilian Harvey, a half-English, half-German actress who had been a significant star in Germany and whom Fox was now trying to build into a star in America. She had appeared in four movies for the studio, including the bizarre oddity I Am Suzanne (1933), but she was so unhappy about being cast in George White's Scandals - finding it unworthy of her talents - that she dissolved her contract and walked out. In an interview years later, Faye sympathized with Harvey's decision, saying "the truth was that she was simply not right for the role as it had been written. [It was] a light bit of froth." (Harvey eventually returned to Germany. After more films there, she was forced to escape the Nazi regime and returned to the U.S., though she was unable to revitalize her Hollywood film career due to the stigma of being German.)
When 28-year-old Harvey left, the Fox brass momentarily scratched their heads for a replacement. Faye, all of 18 years old, had already recorded her number for the film, "Nasty Man," and had done a superb job. Giving her a shot at the lead would be a gamble, but the girl had something. They took the gamble, paying Faye $500 per week and even launching a big publicity campaign for her. It paid off in spades. Faye was a hit, Fox signed her to a contract, and just like that, they had a new, rising star who in the years ahead would become one of the public's favorite screen personalities. Ironically, Faye hadn't even gone on this trip to Hollywood with the intention of starting a movie career. Even more ironically, George White's Scandals was really designed as a vehicle for Rudy Vallee, and as Faye's career afterward quickly shot up, Rudy Vallee's started a steady decline.
The movie itself doesn't have much plot, functioning instead as a sketchy framework to enable lots of musical numbers to be delivered in the style of a revue. Faye biographer W. Franklyn Moshier has written, "Scandals holds up remarkably well due to impressive work on the part of a capable cast, some excellent music, and cleverly staged musical numbers... The film shows expensive mounting, superb costume design in the gowns worn by the principals and the chorines alike, and clever, if not always original, production numbers... Alice's main number is a show stopper complete with miniature trick photography requiring a chorus girl to dive from the edge of a hand-held champagne glass into the bubbly."
The New York Times called Faye's "Nasty Man" number a "hot tune which comes closest to the cinematic patterns evolved during the current cycle by Busby Berkeley," and also praised "'Hold My Hand,' which is the most melodious of the songs and virtually the only one with grace. Alice Faye, a flashy blond newcomer, puts over the 'Nasty Man' lyrics in great style, while Rudy Vallee, returning after many months to croon sonorously in her ear, pleads to have his hand held."
Despite all the success, not everything was peaches and cream for Alice Faye at this time. Vallee was going through a divorce, and his bitter wife publicly accused Faye of being one of three women with whom Vallee had been having affairs. There was a storm of negative publicity, but the charges were baseless and never proven, and luckily for Faye, the publicity died down before George White's Scandals was released. If it had continued, the studio might easily have decided not to sign her.
Faye biographer Jane Lenz Elder has written of Faye's early, platinum-blonde years at Fox that the actress found the otherworldly costumes and makeup made her "feel like another, more glamorous person. 'I never thought I was really beautiful when I was young,' [Faye] recalled. 'When the people at the studio were through putting me together, by ten o'clock in the morning I thought I was pretty beautiful.'" Generally, however, Faye was happier when, in the years ahead, the studio did away with her platinum-blonde image and allowed her to look more like a natural "girl next door."
One year (and four films) after her debut, Faye starred in a new movie version of the "Scandals" entitled George White's 1935 Scandals. For that film, she was top-billed for the first time. A third "Scandals" picture, released in 1945 by RKO, was made without Faye's involvement.
Look for Shirley Temple in the number "Following in Mother's Footsteps."
Producer: George White
Director: Thornton Freeland, Harry Lachman, George White
Screenplay: George White, Jack Yellen
Cinematography: Lee Garmes, George Schneiderman
Film Editing: Paul Weatherwax
Cast: Rudy Vallee (Jimmy Martin), Jimmy Durante (Happy Donnelly), Alice Faye (Mona Vale), Adrienne Ames (Barbara Loraine), Cliff Edwards (Stew Hart), Gregory Ratoff (Nicholas Mitwoch), Dixie Dunbar (Patsy Day), William Bailey (Harold Bestry).
by Jeremy Arnold
W. Franklyn Moshier, The Alice Faye Movie Book
Jane Lenz Elder, Alice Faye: A Life Beyond the Silver Screen