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 Here Comes the Groom

Here Comes the Groom

Frank Capra, one of Hollywood's top directors in the 1930s and 1940s, had returned from World War II to find the film industry much changed. He formed his own production company, Liberty Films, and began producing his films independently. In 1950, Liberty was sold to Paramount, and Capra's first film under that agreement was Riding High (1950), starring Bing Crosby, a remake of Capra's Broadway Bill (1934). Here Comes the Groom (1951), Capra's second and final film under the Paramount contract, also starred Crosby, as a foreign correspondent who wants to adopt two French orphans. In order to do so he must marry. But the road to the altar with his long-suffering fiancée, played by Jane Wyman, is paved with obstacles, among them Wyman's rich boss (Franchot Tone), whom she's decided to marry instead.

In his autobiography, The Name Above the Title, Frank Capra writes "Here Comes the Groom was noteworthy to me because of a song, the launching of a fourteen-year-old Italian girl's career, and the charming chemistry that developed from the performances of Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman." The song was "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," written by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael for Betty Hutton to sing in a musical biography of silent star Mabel Normand. That film was never made, and the bouncy song had been languishing in Paramount's vaults. Capra and Crosby both liked the song, and the director dreamed up a delightfully offbeat production number around it. Crosby and Wyman began the song in an upstairs office, continued down the hall to the elevator, into the lobby, out of the building, and down the street. To keep the spontaneity, the number was filmed live, with the orchestra playing in a nearby soundstage, and Crosby and Wyman listening through tiny transmitters in their ears, and singing live. Capra claimed in his autobiography that it was done in one take. The tune won an Academy Award as best song.

Jane Wyman, who had begun her career as a chorus girl and had a fine singing voice, was up to the task of singing with Crosby. She had been playing drama recently, and had won an Oscar® for her performance in Johnny Belinda (1948), but proved an excellent musical and romantic onscreen partner for Crosby. They followed this pairing with another Paramount musical together, Just for You (1952).

Wyman wasn't the only co-star who was playing against type in Here Comes the Groom. Tall, elegant Alexis Smith usually played icy upper-class types in dramatic films. She played a prominent socialite in Here Comes the Groom as well, but with a twist. As Franchot Tone's distant cousin, who's secretly in love with him, Smith learns to loosen up (with Crosby's help), and turns in a lively comic performance that culminates in a rowdy cat fight with Wyman's character.

Besides "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," there were two other standout musical numbers in Here Comes the Groom. One of them features the young Italian girl Capra mentioned in his autobiography, Anna Maria Alberghetti. Early in the film, playing a blind orphan, Alberghetti sings the aria "Caro Nome," from Verdi's opera, Rigoletto. Although Here Comes the Groom's credits read "Introducing Anna Maria Alberghetti," she had actually appeared in the film version of Gian Carlo Menotti's opera, The Medium (1951). But that film was little seen, and Here Comes the Groom was the movie that really started her film career. The other outstanding musical number in Here Comes the Groom is "Misto Cristofo Columbo," an all-star jam session with Crosby and guest stars Dorothy Lamour, Louis Armstrong, and Phil Harris, all playing USO entertainers.

Capra, who had begun his career in silent films, also gave cameos and bit parts in Here Comes the Groom to several silent screen actors, including Franklyn Farnum, Julia Faye, and Mack Sennett veterans Chester Conklin and Jimmy Finlayson. Playing a larger role as one of Tone's stuffy relatives was H.B. Warner, who had played Christ in The King of Kings (1927), and had supporting roles in three previous Capra films, including the grieving pharmacist in It's a Wonderful Life (1946).

Here Comes the Groom was a hit with critics and with audiences. The film also received another Oscar® nomination, for its screenplay. But Capra was no longer affiliated with any studio, and with no film offers forthcoming, he turned to television, directing four one-hour science programs. He would make only two more feature films, A Hole in the Head (1959) and Pocketful of Miracles (1961) before retiring.

Director: Frank Capra
Producer: Frank Capra
Screenplay: Virginia Van Upp, Liam O'Brien, Myles Connolly, from a story by Robert Riskin & Liam O'Brien
Cinematography: George Barnes
Editor: Ellsworth Hoagland
Costume Design: Edith Head
Art Direction: Hal Pereira, Earl Hedrick
Music: songs by Hoagy Carmichael & Johnny Mercer, Jay Livingston & Ray Evans
Principal Cast: Bing Crosby (Peter Garvey), Jane Wyman (Emmadel Jones), Alexis Smith (Winifred Stanley), Franchot Tone (Wilbur Stanley), James Barton (Pa Jones), Robert Keith (George Degnan), Jacques Gencel (Robert Dulac), Beverly Washburn (Suzi).

by Margarita Landazuri



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