I Dream Too Much
Friday December, 26 2014 at 06:00 AM
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I Dream Too Much (1935) is memorable as the first of only three films in which the coloratura soprano Lily Pons would appear. Pons, who had been an overnight success at the Metropolitan opera in 1931 (and was credited with saving the Met during the Great Depression), was hired by RKO as their answer to Paramount's films starring another opera star, Grace Moore, and MGM's films starring Jeanette MacDonald. While Pons never achieved the success that Moore and especially MacDonald enjoyed in the movies, her extraordinary voice made her a star for decades on the stage, radio and television. She was the first soprano who could hit the high F note that composer Delibes used in his opera Lakme and she could hold a high D for nearly a minute.
. For the music, producer Pandro Berman hired the legendary Jerome Kern at what was in 1935 an impressive salary. Gerald Bordman wrote in his biography of Kern, "[Kern] accepted a new offer to write music for opera star Lily Pons' film debut. Kern apparently stipulated that Dorothy Fields serve as lyricist. Accordingly, Pandro Berman wired her in New York on May 28 offering her the Kern assignment at $1000 a week. Because she had to begin her collaboration by June 5, Berman provided air fare. Dorothy accepted with alacrity. Kern signed on June 3...The composer was to be paid $5000 per week for four weeks. If additional work were necessary Kern would be available for a fifth week at no compensation, but thereafter any further weeks would again be at the rate of $5000 each." Although the famed film composer Max Steiner (who would become a fixture at Warner Brothers later in the decade) thought he was to do the orchestration, Kern wanted Robert Russell Bennett. As Bordman wrote, "Poor Steiner received a second slap when as star of Love Song [the film's original working title], Lily Pons demanded that Andre Kostelanetz [who Pons would be married to from 1938-58] conduct the operatic arias she was to sing in the picture."
To star as Pons' husband, RKO borrowed the up-and-coming Henry Fonda from Walter Wanger's production company and in a small part, one of their newest bit-players, a then-platinum blonde named Lucille Ball. As Kathleen Brady wrote in her biography of Lucille Ball, Lucille , "Lucille replaced Betty Grable, an eighteen-year-old stock player who had also been on the Goldwyn lot [Ball had previously worked at the Goldwyn studios], in the minor role of Gwendolyn Dilley, a bleached-blonde gum-chewer visiting Paris with her parents and little brother. Her one line was: "Culture is making my feet hurt", a gem that she delivered with conviction."
Ball may have been a bit player in this film, but right before filming began, she briefly dated the star of I Dream Too Much , Henry Fonda. Ball later remembered that particular night, which was a double-date with Ginger Rogers and Jimmy Stewart, "We worked long and hard, Ginger and I, in front of our mirrors. We used eye shadow, plenty of mascara, pancake [makeup], deep red lipstick, rouge, everything we'd been taught in the studio cosmetic department. Then we went out to Brentwood, that's where the boys lived. My date was Fonda. Ginger's date was [Jimmy] Stewart. Henry cooked the dinner, and after we ate, Ginger and the boys turned on the radio in the living room and Ginger tried to teach them the carioca. I was left doing the dishes. When I finished, we went out dancing at the Coconut Grove. Freddie Martin's orchestra. There we were, Ginger and I in our long organdy dresses, looking just as summery and smooth as we could. The date stretched into daybreak. We'd had a hilarious, wonderful evening that came to an end at Barney's Beanery which still exists where Santa Monica [Boulevard] twists and goes east into North Hollywood. Well, it was dark and we went in and light when we came out. Hank and Jim took one look at us and said, 'What happened?' We said, 'What do you mean what happened?' And Jimmy Stewart said, 'Well, your nighttime makeup is on awful heavy for this time of the morning.' And Henry Fonda said, 'Yuk!'". Fonda, in retrospect, has his own thoughts. "Shit!" he says, "if I hadn't said, 'Yuk!' If I'd behaved myself, they might have named that studio Henrylu not Desilu." Twenty-one years after I Dream Too Much , "bit player" Lucille Ball bought RKO with her husband Desi Arnaz, and renamed it Desilu. When the couple divorced in the 1960's, Ball bought out Arnaz and became the first woman to run a major studio.
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Director: John Cromwell
Screenplay: Elsie Finn (story), David G. Wittels (story), Edmund North
Cinematography: David Abel
Film Editing: William Morgan
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Lily Pons (Annette Monard Street), Henry Fonda (Jonathan Street), Eric Blore (Roger Briggs), Osgood Perkins (Paul Darcy), Lucien Littlefield (Hubert Dilley), Lucille Ball (Gwendolyn Dilley).
BW-97m. Closed captioning.
by Lorraine LoBianco
Fonda: My Life by Henry Fonda
Jerome Kern by Gerald Bordman
Lucille by Kathleen Brady
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