Golden Girl (1951)
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Golden Girl (1951) was a not completely factual biopic of the 19th century actress Lotta Crabtree, and her rise to fame during the 1860s. In the title role of the golden girl was Mitzi Gaynor, with support from Dale Robertson, Dennis Day, Una Merkel, and future head Mouseketeer (and writer of the Mickey Mouse Club theme song) Jimmie Dodd. The producer was vaudeville, radio and stage star George Jessel, most famous for his emcee talents, who had gotten Gaynor her first screen test a few years before - which had led to her contract at Twentieth Century-Fox.
Golden Girl, Gaynor's third film and her first starring role, was a typical Technicolor musical produced by Fox in the late 40s-early 50s; a time when audiences were being lured away from theaters by the new invention of television. To compete, films had to be big and splashy and in color. Golden Girl fit the bill nicely. Gaynor, with her upbeat personality and singing and dancing talent that calls to mind a less hyperactive Betty Hutton, is given a chance to shine as the up-and-coming superstar. Robertson played the dashing Confederate spy who she thinks she loves, and singer Dennis Day, a long-time cast member of The Jack Benny Show, played the plain but good-hearted guy who loves her. The film was directed by veteran Lloyd Bacon, from a story by Albert Lewis and Edward Thompson, and adapted for the screen by Charles O'Neal, with choreography by Seymour Felix. The original song, "Never," written by Lionel Newman and Eliot Daniel, and sung by Dennis Day in the film, earned the film its only Academy Award nomination.
Golden Girl, while a pleasant entertainment, was not a smash hit. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times, who could be harsh on occasion, wrote, "Judging by theatrical legends and hard facts, Lotta Crabtree, the Golden Girl who charmed the customers from coast to coast during and after the Civil War, was a fascinating figure. But in Golden Girl which came to the Roxy yesterday, the singer-dancer-actress is hardly fascinating but a fine figure of a girl, nevertheless. Beyond that, the company, which obviously was not attempting a definitive biography, only has fashioned an uninspired musical, lavishly daubed in Technicolor, whose music is not memorable...George Jessel, who produced, and a covey of three scenarists were concerned only with their heroine's ascent from callow girlhood in Rabbit Creek, Calif., in 1861 to her triumph in New York's Niblo's Garden some four years later...Mitzi Gaynor is youthful and fresh as the noted music hall artist. Perhaps too much so, but she does turn in a refreshing caper or two....Dennis Day is on hand to admire Miss Gaynor from afar and to lift his high tenor in song in such numbers as California Moon and Sunday Mornin', and Una Merkel adds a standard portrayal as her disapproving mother."
Producer: George Jessel
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Screenplay: Charles O'Neal, Walter Bullock, Gladys Lehman (screenplay); Albert Lewis, Arthur Lewis, Edward Thompson (story)
Cinematography: Charles G. Clarke
Art Direction: Leland Fuller, Lyle Wheeler
Music: Lionel Newman
Film Editing: Louis Loeffler
Cast: Mitzi Gaynor (Lotta Crabtree), Dale Robertson (Tom Richmond), Dennis Day (Mart Taylor), James Barton (Pa Crabtree), Una Merkel (Mary Ann Crabtree), Raymond Walburn (Cornelius), Gene Sheldon (Sam Jordan), Carmen D'Antonio (Lola Montez).
by Lorraine LoBianco
SOURCES: Crowther, Bosley, The New York Times 21 Nov 51 The Internet Movie Database Parish, James Robert and Pitts, Michael R. Hollywood Songsters: Singers Who Act and Actors Who Sing: Act, Volume 2 VIEW TCMDb ENTRY