Cast & Crew
After his latest musical revue flops, Broadway producer Robert Hunt reveals to his dim-witted assistant Parky how he made money by tricking four different backers into investing in the show for eighty-five per cent of the profits each. To assure a flop and therefore profits for himself, Hunt threw out all of the good numbers in the revue and replaced them with inferior ones. Now hounded by creditors, Hunt prepares to drop out of the business until chorus girl Patricia Harrington offers him $15,000 to produce her boyfriend Jimmy Thompson's show, "New Faces." Unable to resist the money, Hunt agrees and begins casting the worst acts in New York. When Elaine Dorset, the disgruntled star of his last revue, threatens to expose his fraud, however, Hunt suddenly "takes ill" and abandons the show to Wallington Wedge, a would-be producer who has already lost most of his money to Hunt. Unaware of Hunt's scheming, Wedge fires the bad performers, including Seymore Seymore, a sincere but untalented singing magician. Then to Jimmy and Patricia's delight, he casts a variety of outstanding performers, including Seymore's girl friend Suzy and, in the show's lead, Patricia. During rehearsals, however, Elaine informs Wedge of Hunt's plot and, intimating that Wedge will now be responsible to the backers, convinces him to re-think his strategy. Wedge, who has gone broke trying to make money in the stock market, consequently re-casts the show, further confusing Patricia and Jimmy. On the way to an Atlantic City preview, Patricia pleads with Wedge to change the revue's lineup once again, and in spite of the presence of the backers on the train, he relents. As the show unfolds, the backers gather backstage, where they eventually deduce Hunt's fraud. After a heated confrontation, Jimmy convinces the backers to divide the profits evenly, and everyone, including Seymore, whose impromptu number was the revue's surprise comedy hit, leaves satisfied.
Harry C. Bradley
The Four Playboys
The Rio Brothers
Lowe, Hite & Stanley
The Three Chocolateers
Mary Frances Gifford
Mary Louise Smith
Irv S. Brecher
Samuel J. Briskin
Howard J. Brown
Philip G. Epstein
J. Roy Hunt
Van Nest Polglase
Vernon L. Walker
New Faces of 1937
New Faces of 1937 was Ann Miller's first film under contract at RKO. Miller, born Johnnie Lucille Collier in Texas in 1923, had been dancing since she was three. When she was 11, she moved with her mother to California, changed her name, and eked out a living dancing in nightclubs and scoring a few bit parts in the movies. Two years later, she was offered a contract to appear at a San Francisco nightclub, and was an immediate hit. Lucille Ball, then an RKO starlet, saw the show, and she and an RKO talent scout arranged for a screen test for Miller at the studio. RKO signed her to a contract, with the 14-year-old dancer claiming to be 18, and providing a phony birth certificate to prove it. Miller makes her featured appearance near the end of New Faces of 1937, introduced with a reference to her nightclub success. She twirls out a sensational routine, full of the spins and fast taps that would become her trademark. Audiences and critics, having endured several mediocre musical numbers, sat up and took notice. "Ann Miller doing good taps that drew a salvo at this screening," the Variety critic noted. In her next film, Stage Door (1937), Miller got a character to play, Ginger Rogers' dance partner, and some wisecracks to sling. And in her following picture, Radio City Revels (1938), RKO gave her star billing.
Milton Berle had one of his best movie roles in New Faces of 1937. Berle had been a child actor in silent films before moving into theater and vaudeville, where he became a headliner. By the mid-1930s, he was appearing regularly on radio, and becoming well known nationally. New Faces of 1937 was his first film as an adult performer, and gave him one of his best film roles, playing one of the duped investors who becomes the show's producer. It also features a classic Berle vaudeville skit, a hilarious stockbroker routine that's full of the shtick that would become his trademark as a television performer. The following year, Berle co-starred with Ann Miller in Radio City Revels, but appeared infrequently in films thereafter, devoting himself to radio in the 1930s and 40s. It was one of those radio shows, The Texaco Star Theater (1948), that launched Berle on his most successful career path, when he became the host of the television version of the show.
Harriet Hilliard, the leading lady of New Faces of 1937, would also go on to a major television career, as Harriet Nelson, wife of Ozzie and mother of David and Ricky, in the TV version of her real-life family. Hilliard was a band singer who joined Ozzie Nelson's orchestra in 1932, and married Nelson in 1935, appearing occasionally in films such as Follow the Fleet (1936), until the radio series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1944), and the later television version of it, became her full-time job.
Two comics who are top-billed in New Faces of 1937 are almost unknown to today's audiences. But in the mid-30s, radio comedian Joe Penner (who plays Seymore) was one of the most popular stars in the country, and his trademark expression, "Wanna buy a duck?" was a national catchphrase. Elizabeth McLeod, in her book, Radio's Forgotten Years: Tuning Thru the Great Depression compares Penner's appeal to Pee Wee Herman's, and notes that Penner remained popular with children until his early death of a heart attack in 1941, at the age of 36.
The comedian billed as "Parkyakarkus" (real name Harry Einstein) has left a more lasting comic legacy, though his name may be unfamiliar. He developed the character of Parkyakarkus, a Greek diner owner, on the Eddie Cantor radio show, and his "Parky" character in New Faces of 1937 was a variation on it. During the making of the film, he met Thelma Leeds, who played Elaine. They got married and she retired to raise their three sons two of whom followed in their father's footsteps: writer-director-comedian Albert Brooks, and writer-comedian Bob Einstein (AKA Super Dave Osborne). Parky died with his boots on in 1958, having just delivered a comedy routine at a Friars Club roast of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
New Faces of 1937 did not do well at the box office, so RKO scrapped plans for a series. But the film remains a fascinating time capsule of 1930s entertainment, and provides a dazzling debut for one of the best dancers to ever appear in musical films.
Director: Leigh Jason
Producer: Edward Small
Screenplay: Nat Perrin, Philip G. Epstein, Irv S. Brecher, Harold Kussell, Harry Clork, Howard J. Green
Cinematography: J. Roy Hunt
Editor: George Crone
Costume Design: Edward Stevenson
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Music: Lew Brown, Sammy Fain, Walter Bullock, Harold Spina, Ben Pollack, Harry James
Cast: Joe Penner (Seymore Seymore), Milton Berle (Wallington "Wally" Wedge), Parkyakarkus, Harriet Hilliard (Patricia Harrington), William Brady (Jimmy Thompson), Jerome Cowan (Robert Hunt), Thelma Leeds (Elaine Dorset), Lorraine Krueger (Suzy), Ann Miller (Dance Specialty).
by Margarita Landazuri
New Faces of 1937
The working title of this was Young People. David Freedman, who died in December 1936, was a successful radio writer who worked extensively with Eddie Cantor. According to a November 1936 Hollywood Reporter news item, Joseph Santley was first slated to direct the picture and went to New York with writer Nat Perrin to "comb nightclubs, cafes, radio programs, little theaters and amateur shows for promising unknowns." A March 1937 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that RKO had signed Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra to record music for the film, but the exact nature of their contribution to the production, if any, has not been determined. In the film, Eddie Rio, of the Rio Brothers, performs a pantomime of a woman taking a bath. According to MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, this skit caused the PCA to reject the picture on June 15, 1937 for "vulgarity." By June 19, 1937, however, the film was approved by the censor. The vaudeville team of Lowe, Hite & Stanley consisted of a dwarf, a normal-sized man and a "giant." In the film, they perform a tap dance number.
New Faces of 1937 marked the sound, feature-film debut of actor-comedian Milton Berle (1908-2002). At the time of this production, Berle was a regular performer on the CBS radio show Community Sing. According to Variety, Tommy Mack was a featured player with Berle. Bert Gordon was a featured player on Eddie Cantor's radio program, which was sponsored by Texaco Oil. On Cantor's show, he portrayed the same "mad Russian" character that he played in this film. Harry Einstein also became known on Cantor's show with his Greek character "Parkyakarkus," a stage name he eventually adopted as his own. In 1937, Joe Penner had his own show on radio, which was sponsored by Cocomalt. The Four Playboys performed on Ben Bernie's radio program, according to Variety. Hollywood Reporter production charts and news items add Judge Hugo Straight and comic dancers Buster West and Melissa Mason to the cast, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed.
Modern sources state that the reactions of the public as well as the distributors to the film, which was supposed to showcase RKO's new talent, were so negative that RKO cancelled plans to do a sequel called New Faces of 1938. Although not a direct remake, Mel Brooks's 1967 Embassy Pictures release, The Producers, which starred Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, featured the same plot premise as used in this film (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70; F6.3933).
Released in United States 1937
Released in United States 1937