Lady Be Good


1h 52m 1941
Lady Be Good

Brief Synopsis

Married songwriters almost split up while putting on a big show.

Photos & Videos

Lady Be Good - Kapralik Trade Ad

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Release Date
Sep 1941
Premiere Information
New York opening: 18 Sep 1941
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10,029ft (12 reels)

Synopsis

Lyricist Dixie Donegan testifies at her divorce hearing that she first met her husband, Eddie Crane, when she was a waitress in a diner and he was a struggling composer: Although Eddie's current lyricist does not like his new song, Dixie is inspired to write some words and the song becomes the first of a string of hits. After Dixie testifies that they soon married, her friend, Broadway dancing star Marilyn Marsh, testifies that the couple was very happy until success caused Eddie to go "Park Avenue." Dixie, on the other hand, prefers their loyal friends, such as Marilyn, music publisher Max Milton, song plugger Joe "Red" Willet and singer Buddy Crawford. One night, after a party at which the differences between what Dixie and Eddie want become very obvious, Dixie suggests that they divorce, and he agrees. As Eddie does not contest the divorce, after Marilyn's testimony, Judge Murdock grants the decree. Dixie then moves in with Marilyn and tries to find a new partner, while Eddie continues to entertain his society friends.

One day, Eddie calls Dixie and asks her to come over, and she rushes to their old apartment, only to discover that, instead of a reconciliation, Eddie wants her to help him replace the servants who have just quit. Dixie then goads him into finishing a song, and she adds lyrics. Soon Eddie becomes jealous of Buddy, who is seeing Dixie, and gets into a fight with him at their club. Later, after Buddy sings the new song on a radio program broadcast from a nightclub, Eddie joins their friends, but leaves when Dixie pays too much attention to Buddy. Feeling remorseful the next day, Eddie takes flowers to Dixie, but finds that Buddy has already filled the apartment with blooms. Eddie then suggests that they continue to be a team, and after they write the tune, "Lady Be Good," it becomes the number one song on the Hit Parade for weeks.

Some time later, after attending a banquet in their honor, Eddie asks to reconcile, but Dixie refuses and he incorrectly assumes that it is because of Buddy. Hoping to help a reconciliation along, Marilyn suggests to Buddy, who is actually in love with her, that he try to make Eddie jealous by sending Dixie a diamond ring. When Dixie receives the huge ring, she thinks that Eddie sent it and is embarrassed when Buddy arrives and says that they are now engaged. Meanwhile, Marilyn calls Eddie to tell him about the ring and he threatens to bring a gun over. After he arrives, the mixup is eventually sorted out and when Dixie and Eddie are finally alone, they admit their love for each other and decide to marry again that night.

Driving back from the ceremony, in the back seat of the car, Marilyn finally lets Buddy know that she also loves him and they become engaged. Meanwhile, in the front seat, Dixie realizes that Eddie has not changed and tells him that they can be partners, but not live together as husband and wife until after they finish their new show. Eddie refuses, and six months later, Dixie is again before Judge Murdock, relating the details of her most recent separation from Eddie. This time, Murdock refuses to grant the divorce because he knows that Eddie and Dixie are still in love. After Marilyn, Buddy and Dixie leave, Eddie rushes into the courtroom to contest the divorce, and Murdock leads him to believe that the divorce was granted. Accompanied by Red and his girl friend Lull, Eddie follows the others to an inn, then finds Dixie alone on the terrace. He begs her to marry him again and is shocked when she says that she will never remarry but will live with him. She then embraces Eddie and tells him just to keep thinking that they aren't really married.

Photo Collections

Lady Be Good - Kapralik Trade Ad
Here is a trade ad for MGM's Lady Be Good (1941), starring Eleanor Powell, Robert Young, and Ann Sothern. The art is by mixed-media caricaturist Jaques Kapralik. Trade Ads were placed by studios in industry magazines like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Release Date
Sep 1941
Premiere Information
New York opening: 18 Sep 1941
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10,029ft (12 reels)

Award Wins

Best Song

1941

Articles

Lady Be Good


Songwriters Dixie Donegan (Ann Sothern) and Eddie Crane (Robert Young) make beautiful music together; that is, until they get married in Lady Be Good (1941), an enjoyable musical from the Arthur Freed unit at MGM featuring such wonderful songs as "You'll Never Know," "Fascinating Rhythm" and that year's Oscar-winning tune, "The Last Time I Saw Paris" by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. When you find yourself humming the title number for days after you watch the movie, you'll understand why MGM shelled out $40,000 for rights to the catchy music by George and Ira Gershwin. It was one of only two songs that remained from the original 1924 stage version starring Fred Astaire and his sister Adele (the other was "Fascinating Rhythm"). Those songs proved to be the only things carried over from the show, as the movie was completely re-written for the big screen.

Ann Sothern, best known for her brassy character parts in movies like the Maisie (1939) series and A Letter to Three Wives (1949), shows off her vocal talents by singing several of the movie's songs. Robert Young, who went on to television fame in Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby, M.D. has fun with his role of Dixie's contrary on-again/off-again husband. Tap-dancing powerhouse Eleanor Powell struts her stuff in a supporting role as dancer Marilyn Marsh, who tries to get the couple back together. Her first big number has her practicing an elaborate dance routine with a scene-stealing dog. MGM had auditioned several trained canines for the number, but none could do all of the necessary tricks. Eventually, Powell set out to find her own four-legged dancing partner, eventually buying a dog from a prop man on the set, and trained it for the dance sequence herself. Her second showstopper, "Fascinating Rhythm," highlights Powell at her toe-tapping best amidst an elaborate set including eight grand pianos and 100 cane-wielding male dancers. Legendary choreographer Busby Berkeley, who staged all the numbers in Lady Be Good, called Powell "by far the finest female dancer we ever had in films, and a very hardworking perfectionist." The demanding "Fascinating Rhythm" number left her battered and bruised, but Berkeley was quick to note that she never complained in her quest to get it exactly right. Berkeley himself was an early candidate to direct the entire picture, but Ann Sothern and Powell were against it, possibly because of an unpleasant prior working experience. So, the directing reins ultimately went to Norman Z. McLeod.

The song "The Last Time I Saw Paris" caused some controversy when it won the Academy Award for Best Song that year. Long before Lady Be Good came to be, lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II had been working on a Broadway musical called Sunny River, but was distracted by the upsetting news of the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II. In less than an hour he had the words that expressed his bittersweet sentiment over his last trip to the City of Light. He sent the lyrics to Kern who promptly added music. The song struck a chord with audiences and became an instant hit. Since it was essentially borrowed for Lady Be Good and not written expressly for the film, some members of the songwriting community grumbled that it should not have been eligible for an Academy Award. Nevertheless, the song retained its award and remains an understated highlight of this movie.

Producer: Arthur Freed
Director: Norman Z. McLeod
Screenplay: Jack McGowan
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Cinematography: George J. Folsey, Oliver T. Marsh
Costume Design: Adrian
Film Editing: Fredrick Y. Smith
Original Music: Jerome Kern
Principal Cast: Eleanor Powell (Marilyn Marsh), Ann Sothern (Dixie Donegan), Robert Young (Eddie Crane), Lionel Barrymore (Judge Murdock), John Carroll (Buddy Crawford).
BW-112m. Closed captioning.

By Andrea Foshee

Lady Be Good

Lady Be Good

Songwriters Dixie Donegan (Ann Sothern) and Eddie Crane (Robert Young) make beautiful music together; that is, until they get married in Lady Be Good (1941), an enjoyable musical from the Arthur Freed unit at MGM featuring such wonderful songs as "You'll Never Know," "Fascinating Rhythm" and that year's Oscar-winning tune, "The Last Time I Saw Paris" by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. When you find yourself humming the title number for days after you watch the movie, you'll understand why MGM shelled out $40,000 for rights to the catchy music by George and Ira Gershwin. It was one of only two songs that remained from the original 1924 stage version starring Fred Astaire and his sister Adele (the other was "Fascinating Rhythm"). Those songs proved to be the only things carried over from the show, as the movie was completely re-written for the big screen. Ann Sothern, best known for her brassy character parts in movies like the Maisie (1939) series and A Letter to Three Wives (1949), shows off her vocal talents by singing several of the movie's songs. Robert Young, who went on to television fame in Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby, M.D. has fun with his role of Dixie's contrary on-again/off-again husband. Tap-dancing powerhouse Eleanor Powell struts her stuff in a supporting role as dancer Marilyn Marsh, who tries to get the couple back together. Her first big number has her practicing an elaborate dance routine with a scene-stealing dog. MGM had auditioned several trained canines for the number, but none could do all of the necessary tricks. Eventually, Powell set out to find her own four-legged dancing partner, eventually buying a dog from a prop man on the set, and trained it for the dance sequence herself. Her second showstopper, "Fascinating Rhythm," highlights Powell at her toe-tapping best amidst an elaborate set including eight grand pianos and 100 cane-wielding male dancers. Legendary choreographer Busby Berkeley, who staged all the numbers in Lady Be Good, called Powell "by far the finest female dancer we ever had in films, and a very hardworking perfectionist." The demanding "Fascinating Rhythm" number left her battered and bruised, but Berkeley was quick to note that she never complained in her quest to get it exactly right. Berkeley himself was an early candidate to direct the entire picture, but Ann Sothern and Powell were against it, possibly because of an unpleasant prior working experience. So, the directing reins ultimately went to Norman Z. McLeod. The song "The Last Time I Saw Paris" caused some controversy when it won the Academy Award for Best Song that year. Long before Lady Be Good came to be, lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II had been working on a Broadway musical called Sunny River, but was distracted by the upsetting news of the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II. In less than an hour he had the words that expressed his bittersweet sentiment over his last trip to the City of Light. He sent the lyrics to Kern who promptly added music. The song struck a chord with audiences and became an instant hit. Since it was essentially borrowed for Lady Be Good and not written expressly for the film, some members of the songwriting community grumbled that it should not have been eligible for an Academy Award. Nevertheless, the song retained its award and remains an understated highlight of this movie. Producer: Arthur Freed Director: Norman Z. McLeod Screenplay: Jack McGowan Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Cinematography: George J. Folsey, Oliver T. Marsh Costume Design: Adrian Film Editing: Fredrick Y. Smith Original Music: Jerome Kern Principal Cast: Eleanor Powell (Marilyn Marsh), Ann Sothern (Dixie Donegan), Robert Young (Eddie Crane), Lionel Barrymore (Judge Murdock), John Carroll (Buddy Crawford). BW-112m. Closed captioning. By Andrea Foshee

Quotes

Trivia

For Eleanor Powell's dance-version of the song "Lady, Be Good", MGM auditioned several dogs, but none of them was able to do the required tricks. Finally, Powell bought a dog off a propman and trained it herself for several weeks so that the dance could be done as she wanted.

The song "The Last Time I Saw Paris" caused a lot of controversy when it won the Oscar for Best Song, because it was not written for this movie. After Tony Martin had a hit recording in 1940, MGM bought the rights to the song for use in this movie.

The original musical opened in New York on 1 December 1924, but this movie has a completely new story line and used only two of its songs.

Busby Berkeley was originally going to direct the entire film, but ended up only directing the musical numbers.

Notes

According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, M-G-M bought the rights to the George and Ira Gershwin musical Lady Be Good (New York, 1 December 1924) from Warner Bros. in October 1940. Only two of the play's songs, "Lady Be Good" and "Fascinating Rhythm," were retained for the film and an entirely new story was written. News items also note that Tony Martin was originally cast in the role of "Buddy Crawford." Martin's recording of "The Last Time I Saw Paris" had been a hit when the song was released in 1940. Oscar Hammerstein II's lyrics were written just after the fall of Paris to the Nazis. The song won an Oscar for Best Song, but, according to various news items, the award caused controversy because the song was not written specifically for the film but was purchased by M-G-M for use after it became popular. The songs that lost the award included "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "Blues in the Night."
       One of the film's musical numbers, "Your Words and My Music," was performed at one point in the film by Eleanor Powell and a dog called "Buttons." This number is frequently included in documentaries about film musicals. A montage, featuring stock footage of Paris, was shown while Ann Sothern sang "The Last Time I Saw Paris." An earlier film entitled Lady Be Good, released by Warner Bros.-First National, was directed by Richard Wallace and starred Jack Mulhall and Dorothy Mackaill (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.2930). That film bore no resemblance to either the original Broadway musical or the later M-G-M film.