The Best Things in Life Are Free


1h 44m 1956

Brief Synopsis

Ray Henderson joins Buddy De Sylva and Lew Brown to form a successful 1920s musical show writing team. They soon have several hits on Broadway but De Sylva's personal ambition leads to friction as the other two increasingly feel left out of things.

Film Details

Release Date
Sep 1956
Premiere Information
New York opening: 28 Sep 1956
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
9,400ft (12 reels)

Synopsis

In Atlantic City in the 1920s, music teacher Ray Henderson comes to visit his sister-in-law, actress Kitty Kane, who is rehearsing for a new musical revue. When Ray sits down at the piano to play a tune, songwriters Buddy "B. G." DeSylva and Lew Brown mistake him for the piano player sent by the union and ask him to accompany them. Although the show's director throws out the song, Lew and Buddy are pleased by Ray's performance and hire him as their accompanist. Together, Lew, the crude man of the streets; Buddy, the ambitious social climber; and Ray, the level-headed family man, work on a new tune to debut in the revue. After the show bombs, the three, broke but still determined to become successful songwriters, return to New York, where Ray sells one of Lew's songs that he has reworked. Buoyed by his success, Ray decides to give up teaching and move his family to New York, and Lew and Buddy make him their partner. Over the next few years, the trio has a string of hits, all starring Kitty, who has fallen in love with Buddy. Anxious to produce his own show, Buddy accepts the financial backing of a gangster named Manny, who insists that his no-talent girl friend, Perky Nichols, star. When Buddy discovers that Perky can neither sing, dance nor act, he fires her, provoking Manny to beat him up. Risking his own life, the pugnacious Lew slugs Manny and warns him to leave Buddy alone. On opening night, the boys worry that Manny will sabotage the theater, but the show goes on without a hitch. Later, at the after-show party, Buddy kisses Kitty, but their moment of intimacy is broken by a phone call from Al Jolson, who demands that the boys immediately write him a song for his new picture. To appease Jolson, they decide to quickly pen a lousy song, and lock themselves in a room. Shut out and ignored, Kitty leaves in a huff. Soon after, the morning newspaper is delivered with a rave review for their new show and a bulletin detailing Manny's murder. At Ray and his wife Maggie's anniversary dinner, Buddy, fresh from a socialite's yacht, pays an unexpected visit. The warm family celebration causes Buddy to consider settling down, but Ray advises him that marriage is not in his nature. Soon after, Buddy unilaterally announces that the three of them are launching a publishing firm and going into motion pictures. Although Lew resents Buddy not consulting them about business decisions, the three are soon on their way to Hollywood. When Buddy invites Kitty to attend the premiere of their new movie, she reluctantly agrees. Buddy, preoccupied with Twentieth Century-Fox studio head Winfield Sheehan, stands Kitty up and at the party afterward, Sheehan monopolizes Buddy. When Ray and Lew inadvertently discover that Buddy plans to continue producing pictures, they angrily barge into his meeting with Sheehan. After Sheehan's pushy assistant tries to strong-arm Lew, Lew slugs him and Buddy shoves Lew out of the room. After Lew and Ray storm out of the party, Kitty chastises Buddy for his callous treatment of Lew and then says goodbye to him for good. Their partnership dissolved, Ray and Lew decide to write a new show by themselves. After the tryout in Atlantic City flops, Buddy phones Kitty from Los Angeles to inquire about their welfare. After sobbing into the phone and hanging up, Kitty decides to go outside and get some fresh air. In the hotel hallway, she encounters Buddy, who explains he was just pretending to call from California to see if a reconciliation would be possible. Entering the hotel room, Buddy announces that he has quit his job as producer and then proposes changes to improve the revue. After the show becomes a hit, the three renew their partnership.

Cast

Gordon Macrae

Buddy "B. G." DeSylva

Dan Dailey

Ray Henderson

Ernest Borgnine

Lew Brown

Sheree North

Kitty Kane

Tommy Noonan

Carl Frisbee

Murvyn Vye

Manny

Phyllis Avery

Maggie Henderson

Larry Keating

Winfield Sheehan

Tony Galento

Fingers

Norman Brooks

Al Jolson

Jacques D'amboise

Specialty dancer

Roxanne Arlen

Perky Nichols

Byron Palmer

Hollywood star

Linda Brace

Jeannie Henderson

Patty Lou Hudson

Susie Henderson

Julie Van Zandt

Miss Patricia Van Seckland

Larry Kerr

Brewer

Charles Victor

Andrews

Eugene Borden

Louis

Harold Miller

Percy, the reporter

Emily Belser

Photographer

Paul Glass

Piano player

Bill Foster

Dance director

Sam Schwartz

Bootlegger

Bob Hopkins

Broadway character

Peter Mamakos

Henchman

Ric Roman

Henchman

Ward Wood

Henchman

Marjorie May

Show girl

Lois Barnes

Show girl

Denice De Lacy

Show girl/Guest at party

Jack Boyle

Dance director

Joe Forte

Man in theater lobby

Peter Leeds

Genius

Claire Kelly

Chorus girl

Barrie Chase

Chorus girl

Adele August

Chorus girl

Sally Todd

Chorus girl

Barbara Wilson

Chorus girl

Marcoreta Hellman

Wardrobe woman

Cecil Weston

Wardrobe woman

Barbara Darrow

Brenda

Billy Wayne

Props man

Mary Thomas

Girl at party

Patricia Macmahon

Girl at party

Juanita Close

Telephone operator

Clancy Cooper

Bootlegger

Dean Marlo

Newsboy

Paul Grant

Usher

Harvey Daniels

Usher

Gail Bonney

Woman in back row

Ann B. Davis

Hattie

Betsy Jones Moreland

Secretary

Norma Yost

Theresa

James Gonzales

Movie director

Richard Collier

Pawnbroker

Mary Rodman

Girl in low-cut dress

Suzanne Dalbert

Hostess

Gordon Richards

Butler

Lisa Davis

Limp girl at party

Steffi Sidney

Dancer in marathon

Rachel Stephens

Society reporter

Yvonne White

Natalie Masters

Film Details

Release Date
Sep 1956
Premiere Information
New York opening: 28 Sep 1956
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
9,400ft (12 reels)

Award Nominations

Best Music Original Dramatic Score

1957

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The film opens with the following written prologue: "In the 1920s, three men from different parts of the country came together. Despite the difference in their backgrounds, or perhaps because of it, when those men became partners-a great talent was born. For seven years they wrote the song hits of the nation. This is the story of those years and those songs." In real life, Lew Brown (1893-1955) and Ray Henderson (1896-1970) formed a song-writing partnership in 1922, and were joined by Buddy DeSylva (1859-1950) in 1925. Together, the team wrote many hit musical revues and popular songs. DeSylva left the group in 1935 to produce films. From 1941-1944 he served as a producer and then executive producer at Paramount Pictures. In 1945, he started his own independent production company, B. G. DeSylva Productions, and eventually became the chairman of the board of Capitol Records.
       A December 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that Frank Tashlin was to direct the picture and that Twentieth Century-Fox was negotiating with M-G-M to borrow Gene Kelly to play DeSylva. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, in November 1955, John Monks, Jr. was hired to polish the script. A February 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that Richard Morris was to do a script polish. Their contribution to the final film has not been determined, however. Although a February 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item adds that Murray Ritter was to work on the music, he is not credited onscreen or by contemporary sources. Although Hollywood Reporter news items add Roxanne Arlen, Marjorie Jackson, Lana Baschama, Carol Leigh, Leon Tyler, Bob Fuller, Ivan Anderson and Stephen Papich to the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in the Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture) category.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall September 1956

CinemaScope

Released in United States Fall September 1956