The Best Things in Life Are Free
Cast & Crew
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.
Patty Lou Hudson
Julie Van Zandt
Denice De Lacy
Ann B. Davis
Betsy Jones Moreland
John De Cuir
Paul S. Fox
Harry M. Leonard
Walter M. Scott
E. Clayton Ward
Lyle R. Wheeler
Best Music Original Dramatic Score
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.
Released in United States Fall September 1956
Released in United States Fall September 1956