On the Avenue
Cast & Crew
Roy Del Ruth
Commodore Caraway, one of the richest men in the world, his daughter Mimi and her suitor, explorer Frederick Sims, see themselves burlesqued in actor and author Gary Blake's On the Avenue Broadway musical revue. Backstage, Mimi slaps Gary and orders him to take the offending sketch out of the show. Planning to somehow get back at him, Mimi invites Gary for a supper date, but after dancing, hitting targets at a shooting gallery, having coffee and donuts at a diner and riding in a hansom cab through Central Park, they fall in love, and Gary promises to revise the skit. However, Gary's co-star, Mona Merrick, who also is in love with him, portrays Mimi in an even more insulting manner. In revenge, Mimi buys the production and, as a prank, after she invites New York's top entertainment columnists, she hires four hundred extras to sit throughout the theater and walk out during Gary's song and forces the Ritz Brothers to interrupt Gary's act with their shenanigans. After Gary rips up his contract and calls Mimi a selfish spoiled brat, she plans to marry Sims, who wants Mimi only for the Caraway money which he needs to finance his next expedition. Right before the wedding, Mona, realizing that Gary really loves Mimi, confesses her subterfuge to Mimi. Mimi's eccentric Aunt Fritz locks Mimi's father in a room, and Gary, impersonating the commodore, escorts Mimi into a taxi. After their marriage at City Hall, they return to the diner and order coffee and donuts.
Roy Del Ruth
E. E. Clive
William J. Scully
Darryl F. Zanuck
On the Avenue - Alice Faye in the 1937 Musical ON THE AVENUE on DVD
The Twentieth Century Fox production was actually the studio's biggest musical to date, and Dick Powell was brought in on loan from Warner Brothers. (He and Faye never co-starred again.) Irving Berlin's score is not his best but still features some good songs including "You're Laughing at Me," sung by Powell to Carroll, "He Ain't Got Rhythm," with some very impressive dancing from the Ritz Brothers (who otherwise wear out their welcome fast), "Slumming on Park Avenue," for which, Jane Lenz Elder has written, Faye's "legs deserved billing on their own," "This Year's Kisses," a lovely romantic ballad sung by Faye, and "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," sung by Powell. Recordings of the latter two songs reached #1 on the Hit Parade for three and six weeks, respectively. In 1940, Irving Berlin said, "I'd rather have Alice Faye introduce my songs than any other singer I know."
On the Avenue is not quite on the same plane as some of Faye's (or Powell's) other musicals but it does offer many pleasurable moments and a fine supporting cast. One funny sequence in a diner has Powell and Carroll riffing with diner owner Billy Gilbert and fellow patron Dewey Robinson. You'll never again hear anyone pronounce "asparagus" in quite the same way as does Gilbert. Also, George Barbier is very good as Carroll's father, and Sig Ruman makes for a slightly scary sight dressed in a skintight gym outfit - an image which unfortunately is not soon forgotten!
Tony Martin, who was dating Faye at this time and would soon marry her, later said, "She was a real nice girl, not one of these paint-and-powder dolls that were all over Hollywood then. Alice Faye was a nice person." Martin and Faye divorced in 1940, after which Faye married bandleader Phil Harris; they were still married when Harris died in 1995.
While Madeleine Carroll wins Dick Powell's heart at the end of On the Avenue, Alice Faye wins ours. Sweet yet sexy, she's much more appealing than Carroll (who is more of an icy beauty), and her aching reprise of "This Year's Kisses," in huge, sublime close-up, makes it easy to see why America fell in love with this girl-next-door.
On the Avenue is available as part of Fox Home Entertainment's The Alice Faye Collection, which also includes Lillian Russell (1940), That Night in Rio (1941), and The Gang's All Here (1943). Print quality varies widely from title to title, and while On the Avenue looks scratchier and more damaged than most of Fox's catalogue DVD transfers, it's still watchable.
The studio has served up a heaping of extras across all four discs. On the Avenue comes with an enthusiastic, scene-specific audio commentary from musical historian Miles Kreuger, a restoration comparison, a deleted scene with the Ritz Brothers, and a 19-minute featurette entitled Alice Faye - A Life On Screen. Interviewees include Faye's two daughters and various film historians including Kreuger and the author Jane Lenz Elder. Elder wrote a highly readable biography of Faye in 2002 called Alice Faye: A Life Beyond the Silver Screen. (Also worth seeking out is W. Franklyn Moshier's out-of-print The Alice Faye Movie Book, 1974.)
The featurette is awkwardly edited at times but does provide an interesting look at Faye's career, from her discovery by George White and Rudy Vallee in 1931 to her storming off the Fox lot in 1945 after she saw how Darryl Zanuck had cut her part to ribbons in Fallen Angel. She left the screening room, the lot, and Hollywood, planning never to come back, though she did return for one movie in 1962 (State Fair) and made three more film appearances in the 1970s. Especially welcome in the featurette are the gorgeous stills of Faye as well as clips from movies Fox hasn't yet issued on DVD - notably Hello Frisco, Hello (1943), which needs to be released! Hello Fox, hello! Are you listening?
For more information about On the Avenue, visit Fox Home Entertainment. To order On the Avenue, go to TCM Shopping.
by Jeremy Arnold
On the Avenue - Alice Faye in the 1937 Musical ON THE AVENUE on DVD
The title card in the opening credits reads, "Irving Berlin's On the Avenue." The film's working title was Out Front. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Berlin was paid $75,000 plus 10% of all gross proceeds in excess of $1,125,000 to write the musical numbers in the film. Although Berlin retained the rights to the songs, he agreed that he would not license others to use them for three years after the release of the film, and after three years, with the condition that the music be used only once in a film, only for incidental music and not as production numbers. According to a New York Times article, Berlin said that the germ of the song "You're Laughing at Me" was written as a verse in a 1927 song, which he felt was so bad that he did not publish it. Modern sources state that three Berlin songs, "On the Avenue," "On the Steps of Grant's Tomb" and "Swing Sister," were dropped prior to the film's release. "This Year's Kisses" was a number one song, and that song along with "Slumming on Park Avenue" and "You're Laughing at Me" made the "Your Hit Parade" broadcasts, according to modern sources. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, after production head Darryl Zanuck saw the rushes of the film, he assigned Berlin to produce Alexander's Ragtime Band.
Correspondence in the AMPAS files indicate that an AMPAS official contacted Twentieth Century-Fox because credits listing Gene Markey for both associate producer and screenplay seemed to be in violation of the Writer-Producer Code of Practice, which was administered by AMPAS. An official of the company clarified the situation by noting that Markey worked as a writer on the film before he became an associate producer and that he generously shared screenplay credit with William Conselman, who did comparatively little work on this film. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Sam Pokrass and Edward Cherkose wrote special material for the Ritz Brothers.
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, William Seiter took over from Roy Del Ruth at the end of December 1936 to direct two dance sequences so that Del Ruth could take a two-week vacation trip to New York before beginning production on his next film, M-G-M's Broadway Melody of 1938. The news item states that the rest of the film had been shot and Del Ruth had rehearsed the dance numbers that Seiter was to direct. While this film credits Mark-Lee Kirk as art direction associate, Twentieth Century-Fox studio records credit Kirk with musical settings and Haldane Douglas as his associate. Hollywood Reporter news items note that Dick Powell was borrowed from Warner Bros. and Billy Gilbert from RKO. Shirley Deane, Alex Pollard, William Eddritt, Joe McQuinn and Eddy Waller are listed as cast members in various pre-release sources, but their inclusion in the final film has not been confirmed. At various times during the film, gossip columns by Broadway columnists Walter Winchell, O. O. McIntyre, Louis Sobol, Mark Hellinger and Ed Sullivan, relating to the fictional "On the Avenue" program, are shown. According to modern sources, Louise Seidel was in the chorus and Frank Darien and Lynn Bari were in the cast, but their appearance in the film has not been confirmed.