Cast & Crew
Marine Bob Brent, known to his friends as Arkansas, is in great demand for parties in San Diego as his romantic singing puts women in the mood for love. Personally, however, he is too shy to ask a woman for a date. When he backs out of a party because he lacks a date, Sergeant Mike Kelly decides to give him a little help. Learning that Bob has a crush on cashier Peggy Randall, Mike begs her to encourage Bob's romancing. Peggy is willing, but in the end, she practically has to ask Bob out herself. At the picnic, while Bob's singing makes everyone else romantic, Peggy waits in vain for a pass from Bob, but in the end is charmed. Peggy tells Bob that she is going to New York to represent San Diego as a singer on an amateur hour. Kelly takes up a collection to send Bob to the New York competition as the Marine's representative. Peggy and Bob, who is on furlough, ride the same bus across the country and vow to support each other. At the contest, Peggy is too nervous to perform well. Bob, on the other hand, is offered a contract with promoters Phinney and Fowler. True to his vow, Bob hires Peggy as his secretary. To boost Bob's reputation, Phinney hires five hundred women to meet Bob at his hotel. Bob begins to believe his own publicity and becomes conceited. Just then, the Marines appear to remind Bob that his furlough is up and he is being transfered to Shanghai along with his company. Phinney tries to get Bob out of his assignment, and when he cannot, he and Fowler sail for Shanghai, hoping to set up engagements there. Because they missed the transport, Bob and Kelly must take a private ship to Shanghai, where Kelly makes sure that Bob knows his fellow Marines are offended by his attitude. Kelly introduces Bob to Ma Marine, who runs a nightclub in Shanghai and acts as a mother to men overseas. Peggy is also on board. Although she has fallen in love with Bob, he is oblivious. When he arrives in Shanghai, Bob is restricted to quarters for missing the transport. Phinney arranges for Bob to do his broadcast over the telephone, and Bob gets most of the way through it before he is caught. Learning that Ma Marine must pay her back rent or lose her club, Kelly asks Bob for $5,000. When Bob honestly responds that he does not have the money, Kelly is furious, believing that Bob has prospered from his singing career. Meanwhile, Phinney and Fowler have opened a nightclub called The Singing Marine. At first Bob refuses to sing there, but when he learns that Peggy will be there, he agrees. Opening night is very successful, but at the end of the evening Bob announces that the club is closing. He scolds his fellow Marines for not paying Ma what they owe her, and presents her with the papers for the nightclub. Ma asks Bob to dedicate her new club by singing "The Song of the Marines." While singing, Bob finally realizes that he loves Peggy and respects the Marines.
Guinn "big Boy" Williams
Veda Ann Borg
George (doc) Rockwell
Leo F. Forbstein
The Original Dixieland Jazz Band
Jack L. Warner
The Singing Marine
The Singing Marine was, with Flirtation Walk (1934) and Shipmates Forever (1935), a trio of military musicals that the studio had recently produced starring Dick Powell. Made with the cooperation of the military, they were an attempt to stir up positive feelings towards the armed forces, as the saber-rattling in Europe and Asia was much in the news in the mid-1930s and, while the United States tried to stay out of the conflicts, the inevitability of war became more and more obvious towards the end of the decade.
The Singing Marine revolves around Bob Brent (Powell), a marine from Arkansas (Powell was born in Mountain View) whose buddies raise enough money to send him to New York to audition for an amateur radio contest under the name of "The Singing Marine." Brent wins the contest, but success starts to go to his head, much to the disgust of his fellow marines and his waitress girlfriend (Weston). Dick Powell was a newlywed when he appeared in The Singing Marine, having recently married fellow Warner Bros. player Joan Blondell on September 19, 1936. Powell arrived back at the studio for this film and Blondell for The King and the Chorus Girl (1937) in later October 1936. Making her film debut as Powell's love interest was 19-year-old Doris Weston, who had begun her career as a singer on the real Major Bowes Amateur Hour radio show and in nightclubs. She would only make nine films before retiring from Hollywood for good in 1939.
The industry trade paper Film Daily called The Singing Marine a "swell summer show with lots of color and music and Dick Powell's singing featured. [...]This is mostly Dick Powell, for he is in evidence the greater part of the time, and he seems to be singing more than in any of his other pictures. In any event it is a fine show for the younger element, for it is filled with the spirit of youth and song and laughter and love. And that about makes up the requirements for this musical-comedy type of entertainment."
Budgeted at $669,000, it made a profit of $306,000, making The Singing Marine one of Warner Bros.' biggest hits of the year. It made quite an impression on Jack Warner, Jr., son of studio chief Jack L. Warner. While at the University of Southern California, he worked in the family business as an assistant director. He later wrote, "One picture I worked on affected me deeply. It was a musical called The Singing Marine and starred Dick Powell. When recruiters from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve came to the campus, I passed the physical, raised my right hand, and suddenly was PFC Warner, USMCR, and on my way that summer to train in San Diego. My father seemed sort of proud and pleased as he told people about his crazy son."
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The Singing Marine
In the onscreen credits, actor Henry O'Neill's surname is misspelled "O'Neil." Variety notes that Doris Weston was a nightclub singer prior to acting in the movies. According to New York Times, this was her first film. According to a modern source, Frank Borzage was originally set to direct, but Ray Enright took over after Borzage left Warner Bros. for M-G-M.