So, after that adventure, yesterday Kat and I spent a rainy day inside watching this 1937 Best Picture nominee...
One Hundred Men and a Girl
Bruce Manning, Charles Kenyon & James Mulhauser
(based on an idea by Hanns Kräly)
Deanna Durbin, Leopold Stokowski, Adolphe Menjou, Alice Brady
1 win, for Best Original Score
Despite its porn-sounding title, One Hundred Men and a Girl is not the least bit filthy. In fact, it is a charmingly innocent comedy-musical about Patsy (Durbin), a girl whose trombonist father (Menjou) is desperately unemployed. With a stroke of luck, Patsy stumbles upon a rich woman (Brady) who promises to sponsor the formation of a new orchestra. Patsy assembles one hundred out-of-work musicians, including her father, but the sponsorship deal will fall through unless she can get famous conductor Leopold Stokowski to join the team.
This pleasant and winsome picture is thoroughly enjoyable and it is difficult to understand why it has been all but forgotten. It sports a wonderfully chipper attitude, evident in such songs as "It's Raining Sunbeams", which may sound sickly sweet, and ... well, quite frankly, it is, but somehow it's not too nauseating. Probably due to Deanna Durbin's exquisite singing voice, made all the more impressive considering she was only sixteen when the film was made.
Not only does the story revolve around a symphony orchestra, but it also heavily features Stokowski, an actual conductor of notoriety. Hence, there are inevitably several scenes in which we are treated to orchestral performances of classical music. At times, it may seem like overkill, but these sequences are cleverly staged and edited to avoid tedium. In fact, there is invariably something else going on while the orchestra is playing, so the story is always moving forward. Besides, it is remarkably elegant music, after all.
The heart of the picture's entertainment, though, is the humour. The cast of genuinely funny characters create a comedy of errors that retains its humour even today. Seemingly, naiveté never goes out of comedy style. There's a singing cabbie, a happy-go-lucky flautist, an easily excited upper-class lady. My favourite, however, is the slow-witted but insistent garage owner, who utters such gems as, "You call me a shutup? You can't call me a shutup?" and "I don't know nothing from arismesticks."
Adolphe Menjou provides the heart as the down-and-out musician, a starkly different persona from the arrogant producer he plays in fellow 1937 nominee Stage Door. It is clear that acting is not Leopold Stokowski's first talent, but he manages to hold his own. And for a sixteen-year-old, Deanna Durbin displays a great deal of maturity in her performance. All in all, One Hundred Men and a Girl is a wonderfully entertaining way to spend an hour and a half on a rainy day.