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Film Review: Words and Music

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Words and Music

MGM, 1948 (Color, 119 minutes, Production No. 1427)

Words and Music is a biographical musical based on the partnership of Richard Rodgers (played by Tom Drake) and Lorenz Hart (played by Mickey Rooney). The story line is rather weak (OK, very weak), and Mickey's portrayal of Hart is downright depressing. Though apparently innacurate, as are most musical biographies, it is a very enjoyable tribute to the wonderful music of this fabulous duo. Most of MGM's major stars are onhand to deliver some of America's best music as only MGM can do it.

Highlights include Judy and Mickey's rendition of "I Wish I Were in Love Again," Judy's "Johnny One Note," Perry Como and Allyn McLerie in "Mountain Greenery," June Allyson's "Thou Swell," and Gene Kelly and Vera-Ellen's interpretive ballet, "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue." If you're looking for a great movie, watch something else, but if you want to see a thrilling Rodgers and Hart concert, this is it!

Crew

Produced by: Arthur Freed
Directed by: Norman Taurog
Screenplay: Fred Finklehoffe
Story by: Guy Bolton and Jean Holloway
Adaptation by: and Ben Feiner, Jr.
Based in the Lives and Music of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Musical Direction: Lennie Hayton
Orchestration: Conrad Salinger
Vocal Arrangements: Robert Tucker
Musical Numbers Staged and Directed by: Robert Alton
Art Directors: Cedric Gibbons and Jack Martin Smith
Set Decorations: Edwin B. Willis
Associate: Richard A. Pefferle
Women's Costumes by: Helen Rose
Men's Costumes by: Valles
Hair Styles Created by: Sydney Guilaroff
Make-Up Created by: Jack Dawn
Recording Director: Douglas Shearer, John A. Williams
Director of Photography: Charles Rosher, Harry Stradling
Special Effects: Warren Newcombe
Color by Technicolor
Technicolor Color Director: Natalie Kalmus
Associate: James Gooch
Film Editors: Albert Akst and Ferris Webster

Filmed: Judy's scenes filmed June 1948 (she turned 26 that month)
Released: December 1948

Cast

Mickey Rooney ... Lorenz Hart
Perry Como ... Eddie Lorrison Anders
Ann Sothern ... Joyce Harmon
Tom Drake ... Richard Rodgers
Betty Garrett ... Peggy McNeil
Janet Leigh ... Dorothy Feiner
Marshall Thompson ... Herbert Fields
Jeanette Nolan ... Mrs. Hart
Richard Quine ... Bob Feiner, Jr.
Clinton Sundberg ... Shoe Clerk
Harry Antrim ... Dr. Rodgers
Ilka Gruning ... Mrs. Rodgers
and Guest Stars:
June Allyson, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Mel Torme, Vera-Ellen, Dee Turnell, Emory Parnell, Helen Spring, Edward Earl, Allyn McLerie, The Blackburn Twins

Musical Program

[0:00] Overture (played and sung by The MGM Studio Orchestra and Chorus)
[0:09] Manhattan (sung by Mickey Rooney, Tom Drake and Marshall Thompson)
[0:17] There's a Small Hotel (sung by Betty Garrett)
[0:20] Mountain Greenery (sung by Perry Como, Allyn McLerie and Chorus)
[0:32] Way Out West (sung by Betty Garrett)
[0:34] Where's That Rainbow? (sung and danced by Ann Sothern and Chorus)
[0:43] On Your Toes (sung and danced by Cyd Charisse and Dee Turnell)
[0:45] This Can't Be Love (instrumental danced by Cyd Charisse and Dee Turnell)
[0:46] The Girl Friend (instrumental danced by Cyd Charisse and Dee Turnell)
[0:53] Blue Room (sung by Perry Como, danced by Cyd Charisse)
[1:04] Thou Swell (sung and danced by June Allyson and The Blackburn Twins)
[1:10] With a Song in My Heart (sung by Tom Drake)
[1:12] With a Song in My Heart (played by Orchestra behind montage)
[1:13] Where or When (sung by Lena Horne)
[1:15] The Lady Is a Tramp (sung by Lena Horne)
[1:27] I Wish I Were in Love Again (sung by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney)
[1:29} Johnny One Note (sung by Judy Garland)
[1:34] Blue Moon (sung by Mel Torme, moped by Mickey Rooney)
[1:38] Spring Is Here (spoken by Mickey Rooney)
[1:43] Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (ballet danced by Gene Kelly and Vera-Ellen)
[1:56] Finale: With a Song in My Heart (introduction by Gene Kelly, sung by Perry Como and Chorus with montage of clips from many of the numbers in the movie; played by Orchestra behind end credits)


see soundtrack CD review

Notes

MGM had not planned on having Judy in Words and Music, but L.B. Mayer offered her $50,000 to help with her medical bills if she would guest star for one number. Although she was on the verge of collapse, her performance was so well received that Mayer offered her another $50,000 to film an encore number.

This was the last time Judy and Mickey would appear in a film together. They were in a total of ten movies together, eight of which were made specifically for them (see Mick 'n Joots page here on the Judy Garland Database).

This was Mickey's last film for MGM.

Janet Leigh had this to say of Judy: "[she] was warm and open and dear - and nervous and thin and drawn. It never occurred to me that someone as proficient in her profession as Judy could be insecure or unsure. [But] she was pure magic; I was hypnotized. She always gave one hundred fifty percent of herself."

See Judy Garland Movies on Video for purchasing information.

See Class Act for more information on this and other classic films.

Critical Response

"Words and Music is a good show when it sticks to the business implied in its title. Lena Horne ... brings the film to its toes with her vocalization of 'Where or When' and 'The Lady Is a Tramp' ... Judy Garland ... keeps it there with 'I Wish I Were in Love Again' and 'Johnny One Note.'"

- Newsweek, 1949

"Outrageously cast as lyricist Hart, Mickey Rooney runs his own narrow gamut between the brash and the maudlin, tottering finally to a ludicrous death on the rain-pelted sidewalk. As Rodgers, young Tom Drake looks and behaves like a well-mannered New Haven undergraduate. Between them, they hold up a limp plot line..."

- Time, 1949

Words and Music DVD
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Classic Musicals from The Dream Factory Vol. 2 DVD Box Set
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Words and Music VHS
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Words and Music Soundtrack CD
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Original poster art


Judy greets Tom Drake and Janet Leigh


Cyd Charisse and Dee Turnell, "On Your Toes"


June Allyson and The Blackburn Twins, "Thou Swell"


Mickey and Judy sing "I Wish I Were in Love Again"



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