Welcome to the second of our monthly Musical Theatre Monday posts and what was intended to be start of a whole new series, looking at the original scores composer Jerome Kern wrote for the motion pictures. Shortly after drafting this entry and prepping the next two posts in the series, I decided that I actually had little interest in the pictures themselves beyond the few songs — sometimes too few songs — that Kern contributed. As a result, I have decided that there’s no reason to make this a regular bi-monthly fixture at this time; we’ll all be happier sticking (for the most part) with works written for the stage. So, this post has been published as scheduled, but I’ve edited it down for succinctness: just to share some great, but lesser-known Kern tunes.
I Dream Too Much (1935, RKO)
This vehicle for opera star Lily Pons finds her playing an aspiring singer who becomes a sensation only after trying to help the career of her struggling composer husband, played by Henry Fonda. While she becomes a success, he’s left behind — but don’t worry, there’s no A Star Is Born (1937) tragedy here; Pons has her husband’s work turned into a musical comedy, and with her as the lead, it’s naturally a success. As you might guess, the plot is slight and predictable, and the only moments in which the film comes alive are the musical sequences (not to mention the small appearance by a young Lucille Ball). Pons, in the first of her three films, is often charming, but she shows no nuance and is, at times, difficult to understand; her choices are broadly rendered, but emotional variations don’t register — even in the well-sung tunes.
All of the numbers — there are six — are for Pons, designed to showcase her talents, and four of them are by Kern and lyricist Dorothy Fields, the latter of whom is one of the most underratedly clever wordsmiths of the time. While some tunes engage with elements of operetta, like “I’m The Echo (You’re The Song That I Sing),” heard below by the Mario Braggiotti Orchestra, others bely more musical theatre roots, like the grand production number, “The Jockey On The Carousel,” which you can view above.
Pons’ vocalizations, which I find thrilling, didn’t catch on with moviegoers at the time, with some critics snidely referring to the film as “I Scream Too Much.” As mentioned above, I think if there’s any problem with the leading lady’s singing, it’s not in her craft, it’s in her ability to convey implied messages — and that extends to her articulation. Nevertheless, I think she’s charismatic, and I enjoy listening to her sing numbers like the one below, which was so well-liked that it became the title of the picture.
There’s no doubt, however, that the best song from the score is the swingin’ “I Got Love” (not to be confused with the gem from Purlie). It’s Kern moving swiftly into current sounds, all the while retaining his sense of solid foundation. There are several divine renditions of this one, but I’m particularly fond of Rebecca Luker’s, heard below. (This is one of my favorite Kern songs; if I made a list, there’s a good chance it’d be on there!)
This picture has been released on VHS, but never on DVD. Subscribers interested in obtaining a digital copy can kindly comment below for access!
Come back on the third Monday of next month for a new Musical Theatre Monday post! And stay tuned tomorrow for more Murphy Brown!
Like the songs from this movie. I am new at this. What is a digital copy..
Hi, Bob! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Digital copies are what I’ve been offering here all along – files transmitted and received online. Let me know if you’re interested.
Hi, Jackson! Thanks for this post. I’ve been curious about this film for quite a while. I’d like to have a digital copy — although I’m not sure how much I will enjoy it!
Hi, Scott! Thanks for reading and commenting.
I have emailed you at your earthlink address.
Would like see this movie. Sounds good.
I have emailed you at your gmail address.
I’d love a digital copy too please. :)
Hi, bobster427! Thanks for reading and commenting.
I have emailed you at your aol address.
I am interested in the digital copy. It is a film that dates back to the biginning of Henry Fonda’s and Lily Pons’ film careers in 1935. From the carousel scene, there appears to be an attempt to give Dorothy Fields’s lyrics a meaning for the child (and us as audience) while everyone (including the actors) enjoys Lily Pons’ rendition of a wonderful Jerome Kern melody. Thank you for putting this information together.
Hi, G. Work! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Please subscribe to this blog with your preferred email address. Once you confirm, I’ll send you the downloadable link.
Why, certainly, as a long-time Kern fan, I’d love to see this film!
Hi, Harlan! Thanks for reading and commenting.
I have emailed you at your aim address.
I would love to get the DVD of I Dream Too Much with Lily Pons and Henry Fonda. Please preserve this film by releasing it using a current format.
Hi, Helen! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Hopefully one day this film will be commercially released. In the meantime, if you subscribe to this blog using your preferred email address, I can send you a digital copy for your own private enjoyment.