Welcome to the latest Musical Theatre Monday! In this month’s post, we’re paying homage to Irving Berlin’s score for Reaching For The Moon (1930), a United Artists picture that stars Douglas Fairbanks as a broker who loses his fortune in the market crash, but falls in the meantime (aboard ship, mind you) for an impish amateur aviatrix, played by Bebe Daniels. Others in the cast include Edward Everett Horton, Jack Mulhall, Walter Walker, Claud Allister, June MacCloy (in a role originally slated for Ginger Rogers), and Bing Crosby. Budgeted at over $1 million, this musical comedy was directed and written by Edmund Goulding — based on a story by Berlin.
Berlin wrote no less than 14 numbers for Reaching For The Moon (initially titled Lucky Break), along with the original version of the property (entitled Love In A Cottage, which boasted an entirely different story). But as the Great Depression started to make its presence known, studio executives decided that musicals were “out” and following a press screening, all but one of the six (or seven — that’s up for debate) songs were deleted. The only number extant in the film is “When The Folks High Up Do The Mean Low-Down,” a terrifically swingin’ tune led by Bing Crosby (and featuring Bebe Daniels and June MacCloy). Here it is from the film below.
But the picture, with its one number, is hardly worth mentioning on its own. It’s not particularly Pre-Code (that is, truthful or envelope-pushing), and without the music, the only reason to watch it is the cast. (However, if you’re interested, I’ve scoured the nearly half-a-dozen releases of the film, ranging from 62 to nearly 74 minutes, and found the longest and best quality version. If you’re interested, please comment below — but subscribe first, if you haven’t already!) So, we’re here today for Berlin’s jettisoned score, which includes gems like “The Little Things In Life,” later added to Blue Skies (1946). Here’s a period rendition by Crosby.
Other numbers were repurposed, including “A Toast To Prohibition,” added to Face The Music (1932) and “If You Believe,” which was placed in the aforementioned show’s 2007 Encores! production (and had been written for Love In A Cottage). Here’s the rendition of the former from that recording.
With a cute number cut before shooting, here’s Leigh Barret and Benjamin Sears in “Do You Believe Your Eyes?”
And we’ll close with Ella Fitzgerald on the title song, used in the picture only for underscoring.
Come back next month for a new musical theatre post — it may be the best entry we’ve ever done here since leaving the weekly schedule, and that’s saying something! Also, stay tuned tomorrow for more Wings!