Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Total Bummer

I mainly wanted to see Hallelujah, I'm a Bum (1933) for the Harry Langdon, but I was also interested in Al Jolson. I didn't realize that I was getting Rogers and Hart as well.

This is the story of the Mayor of Central Park, a bum named Bumper (Al Jolson). That name - savor it. It contains "bum", but connotes richness, fullness, a bumper crop. Also, to drink a bumper - a toast to "bon pere", the good father. He leads a life of homeless luxury in the park (wintering in Florida), and consorts with his good friend the Mayor of New York, Frank Morgan. He has an African American friend, Acorn, played by ever-smiling Edgar Connor. He has an enemy as well - Egghead, the socialist street sweeper, played by baby-faced silent comedy star Harry Langdon.

The story is about how Morgan's girlfriend Madge Evans gets amnesia and falls in love with Jolson, but never mind that. It's touching and all and there's a decent song or two if you like Jolson's style, but this doesn't really make the picture stand out.

What is really interesting is that about half the dialog is spoken in rhyme, written by Rogers (or Hart?). This makes it even more of a fantasy than the usual Depression era musical.

Also, Harry Langdon as Egghead. He is a devoted socialist worker, and as such condemns and despises the bums and loafers of the park as parasites on the system. His ideological purity, combined with his peculiar man-child appearance make him quite sympathetic. I am interested in his viewpoint and would like to subscribe to his newsletter.

Langdon is a bit of an acquired taste, or maybe he should just be taken in small doses. This is just right. I'm not sure about Jolson. You'll have to decide for yourself.

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