Puttin’ on the Ritz (1930).
This dreary, stagy backstage musical chronicles the life of a vaudeville singer (played by real life vaudeville star Harry Richman) who hits the big time, forgets the little people who helped him, then eventually goes blind after drinking bad alcohol. Oh dear god, will the melodrama never stop?
Richman isn’t a bad singer, although his style, typical of the vaudeville stage at the time, seems a little foreign to modern ears. His acting is a little over the top, though. But his costars — including Joan Bennett and James Gleason — hold their own better. The film was directed by Edward Sloman and the story was supplied by John W. Considine Jr., with the script by William K. Wells and Gleason.
Released during the depths the Great Depression, this surely did nothing to cheer up its audiences. Even the greatness of Irving Berlin’s title song can’t help it, although it was the first in a long line of films to use it. But at least the ’30s slang is really goofy.
“Yer lettin’ a society dame make a chump outta ya!”
Richman tried to create a movie career for himself with this film — obviously, it didn’t work. He only starred in two other movies. Unimaginatively enough, every character he played was named Harry.
“Comet Over Broadway” (1938).
Take a Look:
In one of the few peppy moments of the film, Richman performs the title tune: