Centennial Summer is pleasant musical filmfare, sparked by a lilting Jerome Kern score. Production dress is lavish to point up the period, and direction adopts a leisurely style in welding together the music and story ingredients. It’s not a sock film, but easy to take and will please.
The Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II ‘All Through the Day’ is exploited most often in the score, but workouts are also given to Kern-Leo Robin numbers such as ‘Love in Vain,’ ‘The Right Romance’ and ‘Up with the Lark.’ Film’s weakness is lack of top voices to punch the numbers over, but quality of the cleffing makes them stand out regardless. Speciality spot goes to ‘Cinderella Sue,’ with lyrics by E. Y. Harburg and sung by Avon Long.
Script is based on Albert E. Idell’s novel of the same title. Background is the Centennial celebration held in Philadelphia during the summer of 1876. Plot spreads itself over several angles, projecting both elderly and younger romantic complications that beset members of a Philadelphia railroading family. Papa (Walter Brennan) makes a mild play for his wife’s sophisticated sister, and the two girls (Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell) of the family both chase the same man (Cornel Wilde).
Side issues are papa’s desire to interest the railroad president in a newfangled clock he has invented, a young doctor’s efforts to win the heart of one of the daughters, and the sophisticated aunty’s (Constance Bennett) maneuvering to make things add up right for the Rogers family.
Producer-director Otto Preminger gets the most from the material and players. Color work isn’t up to the usual Technicolor standard.