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Words and Music

The saga of Rodgers and Hart itself is neither very interesting nor exceptional, unless it be in their early and continued success at turning out words and music for one top Broadway and Hollywood musical hit after another. Fred Finklehoffe, therefore, in preparing his screenplay [from a story by Guy Bolton and Jean Holloway, adapted by Ben Feiner Jr], acted wisely in reducing the biographical aspects to almost a minimum, using them only as a rack around which to weave production numbers, terp routines and lyric assignments [staged and directed by Robert Alton].

Cast:
Tom Drake Mickey Rooney Betty Garrett Ann Sothern Janet Leigh Marshall Thompson

The saga of Rodgers and Hart itself is neither very interesting nor exceptional, unless it be in their early and continued success at turning out words and music for one top Broadway and Hollywood musical hit after another. Fred Finklehoffe, therefore, in preparing his screenplay [from a story by Guy Bolton and Jean Holloway, adapted by Ben Feiner Jr], acted wisely in reducing the biographical aspects to almost a minimum, using them only as a rack around which to weave production numbers, terp routines and lyric assignments [staged and directed by Robert Alton].

Tom Drake plays the serious, businesslike and homeloving Rodgers, the melodist of the pair. Mickey Rooney plays Hart, giving the role at least some partial physical veri-similitude in that his tiny stature was a near-tragedy in the lyricist’s life.

Biog, as a matter of fact, sticks to truth about as closely as can be presented on the screen. While details are freely reshuffled, the yarn is strikingly sound from an overall psychological view, catching Hart’s early zest for life and its gradual change to a tragic chase after a happiness he couldn’t achieve, a chase that led to his death in 1943 at the age of 47.

Hart, who never married, but bounded about the world, was, of course, the more colorful of the pair and the camera faithfully catches that. Rooney plays Rooney, however, rather than Hart, almost turning the role into a burlesque. Drake imbues Rodgers with the dignity and modesty of a Rodgers – if not with the spark. Film doesn’t go into the break between the pair, two years before Hart’s death. It was at this time Rodgers teamed with Oscar Hammerstein II.

Words and Music

Production: M-G-M. Director Norman Taurog; Producer Arthur Freed; Screenplay Fred Finklehoffe; Camera Charles Rosher, Harry Stradling; Editor Albert Akst, Ferris Webster; Music Lennie Hayton (dir.); Art Director Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin Smith

Crew: (Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1948. Running time: 119 MIN.

With: Tom Drake Mickey Rooney Betty Garrett Ann Sothern Janet Leigh Marshall Thompson

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