No wonder Merman never made it in films, when she was treated like this.
Shirley Temple reminds us of how beguiling she was as a youngster when, before dueting with Jimmy Durante, she impersonates him. Studio chief Darryl Zanuck, according to elegant host Joan Collins, found it “cheeky,” and the imitation was chopped out of “Little Miss Broadway” (1938). A blackfaced Al Jolson medley was spliced out of “Rose of Washington Square” (1939), presumably because of time problems.
Probably the best and most informative segs are those featuring Alice Faye. Actress is all-pro, particularly as she picks up pre-recorded songs on cue. Her mellow “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” for “Rose of Washington Square” is still delicious, but it was dropped. Parts of “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” with Faye, Tyrone Power and Don Ameche (whose embarrassing “Some Sunny Day” was cut) took a dive.
Faye and Betty Grable, her new 20th rival brought in by Zanuck, are a formidable team thrown together into “Tin Pan Alley” (1940) to offset talks of backlot jealousies. Grable’s caught miscuing while dancing to pre-recorded music, and she doesn’t look happy.
Carmen Miranda’s segs are diverting, especially the Navy number (“True to the Navy” for 1945’s “Doll Face”) in which she wears a working lighthouse atop her head. That one bit the brine. She chants “Mama Yo Quiero” in her peppery style for “Four Jills and a Jeep” (1944). It’s easy to see why the number was cut out: It’s inappropriate.
Victor Mature’s shown a couple of times struggling to be a song-and-dance man with Grable, but it didn’t take. And Grable’s seen warbling an axed “This Is It” for “Pin Up Girl” (1944) in which she shares a mike with the legendary, unmentioned Joe E. Brown.
What talent was left on the well-known cutting room floor often seems top-flight stuff, but not by that period’s measures. The discipline, talent, professionalism and seeming ease with which the Temples, the Fayes and Grables, the Jolsons and Mermans and all the rest went about their work pays off these many years later. It’s an entertaining, amusing and interesting adventure.