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Hallelujah, I’m a Bum!

Almost Barrie-ish in its whimsy, the ethereal quality of the Ben Hecht-S. N. Behrman script foundation is its primary deficiency. Lorenz Hart, while solely credited for the lyrics to Richard Rodgers' music, probably merits as much authorship credit because his lyrical dialog constitutes the main burden of the proceedings.

With:
Al Jolson Madge Evans Frank Morgan Harry Langdon Chester Conklin

Almost Barrie-ish in its whimsy, the ethereal quality of the Ben Hecht-S. N. Behrman script foundation is its primary deficiency. Lorenz Hart, while solely credited for the lyrics to Richard Rodgers’ music, probably merits as much authorship credit because his lyrical dialog constitutes the main burden of the proceedings.

The whole thing is an unconvincing mixture of the fictional and factional. Ultra-modern realism with the playboy mayor of the city of New York and his weakness for the Central Park Casino and a pretty femme in particular (Madge Evans) is blended with such unconvincing detail as non-existing Central Park’s hobos of which Al Jolson is the unofficial mayor.

The rollicking fun of an uncertain but not too unsteady story structure collapses utterly when Evans, a victim of aphasia or amnesia, later figures as the romance interest opposite Jolson, until recovering her senses for the finale with the mayor (Frank Morgan).

The ‘rhythmic dialog’ and the Lewis Milestonian method of wedding the tempo’d music to the action has its moments. The laity will doubtlessly compare this to the Ernst Lubitsch technique in Trouble in Paradise.

This must have been one of the toughest pictures to shoot and undoubtedly the most trying for the rest of the cast who had to talk in rhyme and rhythm rather than their accustomed dramatic prose.

Jolson’s selling of the title song and ‘You Are Too Beautiful’, the former reprised more often, of course leaves little wanting. ‘Bum’ is a pip of a number with its odd-rhythmed style and tempo. ‘I’ll Do It Again’ and ‘What Do You Want with Money’ are other songs.

Hallelujah, I'm a Bum!

Production: United Artists. Dir Lewis Milestone; Producer Joseph M. Schenck; Screenplay S. N. Behrman, Ben Hecht; Camera Lucien Andriot; Music Alfred Newman (dir.) Art Dir Richard Day

Crew: (B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1933. Running time: 83 MIN.

With: Al Jolson Madge Evans Frank Morgan Harry Langdon Chester Conklin

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