Back in 1919 – 20 a smash musical comedy and then in 1926 a hit First National film starring Colleen Moore, Irene emerges this time as dated celluloidia. It’s old-fashioned from several angles, further handicapped by familiar story pattern.
Starring combination of Anna Neagle and Ray Milland cannot wholly carry this film over the hurdles. The negative factors are not so much in the acting as they are in Alice Duer Miller’s screenplay and Herbert Wilcox’s direction, neither of which is ultra-1940. The screenplay and direction, too, closely follow the original film. In the Colleen Moore starrer a 1,000-foot segment of a grand ball was given over to a color sequence, quite revolutionary in those days, but reprised now it just makes the fore and afterparts in black and white look all the more ordinary in comparison.
Neagle, as the girl who steps from the tenements to a modeling job and then into society, gives a rather spotty performance. She’s too broadly Irish, for one thing, and not flattered by the camera in the first 50 minutes for another. In the color sequences she shows up much better, her red hair being especially noticeable, and is okay in one feathery dance routine, and when singing ‘Alice Blue Gown’. However, she doesn’t give the part the comedy content Moore did, which makes the Hibernian dialect all the more unnecessary.
‘Castle In Your Dreams’, ‘Gown’ and the title song are still very worthy tunes, from the original score.
Roland Young, noted for his dry comedy, is merely dry in this picture as manager of Mme Lucy’s. Two other performers wasted are Isabel Jewell and Doris Noland, Neagle’s tenement house pals. Marsha Hunt hasn’t much to do as the almost-jilted sweetie of Alan Marshal, while May Robson’s role as the motherly but straitlaced Irish grandmother is overdone and unbelievable.
1940: Nomination: Best Score