In The Best Things in Life Are Free, producer Henry Ephron and director Michael Curtiz went on the reasonably sound theory that, in telling the story of Tin Pan Alley’s fabulous team of Buddy DeSylva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson, all that was necessary was to fill the widescreen with a huge potpourri of their works.
Considering that John O’Hara wrote the story, this CinemaScope tinter leaves a few things to wish for in that department. It catches little of the Jazz Age feeling, except in its costumes and the frantic shimmy and Black Bottom numbers, and the songwriting trio barely come to life as real people.
It’s a sparkling string of hits that’s presented with all the nostalgic attention they deserve. Performances are top calibre, from Gordon MacRae’s and Dan Dailey’s pleasant crooning, to Ernest Borgnine’s clowning and Sheree North’s agile terp routines.
There are no fewer than 20 numbers in this opus. Outstanding are the big production numbers – ‘Birth of the Blues’ and ‘Black Bottom’ – choreographed by Rod Alexander. North, who has trouble with her diction in the speaking parts, is standout in the dance numbers.
1956: Nomination: Best Scoring of a Musical Picture