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  Looking On the Bright Side Let Gracie Do It
Year: 1932
Director: Graham Cutts, Basil Dean
Stars: Gracie Fields, Richard Dolman, Julian Rose, Wyn Richmond, Tony De Lungo, Betty Shale, Viola Compton, Bettina Montahners
Genre: Musical, Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Gracie (Gracie Fields) works in a beauty salon alongside her best friend Laurie (Richard Dolman) who is a hairdresser while she is a manicurist, but he harbours ambitions away from cutting women's hair, as he wishes to be a songwriter. And what do you know? Today he has received a package from a music publisher with copies of his new song in it - it looks as if those dreams are coming true! He tells neighbour Gracie and she starts distributing the song sheets around the tenement block they live in, until the entire street are singing his tune, Looking On the Bright Side. It is the happiest day of Laurie's life, and Gracie, who likes to sing his ditties, is over the moon as well, but little do they know this taste of success is about to become a terrible strain, even a burden...

This was Fields' second film, and secured her status as one of the biggest stars in Britain, going on to be one of the highest paid women in the world by and by. Just as George Formby, another Lancashire native, tapped into the taste of the public during the nineteen-thirties, so did "Our Gracie", and until 1939 and the start of the Second World War nobody could touch her for popularity aside from George. But those war years spelled the end of the love she received, for rather than stick around in Blighty to make propaganda comedies and entertain the troops, Fields chose to try for a Hollywood career instead, and her former fans never really forgave her; as the Americans did not take to her, her period of celebrity drew to an unhappy end.

Not that she was forgotten, you don't get that famous and then completely neglected, not often anyway - Gracie wasn't Deanna Durbin, she wanted to work and had seen the nation through the Depression years with a song in their hearts, but she doubled as a warning to all celebrities who misjudge their careers. You don't stay at the top forever, but that renders those movies she appeared in while at the height of her powers all the more fascinating, and Looking On the Bright Side was as good an example as any of her appeal: completely down to earth, unpretentious, and able to tell a joke and carry a tune. It did not sound like much written down, but she had a winning personality as well, and if you ever wondered why so many audiences warmed to her, she gave ample indication of her stylings.

There was even pathos for her to play as Gracie (like Formby, her character name was often her own name) when Laurie lets his new hit song go to his head and after being signed up by manager Julian Rose (who is Jewish, so they can crowbar in ham sandwich jokes) he apparently takes leave of his senses and starts writing miserable pieces like the most prominent one, and the one which loses him that job, called unpromisingly I Hate You. Gracie gives a rendition that reduces her to tears of dejection, which should give you some idea of how Laurie is shooting himself in the foot, and the rest of the film follows them both as they hit the skids independently only to predictably reunite by the mass dance finale. During that time Gracie ends up as a policewoman for comedy shenanigans, continually denying she wants to be a singer, which comes across as false modesty when she was outselling everyone in the country as far as records went. But you can't say you did not run the gamut of emotions and plot, so if it was a hodgepodge it was an entertaining one.

[Network's The British Film release this on Blu-ray with an image gallery as an extra.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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