Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Mystery of Go Into Your Dance (1935)

Go Into Your Dance was Al Jolson’s final star vehicle at Warner Brothers, and the only film in which he co-starred with his then-wife Ruby Keeler. As far as Al goes, he delivers a surprisingly subdued performance here (who knew?), and the relative lack of black-faced hamminess makes it a better bet to modern viewers. Here he plays an eccentric former Broadway star who lives exiled in Mexico. Al’s snappy sister (Glenda Farrell, always terrific) persuades him to go back to work, a situation where he is so emboldened he opens a nightclub funded with shady gangster money. At some point, he also deals with a sweet dancer (Keeler) who is stuck on him but doesn’t know quite how to express it. This is a typically predictable yet super-slick outing with a lively cast and a few polished, Busby Berkely-ish numbers (particularly “A Quarter To Nine”). Ruby Keeler is cute as always and rises to the occasion despite her shortcomings in the acting department; singer Helen Morgan actually outshines the leading lady as a salty gangster’s gal. There’s also the delightful Patsy Kelly as an eager vaudevillian who keeps crossing paths with Jolson.

Joyce Compton receives billing in the opening credits. While Joyce did several musicals in her prime and certainly would be at home in this one, what's unusual here is that she's nowhere to be seen in the actual film (and I kept my eyes peeled for her!). The Internet Movie Database lists her role as "showgirl in cafe." The only part fitting that description is a hot-tempered dancer who speaks with Jolson in an early bit set in a Mexican nightclub (see screen shot below). Although the actress bears a passing resemblance to our Joyce, it's not her. Perhaps Joyce was (improbably) cast as a Mexican, then the role was recast before they could alter the credits? If anybody could help me with this mystery, I'd love to hear an explanation. Al Jolson and Joyce would eventually work together in 1939's Rose of Washington Square.

Although it was issued on laserdisc in the early 1990s, Go Into Your Dance has been somewhat hard to find over the years. Warner Archive finally released the film on DVD in 2009.