Saturday, June 25, 2011

Joyce in Rose of Washington Square (1939)

Joyce Compton's exposure in the screwball classic The Awful Truth led to a series of supporting roles in big-budget films for the actress, often playing the leading lady's best friend. The splashy, nostalgic Fox musical Rose of Washington Square was one example: Joyce appears here as Peggy, the perky pal of Alice Faye's sorta-based-on-Fanny-Brice Broadway musical comedy star, Rose Sargent.

Rose of Washington Square is a typically handsome Fox production, a frothy and historically suspect period vehicle for the warmly appealing Faye. As a singer rising to fame in 1910s New York, she gets wooed by Tyrone Power as a smooth cad with a passing resemblance to Fanny Brice's second husband, Nicky Arnstein. This was a lighthearted and fun movie first and foremost, one made momentarily uncomfortable by Al Jolson playing himself in blackface makeup. Fifth-billed Joyce appears sporadically throughout the picture whenever Faye needs a shoulder to cry on; she even gets to share a dramatic scene with Jolson. Most of the film’s musical sequences are straightforward stage performances, nicely gimmick free. Faye and a chorus of dancers doing amazing things with cigarettes in the title number is one of those wonderful, non-p.c. moments that one can only find in the world of black and white movies. Turn off your brain and enjoy.

Rose received an overdue DVD release in 2008, in an edition that included rare outtake footage as a special bonus. Buy at here.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Joyce in Sitting on the Moon (1936)

1936's Sitting on the Moon is one of several "poverty row" genre films Joyce Compton made a small contribution to. A brief and airy musical, Sitting chronicles the star-crossed romance of songwriter Roger Pryor and appealing singer Grace Bradley. Bradley's career is on the outs when Pryor pens a jaunty melody for her (the title tune, repeated ad nauseam) which lands the woman a featured vocalist gig on a top radio hour. She becomes a star while he lands in obscurity, until another song and complications involving a gold-digging hussy (Joyce Compton!) change things around for the hapless guy. On the whole, slight and forgettable stuff which benefits from nice Art Deco production design and a pleasing title tune.

It's interesting to note that this is one of the earliest productions for Republic Pictures. Along with sister companies Monogram and PRC, Republic would become the source for several eclectic parts Joyce would do throughout the '40s. Sitting on the Moon is typical: Joyce appears for only a few minutes as the seductive blonde who is eventually revealed as the secret wife of Roger Pryor (pictured above). How will he get out of this one?

Sitting on the Moon is one of those easily available movies that seem to appear on every vintage musical DVD set in existence. It's also viewable online at In 2009, Alpha Home Video issued the film as the bottom half of a musical double feature DVD, paired with Rhythm in the Clouds (another poverty row film with an appearance by Joyce!). Buy at Amazon here.