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.

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