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Sunday, September 22, 2013

'Everybody Sing:' The Girl From Oz Puts on a Day-Saving Show

Everybody Sing
The 1938 hybrid screwball comedy/lavish musical "Everybody Sings," which Warner Archive released on DVD in early September  2013, is a terrific example of both genres from this golden age of Hollywood. The more-than-twice told tale is that the character of child mega-star Judy Garland defies the odds to star in a musical revue that will save her family from financial ruin.

The plot that provides the setting for the Divine Miss G. to belt out numbers such as "Melody Farm" and perform a truly delightful Baby Snooks musical skit starts with her character Judy "The Fresh Princess" Bellaire getting chucked from her girls' boarding school for transforming a stuffy music class into a free-spirited upbeat expression of joy.

The expelled Judy arrives at her theatrical family's lavish home amidst the chaos that is typical for that clan. The current mayhem relates to this homecoming coinciding with the final days before the opening of the latest play that her father Hillary (not a debutante) Bellaire, played by Reginald Owen of just about every classic film that you can think of, has written.

Judy' mother Diana Bellaire, played by Garland's future "The Wizard of Oz" co-star Billie Burke, is rehearsing with the foppish cad who is playing her leading man. Burke's Diana is a great combination of Glinda the Good Witch of "Oz" and Faye Dunaway's portrayal of Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest."

Burke participates in one of the best segments in the film, which involves her stating that she is too young to play the mother of her other daughter's character in the upcoming play. The "but you are Blanche, you are" response of Hillary is that Diana is that daughter's mother.

A wonderful separate reference to a (non-flying) monkey in Hillary's further contributes to the "Oz" element of "Everybody."

An additional "Oz" parallel includes an amusing bit in which the authorities attempt to block the under-15 Judy Bellaire from appearing on stage. Garland was 16 when she filmed "Everybody" and a year older when she filmed "Oz."

The equally accomplished actress Fanny Brice as family maid Olga, who has as many opinions and is as free about sharing them as 1960s television maid Hazel Burke (no relation to Billie), adds to the zany atmosphere. Seeing Brice as Snooks more than 10 years before she plays that character on television is another element that makes "Everybody" more fun than a barrel of flying or earth-bound monkeys.

Real-life coal miner's son and former miner himself Allan Jones is family chef Ricky Saboni, who is the straight man of the group and true hero of "Everybody." He literally sings for the Bellaire family's supper and shows the family far more loyalty than anyone could expect.

Garland's scenes with Jones and Brice are just as special as those with her "Oz" co-stars who "eased on down" the Yellow Brick Road with her. One must believe that she missed Jones most of all.

The wacky goings-on in Chez Bellaire are occurring in the context of a financial crisis due to circumstances that readers must watch this "must-see" film to discover. In true Garland fashion, Judy dries her tears and strives to take center stage to remedy her family's reversal of fortune.

Many elements of this film evoke thoughts of the 1933 Marion Davies/Bing Crosby musical "Going Hollywood," which Unreal TV reviewed in a post subtitled "Video Lured the Radio Star" several weeks ago. Both Garland's and Davies' character begin their films in girls' boarding schools that provide highly repressed environments, soon break free from those ivy-covered prisons, seek musical stardom, and even disguise themselves in black face, which the general population did not consider offensive in those less-enlightened times.

The clip below, which seems to be the only one of "Everybody" on YouTube, depicts both Garland's blackface performance and her typical showpersonship and overall spunk. It also provides a sense of "Everybody's" (otherwise non-racist) humor.

It is not a spoiler to say that at least one show goes on, that the Bellaire family gets to continue enjoying the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed, and that the boy (who is not from Oz) gets the girl in the end despite a wacky misunderstanding that threatens their relationship.

The epilog to this tale almost as old as time is that it demonstrates why Jack Warner kept pushing Garland beyond her limits to makes films such as this; the toll on Garland was unfortunate, but the American public truly benefited from her managing to meet the heavy demands on her.

Anyone with questions regarding "Everybody" is welcome to email me. You can also contact me via Twitter through @tvdvdguy.