Tell it to a Star

When most folks think of “B-movies” they think of films featuring giant monsters and UFO’s.  Truth is, B-movies cover pretty much every genre of film.  As I’ve dug deeper into movies of the past, it’s been interesting to discover some of the forgotten B-musicals.  We tend to think of musicals of Hollywood’s golden age as being big lavish productions, but these films are short, small, and often quite entertaining.  One example is 1945’s “Tell it to a Star.”

The film centers on Carol Lambert (Ruth Terry), a girl working at a cigar stand in a luxurious Palm Springs, Florida hotel.  To the dismay of the hotel manager, Mr. Lovelace (Franklin Pangborn), Carol has been trying to get an audition with the hotel’s bandleader, Gene Ritchie (Robert Livingston).  It’s also safe to say that Carol has a bit of a crush on Gene.

Carol ends up getting a surprise when her uncle, Colonel Ambrose Morgan (Alan Mowbray), comes to town with his pal Billy (Eddie Marr).  Everybody, including Carol, is under the impression that Uncle Ambrose is a millionaire…in reality, he’s a penniless con-man.  Still, he manages to convince the hotel’s elderly owner, Mrs. Whitmore (Isabel Randolph) that he is a VIP worthy of a large line of credit.  Not only does he take up residence in the hotel, but he also treats his nieces to a huge shopping spree.

While having dinner in the hotel’s club, Uncle Ambrose convinces Mrs. Whitmore to instruct Gene Ritchie to let Carol sing a song.  She completely wows the crowd, except for regular singer Mona St. Clair (Adrian Booth).  Soon, Gene and Carol are head over heels for each other.  All the while, Uncle Ambrose struggles to keep his con-game going as Mr. Lovelace and the jealous Mona St. Clair attempt to make life miserable for everyone.

The film comes in at only 67 minutes in length, but does a good job of making the most of it, mixing the music and the comedy effectively.  Though the whole “cigar girl becomes famous” storyline is a little silly, but Ruth Terry is an appealing leading lady.  With the exception of one number toward the end of the film, the musical sequences are pretty simple, but Terry manages to make them interesting.

Though the musical part of the story works, the comedic side is more successful  This is largely thanks to Alan Mowbray and Franklin Pangborn, who both turn in some great comedic moments.  Pangborn has such a wonderfully expressive, somewhat cartoonish, face.  He is perfectly cast as the stuffy hotel manager.  The fact that he spent some time working in comedy shorts for Hal Roach and Mack Sennett is not surprising given the fine comedic timing he displays in this film.  Also very funny is Augustus Goodman as the owner of a mattress company who is not only trying to sign Carol to his company’s radio program, but also ends up with two of his delivery men assisting in Uncle Ambrose’s scemes.

You won’t end up humming this B-musical’s tunes for days, but you will spend 67 minutes tapping your foot and laughing a bit.

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