Hallelujah I'm a Bum! (Lewis Milestone, 1933)

Discussions of specific films and franchises.
Post Reply
Message
Author
djali999
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 11:41 am
Location: Florie-dah

Hallelujah I'm a Bum! (Lewis Milestone, 1933)

#1 Post by djali999 » Thu Apr 12, 2007 4:50 am

Discovered this utterly charming cinematic oddity earlier this year, purchased the DVD recently and rewatched it - what a strange, wonderful and energetic film! Al Jolson was rarely to interesting on film as he is here, the film has some really esoteric direction and editing, very strange rhyming dialouge segments in place of traditional song numbers, Frank Morgan and Harry Langdon in supporting roles, and the whole thing is somehow connected to Ben Hecht.

Anyway there's very little about this film I've been able to find online or in print, and was wondering what our forum members had to say about it, if anything.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

#2 Post by domino harvey » Thu Apr 12, 2007 9:30 am

It's on Rosenbaum's list of 10 Underappreciated Musicals on the Beaver

David Ehrenstein
Joined: Tue Oct 11, 2005 8:30 pm
Contact:

#3 Post by David Ehrenstein » Thu Apr 12, 2007 9:43 am

It's a wonderful movie and a revelation for anyone who knows Jolson only as a bombastic showboat. He's incredibly subtle and touching here, leading to the climactic "You Are Too Beautiful" -- one of Rodgers and Hart's greatest songs.

In the scene where Jolson goes to try and get a job in a bank you can actually spot Larry Hart.

The great Frank Morgan is marvelous as the Mayor. And you'll win an easy 5000 "Gay Jeopardy" bonus points for knowledge of the scene where he bleats "There's no place like home!"

PhilipS
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:41 am

#4 Post by PhilipS » Thu Apr 12, 2007 8:38 pm

David Ehrenstein wrote:In the scene where Jolson goes to try and get a job in a bank you can actually spot Larry Hart.
The opening dedication scene has Richard Rodgers as one of the photographers.

User avatar
ltfontaine
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 3:34 pm

#5 Post by ltfontaine » Mon Apr 16, 2007 12:07 pm

It's true that the film is often described as an "oddity," but I wish there were more movies that were odd like this one. As David and djali say, the cast is wonderful, especially Jolson and Morgan, who virtually reprises his role two years later in The Good Fairy. Also immensely charming is unusung Edgar Connor, as sidekick Acorn, the nature of whose relationship to Jolson's Bumper is winsome and funny, not to mention potentially provocative on several levels, especially in 1933. It would be interesting to know how this film played in the South at time of release.

There are some bravura set pieces, most notably a sequence in which a gang of bums rush through Central Park to confront Bumper on a point of order, running at the camera through a series of staccato cuts that can leave you woozy, and culminating in a deftly directed comic crowd scene worthy of Renoir. Come to think of it, this would make a great double-feature with Boudu!

The tone of the whole thing is so humane and sweet-tempered, and the witty musical numbers are most memorable. I often get stuck in my head the song traded between Bumper and Acorn as they walk back from Florida to New York--"Bumper, Bumper, how far is we?" This also has to be counted as one of the great films about New York City, re-imagined as a burg brimming with poetry and the milk of human kindness.
The great Frank Morgan is marvelous as the Mayor. And you'll win an easy 5000 "Gay Jeopardy" bonus points for knowledge of the scene where he bleats "There's no place like home!"
It's a startling, disorienting moment, coming six years before The Wizard of Oz, but delivered by Morgan in a reading that sounds like an in-joke before the fact.
The opening dedication scene has Richard Rodgers as one of the photographers.
The dedication scene actually occurs midway through the movie. The opening scene depicts duck hunting in Florida. And isn't Lorenz Hart in there somewhere?

PhilipS
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:41 am

#6 Post by PhilipS » Tue Apr 17, 2007 6:23 pm

ltfontaine wrote:
The opening dedication scene has Richard Rodgers as one of the photographers.
The dedication scene actually occurs midway through the movie. The opening scene depicts duck hunting in Florida. And isn't Lorenz Hart in there somewhere?
That was actually meant to read "the opening/dedication scene", I didn't mean the opening scene of the movie. It's actually a cornerstone laying ceremony. You'll also note that my post was in response to someone stating where the Hart appearance was.

Apropos of which the DVD back cover mistakenly says that both Rodgers and Hart play photographers in the cornerstone laying scene. This was possibly a result of this same error being in the entry for this film in Leonard Maltin's movie guide. After watching this film a few years back and recognising the diminutive Hart as the bank teller, I sent an email to Maltin via his website informing him of the error, and it was corrected in the next edition of the book. As I didn't get a response to the email I can't really claim that one was the cause of the other.

User avatar
ltfontaine
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 3:34 pm

#7 Post by ltfontaine » Wed Apr 18, 2007 4:59 pm

It's further worth mentioning that this little wonder can be had on-line for less than a sawbuck.

Post Reply