Wake Up and Live


1h 31m 1937

Film Details

Release Date
Apr 23, 1937
Premiere Information
New York opening: 22 Apr 1937
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the book Wake Up and Live by Dorothea Brande (New York, 1936).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 31m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,162ft (10 reels)

Synopsis

At the entrance to the Hi-Hat Club in New York, where Ben Bernie and his band are appearing, a select number of insults regarding Bernie are offered for public enjoyment by Bernie's "pal," gossip columnist Walter Winchell. During his next radio broadcast, Bernie quips about Winchell, then listens to Winchell, in his own broadcast, rib him. When Winchell learns that Eddie Kane, the brother of his assistant Patsy, is arriving in town with his vaudeville partner, Jean Roberts, Winchell puts an extremely favorable notice about them in his column, to play a joke on agents, especially Gus Avery, who has tried to bribe him. Upon the arrival of their train, Eddie and Jean are greeted by swarms of agents, and Jean signs with Avery, who has brought her flowers. Before their audition at a radio station, Eddie witnesses an opera singer faint from "mike fright," and when he and Jean begin their number, he imagines the microphone change into a devil breathing smoke, and then faints himself. Because of his mike fright, Jean leave him to solo. Eddie then gets a job through Patsy as a guide at Radio Center. After he takes visitors to view a broadcast of Alice Huntley singing the inspirational song "Wake Up and Live," Alice agrees to help him get over his mike fright. Later, during a broadcast of Bernie's band from the Hi-Hat Club, Eddie wanders into a vacant studio and sings with the band into a mike, which, unknown to him, is hooked up to the broadcast. Listeners, including Bernie, Winchell, Alice and her boss, James Stratton, the head of Radio Center, are impressed with this new voice, and when Bernie confesses to Stratton that he does not know the identity of the singer, Stratton decides to play up the mystery for publicity. The next night at the club, Bernie introduces a masked crooner as "The Phantom Troubadour," but Winchell unmasks him as a well-known singer. Later, when Eddie sings for Alice, she recognizes his voice as the Phantom's and records it onto a phonograph record without his realizing it. She plays the record for Stratton and Bernie and then has them arrange a remote control hook-up from her apartment, so that when Eddie goes there for help, she can convince him to pretend that he is singing on the radio and actually have him sing into a live mike for the broadcast. The plan works, and Winchell orders his assistant Steve Cluskey, who is Patsy's fiancé, to find Eddie. Meanwhile, Jean recognizes Eddie's voice, and Avery orders her to go back to him. Steve finds out about the broadcasts from Alice's apartment, and Winchell convinces Eddie to sing on his program before the opening of the new Manila Club, as a build-up for Alice. After Jean and Avery locate Eddie, Avery has him kidnapped. Avery then tries to blackmail Winchell by threatening to turn Eddie over to Bernie unless Winchell pays him. Winchell, however, tells Avery that Eddie is the wrong man and to prove it, plays Alice's recording on his show to make it appear that Eddie is in the studio. Avery then tears up the contract that he forced Eddie to sign and releases him. Eddie hitchhikes back to town and goes to the Manila room, where Winchell informs him that he is the Phantom. Although he is overcome at first with mike fright, Eddie is finally able to sing over a microphone, while Bernie and Winchell make up.

Film Details

Release Date
Apr 23, 1937
Premiere Information
New York opening: 22 Apr 1937
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the book Wake Up and Live by Dorothea Brande (New York, 1936).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 31m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,162ft (10 reels)

Articles

Cinecon Film Festival 2007 - NOTES FROM CINECON, the 43rd Annual Film Festival of Hollywood Rarities


The annual Cinecon Film Festival took place at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre over Labor Day weekend 2007, and as usual there were five days of mostly obscure, hard-to-see silent films and early talkies on display (with a few later films sprinkled in). This viewer caught three features on the festival's final day, Labor Day itself. My impressions follow.

First up was Wake Up and Live (1937), a fast-talking, fast-moving, altogether delightful musical comedy which solidified Alice Faye's status as one of the top stars at 20th Century-Fox - this despite the fact that she was third-billed. Top billing went to non-actors Walter Winchell and Ben Bernie, which is reasonable considering they are given so much screen time and because it was around their real-life, playful, over-the-airwaves feud that the screenplay was constructed. (One barb, from Bernie to Winchell: "You're one in a million, and that's one too many.") Winchell, of course, was the pre-eminent gossip columnist of the era and also had a radio show, while Bernie was a big-band leader.

Even with Winchell, Bernie and Faye on hand, Wake Up and Live is really Jack Haley's picture. He does a fine job as a singer with a severe case of "mike fright," so nervous of singing into a microphone that he takes a job instead as an usher at a broadcasting company. During one Ben Bernie broadcast, Haley finds an empty studio and sings along with the music, assuming the mike is dead. It isn't. His voice (actually Buddy Clark's, who dubbed Haley's songs) goes out over the air and stuns the nation, but no one knows who the mysterious, beautiful voice belongs to. Winchell and Bernie dub him the "Phantom Troubadour" and start an exhaustive battle to be the first to find him. Meanwhile, Haley meets Alice Faye, a motivational broadcaster/singer at the network who agrees to help him conquer his mike fright. When she figures out that he is the Phantom Troubadour, the plot takes even more entertaining turns.

Wake Up and Live is full of little touches and a general attitude that reflect the romantic radio era very well indeed, even as the movie also satirizes it. The art deco sets and sleek architecture are simply amazing. The supporting cast is full of popular players including Patsy Kelly and Ned Sparks, who's as wry as ever. His deadpan delivery makes any line funny, especially lines like: "Your luck changed when you met me, beaverpuss." And: "He's so two-faced the barber's gotta shave him twice." Also on hand are the Condos brothers, a specialty dance team who perform some impressive tap routines, including one while sitting in chairs.

As for that lovely canary Alice Faye, she sings only two of the Mack Gordon/Harry Revel songs - the title track and "There's a Lull in My Life" - and for her fans there's perhaps not quite enough of her in this picture overall. But then again, she flashes her winning smile so much that only those with hearts of stone could possibly fail to be charmed. Faye's appeal remains timeless.

Next on my schedule was Only Yesterday (1933), a weepie which is essentially an early version of Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948). The story is very similar to that later Max Ophuls masterpiece.

An excellent opening sequence soberly depicts the effects of the stock market crash on Park Avenue types who have lost everything. One such investor, John Boles, is on the verge of suicide when he receives a thick envelope in the mail. He opens it to discover a very long letter from a woman in his past. As he reads, we flash back to their story, really her story... Margaret Sullavan in her screen debut plays the girl who falls head over heels for Boles just before he goes off to fight WWI. In a bold, pre-Code plot development, she and Boles go off into the woods during a party and have sex - a point made clear afterwards when we see him re-tie her belt with the line, "I thought I put you back together."

Sure enough, she becomes pregnant, is ostracized by her small-town family, moves to New York City to live with her "modern" Aunt Julia (a wonderful Billie Burke), gets a job, and anxiously awaits Boles' return from the war. When the day comes, he doesn't remember her and she tearfully decides to raise her son alone. This, of course, is the moment so common to these kinds of melodramas, where a character could easily say or do something to fix the problem but decides not to. Here, Sullavan actually says to her Aunt Julia: "One thing I'm not going to do is tell him who I am or that he's the father of my son." Over time, Sullavan raises her boy and even crosses paths with Boles, who eventually tries to seduce her anew.

It's compelling stuff and beautifully acted by Sullavan, who makes the most of what is quite a plum role with which to make a debut. The part calls for innocent charm, naivete, evolving maturity, anger, disappointment, determination, joy, leadership and a whole slew of other emotions. She's simply an instant natural on screen, as warm and affecting as in her more famous later pictures.

Director John Stahl heightens many scenes with well-chosen camera setups. The sequences of Sullavan and Boles falling in love are especially memorable for their gorgeous compositions and lighting. Only Yesterday drags a bit in the middle, but it's very well done overall and worth seeing if one ever gets the chance.

Finally there was Café Metropole (1937), a just-OK comedy with Adolphe Menjou as a Parisian club owner who gets Tyrone Power to pose as a Russian prince, in order to woo Loretta Young and swindle her rich father out of thousands of dollars. Gregory Ratoff plays a waiter who reveals himself to be a real Russian prince. In addition to his acting, Ratoff was also a writer, producer and director of many other movies, and he is credited with the story on this one. But the only reason to watch Café Metropole is for the chance to see Power and Young in the third of five movies they made together for Fox. Young was a top star and Power was on the way up, and they are near the peaks of their beauty and glamour here - and that's saying something!

by Jeremy Arnold
Cinecon Film Festival 2007 - Notes From Cinecon, The 43Rd Annual Film Festival Of Hollywood Rarities

Cinecon Film Festival 2007 - NOTES FROM CINECON, the 43rd Annual Film Festival of Hollywood Rarities

The annual Cinecon Film Festival took place at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre over Labor Day weekend 2007, and as usual there were five days of mostly obscure, hard-to-see silent films and early talkies on display (with a few later films sprinkled in). This viewer caught three features on the festival's final day, Labor Day itself. My impressions follow. First up was Wake Up and Live (1937), a fast-talking, fast-moving, altogether delightful musical comedy which solidified Alice Faye's status as one of the top stars at 20th Century-Fox - this despite the fact that she was third-billed. Top billing went to non-actors Walter Winchell and Ben Bernie, which is reasonable considering they are given so much screen time and because it was around their real-life, playful, over-the-airwaves feud that the screenplay was constructed. (One barb, from Bernie to Winchell: "You're one in a million, and that's one too many.") Winchell, of course, was the pre-eminent gossip columnist of the era and also had a radio show, while Bernie was a big-band leader. Even with Winchell, Bernie and Faye on hand, Wake Up and Live is really Jack Haley's picture. He does a fine job as a singer with a severe case of "mike fright," so nervous of singing into a microphone that he takes a job instead as an usher at a broadcasting company. During one Ben Bernie broadcast, Haley finds an empty studio and sings along with the music, assuming the mike is dead. It isn't. His voice (actually Buddy Clark's, who dubbed Haley's songs) goes out over the air and stuns the nation, but no one knows who the mysterious, beautiful voice belongs to. Winchell and Bernie dub him the "Phantom Troubadour" and start an exhaustive battle to be the first to find him. Meanwhile, Haley meets Alice Faye, a motivational broadcaster/singer at the network who agrees to help him conquer his mike fright. When she figures out that he is the Phantom Troubadour, the plot takes even more entertaining turns. Wake Up and Live is full of little touches and a general attitude that reflect the romantic radio era very well indeed, even as the movie also satirizes it. The art deco sets and sleek architecture are simply amazing. The supporting cast is full of popular players including Patsy Kelly and Ned Sparks, who's as wry as ever. His deadpan delivery makes any line funny, especially lines like: "Your luck changed when you met me, beaverpuss." And: "He's so two-faced the barber's gotta shave him twice." Also on hand are the Condos brothers, a specialty dance team who perform some impressive tap routines, including one while sitting in chairs. As for that lovely canary Alice Faye, she sings only two of the Mack Gordon/Harry Revel songs - the title track and "There's a Lull in My Life" - and for her fans there's perhaps not quite enough of her in this picture overall. But then again, she flashes her winning smile so much that only those with hearts of stone could possibly fail to be charmed. Faye's appeal remains timeless. Next on my schedule was Only Yesterday (1933), a weepie which is essentially an early version of Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948). The story is very similar to that later Max Ophuls masterpiece. An excellent opening sequence soberly depicts the effects of the stock market crash on Park Avenue types who have lost everything. One such investor, John Boles, is on the verge of suicide when he receives a thick envelope in the mail. He opens it to discover a very long letter from a woman in his past. As he reads, we flash back to their story, really her story... Margaret Sullavan in her screen debut plays the girl who falls head over heels for Boles just before he goes off to fight WWI. In a bold, pre-Code plot development, she and Boles go off into the woods during a party and have sex - a point made clear afterwards when we see him re-tie her belt with the line, "I thought I put you back together." Sure enough, she becomes pregnant, is ostracized by her small-town family, moves to New York City to live with her "modern" Aunt Julia (a wonderful Billie Burke), gets a job, and anxiously awaits Boles' return from the war. When the day comes, he doesn't remember her and she tearfully decides to raise her son alone. This, of course, is the moment so common to these kinds of melodramas, where a character could easily say or do something to fix the problem but decides not to. Here, Sullavan actually says to her Aunt Julia: "One thing I'm not going to do is tell him who I am or that he's the father of my son." Over time, Sullavan raises her boy and even crosses paths with Boles, who eventually tries to seduce her anew. It's compelling stuff and beautifully acted by Sullavan, who makes the most of what is quite a plum role with which to make a debut. The part calls for innocent charm, naivete, evolving maturity, anger, disappointment, determination, joy, leadership and a whole slew of other emotions. She's simply an instant natural on screen, as warm and affecting as in her more famous later pictures. Director John Stahl heightens many scenes with well-chosen camera setups. The sequences of Sullavan and Boles falling in love are especially memorable for their gorgeous compositions and lighting. Only Yesterday drags a bit in the middle, but it's very well done overall and worth seeing if one ever gets the chance. Finally there was Café Metropole (1937), a just-OK comedy with Adolphe Menjou as a Parisian club owner who gets Tyrone Power to pose as a Russian prince, in order to woo Loretta Young and swindle her rich father out of thousands of dollars. Gregory Ratoff plays a waiter who reveals himself to be a real Russian prince. In addition to his acting, Ratoff was also a writer, producer and director of many other movies, and he is credited with the story on this one. But the only reason to watch Café Metropole is for the chance to see Power and Young in the third of five movies they made together for Fox. Young was a top star and Power was on the way up, and they are near the peaks of their beauty and glamour here - and that's saying something! by Jeremy Arnold

Quotes

Trivia

Jack Haley's singing was dubbed by Buddy Clark (I).

Notes

Variety noted that this film had "perhaps the most auspicious build-up ever attendant to any motion picture production-a well publicized and thoroughly familiar pseudo-'feud' between Walter Winchell and Ben Bernie, the cast toppers of the film, plus repeated radio heralding." New York Times noted that the film "comes at a time when a radio comedian isn't a radio comedian unless he's insulting some other radio comedian." New York Times also stated that because Bernie was inclined to blow his lines, director Sidney Lanfield allowed him to use his own words provided the substance was correct. Winchell, reportedly, contributed to Bernie's discomfort from behind the camera. Motion Picture Herald noted that "the production has received more than the usual amount of personal attention from Darryl F. Zanuck," who, Motion Picture Herald stated, selected the story vehicle and chose the cast, songwriters and directors. According to a October 1936 Hollywood Reporter news item, Eddie Cantor was originally scheduled to star with Winchell and Bernie. According to a late December 1936 Hollywood Reporter news item, Claire Trevor was set to play to female lead. Variety credited Buddy Clark, a radio singer, with uncredited off-screen singing for Jack Haley in the film. Critics commented favorably on Haley's singing and performance: Variety stated, "For Haley, this picture has excited much sudden highly favorable comment in film circles....the Haley furore amounts to something closely resembling belated recognition." This film marked composer Jule Styne's first work in films; he was the vocal supervisor on the film. Motion Picture Herald's "In the Cutting Room" column lists Eric Linden as a cast member, but his participation in the final film has not been confirmed. According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, this film was banned in Germany during 1937 and 1938.