Friday, January 8, 2021


My favorite part of writing a review of Bing’s movies, is when I must pick which movie to watch next. It really is a dilemma as to which movie to choose. It is a good dilemma to have though! This time around I picked a film I had not seen in years – 1940’s Rhythm On The River. I forgot what a good movie it is! Rhythm On The River was the second movie Bing would work on in 1940. He had just completed another good film If I Had My Way, and he went right to work on this film. Filmed between May to July of 1940, the film’s New York premiere would be on August 28, 1940. Originally titled “Ghost Music” – I think the name Rhythm On The River was a much better title for a light hearted Bing Crosby flick.

The movie starts out with a successful Broadway songwriter (played brilliantly by Basil Rathbone) talking with his assistant (also played brilliantly by Oscar Levant) about how he had writer’s block and could not write his own songs anymore. For awhile he had been using ghost writers, because since the love of his life “died” he had been unable to write songs. Oscar Levant in his abrasive way reminds Rathbone that his love did not “die”. She ran out on Rathbone, got married, and just “got fat”. Rathbone uses this as an excuse not to write as well as to make others feel sorry for him. Bing Crosby is the melody ghost writer for Rathbone, who has little ambition to be a songwriter. Bing just wants to run a catfish boat. When Rathbone’s ghost lyricist writer dies, Basil finds a fan letter that an upcoming poet (Mary Martin) has written him, and he gets her to write lyrics for him. He has a deadline in three weeks to write the score for his next musical. Bing had completed the music, but Mary Martin was having trouble writing the lyrics. In her boarding house a band had taken up residence (a band led by Wingy Manone), and all they played was the “Tiger Rag”. So, Basil not thinking, sends Mary Martin up to Bing’s uncle’s inn to relax. Guess who is also there but Bing himself! 

At first Bing and Mary Martin clash. Mary thinks Bing has absolutely no ambition. Well, she is partially right but discovers Bing writes beautiful melodies. Together, in about two minutes they write a song (Only Forever). Bing begins to fall for Mary, but when he starts to sing a song that Mary thought Basil Rathbone wrote, she thinks Bing is a music thief, and she heads back to New York to confront Rathbone. Bing does the same thing, and they are surprised to find each other both in Rathbone’s office and realizes that Rathbone has been playing them both. He gives them a sob story about his love dying, and again Oscar Levant plainly tells them that she “just got fat”. Bing and Mary have fallen in love now, and they decide to go off on their own as a songwriting team. However, the public thinks that they are stealing from Basil Rathbone because the music sounds so much alike. They go to one song publisher after another. Finally, they go to one last one (played briefly by William Frawley), and he does not want their song but he likes Mary’s singing, and he wants her for nightclub work. At first Mary refuses. Broke, Bing gives Basil the song Only Forever, which he wrote with Mary Martin as security for him to write the score. Being the the type of man Rathbone was in the movie, when his Broadway backers want a sample of the score he is writing, he gives them Only Forever, which was not for him to publish. Bing and Mary confront Basil Rathbone, and Basil decides to do the right thing and although he does not admit to the public that they were his ghost writers, he tells everyone that they are his new proteges. Oscar Levant has a great line when Basil is announcing it and says, “He would stand up at his own funeral to get applause”. The film ends with Bing and Mary being announced as song writers as well as professing their love for each other and plans to marry...


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