Friday, November 26, 2021


Here is the NY Times review of Bing's RHYTHM ON THE RANGE, which was made 85 years ago! Written by Frank Nugent, it appeared in the Times on July 30, 1936...

Bing Crosby rides a broncho, milks a wild cow, croons a lullaby to a 2,200-pound Hereford bull and has a box-car romance with a runaway heiress in his new picture at the Paramount. All of which may be interesting and amusing—in fact, it is—but we prefer to think of "Rhythm on the Range" as our screen introduction to Martha Raye. 

Miss Raye is a stridently funny comedienne with a Mammoth Cave, or early Joe E. Brown, mouth, a dental supply vaguely reminiscent of those frightening uppers and lowers they used to hang over the portals of painless extraction emporia, and a chest which, in moments of burlesque aggressiveness, appears to expand fully ten inches. It is entirely possible that she had several clever lines of dialogue in the picture; we wouldn't know, because every time she opened her mouth the audience started laughing. There remains, then, only the conviction that Hollywood has found a remarkable pantomimist, an actress who can glare in several languages, become lovelorn in Esperanto and register beatific delight in facial pothooks and flourishes. She sings, too; swing music in a voice with saxophonic overtones and an occasional trace of pure fog horn. Puzzling at first, but you grow accustomed to it.

Assisting her in the genial task of stealing the picture from the laryngeal Mr. Crosby and the decorative Frances Farmer is Bob Burns, radio's monologist and bazooka player from Van Buren. Ark. Mr. Burns is tall, dry and drawling. A loquacious and philosophic humorist trained to the vocal requirements of radio, virtually his only concession to Hollywood is that he shifts from foot to foot as he talks instead of remaining rooted to a spot before a microphone. His foot-shifting is intricate, however, and his somnolent phrasing amusing, so we may bid him welcome too. And now we come to the plot, a small matter which would find an appropriate use for agate type. It deals with Mr. Crosby's participation in the rodeo at Madison Square Garden; his purchase of Cuddles, a prize bull, and his discovery of a smartly gowned stowaway in Cuddles's box car on the westbound trip. She, it develops, would rather be a pioneer woman than a polo player's bride; Mr. Crosby, it develops, would rather croon than give her a serious thought; their romance, it develops, develops. There is no point in being bitter about these things, sneering at Hollywood or chanting a disrespectful litany of "so whats?" A musical comedy story is a musical comedy story, and not many of them toss in a rodeo, a prize bull called Cuddles, a bazooka player and Martha Raye. Everything considered, Paramount has dealt fairly generously with us; of course, we could have had a mite more of Miss Raye. Still, it's something to anticipate later when her next pictures come along...

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