It Happened In Brooklyn (1947)

Film Review

IT HAPPENED IN BROOKLYN

Release Date: 7 April, 1947

Studio: MGM

Directors: Richard Whorf

Starring: Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, Jimmy Durante, Peter Lawford

Synopsis

Stationed in England after World War II has ended, Sinatra guarantees his English friend Lawford, a shy pianist and composer, that in Brooklyn a man gains confidence and meets girls. Discharged from the army, Sinatra returns to Brooklyn and rooms with Durante, a school janitor. Sinatra works at a music store as a song promoter, and he and Durante perform a duet for the customers. He meets and sings with Grayson, a music teacher.

Lawford, who has decided to try the Brooklyn treatment for his shyness and lack of self-assurance, appears at Sinatra's door. He moves in with Sinatra and Durante. Sinatra has written words for one of Lawford's compositions and happily tells him that it has been accepted for publication. Lawford, gaining self-confidence, meets Grayson and falls in love with her.

Among Grayson's music pupils is a talented pianist, but his widowed mother lacks the money to pay for a music school. Grayson, Sinatra, Durante and Lawford arrange a concert for the boy, and his brilliant playing convinces the scholarship committee to give him a music scholarship. Sinatra recognizes that Grayson and Lawford are in love and says that he intends to look up the Brooklyn-born nurse he met in England.

Discussion

The slight plot provides frequent opportunities for music. The music is a strange mix of ballads, jazz, opera, classical, and Durante-style talk/sing. Each major cast member contributes. Sinatra and Grayson have an operatic duet from the Mozart's Don Giovanni, in which Sinatra sings the part of the Don in rather sloppy Italian. Grayson has a solo operatic aria. Sinatra sings a dull homage to the Brooklyn Bridge, and he and Durante duet. Lawford offers some light singing and awkward dancing. The young pianist plays a portion of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Sinatra's best song is Time After Time by Sammy Cahn and Julie Styne, first introduced in this film.

Although Sinatra is top billed, Lawford is the romantic lead. Sinatra, young and very skinny, plays the shy innocent. He appeared in the innocent persona in most of his early films, such as The Kissing Bandit (1948), Double Dynamite (1951), and his three films with Gene Kelly, Anchors Away (1945), Take Me Out to the Ballgame (1949), and On The Town (1949). As he reached his mid thirties and his appearance matured, his screen persona became more assured and experienced. This older, more confident character first appears in Danny Wilson (1950).

No matter his character's name, Durante could only play Durante. His distinguishing characteristics included a toothy grin, bulbous nose (his "Schnozzola"), gravelly voice, staccato delivery, patter-style singing, and wide-open personality. His career began about 1910 playing ragtime and jazz piano; from the 1920s, he performed in vaudeville and Broadway musicals, starred on radio, and made more than thirty films. His radio shows had made his voice and personality familiar and beloved to a wide audience. Not a great performer, Durante is memorable for his one-of-a-kind personality and unique comic style.

A singer first and an actress second, Kathryn Grayson had a relatively short film career (1941-1955), mostly at MGM. She made three films with Sinatra and co-starred with singing actors Mario Lanza, Howard Keel, and Gordon MacRae. When film musicals went out of fashion in the mid fifties, her movie career ended. However, she continued her singing career in stage shows, nightclubs, and personal appearances through the 1990s.

Gloria Graham, in her sixth film, appears during the English scenes in a small role as a nurse.

Richard Whorf had a varied career as actor, scenic designer and director on stage and screen. He appeared on Broadway from an early age as an actor, and later as a scenic designer and director (1920-1942). His initial experiences in film were as an actor (nine films, 1941-1944) and then as a director (nine film credits 1944-1951). His best film is the comedy Champagne for Caesar (1950), starring Ronald Colman and Vincent Price. After 1952, he directed television shows, including 67 episodes (1962-1964) of the popular series The Beverly Hillbillies.