Till the Clouds Roll By is useless as biography -- but what else is new where Hollywood and musical biopics are concerned? The problem is that, as with so many other useless musical biographies, it's also of no interest as drama. To fashion the plot of the musical, the creators might as easily have simply written down every clichéd situation they could think of, put them in a fishbowl, and drawn them out to see what order they would put them in. Under the circumstances, it's hard to ask much of the actors; suffice it to say that Robert Walker does the best he can under the circumstances, Lucille Bremer does somewhat less than the best she can, and Van Heflin actually manages to rise above things a bit. Musically, of course, things are much brighter, with some terrific contributions from Judy Garland, Lena Horne, and Dinah Shore (and a much-too-short dance from Cyd Charisse and Gower Champion). Some of the other performers do not fare as well, such as Tony Martin and Kathryn Grayson; while Frank Sinatra certainly sounds good, his interpretation of "Ol' Man River" leaves a lot to be desired. Still, it's hard to beat Jerome Kern's music, even when presented in less-than-perfect circumstances.
by Craig Butler review