Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Al Jolson's "comeback" picture Hallelujah, I'm a Bum is an offbeat Depression-era concoction with script by Ben Hecht and S.N. Behrmann and music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Jolson plays a genial hobo who wanders happily around Central Park, neither seeking nor accepting honest employment. He is imbued with a sense of responsibility when he rescues pretty Madge Evans from committing suicide. Evans, suffering from amnesia, falls in love with Jolson, completely forgetting her "regular" beau, mayor Frank Morgan. When she regains her memory she heads back to Morgan, leaving Jolson sadder but wiser, and prompting him back to his carefree existence. Much of the dialogue is spoken in rhyme, in the manner of an operetta--though there's nothing Romberg-like about such lyrical phrases as "Hoover's Cossacks." Former silent-film comedy star Harry Langdon has some choice moments as Egghead, a communist streetcleaner, while composers Rodgers and Hartshow up in unbilled cameos. Because the word "Bum" has different connotations in different lands, this film was released in England as Hallelujah, I'm a Tramp. The reissue version, titled Heart of a Tramp, has been severely re-edited, doing considerable damage to the carefully interwoven rhyming dialogue.
amnesia, bum, Great-Depression, love-triangle, suicide-attempt