Sally (1929)

Genres - Comedy, Musical  |   Release Date - Dec 23, 1929 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 103 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Live theater being the most ephemeral of arts, one can be thankful that Warner Bros preserved perhaps the most successful musical comedy of the 1920s and retained its original lead, the legendary Marilyn Miller. Miller, who perhaps wisely had refused all screen offers while the medium was still mute, signed with the studio for a whopping (and widely advertised) $149,000 to recreate her famous stage turn, which was released in two-strip Technicolor to what one modern writer has termed "modified rapture." By 1929, the thirty-something Miller was no longer at her incandescent peak and it is frankly difficult for a modern audience to truly comprehend what all the fuss was about The much-vaunted Technicolor, alas, has not survived except for a brief production number in which Miller cavorts with a line of chorus boys. But in this fleeting moment one may detect a bit of what kept Broadway crowds on their feet for more than two years running. By today's standards Miller's dancing can probably best be termed "eccentric" and her singing is nothing to write home about, but that breathtaking smile and million-dollar personality is right there on the screen. Then it is gone and a gray and white Sally is once again a creaky museum piece kept lingering, but barely, by the comedic talents of Joe E. Brown, Ford Sterling, Jack Duffy, and dumb brunette Pert Kelton. Alexander Gray, who had appeared with Miller in the touring version, makes an adequate leading man and the closing Ziegfeld number, complete with a chorus line choreographed by Albertina Rasch) and towering showgirls in bizarre getups, is tuneful enough. As Hollywood would again and again in the future, Warner Bros. threw out most of Jerome Kern's original score to save a buck or two, but not even West Coast Philistines like the brothers Warner could touch Kern's and Buddy G. De Sylva's "Look for the Silver Lining," which remained Miller's signature song. She would only do two additional films before dying tragically young in 1936 but her memory was kept alive through such musicals as Till the Clouds Roll By (47), with Judy Garland supplying Marilyn with the kind of voice she always wished she had and, of course, the musical biography Look for the Silver Lining (1949) starring June Haver.