The Boys from Syracuse (1940)

Genres - Comedy, Musical  |   Run Time - 72 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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In the case of The Boys from Syracuse, the original -- whether the Broadway musical or the Shakespearean play -- was definitely better. The filmed Boys gives little indication of why this Rodgers & Hart affair was so much fun onstage, which is only to be expected when most of the score was junked for the cinematic translation. True, what's left of the score is choice, especially the nifty "This Can't Be Love," the harmonically spiffy "Sing for Your Supper," and the hauntingly lovely "Falling in Love With Love." And the two new numbers Rodgers & Hart created for the film are acceptable, if not top drawer. But in addition to jettisoning the majority of the score, the writers and director also jettisoned most of the fun. Boys comes across as labored and forced, rather than free and easy. The anachronistic jokes become wearing after a while, and the plot gets a bit too jumbled. All this would be less important were the cast stronger. Unfortunately, while Allan Jones sounds quite good, he's far too stiff, and Joe Penner is actively annoying. Of the women, Rosemary Lane and Irene Hervey look delicious and perform acceptably; Martha Raye's comedy is something of an acquired taste, but she's lively and game, and that counts for a lot here. Edward Sutherland's direction is loose when tight is called for; it provides some isolated moments of unexpected humor but also kills the timing on a number of jokes. Diehard musical fans will want to see The Boys from Syracuse, but most others can give it a pass.