Come next New Year, that elusively collective personality, Hollywood, should reconsider a maxim which must be on its resolution back-list: leave well enough alone. Given Kathryn Grayson, June Allyson, and Jimmy Durante as ingredients, the average tired aesthete would probably plan something with the two girls, standing artistic but wordless, on each side of the screen, with Durante doing the rest. Not so Hollywood.
Added to the primary ingredients in the current opus are: Lauritz Melchior as a tubby (what else?), good-hearted-but-tending-to-be-grouchy-at-first baritone; long (vintage 1900) skirts; an opera rustled up by California technicians from odd bits of orchestral music by Lizst and Mendelssohn and sung patently in English; Peter Lawford as a timid male debutant who calls a girl "darling" because it turns out she can speak Greek; and many others of lesser note.
It might be well to remark at once, just to take the sour taste out of your mouth, that the Nose is as potent as ever. This time he divides his time about 50-50 between his traditional routine (breaking pianos, listening for that high note, singing in patter) and some more than usually straight performing. It is worth more than the price of admission anywhere except on Broadway to watch his newest (or have we just missed it?) trick, one which is impossible to describe but which will send you into fits for two or three five-minute periods during the film.
The plot really belongs under the list in paragraph two. It concerns a would-be Boston mayor whose Republican (and that really dates it!) sanctity is injured by rumors about the life of one of his nieces whom he has permitted to go to New York unaccompanied. Said candidate, with his wife and the niece's sister, journey to the big city to get some first-hand information. Niece number one manages successfully to conceal the fact that she has been singing and swinging in a Bowery night club for her keep, then makes good her boast of being with the Metropolitan, with the aid of her boss and manager, J. Durante, and the new routine hinted at above.
Why the producer or director or writer or someone was not satisfied with Boston's justly famous articulation and had to substitute his own peculiar brand of midwestern accent is a mystery, as is the intent of one of the same gentlemen in allowing a girl from Boston in any decade to sway, skirtless, on a Bowery stage. Cambridge, at least, is not, and was never, like this. Durante is a mystery of sorts, too-but only in that it's a wonder he remains as funny as he does. As a matter of fact, the more you think about Durante, the more you feel that the movie is worth seeing for him at any cost. So be it.