This Thanksgiving, in tribute to a grand old institution, 20th Century Fox had handed movie audiences the biggest turkey of the season. "When My Baby Smiles At Me" is one of those unfortunate picture that sets out to give you an entertaining evening, but somehow winds up midway between boredom and gastritis.
It is a very flossy bird, a great musical Tom stuffed with stars. The producers have given it everything a picture of this sort normally requires for success. Betty Grable is there to show off her pretty ankles and sing some nice tunes. Dan Dailey figures to de-emphasize Miss Grable's mediocre dancing with his own slick routines. The supporting cast of June Havoc, Jack Oakie, and James Gleason couldn't be any better. Gag specialists have written a few high-voltage boffs into the script and the whole thing is packaged in some real nice technicolor. These are the merits. In spots they give the picture color and vitality. Where it falls horribly flat is in the story and in the overburden placed on the capabilities of the principle actors.
There is a universal felling among Hollywood writers that no musical is complete without heartbreaking tragedy. The phony tearjerker in "When My Baby Smiles At Me" centers around Dan Dailey. He is cast as an old-time burlesque comic and a man who knows the pleasures of rye whiskey. When he also turns out to be pretty much of a goon around the ladies, he loses his wife. Penitent and thirsty, Mr. Dailey proceeds to booze himself right smack into Bellvue. This kind of involved business takes a lot of heavy weepy acting to pull off and Dan Dailey simply can't do if. The result is embarrassing, both to Mr. Dailey and to the audience. It is particularly bad in view of the fact that his spin through the bistros cuts the number of dances assigned him to a minimum.
Betty Grable, looking sober as John Foster Dulles throughout, inherits the dancing by default. She's got a walk that would keep any normal male supremely happy for two reels. But it takes more than a wiggle to pull you through that long third reel.
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