Sunday, April 22, 2018

Down to Earth (1947)

Quite a few years back I bought the Mill Creek "Romance film" set that has eight movies on two DVDs. I think I've blogged about every movie on the set except for Down to Earth, so I finally got around to watching that one.

The movie starts off as an extension of Here Comes Mr. Jordan, with James Gleason reprising his role as Max Corkle. Where Max was a boxing manager before, now he's a theatrical agent. And he's being questioned for murder, since he knew five minutes in advance to call the police. He's also seen looking for an unseen Mr. Jordan. Cue the flashback....

Danny Miller (Larry Parks) is a Broadway producer putting on a show with ancient Greek themes; the plot involves a couple of World War II-era flyboys getting romanced by Terpsichore, the ancient Greek muse of dance. What these people down on Earth don't know is that the gods above are watching them, and in this case it's specifically Terpsichore (Rita Hayworth) who's been paying attention. And she's pissed, because this musical production makes her look like some sort of tramp. It's scandalous!

But how can she make it right? Eventually, she pleads with Mr. Jordan (Roland Culver) to let her go down to earth in human form to show these Broadway people what the real Terpsichore is about. Unsurprisingly being Rita Hayworth, the real Terpsichore is so gorgeous and such a good dancer that she has no difficulty winning over Danny on the spot and getting the lead role in the play. That's the easy part.

Having gotten herself in the cast, Terpsichore, calling herself Kitty Pendleton and taking on Max as her agent, proceeds to act like a diva who thinks she should be telling everybody how to do the play. Of course, that was her intention, in that she wanted an honest story of Terpsichore. But she comes across as selfish to the point that she's got all the other cast unhappy with her suggested changes. But Danny realizes he's got a star in the making on his hands. Worse, he's in love with her.

There's even worse than that. Terpsichore's changes turn the play into a flop. It's the sort of material that might have been good for a serious opera or maybe a ballet if it had been done as dance. But a Broadway show? Heavens no, and the type of people who go to Broadway shows are going to stay away from this one in droves. That's a problem not only in that nobody wants a flop, but also because Danny owes a whole bunch of money to bookie Manion (George Macready). If the show is a success, he'll pay off the debts; if it's a failure, Manion's men will be able to kill Danny and get it declared a suicide. What's a poor little muse to do?

Down to Earth is a movie that has a good premise, and anybody who's interested in a romance movie will find the plot pleasing enough. The Technicolor photography is quite good, even on the lesser Mill Creek print. The movie, however, has a pretty big problem in the form of all those musical numbers. There are a lot of them, and they just go on and on and on. Worse, they're not even particularly good musical numbers. It's a shame that this detracts from what would otherwise be a prety good movie.

Down to Earth seems to be available on DVD only in the Mill Creek set, although Amazon also currently has it on its streaming video service. There have also been several other movies with the same title, most notably the Chris Rock movie from 2001 which is actually the same story as Here Comes Mr. Jordan.

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