Monday, March 11, 2013

If I'm Lucky

Another movie returning to the Fox Movie Channel for the first time in a couple of years is If I'm Lucky, which you can catch tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM.

Perry Como stars more or less as himself (although the character is named Allen Clark), the male singer for one of those omnipresent 1940s bands, such as the one led by the recently-mentioned Jan Savitt. The bandleader is played by Harry James; Vivian Blaine is the main female singer; and Carmen Miranda is along more for the production numbers, although she's actually the band's harp player. (Seriously.) The problem is, the band is out of work. As luck would have it, though, a political campaign is coming along, offering them at least free food for warming up the audience. It's Magonnagle (character actor Edgar Buchanan) running for governor, with his campaign being managed by Wally Jones (Phil Silvers). They have little hope of winning since they're up against the big, corrupt machine backing the incumbent governor, but hey, there has to be a pretense of democracy.

And then, a funny thing happens. Just before one campaign stop, Buchanan gets rip-roaring drunk. Much too drunk, in fact, to go out and give a speech. So what's a campaign to do? They trot out Clark, who gives a speech that's little more than platitudes. But, this being a Hollywood movie, the audience at the campaign rally eats such stuff up. And so, everybody gets an idea. Why not dump Magonnagle and run Clark for governor? This utterly changes the campaign. Clark starts rising in the polls, to the point that the machine thinks they can manipulate him more than they can the current governor. Clark isn't so certain of any of this, but it'll get him exposure for his singing. Meanwhile, he's unsurprisingly fallen in love with the Vivian Blaine character.

The next plot twist is entirely predictable: our heroes find out that the campaign is being backed by the corrupt machine, and everybody wants out. It's easy for the band members, but not so much for Clark. Oh, he'd like to quit politics, but the machine has already manipulated him to the point that they can blackmail him if he should try to quit the campaign. To be honest, though, you know that it's all leading up to a happy ending resolution. This isn't Preston Sturges; it's a fluffy Fox musical.

And that's one of the problem with these fluffy musicals: you know that, whatever problems the characters face, the right people are going to triumph in the end. There was no way Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden were going to be flops in Singin' in the Rain, for example. As such, a movie like this is more down to its production values and the acting and music than it is to the story. MGM and the Freed Unit were the tops at this in the 1940s and 1950s, with Fox's musicals coming across as looking rather thriftier, and If I'm Lucky is further down the scale than the Technicolor Fox musicals with Betty Grable as the star. One really wishes the Carmen Miranda numbers could be in color. It also really doesn't help that Perry Como is utterly lacking in the charisma department. If I'm Lucky is a remake of a 1930s movie called Thanks a Million with Dick Powell in the role of the singer-turned-candidate, and Powell is so much more compelling. Still, those of you who like the Fox style of musicals may well enjoy this one.

If I'm Lucky has received a couple of DVD releases. One is as part of a Carmen Miranda box set that I'm not certain whether it's still in print; the other is a standalone that you can get even from the TCM shop. As far as I'm aware, the original, Thanks a Million, isn't on DVD.

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