HELLO, FRISCO, HELLO. 20th Century Fox, 1943, Alice Faye, John Payne, Jack Oakie, Lynn Bari, Laird Cregar, June Havoc, Ward Bond. Dances staged by Val Raset and Hermes Pan; musical sequences supervised by Fanchon. “You’ll Never Know,” music and lyrics by Mack Gordon & Harry Warren. Director: H. Bruce Humberstone. Shown at Cinevent 41, Columbus OH, May 2009.

    “You’ll Never Know” won the Oscar for best song and the movie was Fox’s biggest hit of 1943. John Payne is Johnny Cornell, hot-shot small-time musical promoter, whose greatest asset is his long-suffering girlfriend and talented performer Trudy Evans (Alice Faye), with Dan Daley (Jack Oakie) and Beulah Clancy (June Havoc) filling out the quartet of long-time friends and fellow vaudevillians whose stories are the core of this sumptuous, plushy musical.

    Lynn Bari is the society dame who can offer Johnny everything he’s always wanted, wealth and position, everything but love, and without giving away any more of the plot, I’m sure you can tell how the film will end.


    I always liked Alice Faye, but I was never a great fan of the Fox musicals, which failed to satisfy me in the way the Astaire-Rogers and MGM musicals did.

    The movie made me wish that I had not missed the screening earlier that day of Nice Girl? (Universal, 1941), with a cast that included Deanna Durbin, Franchot Tone, Walter Brennan, Robert Stack, Robert Benchley, and Helen Broderick, a comedy with music that, by all the accounts I heard of it, had the charm and light touch that Hello, Frisco, Hello, for all its top-flight production values and talented cast, showed no trace of.

    And if you say that I’m comparing apples and oranges, you’re probably right. Let’s just say that I prefer the pungent taste of apples to the pulpy texture of oranges.