Three Little Words (film)

Last updated
Three Little Words
Three-little-words-movie-poster-1950.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Thorpe
Produced byJack Cummings
Written by George Wells
Starring Fred Astaire
Red Skelton
Vera-Ellen
Arlene Dahl
Music by André Previn
Harry Ruby
Cinematography Harry Jackson
Edited byBen Lewis
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • July 12, 1950 (1950-07-12)(U.S.)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$1,470,000 [1]
Box office$4,526,000 [1]

Three Little Words is a 1950 American musical film biography of the Tin Pan Alley songwriting partnership of Kalmar and Ruby. It stars Fred Astaire as lyricist Bert Kalmar and Red Skelton as composer Harry Ruby, along with Vera-Ellen and Arlene Dahl as their wives, with Debbie Reynolds in a small but notable role as singer Helen Kane. The film, released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, was written by Academy-Award-winning screenwriter George Wells, directed by Richard Thorpe and produced by Jack Cummings. Harry Ruby served as a consultant on the project, and he appears in a cameo role as a baseball catcher. The third in a series of MGM biopics about Broadway composers, it was preceded by Till the Clouds Roll By (Jerome Kern, 1946) and Words and Music (Rodgers and Hart, 1948) and followed by Deep in My Heart (Sigmund Romberg, 1954).

Contents

Cast

This warm and engaging [2] film was one of Astaire's favorites, [3] possibly because of the nostalgic vaudeville connection. As Hollywood film biographies of the period go, it takes fewer liberties with the facts than usual, and Astaire and Skelton's onscreen portrayal of the partnership is considered psychologically accurate, [2] ,complemented by a mutual chemistry, some quality acting by both, and some fine comedy touches by Skelton. [3] Unusually for Hollywood songwriting biographies of this period, two of the songs, "Thinking of You" and "Nevertheless", became major hits on the film's release, reaching first and second place respectively, in the U.S. charts.

In recognition of his acting performance, Fred Astaire was awarded the first Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy in 1951.

Key songs/dance routines

This film provides an object lesson in how to integrate the many songs and dances seamlessly and naturally into the script - a principle first introduced into the Hollywood musical by Astaire as far back as 1934. Astaire's choreography takes the opportunity provided by Vera-Ellen's technical prowess [3] to showcase dance routines notable [2] for leg kicks, lifts and - Astaire's innovative combination of the two - the hurdling lift, first invented for "The Yam" number in Carefree (1938). These routines are contrasted with some choreographically primitive numbers typical of vaudeville c. 1920. The spirit of the partnered dances expands on the theme of marital contentment previously explored in The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) and the prior year's The Barkleys of Broadway (1949). Vera-Ellen's singing voice was dubbed [2] by Anita Ellis.

Contemporary reviews

Box office

According to MGM records the film earned $3,019,000 in the US and Canada and $1,507,000 elsewhere, resulting in a healthy profit of $1,252,000. [1]

Accolades

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Related Research Articles

<i>Everyone Says I Love You</i> 1996 film by Woody Allen

Everyone Says I Love You is a 1996 American musical comedy film written and directed by Woody Allen, who also stars alongside Julia Roberts, Alan Alda, Edward Norton, Drew Barrymore, Gaby Hoffmann, Tim Roth, Goldie Hawn, Natasha Lyonne and Natalie Portman. Set in New York City, Venice and Paris, the film features singing by actors not usually known for their singing.

<i>Top Hat</i> 1935 film by Mark Sandrich

Top Hat is a 1935 American screwball musical comedy film in which Fred Astaire plays an American dancer named Jerry Travers, who comes to London to star in a show produced by Horace Hardwick. He meets and attempts to impress Dale Tremont to win her affection. The film also features Eric Blore as Hardwick's valet Bates, Erik Rhodes as Alberto Beddini, a fashion designer and rival for Dale's affections, and Helen Broderick as Hardwick's long-suffering wife Madge.

Ginger Rogers American actress and dancer

Ginger Rogers was an American actress, dancer, and singer during the "Golden Age" of Hollywood and is often considered an American icon. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her starring role in Kitty Foyle (1940), but is best remembered for performing during the 1930s in RKO's musical films with Fred Astaire. Her career continued on stage, radio and television throughout much of the 20th century.

Fred Astaire American dancer, singer, actor, choreographer and television presenter (1899-1987)

Fred Astaire was an American dancer, singer, actor, choreographer, and television presenter. He is widely considered the most influential dancer in the history of film.

Harry Ruby American composer and screenwriter

Harry Rubenstein, known professionally as Harry Ruby, was an American composer and screenwriter, who was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. He was married to silent film actress Eileen Percy.

Bert Kalmar American lyricist

Bert Kalmar was an American lyricist, who was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

<i>Swing Time</i> (film) 1936 musical film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Swing Time is a 1936 American RKO musical comedy film set mainly in New York City, and starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It features Helen Broderick, Victor Moore, Betty Furness, Eric Blore and Georges Metaxa, with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. The film was directed by George Stevens.

That's Entertainment! is a 1974 American compilation film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to celebrate the studio's 50th anniversary. The success of the retrospective prompted a 1976 sequel, the related 1985 film That's Dancing!, and a third installment in 1994.

<i>Thats Entertainment! III</i> 1994 film

That's Entertainment! III is a 1994 American documentary film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to celebrate the studio's 70th anniversary. It was the third in a series of retrospectives that began with the first That's Entertainment! (1974) and That's Entertainment, Part II (1976). Although posters and home video packaging use the title without an exclamation mark, the actual on-screen title of the film uses it.

"Thinking of You" is a popular song, composed by Harry Ruby with lyrics by Bert Kalmar. It was introduced in the Broadway show, The Five O'Clock Girl (1927) when it was sung by Mary Eaton and Oscar Shaw.

<i>A Damsel in Distress</i> (1937 film) 1937 film by George Stevens

A Damsel in Distress is a 1937 English-themed Hollywood musical comedy film starring Fred Astaire, Joan Fontaine, George Burns, and Gracie Allen. Loosely based upon the P.G. Wodehouse 1919 novel of the same name, and the 1928 stage play written by Wodehouse and Ian Hay, it has music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, and was directed by George Stevens, the second Astaire musical directed by Stevens; the first was Swing Time.

<i>Royal Wedding</i> 1951 MGM musical comedy film directed by Stanley Donen

Royal Wedding is a 1951 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical comedy film starring Fred Astaire and Jane Powell, with music by Burton Lane and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. The film was directed by Stanley Donen; it was his second film and the first he directed on his own. It was released as Wedding Bells in the United Kingdom.

<i>The Belle of New York</i> (1952 film) 1952 American film by Charles Walters

The Belle of New York is a 1952 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Hollywood musical comedy film set in New York circa 1900 and stars Fred Astaire, Vera-Ellen, Alice Pearce, Marjorie Main, Gale Robbins and Keenan Wynn, with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The film was directed by Charles Walters.

<i>Follow the Fleet</i> 1936 film by Mark Sandrich

Follow the Fleet is a 1936 American RKO musical comedy film with a nautical theme starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in their fifth collaboration as dance partners. It also features Randolph Scott, Harriet Hilliard, and Astrid Allwyn, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. Lucille Ball and Betty Grable also appear, in supporting roles. The film was directed by Mark Sandrich with script by Allan Scott and Dwight Taylor based on the 1922 play Shore Leave by Hubert Osborne.

<i>The Barkleys of Broadway</i> 1949 film by Charles Walters

The Barkleys of Broadway is a 1949 Technicolor musical film from the Arthur Freed unit at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that reunited Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers after ten years apart. Directed by Charles Walters, the screenplay is by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Sidney Sheldon, the songs are by Harry Warren (music) and Ira Gershwin (lyrics) with the addition of "They Can't Take That Away from Me" by George and Ira Gershwin, and the choreography was created by Robert Alton and Hermes Pan. Also featured in the cast were Oscar Levant, Billie Burke, Jacques François and Gale Robbins.

Fred Astaires solo and partnered dances

This is a comprehensive guide to over one hundred and fifty of Fred Astaire's solo and partnered dances compiled from his thirty-one Hollywood musical comedy films produced between 1933 and 1968, his four television specials and his television appearances on The Hollywood Palace and Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre which cover the period from 1958 to 1968. Further information on the dance routines may be obtained, where available, by clicking on the film links.

<i>Shall We Dance</i> (1937 film) 1937 film by Mark Sandrich

Shall We Dance, released in 1937, is the seventh of the ten Astaire-Rogers musical comedy films. The idea for the film originated in the studio's desire to exploit the successful formula created by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart with their 1936 Broadway hit On Your Toes. The musical featured an American dancer getting involved with a touring Russian ballet company. In a major coup for RKO, Pandro Berman managed to attract the Gershwins – George Gershwin who wrote the symphonic underscore and Ira Gershwin the lyrics – to score this, their second Hollywood musical after Delicious in 1931.

"I Wanna Be Loved by You" is a song written by Herbert Stothart and Harry Ruby, with lyrics by Bert Kalmar, for the 1928 musical Good Boy. It was chosen as one of the Songs of the Century in a survey by the RIAA to which 200 people responded. One of Marilyn Monroe's most famous musical performances is her singing the song in Billy Wilder's classic farce Some Like It Hot.

Kalmar and Ruby refers to the famous songwriting team of the first half of the 20th century of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby.

<i>The Cuckoos</i> (1930 film) 1930 film by Paul Sloane

The Cuckoos (1930) is an American Pre-Code musical comedy film, released by RKO Radio Pictures and partially filmed in two-strip Technicolor. Directed by Paul Sloane, the screenplay was adapted by Cyrus Wood, from the 1926 Broadway musical, The Ramblers, by Guy Bolton, Bert Kalmar, and Harry Ruby. It starred Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, and although they had appeared on Broadway and in other films together, this was their first time starring as a team. The success of this picture, combined with Rio Rita being their most successful film of 1929, convinced the studio to headline them as the comedy team Wheeler & Woolsey, through 1937.

References

  1. 1 2 3 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Mueller, John (1986). Astaire Dancing - The Musical Films. London: Hamish Hamilton. pp. 300–311. ISBN   0-241-11749-6.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Astaire, Fred (1959). Steps in Time. London: Heinemann. p. 296.
  4. 1 2 Billman, Larry (1997). Fred Astaire - A Bio-bibliography. Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 127–130. ISBN   0-313-29010-5.
  5. "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.