Sally, Irene and Mary (1938) (DVD)

“I feel like a bedspread I’ve been turned down so often.”

Broadway singing hopefuls Sally (Alice Faye, Week-End in Havana), Irene (Joan Davis, I Married Joan), and Mary (Marjorie Weaver, Boston Blackie) are working as manicurists when Fate intervenes. Mary inherits a ferry boat and the trio of friends decides to take advantage of the opportunity and turn the boat into a floating supper club.

It sounds simple, right? Sally, Irene and Mary would be, were it not for the romantic complications added to the plot. They’re messy complications for the most part, but they feel more like they pad the runtime between musical numbers rather than further the story. For starters there’s Tommy Reynolds (Tony Martin, Dear Mr. Wonderful), a nightclub singer who meets Sally the night he’s leaving town to try his luck elsewhere. The two hit it off, but it seems they’ll be two ships passing in the night.

That is, until Sally, Irene, and Mary’s agent Gabby Green (Fred Allen, We’re Not Married!) gets in on the action. Money hungry and not the most scrupulous of men, he’s already lost out on a big paycheck. When he meets Tommy, he can’t help but notice Tommy’s admirer — his very wealthy admirer — Joyce Taylor (Gypsy Rose Lee, The Over-the-Hill Gang). Once he learns Joyce will do anything to keep Tommy in town he concocts a plan — they’ll stage a Broadway show with Tommy and Sally as the leads. That plan goes well — until Joyce comes to a rehearsal and sees how chummy her man is with Sally. Then it’s adios funding and sayonara Broadway.

Tommy teams up with Sally, Irene, and Mary, but there’s no luck in finding jobs in the entertainment industry. Everyone decides to throw in the towel and return to their hometowns. Of course, that’s when the phone rings, alerting them to the inheritance. Lest we think things are going to be easy peasy for the gang, which now includes Jefferson, a former street sweeper turned Gabby’s new partner (Jimmy Durante, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), there’s yet another snag. This time it’s the discovery the boat in question is a junker.

How will anyone, let alone these poor unemployed misfits, pull together the kind of scratch needed to refurbish a ferry boat? Why, go to the rich people they snubbed earlier on, of course! Though it’s not going to be a cakewalk. Tommy’s going to have to marry Joyce, and Sally’s going to have to give her hand to Baron Alex Zorka (Gregory Ratoff, The Big Gamble), the man who cost Gabby his big payday earlier on.

I’m not exaggerating when I say there are a lot of side plots. So how will these two crazy kids in love find their way to each other when they’ve agreed to marry other people? Suffice it to say the story wraps itself up in a bow. A kind of lopsided bow with curls coming from left field, but a bow nonetheless. I can’t help but feel if we spent a little less time on the song-and-dance numbers and a little more on making the plot come together somewhat naturally, I would have enjoyed Sally, Irene and Mary more than I did. It felt at times as though it was torn between two movies — a sweet romance and a slapstick comedy.

I liked the separate elements just fine. Sally, Irene and Mary was itself a remake of the 1925 version and specifically a showcase for Alice Faye, one of the biggest song-and-dance stars of the thirties and forties. Making it an especially big draw was the pairing of Faye with her actual husband Tony Martin. Audiences loved the chance to watch a real-life romance play out on screen and the duo’s chemistry is undeniable. The rest of the actors had sort of stereotypical roles — the ditz, the sassy tomboy type, etc., but were competent and not annoying, aside from perhaps Durante. I’ve always found his shtick best in small doses and there’s a touch too much here for my tastes. However if you’re a fan of his, you’ll likely think he steals the show. I enjoyed the songs and the dance numbers as well. Faye’s voice is especially lovely and I could easily see and hear why she was such a huge star.

The black-and-white 1.33:1 full frame video occasionally betrays its age with some grain and debris. Likewise the simple Dolby 2.0 Stereo has a few hiccups here and there, most noticeable were pops. The technical glitches wouldn’t have been as evident to me, if I was more invested in the film. There are no bonus features.

Sally, Irene and Mary is a case where the parts didn’t add up to a whole I enjoyed as much. Fans of Faye or perhaps Durante will undoubtedly find value in a purchase, but I’d say pass.



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