Judge P.S. Colbert penned this opinion in top hat and tails.
"Your luck changed when you met me, Beetle-puss!"
Mr. and Mrs. America, from coast to coast, and all ships at sea, let's go to press:
Extra! Extra! Wake Up And Live is the real Magilla—I'm crappin' you negative, gals and germs!
This here music-laden, mirth-infested, all-star extravaganza from Fox pictures puts Walter Winchell (The Untouchables) and Ben Bernie—two faces made for radio if there ever were—on top of the marquee and comes up trumps, against all odds.
Winchell, that scandal-sheet scribe with a nose for news and an extremely nasal delivery, and Bernie, the cigar-chomping, fiddle-sawing big band leader, are engaged in an all-huff-and-no-puff "showbiz feud" (ala Jack Benny and Fred Allen) over who will be the first one to expose the mysterious singing "Phantom," currently enthralling curious listeners all over the forty-eight states.
While the pair acquit themselves admirably as celebrity squabblers, neither one promises to be a scene-stealer. Fortunately, the supporting cast is chock full of 'em, starting with Winch's secretary Patsy (Patsy Kelly, Rosemary's Baby) and his leg man, Steve Cluskey (Ned Sparks, 42nd Street). Proving the adage that "there are no small roles, only small actors," a treasure trove of supporting players wind up making the most of their limited time on screen, including (but not limited to) "America's comedy queen" Joan Davis (I Married Joan), who scores big with a rib-tickling rumba, and a (relatively) baby-faced William Demarest (Uncle Charley O'Casey on My Three Sons), heisting hefty laughs as a dopey security guard.
The film's title comes from that best-selling Grandmother of self-help books by Dorothea Brande. Miss Brande herself doesn't appear, but in terms of a stand-in, the advice maven (not to mention we in the audience) couldn't do better than Alice Faye (Alexander's Ragtime Band), then on the verge of becoming America's singing sweetheart.
Miss Faye's charge is Eddie Kane (Jack Haley), a former Vaudeville hoofer and tweeter suffering from "microphone fright," which prevents him from warbling his way onto the wireless. Haley was still two years away from establishing himself as a film icon (playing the Tin Man in The Wizard Of Oz) at this point, but Wake Up And Live actually gives him a bigger and better showcase for his prodigious talents.
Available through Fox's "Cinema Archives" made-on-demand DVR program, Wake Up And Live holds up surprisingly well, with minimal wear and tear showing on this full-frame presentation. There are some snaps and crackles and on the soundtrack, to be sure, but they add up to a pretty tame bowl of Corn Pops, sonically speaking.
I tells ya, folks: if you're game for an evening of yocking it up while
rubbing elbows with the Hoi polloi of the big town's premier ballrooms and
supper clubs, just head around back, and knock three times on the big door
without a number on it. When the peephole opens, whisper "Yow-zah,
yow-zah!" to gain admittance.
And be sure to tell 'em that the Verdict sent ya!
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