Rose of Washington Square , New York city in the 1920s: a singer struggles to keep her boyfriend from trouble. When she makes it to Ziegfeld, he heads for five years in jail. Lots of Faye and Jolson singing. The story is so close to the true story of Fanny Brice and Nicky Arnstein (Jules W. Arndt Stein) that he sued the studio in a case that was quickly settled out of court in his favor.
Rose of Washington Square , This is an excellent movie musical from the 20th Fox studio, which made excellent movie musicals. Fox made all those great musicals with John Payne and Alice Faye, until she got supplanted by Betty Grable. It’s all here – storyline, music, production values and a Who’s-Who cast of memorable character actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
“Rose” is actually a revue with only one or two songs written for the movie; “I Never Knew Heaven Could Speak” is one and is the best song in the picture. The rest are songs from pre and post WW1 and are old standards – there are 20 songs in all. Then there is the Cigarette Dance which contains some trick photography and is very clever indeed.
It stars Tyrone Power and Alice Faye who handle acting chores, but the singing duties belong to Al Jolson, who at one time was considered the best entertainer of the 20th century on either coast. He comes alive when he sings his signature numbers but has a very limited acting range. This picture is seldom seen today because, for reasons rooted in the early part of the last century, Jolson sang in blackface. Apparently this worked for him but the film is no longer in the good graces of the PC crowd and those intimidated by them. The plot is based (loosely) on Fanny Brice and her husband/problem child Nicky Arnstein. As we know too well, Hollywood feels fiction is stranger than truth and punches up many stories that were good to begin with. Plus, they were true, and what fun is that.
Do yourself a favor; if you can find this picture watch it and see how Hollywood used to do it in the good old days. As I stated in the summary, that’s entertainment in the purest sense of the term.