“There’s no excuse for a man not fighting!”
A pacifist (Bing Crosby) engaged to a southern belle (Gail Patrick) disappoints both Patrick and her father (Claude Gillingwater) by refusing to fight a duel with Patrick’s prior suitor (John Miljan), who she eventually marries. After accepting a job as a crooner on a performance ship run by Commodore Jackson (W.C. Fields), Crosby reunites with Patrick’s younger sister (Joan Bennett), who has not-so-secretly loved Crosby for many years — but will Crosby’s new identity as “The Singing Killer” (earned after he accidentally shoots a man in a fight) spoil their romance?
Bing Crosby co-starred with W.C. Fields for the first and only time in this Rodgers & Hart musical — an adaptation of Booth Tarkington’s novel Magnolia — which showcases Crosby singing a number of ditties, W.C. Fields doing his comedic shtick, and offensive depictions of post-Civil War African-Americans (including a group of singing children referred to as the “Pickaninnies”). Blonde Bennett’s pining for Crosby in earlier scenes (as he’s busy romancing her beautiful but inflexible sister through music) quickly gets tiresome, and we simply find ourselves waiting for the moment when they will finally have their chance to realize they’re destined for one another. The mistaken identity plot is pretty silly, too, making this one only must-see for either Crosby or Fields completists.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A few humorous moments with Fields
No. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book, though I’m not sure why.