“Why does it always have to be you?”
Torch singer Helen Morgan (Ann Blyth) falls in love with a married producer (Richard Carlson) and retains a lifelong attraction to a charming hustler (Paul Newman) while rising to the top of her field and then beginning a steady descent into alcoholism.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Alcoholism and Drug Addiction
- Ann Blyth Films
- Downward Spiral
- Michael Curtiz Films
- Paul Newman Films
Twelve years after directing Ann Blyth in her breakthrough role as scheming Veda in Mildred Pierce (1945), Michael Curtiz worked with Blyth once again in her final film, this big-budget biopic about talented torch singer Helen Morgan, viewable in real life by film fanatics in two Peary-listed titles — Applause (1929) and Showboat (1936). Blyth fully inhabits the title role, playing Morgan with sympathy and emotional depth — though it’s unfortunate the storyline plays so lightly with the true details of her life; for instance, Newman’s fictional character is an amalgam of all the no-good heels Morgan encountered and couldn’t seem to stay away from, thus playing conveniently into the sentiments of her two most famous songs from Showboat: “Bill” and “Can’t Help Loving’ Dat Man”. Morgan’s alcoholism (the direct cause of her death at the age of 41) isn’t quite glossed over, but isn’t handled with nearly as much candor as it could have been. With that said, the film is fluidly directed, with impressive CinemaScope cinematography, and the musical sequences (dubbed by Gogi Grant, despite Blyth’s own fine voice) are enjoyable — so it’s worth a one-time look.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Ann Blyth as Helen Morgan
- Fine CinemaScope cinematography
- Many well-staged musical numbers
No, though fans of Morgan will of course be curious to check it out.