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   HIGHER AND HIGHER (1943) 

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CAST
Michele Morgan
Jack Haley
Frank Sinatra
Leon Errol
Marcy McGuire
Victor Borge
Mary Wickes
Elisabeth Risdon
Barbara Hale
Mel Tormé
Paul Hartman
Grace Hartman

DIRECTED BY
Tim Whelan

PURCHASE


DVD



About Sinatra




Time: 90 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Comedy/Romance/Musical

Academy Award nominations for Best Original Song and Best Score.


SYNOPSIS: Formerly rich Mr. Drake is broke...with his household staff's wages seven months in arrears. Conniving valet Mike O'Brien hatches a scheme to pass off scullery maid Millie as Drake's debutante daughter and net a rich husband for the benefit of all the servants and Mr. Drake. But all kinds of complications, romantic and otherwise, intervene when she refuses to go along with the wishes of the group.

BOTTOM LINE: This is one of those films that would have been a real hit – and more well known – if the lead romantic couple had been more famous...and had better chemistry. Don't be fooled by Sinatra's face on the cover. This is only his third foray into the world of film, though he was already a popular crooner. Clearly unsure of his cinema future or talent, the studio had him play himself, not much of a stretch to be sure, but he comes across as charming and genuine and gets to put his voice to good use. If only he WAS the lead this film might have been truly memorable. As it stands, he plays one of three men (Haley and Borge round out the trio) who find themselves vying for the affection of Millie, a willful, yet ditzy scullery maid pretending to be a debutante. The trouble with this character, as played by French actress Michelle Morgan (in one of her first Hollywood roles), is that she's too dumb and coarse to be convincing as a lady and way too pretty to be a maid. A woman who looked like that could have found a classier job, or none at all, if you catch my drift.

Morgan tries her best to be charming and funny and in some sequences she is, but her accent slips in and out – which is distracting – and she just doesn't have the natural timing of a true comedienne to bring the kookier aspects of Millie to the next level. Fortunately, she plays dreamy, pouty and heartsick quite well, so the romantic parts work, causing you to feel her pain in having to marry a man she doesn't love and being ignored by the one she does. The machinations to get her into the arms of a a rich husband are ridiculous yet pretty entertaining. Despite being slightly miscast, Morgan at least looks and plays the part of a leading lady. Jack Haley plays a butler and never really steps up to the plate as the film's romantic lead. He seems happier to see Millie in the arms of any other man, which is a big problem. Sure, he's supposed to be a bit surprised when he finally discovers her feelings for him, but his lack of emotion, even in the final clinch, ruins the romantic chemistry and joy at their finding each other at last. His character is clever and funny, just not suave enough to pull off true love.

The cast of servants (including McGuire, Wickes & Tormé in his first film role) and Leon Errol, as Mr. Drake, are used to great comic advantage, delivering several delightful musical numbers that bring real energy and humor to the piece. The songs were perfectly melded into the film bringing both needed comedy and romance just at the right spots. Sinatra, of course, nails all of his numbers and shows a sense of humor in the duet with Marcy McGuire singing "I Saw You First." If you're not under his spell after his versions of "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" or "Lovely Way to Spend an Evening" you have a heart of stone. I wasn't surprised to learn that this was originally a Broadway play, but they translate it fairly well to the big screen with expansive sets and a few outdoor locations. A sweet and fun musical that won't try your brain, but will get your toes tapping.




"I propose a toast to Mr. Drake. A man to whom we owe so much. And vice versa."

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