Sunday, August 25, 2013

Frank Sinatra in Brooklyn

[Frank Sinatra, home again, marveling. Good practice for On the Town. Click for a larger bridge.]

It Happened in Brooklyn (dir. Richard Whorf, 1947) offers nearly two hours’ worth of music and pleasant lunacy. Danny Miller (Sinatra) is a shy Brooklynite and aspiring singer returning home from the war. Jamie Shellgrove (Peter Lawford), a shy English aristocrat and composer, follows Danny to Brooklyn. Anne Fielding (Kathryn Grayson) sings and teaches music at New Utrecht High School. Nick Lombardi (Jimmy Durante), Danny’s friend, works as the school’s janitor and lives in the school’s basement. Yes, his basement has a piano.

One highlight among many: Sinatra singing Mozart.

Early in the film, when we’re still in England, a nurse from Brooklyn (Gloria Grahame) asks Danny why he’s moping around now that he’s recovered from mumps. That’s not like a guy from Brooklyn. Even after seeing his photograph of the bridge and quizzing him on borough landmarks, she still suspects that he’s not the real thing:

“Why aren’t you down at that party like a Brooklyn guy should be — makin’ friends for yourself and for Brooklyn? A Brooklyn guy is a friendly guy.”

“Well, I will be, once I get home. It’s easier in Brooklyn.”

“I don’t care how many photographs of the bridge you got. I don’t care how many names of the streets you know. When I see you out makin’ a friend, then I believe you’re from Brooklyn.”
One of the most revealing things about this film is that it has nothing to say about war. The subject never comes up, though Danny is in uniform in many early stateside scenes. The film’s tagline, as seen on this poster: “HAPPY songs! HAPPY stars! HAPPY romance!” What war? This film is dedicated to the pleasures of forgetting, at least for an hour and forty-four minutes.

[The director? Brother to the linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf.]

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