“Rose of Washington Square”

25 03 2011


Twentieth Century-Fox Strolls Down Melody Lane in ‘Rose of Washington Square,’ at the Roxy

New York Times
By Frank Nugent
Published: May 6, 1939

Twentieth Century-Fox’s latest tour down Melody Lane has come to the Roxy under the blushing title “Rose of Washington Square,” the Rose being neither Al Jolson nor Tyrone Power (as we had feared), but Alice Faye, who flowers lushly in the cabarets and flounces of the post-war years. Obviously designed as a thematic sequel to “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” the picture makes much the same capital of its sentimentally evocative score, its nostalgic reminders of the speakeasy era, its delicate reminder that the Nineteen Twenties already have become a “costume period.”

Bearing the usual prefatory denial of any factual basis, the film tells the story of the loyal Ziegfeld star who married a thief and confidence man, stuck by him through his disgrace and poured all her love and faith into the song “My Man,” which she sobbed out each night from the Ziegfeld stage. Miss Faye doesn’t resemble Fannie Brice; she doesn’t sing “My Man” as well, either. If she did, of course, it would have been just too coincidental.

Nunnally Johnson, who wrote the script, has not succeeded in giving it appreciable dramatic power. Miss Faye’s heartbreak never seems to be much deeper than her make-up. Mr. Power’s Bart Clinton, an almost equally superficial study in weak criminality, is not afforded a single scene by which his ultimate romantic regeneration can satisfactorily be explained. Mr. Jolson, playing himself and doing it extremely well, is the only member of the starring trio whose performance has warmth and vitality.

Atmospherically, however, the picture has interest. Mr. Jolson’s singing of “Mammy,” “California, Here I Come” and others is something for the memory book. So is Miss Faye’s full-mouthed chanting of “The Vamp,” “Rose of Washington Square,” “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and a few others. Mr. Johnson would have been wiser, we believe, to have built his tale about Mr. Jolson’s career. The picture was at its best when the Mammy specialist held the spotlight.



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