Higher and Higher (1943)

88 or 90 mins | Musical comedy | 1943

Director:

Tim Whelan

Producer:

Tim Whelan

Cinematographer:

Robert de Grasse

Editor:

Gene Milford

Production Designers:

Albert D'Agostino, Jack Okey

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film's opening credits bill the Hartmans together as Paul and Grace Hartman. According to a pre-production news item in HR , RKO purchased the rights to the Gladys Hurlbut-Joshua Logan play for $15,000. The MPHPD review notes that Hurlbut and Logan's book was reworked to feature immensely popular singing star Frank Sinatra and that all but one song from the Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart score was eliminated. To replace the original score, songwriters Harold Adamson and Jimmy McHugh wrote four songs especially tailored to Sinatra's vocal style, according to a HR news item. The songs "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" and "A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening" were big Sinatra hits and "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" was nominated for an Academy Award. The score of this picture was also nominated for an Academy Award.
       This film was Sinatra's first starring vehicle and inaugurated his seven-year contract with RKO, under which he was obligated to appear in two pictures per year for the studio. Sinatra made only one additional contract film at RKO, Step Lively (see below), before going under contract to M-G-M. Although Higher and Higher was designed as a Sinatra vehicle, previous contractual obligations forced the studio to give Michele Morgan and Jack Haley billing over Sinatra, according to a NYT news item. Haley also appeared in the Broadway play. The picture marked singer Mel Tormé's screen debut. Other pre-production news items in HR note that Constance Moore was originally slated to play the role of "Catherine" and add Joan Davis to the cast. ... More Less

The film's opening credits bill the Hartmans together as Paul and Grace Hartman. According to a pre-production news item in HR , RKO purchased the rights to the Gladys Hurlbut-Joshua Logan play for $15,000. The MPHPD review notes that Hurlbut and Logan's book was reworked to feature immensely popular singing star Frank Sinatra and that all but one song from the Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart score was eliminated. To replace the original score, songwriters Harold Adamson and Jimmy McHugh wrote four songs especially tailored to Sinatra's vocal style, according to a HR news item. The songs "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" and "A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening" were big Sinatra hits and "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" was nominated for an Academy Award. The score of this picture was also nominated for an Academy Award.
       This film was Sinatra's first starring vehicle and inaugurated his seven-year contract with RKO, under which he was obligated to appear in two pictures per year for the studio. Sinatra made only one additional contract film at RKO, Step Lively (see below), before going under contract to M-G-M. Although Higher and Higher was designed as a Sinatra vehicle, previous contractual obligations forced the studio to give Michele Morgan and Jack Haley billing over Sinatra, according to a NYT news item. Haley also appeared in the Broadway play. The picture marked singer Mel Tormé's screen debut. Other pre-production news items in HR note that Constance Moore was originally slated to play the role of "Catherine" and add Joan Davis to the cast. Davis does not appear in the released version of the film. Modern sources credit Roy Webb with score and Maurice de Packh with orchestrations. After the picture was released, songwriters Jack Trizio and Chuck Bennett sued the studio and McHugh and Adamson, alleging that the song "The Music Stopped" was plagiarized from their composition "You're Mine to Love." The outcome of that suit is not known. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
11 Dec 1943.
---
Daily Variety
9 Dec 43
p. 3.
Film Daily
9 Dec 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jul 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jul 43
p. 21.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Sep 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 44
p. 11.
Motion Picture Herald
11 Dec 1943.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Nov 43
p. 1616.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
11 Dec 43
p. 1665.
New York Times
29 Aug 1943.
---
New York Times
22 Jan 44
p. 8.
New York Times
13 Feb 1944.
---
Variety
15 Dec 43
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Addl dial
Addl dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
Vocal dir
Orch arr
Orch arr
SOUND
DANCE
Mus numbers staged by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the musical Higher and Higher , book by Gladys Hurlbut and Joshua Logan, music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, as produced by Dwight Deere Wiman (New York, 4 Apr 1940).
SONGS
"Disgustingly Rich," music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
"A Most Important Affair," "The Music Stopped," "Today I'm a Debutante," "A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening," "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night," "I Saw You First" and "You're on Your Own," music by Jimmy McHugh, lyrics by Harold Adamson.
DETAILS
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 1 January 1944
Production Date:
late July--late September 1943
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
22 December 1943
Copyright Number:
LP12451
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
88 or 90
Length(in feet):
8,109
Country:
United States
PCA No:
9545
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When bankrupt millionaire Cyrus Drake receives notice that the bank intends to foreclose on his mortgage in thirty days and his wife and daughter decide to leave him, his valet, Michael O'Brien, a former entertainer, proposes that Millie, the scullery maid, pose as Drake's daughter Pamela to snag a millionaire. The members of Drake's staff, who have not been paid for seven months, concur and decide to pool their resources and form a corporation to catch Millie a rich husband. When Mike asks her if she has a boyfriend, Millie, to hide her infatuation with Mike, tells him about the boy across the street who sings to her. According to the plan, Millie is recast from scullery maid to debutante by Sandy Brooks, Drake's social secretary, who teaches her about proper etiquette and comportment. Instructed by Mike in the art of courtship, Millie questions her instructor about finding the right partner, and he answers that she'll know him when she hears "a click." Soon after, the boy next door, Frank Sinatra, comes to meet Millie, who is introduced to him as Pamela Drake. After apologizing for thinking that she was a member of the household staff, Frank sings her a song, causing Mike to worry that he may steal Millie's heart and their prospective fortune. When the local newspaper prints a story that Pamela and her mother are returning home from Switzerland, the corporation appoints Sandy to play the role of Mrs. Drake. Drawn by the newspaper article, Mrs. Georgia Keating, accompanied by her daughter Catherine, comes to visit her old friends the Drakes and check out Pamela, Catherine's competition ... +


When bankrupt millionaire Cyrus Drake receives notice that the bank intends to foreclose on his mortgage in thirty days and his wife and daughter decide to leave him, his valet, Michael O'Brien, a former entertainer, proposes that Millie, the scullery maid, pose as Drake's daughter Pamela to snag a millionaire. The members of Drake's staff, who have not been paid for seven months, concur and decide to pool their resources and form a corporation to catch Millie a rich husband. When Mike asks her if she has a boyfriend, Millie, to hide her infatuation with Mike, tells him about the boy across the street who sings to her. According to the plan, Millie is recast from scullery maid to debutante by Sandy Brooks, Drake's social secretary, who teaches her about proper etiquette and comportment. Instructed by Mike in the art of courtship, Millie questions her instructor about finding the right partner, and he answers that she'll know him when she hears "a click." Soon after, the boy next door, Frank Sinatra, comes to meet Millie, who is introduced to him as Pamela Drake. After apologizing for thinking that she was a member of the household staff, Frank sings her a song, causing Mike to worry that he may steal Millie's heart and their prospective fortune. When the local newspaper prints a story that Pamela and her mother are returning home from Switzerland, the corporation appoints Sandy to play the role of Mrs. Drake. Drawn by the newspaper article, Mrs. Georgia Keating, accompanied by her daughter Catherine, comes to visit her old friends the Drakes and check out Pamela, Catherine's competition for the title of "number one debutante." When Mrs. Keating learns that Pamela intends to sponsor the forthcoming Butler's Ball, she insures that Catherine is made a sponsor, also. At the ball, the corporation targets Catherine's escort, Sir Victor Fitzroy Victor, as their quarry, planning to bag their prey at Millie's coming out party. After escorting Millie to the dance floor, Mike tells her that she is to pursue Victor. Millie, who is still in love with Mike, tries to avoid the nobleman by unhooking her skirt and slipping it off on the dance floor. Rather than being horrified, however, Sir Victor is charmed and begins to court Millie. The next morning, Millie is scrubbing the stoop when Frank bicycles up to the house and presents her with a bouquet of flowers. Fearful that Frank will jeopardize their investment, Mike dismisses him and sends the flowers to Victor with a note from Pamela. At his hotel room, Victor is fending off the demands of the manager for payment of his bill when the flowers arrive. The phony nobleman assures the manager that he will have abundant funds after he marries the wealthy Pamela Drake. On the night of her coming out party, Millie asks Frank's advice about marriage and invites him to the festivities. When Mike sends her into the garden with Victor, Millie pairs Frank and Catherine together for their own walk in the garden. There, Victor proposes, but Millie refuses to accept, telling Mike that she is in love with someone else. When Mike discounts her feelings, Millie, dejected, returns to the party and announces her engagement to Victor. On the day of the wedding, the ceremony is delayed while Millie disappears into the attic to search for something borrowed and something blue. When Mike comes to look for her, the two dance a minuet together, and he decides to call off the wedding and dissolve the corporation. Mike is opposed by the other members of the corporation, who push him into a dumbwaiter and send it to the cellar. As Victor and Millie begin to exchange their vows, Mike pries open a ventilator shaft in the basement and announces that Pamela Drake is really Millie, the scullery maid, who is in love with someone other than her groom. Mike then falls against a secret panel and discovers a priceless wine cellar. Back upstairs, as the guests file out and reclaim their presents, the Keatings, accompanied by their maid Sarah, arrive late for the ceremony. When Sarah recognizes Victor as her old friend, Joe Brown, a crook, Drake and the other members of the corporation run downstairs. Mike shows them the wine cellar, which they then decide to turn into a cabaret. Mike, who has fallen in love with Millie, resigns from the corporation and leaves town because he believes that she is in love with Frank. While performing on the road, Mike receives an invitation announcing the marriage of Catherine Keating to Frank Sinatra at Drake's Amsterdam Tavern. Rushing back to the tavern, Mike confronts Frank about rejecting Millie and learns that Millie is not in love with Frank, but with him. Mike finds Millie in the kitchen, and after he announces that he has heard his "click," the two embrace and begin to dance. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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