The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956)

103-104 mins | Musical | September 1956

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HISTORY

The film opens with the following written prologue: "In the 1920s, three men from different parts of the country came together. Despite the difference in their backgrounds, or perhaps because of it, when those men became partners—a great talent was born. For seven years they wrote the song hits of the nation. This is the story of those years and those songs." In real life, Lew Brown (1893—1955) and Ray Henderson (1896—1970) formed a song-writing partnership in 1922, and were joined by Buddy DeSylva (1859—1950) in 1925. Together, the team wrote many hit musical revues and popular songs. DeSylva left the group in 1935 to produce films. From 1941—1944 he served as a producer and then executive producer at Paramount Pictures. In 1945, he started his own independent production company, B. G. DeSylva Productions, and eventually became the chairman of the board of Capitol Records.
       A Dec 1955 HR news item notes that Frank Tashlin was to direct the picture and that Twentieth Century-Fox was negotiating with M-G-M to borrow Gene Kelly to play DeSylva. According to a HR news item, in Nov 1955, John Monks, Jr. was hired to polish the script. A Feb 1956 HR news item notes that Richard Morris was to do a script polish. Their contribution to the final film has not been determined, however. Although a Feb 1956 HR news item adds that Murray Ritter was to work on the music, he is not credited onscreen or by contemporary sources. Although HR news items add Roxanne Arlen, Marjorie Jackson, Lana Baschama, Carol ... More Less

The film opens with the following written prologue: "In the 1920s, three men from different parts of the country came together. Despite the difference in their backgrounds, or perhaps because of it, when those men became partners—a great talent was born. For seven years they wrote the song hits of the nation. This is the story of those years and those songs." In real life, Lew Brown (1893—1955) and Ray Henderson (1896—1970) formed a song-writing partnership in 1922, and were joined by Buddy DeSylva (1859—1950) in 1925. Together, the team wrote many hit musical revues and popular songs. DeSylva left the group in 1935 to produce films. From 1941—1944 he served as a producer and then executive producer at Paramount Pictures. In 1945, he started his own independent production company, B. G. DeSylva Productions, and eventually became the chairman of the board of Capitol Records.
       A Dec 1955 HR news item notes that Frank Tashlin was to direct the picture and that Twentieth Century-Fox was negotiating with M-G-M to borrow Gene Kelly to play DeSylva. According to a HR news item, in Nov 1955, John Monks, Jr. was hired to polish the script. A Feb 1956 HR news item notes that Richard Morris was to do a script polish. Their contribution to the final film has not been determined, however. Although a Feb 1956 HR news item adds that Murray Ritter was to work on the music, he is not credited onscreen or by contemporary sources. Although HR news items add Roxanne Arlen, Marjorie Jackson, Lana Baschama, Carol Leigh, Leon Tyler, Bob Fuller, Ivan Anderson and Stephen Papich to the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in the Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture) category. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
29 Sep 1956.
---
Daily Variety
24 Sep 56
p. 3.
Film Daily
25 Sep 56
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 55
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 55
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Feb 56
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Feb 56
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Apr 56
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
21 May 56
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 56
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 56
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 56
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Sep 56
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
29 Sep 56
p. 90.
New York Times
29 Sep 56
p. 12.
Variety
25 Sep 56
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Mus settings
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Exec ward des
MUSIC
Mus supv and cond
Vocal supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DANCE
"Black Bottom," "Birth of the Blues" and "Button U
Addl choreography
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair styles
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
SONGS
"The Best Things in Life Are Free," "The Birth of the Blues," "Black Bottom," "Button Up Your Overcoat," "Don't Hold Everything," "Good News," "Here Am I-Broken Hearted," "If I Had a Talking Picture of You," "Just a Memory," "Lucky Day," "Without Love," "You Try Somebody Else," "Lucky in Love," "It All Depends on You" and "Sunny Side Up," music by Ray Henderson, lyrics by Buddy DeSylva and Lew Brown
"This Is the Missus," music by Ray Henderson, lyrics by Lew Brown
"Sonny Boy," music by Ray Henderson, lyrics by Al Jolson, Buddy DeSylva and Lew Brown.
DETAILS
Release Date:
September 1956
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 28 September 1956
Production Date:
late April--mid June 1956
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
26 September 1956
Copyright Number:
LP7348
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
lenses by Bausch & Lomb
Duration(in mins):
103-104
Length(in feet):
9,400
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18071
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Atlantic City in the 1920s, music teacher Ray Henderson comes to visit his sister-in-law, actress Kitty Kane, who is rehearsing for a new musical revue. When Ray sits down at the piano to play a tune, songwriters Buddy "B. G." DeSylva and Lew Brown mistake him for the piano player sent by the union and ask him to accompany them. Although the show's director throws out the song, Lew and Buddy are pleased by Ray's performance and hire him as their accompanist. Together, Lew, the crude man of the streets; Buddy, the ambitious social climber; and Ray, the level-headed family man, work on a new tune to debut in the revue. After the show bombs, the three, broke but still determined to become successful songwriters, return to New York, where Ray sells one of Lew's songs that he has reworked. Buoyed by his success, Ray decides to give up teaching and move his family to New York, and Lew and Buddy make him their partner. Over the next few years, the trio has a string of hits, all starring Kitty, who has fallen in love with Buddy. Anxious to produce his own show, Buddy accepts the financial backing of a gangster named Manny, who insists that his no-talent girl friend, Perky Nichols, star. When Buddy discovers that Perky can neither sing, dance nor act, he fires her, provoking Manny to beat him up. Risking his own life, the pugnacious Lew slugs Manny and warns him to leave Buddy alone. On opening night, the boys worry that Manny will sabotage the theater, but the show goes on without a hitch. ... +


In Atlantic City in the 1920s, music teacher Ray Henderson comes to visit his sister-in-law, actress Kitty Kane, who is rehearsing for a new musical revue. When Ray sits down at the piano to play a tune, songwriters Buddy "B. G." DeSylva and Lew Brown mistake him for the piano player sent by the union and ask him to accompany them. Although the show's director throws out the song, Lew and Buddy are pleased by Ray's performance and hire him as their accompanist. Together, Lew, the crude man of the streets; Buddy, the ambitious social climber; and Ray, the level-headed family man, work on a new tune to debut in the revue. After the show bombs, the three, broke but still determined to become successful songwriters, return to New York, where Ray sells one of Lew's songs that he has reworked. Buoyed by his success, Ray decides to give up teaching and move his family to New York, and Lew and Buddy make him their partner. Over the next few years, the trio has a string of hits, all starring Kitty, who has fallen in love with Buddy. Anxious to produce his own show, Buddy accepts the financial backing of a gangster named Manny, who insists that his no-talent girl friend, Perky Nichols, star. When Buddy discovers that Perky can neither sing, dance nor act, he fires her, provoking Manny to beat him up. Risking his own life, the pugnacious Lew slugs Manny and warns him to leave Buddy alone. On opening night, the boys worry that Manny will sabotage the theater, but the show goes on without a hitch. Later, at the after-show party, Buddy kisses Kitty, but their moment of intimacy is broken by a phone call from Al Jolson, who demands that the boys immediately write him a song for his new picture. To appease Jolson, they decide to quickly pen a lousy song, and lock themselves in a room. Shut out and ignored, Kitty leaves in a huff. Soon after, the morning newspaper is delivered with a rave review for their new show and a bulletin detailing Manny's murder. At Ray and his wife Maggie's anniversary dinner, Buddy, fresh from a socialite's yacht, pays an unexpected visit. The warm family celebration causes Buddy to consider settling down, but Ray advises him that marriage is not in his nature. Soon after, Buddy unilaterally announces that the three of them are launching a publishing firm and going into motion pictures. Although Lew resents Buddy not consulting them about business decisions, the three are soon on their way to Hollywood. When Buddy invites Kitty to attend the premiere of their new movie, she reluctantly agrees. Buddy, preoccupied with Twentieth Century-Fox studio head Winfield Sheehan, stands Kitty up and at the party afterward, Sheehan monopolizes Buddy. When Ray and Lew inadvertently discover that Buddy plans to continue producing pictures, they angrily barge into his meeting with Sheehan. After Sheehan's pushy assistant tries to strong-arm Lew, Lew slugs him and Buddy shoves Lew out of the room. After Lew and Ray storm out of the party, Kitty chastises Buddy for his callous treatment of Lew and then says goodbye to him for good. Their partnership dissolved, Ray and Lew decide to write a new show by themselves. After the tryout in Atlantic City flops, Buddy phones Kitty from Los Angeles to inquire about their welfare. After sobbing into the phone and hanging up, Kitty decides to go outside and get some fresh air. In the hotel hallway, she encounters Buddy, who explains he was just pretending to call from California to see if a reconciliation would be possible. Entering the hotel room, Buddy announces that he has quit his job as producer and then proposes changes to improve the revue. After the show becomes a hit, the three renew their partnership. +

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

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