Three Little Words (1950)

100 or 102-03 mins | Musical | August 1950

Director:

Richard Thorpe

Writer:

George Wells

Producer:

Jack Cummings

Cinematographer:

Harry Jackson

Editor:

Ben Lewis

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Urie McCleary

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

Onscreen credits note that this picture is "based on the lives and songs of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby." As depicted in the film, composer and lyricist Ruby (born Harry Rubinstein 1895-1974) and lyricist and librettist Kalmar (1884-1947), were native New Yorkers and collaborated on many film and stage productions between 1917 and Kalmar's death in 1947. Both men were also successful on their own: Kalmar began writing hit songs in 1911, six years before he met Ruby, and Ruby wrote many songs by himself and with other lyricists. Among the many stage productions featuring songs and books written by Ruby and Kalmar were: Ladies First , which opened in 1918; the 1920 hit, Broadway Brevities , which introduced several famous Kalmar and Ruby songs, including "So Long, Oo-Long (How Long You Gonna Be Gone);" and the 1928 musical Good Boy , in which actress and singer Helen Kane introduced the song "I Wanna Be Loved By You." Kane, who is portrayed in Three Little Words by Debbie Reynolds, became known as the "boop-boop-a-doop girl" following her popular, child-like rendition of "I Wanna Be Loved By You."
       In 1930, following a string of successful Broadway productions, Kalmar and Ruby moved to Hollywood, where they wrote music for several films as well as scripts for non-musical films. "Three Little Words," one of Kalmar and Ruby's most famous songs, was introduced in their first film, the 1930 RKO picture Check and Double Check (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.0845). Other films written and/or scored by Kalmar and Ruby include several Marx Bros. and Wheeler and Woolsey pictures; the ... More Less

Onscreen credits note that this picture is "based on the lives and songs of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby." As depicted in the film, composer and lyricist Ruby (born Harry Rubinstein 1895-1974) and lyricist and librettist Kalmar (1884-1947), were native New Yorkers and collaborated on many film and stage productions between 1917 and Kalmar's death in 1947. Both men were also successful on their own: Kalmar began writing hit songs in 1911, six years before he met Ruby, and Ruby wrote many songs by himself and with other lyricists. Among the many stage productions featuring songs and books written by Ruby and Kalmar were: Ladies First , which opened in 1918; the 1920 hit, Broadway Brevities , which introduced several famous Kalmar and Ruby songs, including "So Long, Oo-Long (How Long You Gonna Be Gone);" and the 1928 musical Good Boy , in which actress and singer Helen Kane introduced the song "I Wanna Be Loved By You." Kane, who is portrayed in Three Little Words by Debbie Reynolds, became known as the "boop-boop-a-doop girl" following her popular, child-like rendition of "I Wanna Be Loved By You."
       In 1930, following a string of successful Broadway productions, Kalmar and Ruby moved to Hollywood, where they wrote music for several films as well as scripts for non-musical films. "Three Little Words," one of Kalmar and Ruby's most famous songs, was introduced in their first film, the 1930 RKO picture Check and Double Check (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.0845). Other films written and/or scored by Kalmar and Ruby include several Marx Bros. and Wheeler and Woolsey pictures; the 1931 Warner Bros. film Broadminded ; and the 1937 RKO film The Life of the Party (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.0496 and F3.2483). In 1941, Kalmar and Ruby returned to New York and resumed their stage work while continuing to work on films. Their last film collaboration was on the screenplay for the 1949 Warner Bros. picture Look for the Silver Lining (see above). For more information on the music and films of Kalmar and Ruby, please consult the Personal Name Indexes and Songwriters and Composers Indexes in this and other volumes of the AFI Catalog .
       An Aug 1949 HR news item noted that Sidney Sheldon was "penciled in" to direct the film and that Joe Pasternak was to produce. It is not known whether Pasternak was temporarily assigned to the film or if he was listed in error. Reynolds made her M-G-M screen debut in the film and was awarded a contract with the studio based on her portrayal of Kane. In her autobiography, Reynolds noted that she worked on the film for two days, and was paid $350 per day. Although contemporary news items in DV noted that actress Joy Rogers was announced for a part and that Jean Adcock, the "M-G-M commissary phone girl," was set for a speaking role, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. DV news items also indicate that Anne Sterling was tested for a featured role, and that Paul Whitemen, who was set to play himself in the film, bowed out of the picture due to a previous commitment.
       In addition to Ruby, Kalmar and Kane, some business figures portrayed in the film include: Eileen Percy, a film star who appeared mostly in silent films between 1917 and 1933, and who married Ruby in 1936; Jessie Brown, Kalmar's vaudeville dancing partner who later married Kalmar; and Mrs. Carter DeHaven (born Flora Parker), an actress who appeared in many stage productions and silent films, and who was Kalmar's mother-in-law. Mrs. Carter DeHaven was played in the film by Gloria DeHaven, her real-life daughter. Ruby makes a brief cameo appearance in the film as a Washington Senators baseball player. Filming of the baseball scenes took place in Anaheim Stadium, near Los Angeles, with professional baseball players used as extras. A Feb 1950 DV news item noted that some filming was scheduled to take place on the RKO lot due to the great number of musical sequences and the lack of available space at M-G-M. The picture opened to generally favorable reviews, with Astaire and Vera-Ellen singled out for their outstanding performances. The Var reviewer noted that Vera-Ellen, "with this picture, becomes the undisputed premiere danseuse of the screen," and that as Astaire's dance partner she "looks to be possibly the best partner he's ever had." The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture. The songs of Kalmar and Ruby remain popular and continue to appear in stage productions and motion pictures. The 1996 film musical Everyone Says I Love You , directed by Woody Allen, was titled after and featured Kalmar and Ruby's 1932 hit song. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
8 Jul 1950.
---
Daily Variety
2 Dec 49
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Dec 49
p. 5.
Daily Variety
19 Dec 49
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Dec 49
p. 11.
Daily Variety
6 Jan 50
p. 4.
Daily Variety
16 Jan 50
p. 2.
Daily Variety
1 Feb 50
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Feb 50
p. 12.
Daily Variety
9 Feb 50
p. 10.
Daily Variety
3 Mar 50
p. 1.
Daily Variety
7 Jul 50
p. 3.
Film Daily
12 Jul 50
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Aug 49
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jul 50
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
8 Jul 50
p. 373.
New York Times
10 Aug 50
p. 21.
Variety
12 Jul 50
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Stills
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Assoc
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus dir
Orch
SOUND
Rec supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Montage seq
DANCE
Dances created and dir by
MAKEUP
Hair styles des by
Hairstylist
Makeup created by
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Grip
STAND INS
Singing voice double for Debbie Reynolds
Singing voice double for Vera-Ellen
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
SONGS
"Where Did You Get That Girl?" music by Bert Kalmar, lyrics by Harry Puck
"Three Little Words," "She's Mine, All Mine," "So Long, Oo-Long (How Long You Gonna Be Gone?)" "Nevertheless," "All Alone Monday," "You Smiled at Me," "Thinking of You" and "I Love You So Much," music and lyrics by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby
"My Sunny Tennessee," music and lyrics by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby and Herman Ruby
+
SONGS
"Where Did You Get That Girl?" music by Bert Kalmar, lyrics by Harry Puck
"Three Little Words," "She's Mine, All Mine," "So Long, Oo-Long (How Long You Gonna Be Gone?)" "Nevertheless," "All Alone Monday," "You Smiled at Me," "Thinking of You" and "I Love You So Much," music and lyrics by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby
"My Sunny Tennessee," music and lyrics by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby and Herman Ruby
"Who's Sorry Now?" music and lyrics by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby and Ted Snyder
"Come on, Papa," music and lyrics by Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby and Edgar Leslie
"I Wanna Be Loved By You," music by Herbert Stothart and Harry Ruby, lyrics by Bert Kalmar
"You Are My Lucky Star," music and lyrics by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
August 1950
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Los Angeles: 21 July 1950
Production Date:
7 December 1949--8 February 1950
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 July 1950
Copyright Number:
LP240
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
100 or 102-03
Length(in feet):
9,200
Country:
United States
PCA No:
14443
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In New York City, in the mid-1910s, Bert Kalmar has reached the height of his career as a vaudeville performer with his dancing partner and sweetheart, Jessie Brown. In between shows, Bert composes music and secretly indulges in another favorite hobby of his: performing magic acts. Bert and Jessie are in love, but when Bert proposes marriage, Jessie insists that they wait until he is through being "everything in show business all at once." Billed as "Kendall the Great," Bert occasionally performs magic acts in disguise at a Coney Island theater. One day, while preparing for his magic show, Bert meets Harry Ruby, a song plugger who plays the piano at the Coney Island theater. Harry is instructed by his boss to serve as the magician's assistant, but he bungles his job and turns the Kendall the Great show into a comic disaster. Bert is angered by the fiasco, but becomes distracted by a more pressing problem when he discovers that his agent, Charlie Kope, and Jessie, who were in the audience, now know about his moonlighting. Bert later tries to incorporate some of his magic show themes into his act with Jessie, but she flatly rejects his ideas. Bert and Jessie continue performing their vaudeville act until the day that Bert injures his knee in a backstage accident. Much to his distress, Bert is told by a doctor that his injury will preclude him from dancing for at least one year. Hoping that Bert will now have more time to devote to her, Jessie suggests that they resume their plans to marry, but Bert rejects the idea. Jessie then decides to leave Bert ... +


In New York City, in the mid-1910s, Bert Kalmar has reached the height of his career as a vaudeville performer with his dancing partner and sweetheart, Jessie Brown. In between shows, Bert composes music and secretly indulges in another favorite hobby of his: performing magic acts. Bert and Jessie are in love, but when Bert proposes marriage, Jessie insists that they wait until he is through being "everything in show business all at once." Billed as "Kendall the Great," Bert occasionally performs magic acts in disguise at a Coney Island theater. One day, while preparing for his magic show, Bert meets Harry Ruby, a song plugger who plays the piano at the Coney Island theater. Harry is instructed by his boss to serve as the magician's assistant, but he bungles his job and turns the Kendall the Great show into a comic disaster. Bert is angered by the fiasco, but becomes distracted by a more pressing problem when he discovers that his agent, Charlie Kope, and Jessie, who were in the audience, now know about his moonlighting. Bert later tries to incorporate some of his magic show themes into his act with Jessie, but she flatly rejects his ideas. Bert and Jessie continue performing their vaudeville act until the day that Bert injures his knee in a backstage accident. Much to his distress, Bert is told by a doctor that his injury will preclude him from dancing for at least one year. Hoping that Bert will now have more time to devote to her, Jessie suggests that they resume their plans to marry, but Bert rejects the idea. Jessie then decides to leave Bert and tour on her own. A short time later, at Al Masters' music library, Bert hears a tuneful song being played on a piano in the next room and asks to meet the composer. The composer turns out to be Harry, and although Bert remembers his first disastrous encounter with him, he eventually forgives Harry and begins writing songs with him. Following their first song, "My Sunny Tennessee," Bert and Harry create one hit song after another, but Bert grows increasingly depressed over his separation from Jessie. One day, Harry tries to help Bert overcome his depression by taking him on a trip to Buffalo, where Jessie is performing her show. Bert and Jessie resume their romance, and Jessie returns to New York with Bert, pledging to support his songwriting partnership with Harry. Harry, meanwhile, begins a romance with Terry Lordel, a sultry singer who is merely using him to further her career. Realizing that Harry is blind to Terry's scheme, Bert decides to protect him from an inevitable heartbreak by sending him to Florida to spend time with his favorite baseball team, the Washington Senators. When Harry returns to New York, he discovers that Terry has left him for another man. Harry is heartbroken, but Bert forces him to overlook his love troubles and concentrate on his work. A short time later, Harry reads a play that Bert has written and certain that it will fail, secretly sabotages the financing to protect Bert. Soon after the opening of the stage show Animal Crackers , for which Harry and Bert have contributed songs, Harry falls in love with Eileen Percy, a beautiful actress. One evening, at a party, Bert discovers the truth about Harry's involvement in the sabotaging of his play, and demands that they break off their partnership. Bert moves to Hollywood and becomes a successful screenplay writer, while Harry continues to compose songs. Harry eventually marries Eileen, who, with help from Jessie, secretly arranges a reunion of Bert and Harry on Phil Regan's radio show. Bert and Harry commemorate their reunion by singing a medley of their songs, and Bert surprises Harry at the end when he sings Harry's composition "Three Little Words," to which he had secretly written lyrics. +

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

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