WE’RE NOT DRESSING ( 1934 )

MUSICAL MONTH

WE’RE NOT DRESSING ( 1934 )

Musical month is now here, and for my nine choices I wanted to do some rather obscure and lesser known movies as well as some of the most eminent and beloved musicals of all time. For my first review, I’ve decided to start off with “We’re Not Dressing”, a charming and relatively rare movie starring my favorite actress Carole Lombard, in what is known as her only musical film.

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We’re Not Dressing is a screwball musical comedy headed by a prominent cast including Carole Lombard, Bing Crosby, Ethel Merman and Ray Milland, with guest appearances by Gracie Allen and George Burns. The film is directed by Norman Taurag, who was known to be very proficient at his craft, directing some of the biggest known stars from the twentieth century, and earning an Academy Award nomination for his directorial efforts in “Boys Town”. By the time Taurag directed “We’re Not Dressing”, he was in the third chapter of his career, and for a picture of this status he expected high encomium, especially as the movie was inspired by the successful 1902 J.M. Barrie play “The Admirable Crichton”.

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The film tells the story of Doris Worthington ( Carole Lombard ) a spoiled heiress of high society, who lives a life of opulence. While sailing the Pacific on her capacious yacht with her friend Edith and her Uncle Hubert ( Ethel Merman and Leon Errol ) she finds herself in the middle of many morasses. She is discontented with the whole situation, and to escape boredom she engages herself in verbal sparring with sailor, Stephen Jones ( Bing Crosby ). During one of their many altercations, Doris fires Stephen after he kisses her as part of retaliation for a slap that he received from Doris.

The nightmare begins when Uncle Hubert runs the yacht into a reef while under the influence of alcohol. Minutes later the ship starts to sink, and after a loud bang, Doris is knocked unconscious. Stephen realizes that Doris is unconscious in her suite and goes to rescue her while everyone else eludes the capsized boat.

Now everybody on board are stuck in the middle of the ocean, and must swim to safety. Together they make it to a tropical island, where they must fight for survival, but Stephen proves to be the only one adept at survival skills, and the others rely on Stephen to get them food and water. Choleric about their lack of cooperation, Stephen defends for himself, until the other passengers participate and gather their own food, except Doris, who remains indignant and infuriated.

Doris feel’s perturbed so she wonders off on her own and encounters the zany husband and wife team, the scientific George and Gracie, who reside on the other side of the island. They offer to help Doris, and she uses them to provide clothes and tools for the team, but when Stephen discovers them he is euphoric, and starts to set up shelter on the island.

Eventually Stephen warms up to Doris, but the question is, will she ever warm up to his charms?

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“We’re Not Dressing” is such an underrated gem, and even with Carole Lombard fans, it tends to get overlooked. This is definitely a film that deserves more recognition. Not only is it a musical, it’s also a screwball comedy that sparkles with humor, wit, and an array of catchy songs that are known as some of Bing Crosby’s finest numbers.

This is one of those films that are held up by the solid supporting cast. Carole Lombard once again delivered a commendable performance, and is irresistible, but a lot of the credit goes to Gracie Allen and George Burns, who added that extra spark to an already funny movie, and when you place them in a film with Carole Lombard, who was a virtuoso at screwball comedy, the result is fireworks.

Another highlight of the movie is Droopy the bear, who is so cute and adorable that he almost steals the picture, especially the scene where he goes around the yacht in roller skates. Droopy adds cuteness to the movie, and you just can’t resist watching to get a dose of extra cuteness.

At the time We’re Not Dressing was shooting, Carole Lombard was romantically involved with Bing Crosby’s singing rival crooner Russ Columbo. Columbo visited the set often and he and Crosby were friendly rivals and were known to do some impromptu singing during breaks. If only some sound man had left the microphone on. Columbo later died that year of a gunshot wound from an antique dueling pistol, a case that a lot of people felt was never satisfactorily solved.

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Songs from film:

Sailor’s Chanty (It’s a Lie)
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Revel
Lyrics by Mack Gordon
Sung by Bing Crosby and the ship‘s crew, including The King’s Men and The Guardsmen
It’s Just a New Spanish Custom
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Revel
Lyrics by Mack Gordon
Performed by Ethel Merman and Leon Errol
Billy Boy
(uncredited)
Traditional children’s song
In the score when the bear is brought in
I Positively Refuse to Sing
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Revel
Lyrics by Mack Gordon
Sung by Bing Crosby
Stormy Weather
(1933) (uncredited)
Music by Harold Arlen
Lyrics by Ted Koehler
Sung by Bing Crosby
Contained in the “I Positively Refuse to Sing” number
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf
(1933) (uncredited)
Music by Frank Churchill
Lyrics by Frank Churchill and Ann Ronell
Sung by Bing Crosby
Contained in the “I Positively Refuse to Sing” number
The Last Round-Up (Git Along, Little Dogie, Git Along)
(1933)) (uncredited)
Written by Billy Hill
Sung by Bing Crosby
Contained in the “I Positively Refuse to Sing” number
May I?
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Revel
Lyrics by Mack Gordon
Sung by Bing Crosby
Reprised often by Crosby
Sung by Sam Ash near the end
Goodnight Lovely Little Lady
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Revel
Lyrics by Mack Gordon
Sung by Bing Crosby
Reprised often by Crosby
Sung by Sam Ash near the end
She Reminds Me of You
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Revel
Lyrics by Mack Gordon
Sung by Bing Crosby
El Capitan
(1896) (uncredited)
Written by John Philip Sousa
Played on a phonograph
Love Thy Neighbor
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Revel
Lyrics by Mack Gordon
Performed by Bing Crosby
Let’s Play House
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Revel
Lyrics by Mack Gordon
Performed by Ethel Merman and Leon Errol during the “Love Thy Neighbor” number
Did You Ever See a Dream Walking
(1933) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Revel
Played on a radio
Once in a Blue Moon
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Revel
Lyrics by Mack Gordon
Sung by Bing Crosby
Aloha Oe
(1908) (uncredited)
Music by Queen Liliuokalani
Played on accordian by Gracie Allen
It’s the Animal in Me
(1934) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Revel
Lyrics by Mack Gordon
A production number filmed for this movie was cut from the released print; Ethel Merman does sing a bit of it near the end.
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Trivia:
The portrait of Gracie’s Uncle Fred appears to be a caricature of George Barbier.
The film is based on “The Admirable Crichton” by the author of “Peter Pan” James Barrie.
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since.
A number “It’s the Animal in Me” was filmed, but cut. See also The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1935).
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Quotes:

Doris Worthington: “I suppose that you’re taking me to a fate worse than death?”Stephen Jones: “How do you now it’s worse than death? Have you ever died?”

Doris Worthington: “Oh! My lingerie!” [as the wind blows her panties away]

George Martin: [watching through binoculars] Gracie, my gun! A bird!

Gracie Martin: What?

George Martin: A bird! A bird!

Gracie Martin: O, my goodness. Here.

[hands him a live duck]

George Martin: Not a duck. My gun! How can you shoot with a duck?

Gracie Martin: Well, my father used to shoot ducks. But maybe that duck wasn’t loaded, eh?

George Martin: The duck wasn’t loaded but I’d like to bet that your father was.

Gracie Martin: Well, if he wasn’t then why did the duck shoot my father because I always thought…

George Martin: Quiet! Quiet! Well, I missed him. He’s gone and that was a stratospheric duck and very rare.

Gracie Martin: Well, I am just as glad that you missed him because I don’t like rare ducks. I like my ducks well-done.

Gracie Martin: Now, take my uncle.

George Martin: *You* take your uncle.

Gracie Martin: They did.

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Cast:

Carole Lombard: Born Jane Alice Peters on October 6th, 1908 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Died: January 16th, 1942 on Mount Potosi, Nevada. Cause of death: Airplane crash. Aged 33.

Bing Crosby: Born Harry Lillis Crosby, Jr. on May 3rd, 1903 in Tacoma, Washington. Died: October 14th, 1977 in Alcobendas, Spain. Aged 74.

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