The Helen Morgan Story
|The Helen Morgan Story|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Curtiz|
|Produced by||Martin Rackin|
|Written by||Nelson Gidding
|Cinematography||Ted D. McCord|
|Edited by||Frank Bracht|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Running time||118 min.|
The screenplay by Oscar Saul, Dean Riesner, Stephen Longstreet, and Nelson Gidding is based on the life and career of torch singer/actress Helen Morgan, with fictional touches liberally added for dramatic purposes. Months before being released into a feature-length film, The Helen Morgan Story was produced as a live television drama on Playhouse 90, with Polly Bergen as Morgan. This turned out to be Blyth's final film role.
Helen Morgan begins her career as a Chicago carnival dancer. She catches the eye of fast-talking, double-dealing Larry Maddux, whose promotion catapults her to fame as a Broadway performer in Show Boat and a headliner in her own nightclub.
Morgan anguishes over her romantic relationship with Maddux and one with Russell Wade, a wealthy, married attorney. When she realizes the caddish Maddux merely has been using her to support the upscale lifestyle he has come to enjoy, she turns to drink. She loses the bulk of her money to the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Wall Street Crash of 1929, hits rock bottom, and is hospitalized in the alcoholic ward in Bellevue.
Maddux has a change of heart and arranges a gala testimonial dinner, hosted by Walter Winchell and Florenz Ziegfeld, in her honor. The film's ending suggests this was Morgan's first step on the road to recovery, success, and happiness, which was not the case in real life.
- Ann Blyth as Helen Morgan
- Paul Newman as Larry Maddux
- Richard Carlson as Russell Wade
- Gene Evans as Whitey Krause
- Alan King as Benny Weaver
- Cara Williams as Dolly Evans
In 1950, Boxoffice announced Warner Bros. was planning to release a musical biography with Doris Day as Helen Morgan. This is one of the few studio projects Day refused to make, citing she did not want to portray the sordid aspects of Morgan's life, which were in direct contrast to Day's wholesome screen image.
- Why Was I Born
- I Can't Give You Anything But Love
- Medley: If You Were the Only Girl in the World/Avalon/Do Do Do/Breezin' Along with the Breeze
- Love Nest
- Medley: Someone to Watch Over Me/The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else
- Body and Soul
- April in Paris
- Speak of Me of Love
- More Than You Know
- On the Sunny Side of the Street
- The Man I Love
- Medley: Just a Memory/Deep Night
- Don't Ever Leave Me
- Medley: I've Got a Crush On You/I'll Get By
- Something to Remember You By
- My Melancholy Baby
- Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man
In his review in the New York Times, A.H. Weiler called the film "as uplifting as soap opera" and added, "The indestructible tunes and the producers' fairly honest approach to the sleaziness of the speakeasy era should generate genuine nostalgia, but Miss Morgan's career, on film, appears to be uninspired, familiar fare . . . It's all about as heart-warming as an electric pad. Ann Blyth . . . desperately attempts to capture the essentially moving qualities of the performer . . . [she] is fragile, sweet and timorous in the role, but she cannot manage to project the idea that she is swaying audiences either by singing or emotional force."
Variety called it "little more than a tuneful soap opera" and added, "The story line sometimes strains credulity and the dialogue situations occasionally give the production a cornball flavor . . . Director Michael Curtiz has done a good job with the material at hand, injecting a pacing and bits of business that help maintain interest, and the production gets added benefit from a series of hit tunes of the era . . . Blyth turns in a sympathetic but not always convincing performance. Newman is very good as the rackets guy, giving the part authority and credibility."
TV Guide says, "Helen Morgan was the greatest torch singer, a petite brunette who sat atop pianos plaintively warbling sad songs about the men who mistreated her. More a profile of those songs than a detailed exposition of her life, this film offers only a slice of a fabulous and unforgettable career . . . most of the wobbly plot is fictional, which is unfortunate since Morgan's true story was much more spectacular and, had it been followed, would have provided a finer film."
- Pryor, Thomas M. "STUDIO PLANS FILM ON HELEN MORGAN; Warners Lists Life of Singer for March 15--No Star Is Named for Title Role", The New York Times, February 23, 1956. Accessed January 12, 2007.
- The Films That Never Were at DorisDay.net
- New York Times review
- Variety review
- TV Guide review