Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stand Up and Cheer! (1934)

Angie: "Did you know that Lawrence Cromwell is the authority on feminine beauty?"
Secretary: "A lot of good that’ll do you, Angie."

Order: 1
PG (for good ol' 30's style racism)
Runtime: 1 hour, 9 minutes

From the commencement, let me state that Stand Up and Cheer! is not what we know as a "Shirley Temple movie"; it just so happens to be a movie with Shirley Temple in it and the first of her films at Twentieth Century Fox. Those expecting a story about how a sweet little waif single-handedly ends the Great Depression with her tap dancing and dimples will be sorely disappointed. Instead, it is the story of Lawrence Cromwell (Warner Baxter), who is appointed the "Secretary of Amusement", a government ordained position meant to cheer up all those sad Americans.

For the next twenty minutes, we get several boring musical numbers and audition pieces for the BIG! DAMN! SHOW! Cromwell is putting on. All are mediocre or laughable in an unintentional way. "Broadway's Gone Hill-Billy", is particularly grating. Then comes the only reason why anyone in the modern era would watch this film: Shirley Temple's film debut.

Shirley plays the talented daughter of Jimmy Dugan (James Dunn), a vaudevillian trying to get his father-daughter act into the BIG! DAMN! SHOW! But first, they have to convince Mary Adams (Madge Evans), the head of the children's department to let little Shirley audition even though she is just under the age limit. After meeting Cromwell, Shirley melts her first heart of many and is allowed to perform.

Certainly, the brightest spot in the whole film is Shirley's number with James Dunn, "Baby, Take a Bow". Unfortunately, there are 45 more agonizing minutes until the film's end. Here's what you need to know: more numbers, Cromwell flirts with the head of the children's department, Cromwell struggles with his political duties, evil bankers want the Depression to go on longer...yadda, yadda, yadda.

But because this is a movie, the Great Depression magically ends seven years early thanks to Cromwell's efforts. Then there's a BIG! DAMN! PARADE! where Shirley returns for a ten second cameo.

I'm going to be a huge fucking star!
As well as being mostly boring as Hell, Stand Up and Cheer! is also racist. I know what you're thinking: practically everything in the 30's was a little bit racist. However, when you're not exposed to that kind of "comedy" routinely, it's uncomfortable when you actually see it. Several actors in the background are made up in black face. And then there’s Steppin Fetchit, an actor who specialized int playing lazy, dumb, poor, and "jive-talking" African-Americans. Oh my God, his scenes are painful to watch in this enlightened age. All those who think Gone With the Wind is bad...just stay away.

I bought this film--on VHS--in 2004 to complete my Shirley Temple collection which I started in the mid-90's. It was actually the last one I needed and the hardest one to find. My video has had over 15 minutes of Steppin Fetchit material removed (according the box). Knowing what they kept in, I don't even want to think of that missing footage.

If it weren't for Shirley Temple, this film would have easily fallen into obscurity. Basically all of the musical numbers are crap and the acting is unmemorable and hardly worth mentioning--whoops--except for James Dunn and Shirley who aren't acting but letting their natural charm/fucking adorableness ooze. Rest assured that Stand Up and Cheer! is the worst of the Shirley Temple canon, if we can even consider it a part of the canon. The folks who release the DVD's sure do, so on the list it goes.

Featured Songs
  • "I’m Laughin’" - Dick Foran, Tess Gardella and Ensemble 
  • "Baby, Take a Bow" - James Dunn and Shirley Temple 
  • "Broadway’s Gone Hill-Billy" - Sylvia Froos and Ensemble
  • "This is Our Last Night Together" - John Boles and Sylvia Froos
  • "We're Out of the Red" - Dick Foran and Ensemble
  • "Stand Up and Cheer" - Dick Foran

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