Most Hollywood films about musicians that were made during the studio era were usually biopics and focused on individual artists such as George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue, 1945) and Glenn Miller (The Glenn Miller Story, 1954). It was rare to see a feature film that detailed the ups and downs of an entire band and, in the case of 1941’s Blues in the Night, the featured jazz sextet was entirely fictitious. Originally titled Hot Nocturne, the name was changed just prior to its theatrical release to capitalize on the Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer hit song that became its signature tune.
Chemistry between actors is a curious thing. It can result in some kind of indecipherable but wondrous alchemy that crackles and pops or a concoction that simply refuses to strike fire like soggy matches. It works best or most memorably when the least likely actors are paired together in a movie and click beyond all expectations – Fonda and Stanwyck in The Lady Eve, Bogart and Hepburn in The African Queen or Lancaster and Kerr in From Here to Eternity. When it doesn’t work, you end up with something inert and lifeless like Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl or Sophia Loren and Anthony Perkins in Desire Under the Elms. There is also that gray area in between where it both sparks and fizzles out simultaneously, allowing you to see the potential in a promising pairing. Such is the case with Lucky Partners (1940), which stars Ginger Rogers and Ronald Colman in a whimsical romantic comedy based on the 1935 French comedy written directly for the screen by the prolific dramatist/actor/director Sacha Guitry. That’s part of the problem right there. Continue reading