Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938)
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A 1938 classic musical that showcases 28 of Irving Berlin's most memorable ragtime tunes begins in 1915 San Francisco when society boy Roger Grant decides to pursue popular rather than serious music. It's a story of love, war and music spanning 30 years.
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Critic Reviews for Alexander's Ragtime Band
Irving Berlin's Alexander's Ragtime Band is a grand filmusical which stirs and thrills, a medley of more than 30 pieces, selected from some 600 which Berlin has composed.
28 of Irving Berlin's greatest songs make this energetic, handsomely mounted production a must-see for musical fans.
Despite Tyrone Powers' stiff turn in the lead, Henry King's Depression-era musical is well-crafted, boasting 28 of Irving Berlin's greatest hits, some nicely performed by Alice Faye at her prime.
Easily a tune every few minutes, all reliably executed, but the film's insistence on musical comprehensiveness leaves room only for the barest of character development.
Audience Reviews for Alexander's Ragtime Band
"Alexander's Ragtime Band" was another Best Picture nominee in 1938. It was a showcase for Irving Berlin's music, which was such a sensation at the time. But it was more than that. Directed with effortless ease by Henry King and edited superbly, the film is a delight from start to finish.
Its heartfelt love story is brought to life exuberantly by Alice Faye and Tyrone Power, neither of whom ever received Oscar nominations despite having been major stars for decades. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but this is my first time seeing Faye and Power. I can now confidently say that Faye deserves to be better known among cinephiles today. The fact that she didn't receive an Oscar nomination for "Alexander's Ragtime Band" strikes me as a classic case of the Academy's unfair privileging of drama over musicals and comedies.
Faye here has to pull off a lot more than musical comedy. She has to convey heartbreak through many scenes in the second half of the film, and she does so in a deeply convincing way. Also noteworthy is co-star Don Ameche, who has almost as much screen time here as Power. He does a great job in the role of Power's sidekick. (Ameche, incidentally, received his one and only Oscar when he was an old man, winning Best Supporting Actor in 1985 for the film "Cocoon.")
"Ragtime Band" is not much more than melodrama, however, and ultimately is rather superficial. But it delivers its message winningly and with a lot more cinematic skill and aplomb than any of the other Best Picture nominees I've seen thus far in my study of 1938.
Next up on my list: "Boys Town," starring Spencer Tracy in a performance that won him the Best Actor Oscar that year, and "Pygmalion," with Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller, both of whom were nominated for Oscars that year.
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