Wonder Bar (1934) - Rotten Tomatoes

Wonder Bar (1934)





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Movie Info

Based on Al Jolson's 1931 Broadway hit, Wonder Bar transposes the "Grand Hotel" formula to a lavish nightclub in Paris' Montmartre district. Presiding over the evening's entertainment is manager-emcee Al Wonder (Jolson), who after greeting his guests in a multitude of languages (a la Joel Grey in Cabaret) introduces a steady stream of top variety acts. The star attraction of the Wonder Bar floor show is the Latin dance team of Inez (Dolores Del Rio) and Harry (Ricardo Cortez). Al worships Inez from afar, but she is hopelessly in love with Harry, a no-good louse who is carrying on with Liane (Kay Francis), the wife of prominent banker Renaud (Henry Kolker). Meanwhile, German military officer Captain Von Ferring (Robert H. Barrat), who has lost his fortune to bad investments, enjoys one last fling at the Wonder Bar before committing suicide. The two main subplots converge when Inez stabs Harry out of pique, whereupon the ever-loyal Al deposits Harry's body in Von Ferring's car, knowing full well that Von Ferring intends to drive himself off a steep hill to his death. Never letting Inez find out that she killed Harry, Al stands stoically aside as she finds true happiness with composer Tommy (Dick Powell). Lest this all sound heavily somberly serious, it should be noted that Wonder Bar is chock full of laughs, from both Jolson (who runs through quite a repertoire of tried-and-true routines) and the drunken antics of "tired business men" Hugh Herbert and Hobart Cavanaugh. The musical numbers staged by Busby Berkeley range from sedate to incredible, with the bizarrely racist 10-minute "Goin' to Heaven on a Mule" (truly a jaw-dropping experience) falling into the latter category. The film's most outrageous moment, however, is an uninhibited chunk of homosexual humor on the dance floor ("Boys will be boys!", crows Jolson) which just barely squeaked past the Hollywood censors!more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Romance, Musical & Performing Arts
Directed By:
Written By: Geza Herczeg, Karl Farkas, Earl W. Baldwin
On DVD: Apr 28, 1997
Warner Home Video


Al Jolson
as Al Wonder
Kay Francis
as Liane Renaud
Guy Kibbee
as Henry Simpson
Hugh Herbert
as Corey Pratt
Ruth Donnelly
as Ella Simpson
Louise Fazenda
as Pansy Pratt
Robert H. Barrat
as Capt. von Ferring
Henry Kolker
as Mr. Renaud
Henry O'Neill
as Richards
Emile Chautard
as Concierge
Pauline Garon
as Operator
Edward Keane
as Captain
Jane Darwell
as Baroness
Dennis O'Keefe
as Man at Bar
Grace Hayle
as Fat Dowager
Bud Jamison
as Bartender
Paul Power
as Chester
Dick Good
as Page Boy
John Marlowe
as Young Man
Lottie Williams
as Wardrobe Woman
Dave O'Brien
as Chorus Boy
Gene Perry
as Gendarme
Robert Graves
as Police Officer
Rosalie Roy
as Chorus Girl
Alfred P. James
as Night Watchman
Hal Le Roy
as Himself
William Stack
as Businessman
Harry Woods
as Detective
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Critic Reviews for Wonder Bar

All Critics (3) | Top Critics (2)

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | April 20, 2001
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Full Review… | November 4, 2002
Senses of Cinema

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