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Hallelujah, I’m a Bum

(1933 b 83')

En: 7 Ed: 6

With songs by Rodgers and Hart a bum lives off charity from the Mayor of New York with his friends in Central Park. June is estranged from the Mayor because of his jealousy and jumps in the river. The bum saves her and falls in love with her while she has amnesia.

         Mayor John Hastings (Frank Morgan) shoots down a bird that falls next to Bumper (Al Jolson) and Acorn (Edgar Connor), who are sitting by a campfire. Bumper starts pulling out the feathers. John is with photographers, and he is glad to see Bumper, whom he calls the Mayor of Central Park. They take a picture of Hastings with the bird, but he turns the bald side out. John tells them to get the pictures in the New York papers, and John stays to cook the goose with Bumper. John offers Bumper a job. Bumper does not want to work as long as John keeps slipping him some money when they meet at lunch at the Casino.

         Bumper and Acorn walk from Florida while singing “I Gotta Get Back to New York.”  They get a ride on the back of a wagon. On a train John is playing the piano, and he receives a telegram. He is told he has to lay a cornerstone at a school tomorrow at 12. The telegram is from June. He remembers seeing June Marcher (Madge Evans) with a man in her apartment. John says to himself he is not sure she wants to see him again.

         Bumper and Acorn wake up in Central Park. Bumper whistles, and other bums hear and walk toward them singing “My Pal Bumper.” Acorn pours a cup of coffee for Bumper. The men greet Bumper and ask him about the south. Bumper sings he had a conversation with the Mayor. They see Egghead (Harry Langdon) picking up trash, and he talks about plutocrats and work. Bumper says he talks like a red. Bumper asks for a trial and defends himself for not working and sings “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum.” They see police arriving on horses, and Egghead criticizes them. Bumper says they are friends and asks him to save the papers for him, The Times in the Morning and The Sun at night. Bumper and Acorn get a ride in a carriage to the Casino.

         At a public school people are waiting for the Mayor, who arrives in top hat and tails. He sings “Laying the Corner Stone” and sees his picture on the newspaper that he buries with pleasure under the corner stone. They all sing “My Country ‘Tis of  Thee.” A whistle sounds, and the Mayor leaves. John poses for a picture with a baby and then takes his carriage to the Casino.

         Sunday (Chester Conklin) sees that Bumper and Acorn were his passengers. Bumper tells Acorn they eat in the rear. John arrives and hands Bumper some money. Inside John apologizes to June for being late. Behind the restaurant Bumper and Egghead sit by a trash can, and Acorn brings yesterday’s menu.

         John orders lunch, and June says she is going is crazy. She says she loves him, and it is stupid he is jealous. She says she gave the man money because he was broke and needed to leave town. John wants to believe her. They say they have not slept lately. John refuses the soup. She drops her bag, and he picks it up. She says the money is hers, and he gambles her for it. She wins, and he gives her a $1,000 bill. They get up and leave, but she dropped her bag which is wrapped in the table cloth and thrown away. John asks her to go to the races with him, but she says no. He says he will call for her at eight.

         In the evening John tells June that he cannot believe that she lost her bag. He suspects she gave the money to Len, as she did before. He leaves.

         In the park Bumper asks Egghead for last night’s Sun. Bumper looks through the trash and finds June’s purse. Bumper opens it and finds the $1,000. Egghead says half is his. Bumper sees a postcard and sings “Dear June.” Egghead and Acorn say it belongs to them too. Bumper walks and says it belongs to the lady, and he will return it. Men sing “Bumper Found a Grand” and follow them. Bumper runs off, but the men surround him and say he cannot get away with it. Bumper sings “What Do You Want with Money?” Egghead agrees that money is a curse. Bumper says they will give it back together.

         June gives a check to her maid and says she is leaving right away. June has a letter sent to 1264. Bumper calls on 1126 and asks for June. Her secretary says she does not live there. Bumper rings again and says he will wait. She lets him in and leaves with a suitcase.

         John gets the note from June about his lack of trust. He calls her apartment. There Bumper plays a recording of her and a boy. He answers the phone, and John hears her voice and his laugh. John asks him to hold the wire and goes to her apartment. He comes in and sees Bumper, who says he found her pocket book. John finds the money and calls himself a fool. John says he is happy because she lost it. John tells him to take the money and share it. Bumper gets change and hands out money to his friends in the park. John calls Bob and says June disappeared and to search for her.

         June walks at night. Bumper sings “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum Again.” On a bridge he sees June jump in the river. He jumps in after her and saves her from drowning. He lays her down and takes off her gloves. He carries her and puts her down under a tree, rubbing her hands. He says she is safe in his apartment. She sneezes, and he says he will warm her up. He starts a fire. He says people commit suicide because of health, money, or love. He asks her reason. She does not remember anything and sneezes again. He tells her to take off her clothes so that he can dry them for her. She sits by the fire and takes off her shoes and stockings. He dries her clothes by another fire. He puts a blanket around her. She does not remember her name. He asks where she lives, but she does not know. He says she has amnesia or aphasia. He says goodnight and that he will call her for breakfast. He lays down to sleep.

         In the morning Egghead and Acorn ask Sunday to help them find Bumper, who whistles to them. He introduces Angel (June) to them, and he takes her for a ride in Sunday’s carriage. Egghead says she dresses like a capitalist. As he drives, Sunday asks Bumper who she is.

         On the phone John learns there is no trace of her, and he calls off the police. Bumper takes her to a merry-go-round. Bumper tells Sunday he is going to take care of her. Sunday tells him to take her to his house. Bumper tells Angel he got her an apartment.

         Sunday introduces them to Ma Sunday (Louis Carver), and Bumper and Angel sit on the bed. Ma says she can have the room for $9 a week. Bumper says that is reasonable.

         Bumper sees Acorn outside of the Casino. John arrives, and Bumper warns him his hand is shaking. John invites him to lunch, but Bumper says he does not have time. John asks if he has met a girl, and Bumper asks him for a job at the bank. John writes a note for him, and Bumper asks him to fix it for two. Bumper leaves with Acorn and tells him they are going to work. Bums hear they are going to work, and they surround them. They sing “Kangaroo Court.” Twelve men form the jury, and Legs prosecutes Bumper, who asks for an attorney. Egghead says he will defend him. Bumper is charged with deserting their cause. Bumper pleads guilty that he took the job. He confesses and says he had a good reason because he has fallen in love. They laugh. Bumper sees two fleas on the judge’s coat and sings “I’d Do It Again.” The judge finds him not guilty because he is insane.

         At a large bank Bumper works at a desk while Acorn is counting. Bumper says he has to raise 14 million with the letters. After work Bumper and Acorn open their pay envelopes. Acorn suggests they buy drinks for the men, but Bumper says no.

         Bumper finds Angel in her room, and she complains he his late again. She finds he bought her gifts. They look out the window at the Loveland dance-hall. They dance, and he sings “You Are Too Beautiful.” He asks her if there was someone before he came along. She says she has had fun with him. He says he will get promoted. He sings he will be faithful and true. Sunday tells Bumper that the Mayor passed out. Bumper says goodbye to Angel, and she asks him to come back. Bumper gets in the carriage with John.

         At home drunk John asks Bumper asks why he is lonely. John says he is lonely because of that woman. He hands her photo to Bumper, who warns him not to get mixed up with that kind of woman. John defends her and calls Bumper a cad. John takes the picture back and says he can have anything else. He shows Bumper how beautiful she is, and he sees it is his Angel. Bumper admits he was wrong and that she is good. John says she is not good. Bumper asks if he would like to see her again, and John says he would to tell her. Bumper says he knows where she lives. John admits he is stewed and asks him not to kid him. John combs his hair and tells Bumper to hurry. John says he is sorry.

         Bumper and John arrive outside her apartment, and Bumper tells John to go up without him. He goes in, and she calls to Bumper. He goes up the fire escape, and she tells him not to leave her again. She hears a knock and goes in. She opens the door and sees John. They embrace, and she faints. John carries her and puts her on the bed. He tells her that everything is all right. She asks John not to leave her again. She asks where she is. She does not like that place. Bumper hears her, and she asks why that man is staring at her. She asks John to take her away from that man. Bumper tells John that he understands. John tells Bumper he will see him at the Casino. June asks John for a drink of water. Bumper leaves sadly and lays down on his tree in the park.

         This musical comedy reflects the massive unemployment during the Depression and the time it gave people to do other things and appreciate life. Yet the society woman only appreciates the bum when she is in another state of consciousness after her suicide attempt.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

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