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Rhythm on the River

(1940 b 92')

En: 6 Ed: 5

A famous songwriter relies on ghost writers, who meet and try to sell their songs; but they are rejected as his imitations.

Oliver Courtney (Basil Rathbone) is considered the best songwriter and asks Billy Starbuck (Oscar Levant) for his new song. Bob Sommers (Bing Crosby) sings "What Would Shakespeare Have Said?" Oliver offers Bob a contract for $50 a week; but Bob says no because he wants a boat. Starbuck tells Oliver his lyric writer died. Oliver says he can't write anymore. Starbuck tells him of poetry, and Oliver asks Cherry Lane (Mary Martin) to write his lyrics for $50 a week. Starbuck takes Bob's melody to Oliver, who plays it for Cherry. She writes and sings "That's for Me." Cherry finds a band moved in next door, and she can't write. So Oliver sends her to Nobody's Inn. On the way she keeps seeing Bob. She complains, and he is arrested. At his uncle's inn Bob finds Cherry, and she screams. At the table she says she writes lyrics and learns Bob composes songs. She likes ambition more than Bob and his Uncle Caleb (Charley Grapewin). Cherry hears Bob playing and writes "Only Forever," which he sings. When Bob says he wrote "That's for Me," Cherry gets angry and leaves.

Bob tells Oliver he wants to resign. Cherry comes in, and Bob suggests a new partnership. Oliver warns them, but Cherry agrees to take a chance. At a music company Schwartz (Charles Lane) listens to Cherry sing their "When the Moon Comes Over Madison Square" and rejects it as imitating Oliver Courtney. Charlie Goodrich (Oscar Shaw) and Millie call Oliver they need music for the show. The hot band leader gets Bob to give him $10 to get their instruments out of hawk. They play, and Bob sings "Rhythm on the River." Westlake (William Frawley) tells Bob he hates hot swing. Cherry sings "Ain't It a Shame About Mame." Orchestra leader Trotter (himself) wants to hire Cherry, but she says no. She needs an evening dress.

Bob goes back to Oliver and asks for $200, leaving "Only Forever" as security. Cherry gets an evening dress from Bob and sings "I Don't Want to Cry Anymore" in a nightclub. Bob tells Uncle Caleb he can't write music and asks to borrow $200. Charlie tells Starbuck he will sue Oliver. Starbuck gives Charlie "Only Forever," and Trotter asks Cherry to sing it. Oliver learns of it and tells Cherry that Bob sold it. Bob gives Oliver $200 and asks for his song back. Oliver tells Bob and Cherry he wrote songs when he was in love until she died; but Starbuck says she got fat. Oliver announces that Cherry and Bob will collaborate with him. Cherry and Bobby sing "Only Forever."

This musical implies that love is what inspires the writing of songs. Oliver has the reputation for past songs, but without love he has to hire others.

Copyright © 2002 by Sanderson Beck

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