Three Little Words (1950)

Unlike MGM’s previous composer biopics, Three Little Words doesn’t bookend the film with opulent production numbers (a la Till the Clouds Roll By) nor shoe-horn songs in via specialty musical numbers (Words and Music). Giving both its leads ample opportunity to showcase their talents, the Kalmar and Ruby songbook is integrated into this film as effortlessly as Astaire would glide across a dance floor.

 

Fortunately for us Kalmar was, amongst other things, a song and dance man. Despite his character suffering a career-ending injury early in the piece, Astaire manages to perform a few memorable dances with Vera-Ellen as well as a delightful tap and cane solo.  Likewise, though a departure from his more comedic roles, Skelton still gets the chance to indulge in some slapstick courtesy of Ruby’s love of baseball.  

 

Thankfully the film loses nothing when the pair join forces. Whether bickering over Kalmar’s obsession with magic or the worthiness of a tune that Ruby can’t let go or, Astaire and Skelton’s repartee with each other enjoyably transfers over to their duets of 'My Sunny Tennessee', 'So Long, OO-Long' and the title song.

 

Throw in two well-placed specialty numbers, with Gloria DeHaven portraying her mother singing 'Who’s Sorry Now' and Debbie Reynolds miming 'I Wanna Be Loved by You' to Helen Kane’s original version, and you have one of the most entertaining musicals, let alone biopics, of the era.

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Kalmar and Ruby did not discover Helen Kane on a sidewalk. Kane already had a hit with 'That’s My Weakness Now' before she sang 'I Wanna Be Loved By' You in the stage play 'Good Boy'.

 

The song 'Three Little Words' did not take years to write, nor was it introduced on Phil Regan’s radio show. It was written for the Amos ‘n’ Andy movie Check and Double Check (1930).

Biopic depicts Eileen Percy (Harry Ruby’s wife) singing ‘I Love You So Much’ for the film version of the team’s Broadway play ‘The Ramblers’. In reality, Eileen Percy did not appear in the film version, which was titled The Cuckoos.

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