Look for the Silver Lining  (1949) 

Look for the Silver Lining takes its title from the song most closely associated with its subject, Marilyn Miller. One of Ziegfeld’s most popular stars, and reportedly his mistress, Miler’s personal life was in stark contrast to the characters she played on stage. Not that you will find much reference to her chronic health problems, four marriages and alcoholism in this entertaining film which always tries to find the sunny side of life.

Putting a spin on the standard biopic trope of an artist reflecting on their life before a performance, Miller’s memories are cued by the presentation of a rescued theatrical poster of her family’s old vaudeville act. A Scooby-doo flashback heralds teenage Marilyn’s arrival backstage while her father, mother and two sisters sing, dance and bizarrely play saxophones. An outbreak of the mumps results in Marilyn taking their place, performing an impromptu routine with famed dancer Jack Donahue. Soon the Four Columbians become the Five Columbians and Ms Miller is on her way.

 

June Haver, Ray Bolger and Gordon MacRae may not have been amongst the top tier of musical stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age, but on the evidence of this film that was more due to bad luck than any shortfall in talent. Haver enthusiastically takes to her role as Miller, singing, dancing on pointe in a ballet number and performing some impressive tap routines. MacRae’s rich baritone voice and easy going charm are on display in only his second movie, and first musical. Then to top it all off, Bolger gets the opportunity to perform a couple of specialty numbers in which his loose-limbed comedic tap dancing prove a delight.

The story on which these sequences hang may only bear a passing resemblance to Miller’s life, but it does provide a nice showcase for two of her biggest hits. Brief snippets of a ballet and Slavic dance from Sally are seen, as well as extended performances of ‘Wild Rose’ and the opening act which features the title number. Sunny’s title tune is also performed by June Haver, but that soon gives way to Ray Bolger’s show-stopping routine of ‘Who?’. Though Bolger had performed the same song in an earlier screen adaption of Sunny, this performance will have you joining June Haver in crying for “More. More. More”.

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Miller was married four times, at least two of which occurred in this biopic’s timeframe. Though it does depict her marriage to Frank Carter, there is no mention of Miller’s marriage to actor Jack Pickford.

Frank Carter never shared a Broadway stage with Marilyn Miller.

Frank Carter did not die on the opening night of Sally. He was killed in a car accident on May 9, 1920. Sally opened on December 21, 1920.

The character of William Taylor is based on theatre producer Lee Shubert. The stage show Profiles of 1914 is based on Schubert’s The Passing Show of 1914.

Henry Doran is a fictional character.

Biopic does not cover Marilyn Miller’s starring roles in the screen adaptions of her stage hits Sally and Sunny, nor her third and final film Her Majesty, Love.

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