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Heads Up 1930
Description: Jack Mason of the Coast Guard Academy meets Mary at the graduation ball and falls in love with her, though the girl's mother finds wealthy Rex Cutting a more proper choice for her daughter. On a yachting cruise arranged by Mrs. Trumbull, Jack is not invited. Meanwhile, Mary suspects Rex of picking up contraband beyond the 12-mile limit and refuses his proposal of marriage, while Betty, her impish sister, drives Skippy to distraction in the galley, where he has installed an automatic kitchen that does most of his work. Jack smuggles himself aboard but is forcibly ejected at port by a coast guard, and Mrs. Trumbull discourages his attempt to elope with Mary; but on a subsequent cruise, he hides himself in a lifeboat with two aides. When the captain stops to take on a cargo of rum, Jack and his aides take over the vessel, and a war ensues. The yacht is wrecked on an island, and Jack proves his heroism, while Rex reveals his real colors and is identified as a fugitive bootlegger.
Released: 11 Oct 1930 Director: Victor Schertzinger Writers: Jack Kirkland (screenplay), John McGowan (play), John McGowan (screenplay), Paul Girard Smith (play), Louis Stevens (continuity) Actors: Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Helen Kane, Margaret Breen, Victor Moore Genres: Comedy, Musical
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Heads Up Reviews:

This interesting filming of an almost (now) forgotten Broadway musical is enormous fun for any serious student of 20's/30's Broadway and Hollywood and a classic example of how writers today frequently mislead by failure to understand the economics of earlier eras.Another reviewer cavalierly refers to HEADS UP as "a Rodgers & Hart flop" when it was anything but. Racking up a respectable 144 performances despite opening less than two weeks after the Wall Road Ruin of 1929 (following serious out-of-town issues and a major re-write between Detroit and Philadelphia while the Store was crashing), HEADS UP has not survived as one of the R&H classics, but clearly lives up to the original Fresh York Times assessment of "a fairly lively diversion (with) fresh tunes worth a hearing." 8 of the 27 musicals that season ran longer., but only a couple of them got filmed without waiting close to a decade.The 1929 hit song "A Ship Without A Sail" (one of two retained in their original form from the Broadway score by the "Hollywood know-it-alls) is intriguingly filmed to incorporate the sailor chorus which made the number on scene a fascinating attempt on Rodgers & Hart's part to duplicate the success of Jerome Kern's nice male chorus "Some Woman Is On His Mind" in SWEET ADELINE, opening only a several weeks before (and inexplicably omitted when that present was filmed in 1935!). "My Boy Is On The Make" retains its fun as do most of the re-written musical numbers in the staging by George Hale, repeating his Broadway choreographic duties. Only the nice Victor Moore repeats his Broadway role of "Skippy Dugan," but with all too tiny Moore on movie (his 1941 movie transfer of Irving Berlin's LOUISIANNA PURCHASE with another members of the Broadway cast and Bob Hope in the William Gaxton role is a must-see) this record of much of Moore's early Broadway schtick is priceless. (It's also interesting to see the uneven makeup conventions of this transitional era in scene and movie - with Moore's heavily pointed "comedian" lips among the rest of the more modern, naturalistic representations.)Joining Moore are Broadway cast member John Hamilton, shifting over to enjoy the smuggling captain, and the marvelous talents of Helen Kane (showing exactly why she was a Broadway comic star of the era) and Charles "Buddy" Rogers (three years after top billing the first Oscar winner, the silent film, WINGS). For some reason, Rogers was not uniformly appreciated by the critics of 1930 for this musical, but his and Kane's comedic performances both enjoy today as modern and new as any performance filmed in the LAST decade, even filtered through the early sound technology on display in HEADS UP which was so quickly outpaced by the rapidly improving technology of the next decade after musical was filmed.With HEADS UP's Broadway ebook writer John McGowan joining Jack Kirkland in scripting the film, we have an unusually faithful picture of what a moderately successful Broadway musical of the era looked like - shorn of too much of its melody but retaining the most successful tunes and comic "bits." It may not "wow" the dilettantes who don't think anything older than they are has value, but connoisseurs of our musical history shouldn't miss this one.


You should say a film musical in those days by their short and snappy games - "Hit the Deck", "Top Speed", "Hold Everything", "Heads Up". By the end of the first musical cycle it was difficult to say them apart - may be that was the trouble. "Heads Up" is okay. Rogers and Hart were purchased to Hollywood in the first surge of screen musicals - their movie scores included - "Spring is Here", "The Hot Heiress" and "Love Me Tonight". Helen Kane was the female star and apparently lost 15 pounds for what would be her final role in a detail film. Her vogue was well and truly over - it had lasted for only a several films. Charles "Buddy" Rogers was. I think, a very bland leading man, who also wore out his movie welcome cute quickly. Victor Moore (who played the cook "Skippy") was one of the greatest comedians on Broadway during the 20s - but again, the movies he did at this time, "Heads Up", plus other movie with Helen Kane (her worst and that's really down there) "Dangerous Nan McGrew" did not present him at his best.The movie is set at a Naval military school but Georgie (Billy Taylor) didn't graduate with the rest of his class - his mind wasn't on exams because he was in love with Betty (Helen Kane). Coast guard Jack (Charles Rogers) also has his eye on Mary (Margaret Breen - from the Broadway production. She was typical of the stream of colourless ingenues who were purchased to Hollywood by the major studios). It doesn't take long to receive into the musical numbers. At a Naval dance Buddy croons "If I Knew You Better" to Mary, while Mary's mother desperately tries to search her. She already has someone picked out as a possible suitor for her daughter - shifty Rex Cutting (Gene Gowing). Betty finds them first and sings the song with a comic slant. At the end of the night Betty launches into a rollicking song named "Readin', Ritin' Rhythmn" - finished with a chorus line of lovely women in pretty flimsy dresses and a stag line of navy cadets. The song was written by director Victor Schertzinger (a noted composer of famous songs) to compliment the Rogers and Hart score. While on the pleasure boat Betty sings "My Boy Is On the Make" and with partner Georgie, engages in a very pretty dance.Meanwhile the pleasure boat that the young folks have taken out is secretly being used to smuggle illegal liquor. Of course Mary's mother is fully vs Jack - even though he lays on the compliments with a trowel. Jack is then asked to expose the bootleg racket on his sweetheart's family yacht - something he doesn't wish to do. He then desolately walks to the end of the pier and sings the greatest remembered song from the Broadway present "A Ship Without a Sail". It is a sailor's lament but Roger's doesn't have the voice - the end of the song builds to a crescendo (which fortunately drowns Rogers out) as a boat of sea- boys join in the chorus. The cigarette that Buddy casually smoked during the song apparently got the reviewers in an uproar. Buddy didn't usually do things like that in his movies - he was the personification of a clean slash young man. Like Helen Kane's boop boop a doop cuteness, audiences were getting tired of Buddy's "niceness" and he was vainly trying to change his photo - in one stage he even brandishes a gun!!!"Heads Up" clocked up a respectable 144 performances - not bad, considering it opened after the Stock Store ruin - so it was not a flop. At the end of 1930 folks were staying away from musicals - cinemas were putting out signs proclaiming - "This Movie is Not a Musical"!!!


'Heads Up' stars Helen Kane, who is actually remembered only in parody as the prototype for Betty Boop. The animated hero in the Fleischer cartoons is blatantly related to Helen Kane's screen persona: same hairstyle, same annoying speaking voice (Kane sounds like Gracie Allen on helium), same 'boop-oop-a-doop' syllables scatted into the breaks in her lyrics. Kane sued the Fleischer studio: amazingly, she lost, and Maximum Fleischer then released a gloating newsreel clip featuring few chorus women made up to look like Kane. Helen Kane's home studio (Paramount) didn't care about the controversy, as they were also distributing Fleischer's Betty Boop cartoons ... and making more cash off the animated imitation than off the live-action original.None of Helen Kane's films are very good, except for 'Paramount on Parade' (in which she has merely a guest shot) and just possibly 'Sweetie' (in which she plays only a helping role), so her movies are seldom revived. The Boop cartoons, of course, are constantly revived ... so, for modern viewers seeing Kane for the first time, it's difficult to avoid the perception that Helen Kane is imitating Betty Boop rather than just the another method round. It seems very unfair that the original has been entirely upstaged by the Boop-a-Duplicate.In 'Heads Up', Kane now plays a hero called Betty, which gives you an concept of where Fleischer got the name for his cartoon character. 'Heads Up' was originally a flop Broadway musical with tunes by Rodgers and Hart, who are the only songwriters listed in this film's on-screen credits (unless you count director Victor Schertzinger, who also wrote tunes). The songs in this film are quite lame, easy Rodgers's and Hart's bottom-drawer stuff. I did play some very spirited hoofing by tiny Billy Taylor during one of Kane's songs: why didn't Taylor ever create it in musicals?High-society Newport widow Martha Trumbull owns a yacht, the Silver Lady, for the personal test of herself and her two daughters Mary and Betty. Mary (Margaret Breen) is meant to be the 'pretty' sister, and Betty (Helen Kane) is meant to be the 'funny' sister, but neither is much of either. The wealthy Mrs Trumbull employs Captain Denny and Skippy Dugan to staff the yacht, but they're often kept idle at the quay because the family aren't using the yacht. So, to create valuable test of his time, the villainous Denny uses the Silver Lady for bootleg runs. He takes her out beyond the three-mile-limit and comes back with hooch.The galley cook Skippy -- more like a galley slave -- is played by Victor Moore. I've never found Moore funny, but I'm intensely in awe of his career as a performer. Some major Broadway musicals had roles written specifically as cars for Moore. I've interviewed old-time Broadway figures who worked with Moore, and they say me that he was a genuinely modest and self-effacing man. I really wish to like him on the screen, but he tends to enjoy the same hero each time ... and I search that hero very wearying. Here, Moore invents bizarre contraptions that seem more appropriate for certain another comedians of this same period (Ed Wynn, Joe Cook, Clark & McCulloch) rather than for Moore's usual characterisation. Moore keeps mispronouncing his dialogue: he pronounces 'baloney' so it rhymes with 'mahogany'. Most of his another mispronunciations are so subtle, it's not clear whether they're genuine errors or terrible attempts to be funny.The male lead is Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, except that the credits don't contain his nick 'Buddy'. He plays a handsome Coast Guard officer who squads up with gumshoe Gene Gowing to catch the bootleggers. There is, of course, a romantic subplot between Rogers and Breen ... and if you can't guess how it ends, you haven't been paying attention. The camera-work throughout is wretched. During the cotillion sequence, a shot starts with two folks standing slightly off-centre in the frame. The camera nudges itself slightly to starboard, to centre the actors. Then a third person enters at the left, and the camera moves leftward to re-centre the shot. Related adjustments occur throughout the film. During Kane's most elaborate dance number, we briefly see an overhead shot of the sort which most folks think was invented by Busby Berkeley. Elsewhere in this same number, a very personable and pretty chorus woman does splendid knee lifts right behind Kane: I want that the camera had shoved Kane out of the method to concentrate on this chorus girl.I suspect that the game of this film is a cheeky joke. The phrase 'Heads Up' is never spoken nor sung anywhere in the movie ... but the film has a maritime theme, and guess which part of a ship is the 'head'. Otherwise, the jokes on offer here are slightly mouldy. When villainous Captain Denny (Harry Shannon) asks Victor Moore 'You know what mutiny is, don't you?', Moore replies 'Yes, sir. Mutiny is a present they give in the afternoon.' Receive the hook! I'll rate this flotsam 4 out of 10, mostly out of sympathy for the production difficulties of early film musicals.



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