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The team of Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor had proven to be a box office bonanza during the silent era in films such as Seventh Heaven (1927). When the talkies came in, Farrell and Gaynor, who would make a dozen films together, moved into musicals like Delicious (1931) for Fox. In the latter film, Gaynor plays a poor Scottish orphan who comes to the United States to live with her uncle. While traveling in steerage on the boat to New York, she sneaks into first class and meets a millionaire (Farrell). Despite the fact that he's engaged to another woman, she falls in love with him. When her uncle refuses to support her, Gaynor is threatened with deportation and is forced to go underground as a Russian girl.
With a screenplay by Guy Bolton and Sonya Levien, based on a British play by Bolton, Delicious went into production on August 29, 1931 (under the working titles of Skyline and Sky Line) and finished on November 10th. Directed by David Butler, who had written and directed Gaynor and Farrell in Sunnyside Up (1929), the film co-starred Brazilian singer Raul Roulien (replacing Alfred Cordova) in the role of Sascha, the Russian composer in love with Gaynor, and Virginia Cherrill, as the wealthy Diana, Gaynor's rival for Farrell. Cherrill is best known as the blind flower girl in Charlie Chaplin's classic City Lights (1931), and, for a few years, as the real-life Mrs. Cary Grant.
Delicious was the first film in which George and Ira Gershwin were hired to compose a full score. Among the songs was "Blah-Blah-Blah," the Gershwin's pointed commentary on sappy love songs of the era. Originally titled "Lady of the Moon," it was supposedly written for an unproduced Florenz Ziegfeld musical called East Is West, then reworked for another production, Show Girl under the title "I Just Looked at You," but was cut from that show. It would later appear in the 1983 musical My One and Only. In Delicious, the song is sung by El Brendel, an American who made a career playing Scandinavian characters, and Manya Roberti, the sister of actress Lyda Roberti.
According to studio records, the Gershwins were signed to compose both a full score and eight songs, including "Mischa-Jascha-Toscha-Sascha" that did not make it to the final cut. Critics praised the score but were disappointed that it was so heavily cut for the film. The "New York Rhapsody" (known today as "Second Rhapsody") was explained by Gershwin in a letter to a friend, "I wrote it mainly because I wanted to write a serious composition and found the opportunity in California. Nearly everyone comes back from California with a western tan and a pocketful of motion picture money. I decided to come back with both of these things and a serious composition - if the climate would let me. I was under no obligation to the Fox Company to write this. But, you know, the old artistic soul must be appeased every so often." Gershwin scholars believe that George Gershwin may have played the piano on some of the recordings.
Delicious premiered in New York City on December 25, 1931, with a simultaneous release the following day in 162 theaters across the country, which spoke to the studio's faith in the team. Mordaunt Hall wrote in The New York Times that "[t]he story, which is credited to Guy Bolton, is a conventional piece of sentimentality with dialogue that is scarcely inspired...[F]rail though this narrative is, it may be just the thing for the Christmas holidays. Mr. Gershwin's melodies are a help to the scenes...Miss Gaynor gives an appealing performance. Mr. Farrell's diction is still wanting in tonal quality. El Brendel, he of the Swedish accent, spoke several of his lines so that they had the desired effect at this performance. Mr. Roulien, a Brazilian, sings and acts agreeably."
After the release of Delicious, Fox was sued by Corinne Swenson (aka Marie Manix) for plagiarism, alleging that the film was based on her story, Lucky Molly Bawn. The suit was settled two years later, with the studio purchasing the film rights for $3,000. In 1935, the newly formed Twentieth Century-Fox remade the film as Paddy O'Day with Jane Withers.
Director: David Butler
Screenplay: Guy Bolton, based on a story by Sonya Levien and Guy Bolton
Cinematography: Ernest Palmer
Editing: Irene Morra
Art Direction: Joseph C. Wright
Music: George Gershwin
Cast: Janet Gaynor (Heather Gordon), Charles Farrell (Larry Beaumont), El Brendel (Chris Jansen), Raul Roulien (Sascha), Lawrence O'Sullivan (Detective O'Flynn), Virginia Cherrill (Diana Van Bergh), Mischa Auer (Mischa).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Bradley, Edwin The First Hollywood Musicals: A Critical Filmography of 171 Features, 1927 Through 1932
Gavinson, Alan The American Film Institute Catalog: Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films 1911-1960
Hall, Mordaunt "Janet Gaynor in a Sentimental Romance With Musical Compositions by George Gershwin. Poor but Honest", The New York Times 26 Dec 31
Hemming, Roy The Melody Lingers on: The Great Songwriters and Their Movie Musicals
The Internet Movie Database