Swing Has Swung at Fox
Do You Love Me (1946) Looks To Crooner Takeover
An unintended seeing-out of the Swing Era, Do You Love Me (seems there ought to be a question mark at the end of the title, but alas, no) sees Harry James and his big band losing to Dick Haymes in both musical and romantic capacity. Postwar preference was for vocalists, jitterbuggers having grown up and/or changed into uniforms. Swing would slip, and cede besides to crooners like Haymes who had luck of timing, if not talent. That he'd rival Harry James for affection of Maureen O'Hara, and come out a winner, must have seemed foregone conclusion to 1946 viewers gravitating more to voice than brass. Do You Love Me asks us too to choose between classical and pop, a near-even contest for performance time given both. Movies weren't for seeing out old in favor of new, there being room under a big musical tent for all. Yes, it's long hairs and oldsters that go for long-past composing, but plenty that's good was done in past centuries, based on H'wood banners flown here and in then-recent A Song To Remember, where Cornel Wilde and fresh renditions made Chopin dreamy, and jukebox adaptable.
Maureen's a college dean whose starch needs ironing, not just for disdain of modern music, but for hair kept in a bun and specs she insists on wearing. Admitted "wolf" Harry comes on strong and remains so, a tip-off that he'll not prevail, while Dick's the shy guy, an image given Haymes from a Fox start, and soon contradicted by headlines he'd generate offscreen (ducking WWII service, excess tippling, etc.). Forging pic personality from singers and bandleaders was no simple task. James and Haymes had names and sweet sound in back of them, plus habits a problematic equal to rock stars who'd complicate salesmanship a generation later. The two lived large and were governed by nobody. Fans craved both more than movie stars ... who'd read riot acts when they misbehaved? James was reckless with dice and Haymes picked up nickname "Mr. Evil" for conduct among peers. They were great when music-making, however, Do You Love Me wise for confining them to that for bulk of 90 minute run-time.
Fox saw musicals in more dollar than artistry terms. But even MGM was hard-pressed to elevate big band vehicles past level of economic expediency. Hit Parades marched by quickly, after all. Do You Love Me would be directed by Gregory Ratoff, who knew not from pride in work assigned, but ate well for playing hands dealt him. Settings are familiar: isn't the train Maureen rides a same one that accommodated Gene Tierney in a previous year's Leave Her To Heaven? And stage-built garden setting for a last reel recital looks mighty like false foliage used for same purpose in The Gang's All Here. Again, all such was ephemeral. Who at 20th would have dreamed anyone would watch this stuff after 1946? Makes me wonder, in fact, if there were customers beyond myself for Fox's On-Demand DVD released last year, Do You Love Me looking not as we'd wish for, but better than contempt heaped on other oldies by major disc outlets (seen the Kitty transfer from Universal On-Demand? Well, don't. It's lousy).