Have you ever watched a film and after it was finished thought to yourself, “That was very good, but, I don’t think I want to see it again.”
This movie I’m about to discuss is no different.
Now, before I continue on with my review, I would like to explain what I meant when I said, “I never want to see this again.”
This movie is excellent, in fact, I’d enjoyed it so much that I vowed to never watch it again. Despite it being a “musical comedy” it felt much more like war-time romantic drama. There were comedic elements sprinkled throughout the film, but, never enough for me to seriously laugh at.
I didn’t expect it to make me fall down, clutching my sides in laughter pains, I merely believed that a few laughs will be sufficient enough to call this movie a comedy.
Perhaps it would be best if I lay out the plot in order for you to get a better understanding of what I’m trying to convey.
The synopsis for this film is fairly simple.
7-year-old ‘Mike’, played by O’Brien is sent from Connecticut to stay with her older, pregnant, sister Barbara ‘Babs’ Ainsworth, played by Allyson, in New York. Expecting her sister to meet her off the train ‘Mike’ panics when she doesn’t see her and quickly makes a scene.
Although she’s only seven years old, she wants to put up a brave front for her ‘no-show’ sister and the small crowd that’s gathering around her.
Increasingly growing concerned for this child’s well being, several policemen spend a couple of minutes talking to ‘Mike’ until they find out where she’s supposed to be heading to. They escort her to New York’s Symphony Hall where she spots her sister in the middle of a performance lead by real-life bandleader José Iturbi.
Overcome with delight, “Mike” can’t help herself and rushes the stage in search of her sister. She finds Barbara, but in doing so she prevents the band from finishing their piece, much to the dismay of her sister’s bandmates.
Iturbi, naturally, is furious with this random little girl disrupting his orchestra and is a hair’s breadth away from firing whoever she’s related to.
Before Iturbi could bring down the full wrath of his discipline on this little girl’s sister, his righthand man Andy, played by Jimmy Durante, reminds him that if he were to fire ‘Babs’ he would be short staffed, seeing as though so many of the men in the band were off fighting in the war. With that new piece of information in mind, Iturbi changes his tune and let’s ‘Babs’ stay in her position.
Now that she’s had one problem solved, ‘Babs’ must find a way to solve another – her baby sister ‘Mike.’
Although she was completely blindsided by her aunt’s decision to send ‘Mike’ over, ‘Babs’ is grateful that she has someone to give her company while her husband’s on deployment.
After thinking about a myriad of ways to care for ‘Mike’ while she’s on her visit, ‘Babs’ decides (with the help of her roommates) to sneak her into the “No Children Allowed” boardinghouse that she currently resides in.
The stresses of this begin to weigh on ‘Babs’ and she faints from exhaustion. Her roommates take her to the hospital where ‘Mike’ finds out that her sister is pregnant. The doctor, for some reason, instructs ‘Mike’ to take care of her sister until she returns to full strength.
When ‘Babs’ doesn’t show up to rehearsals, Iturbi begins to get suspicious and demands an answer. Twisting their arm until they confess, her roommates comply as they tell their band leader why ‘Babs’ is really missing. They tell him what happened and he’s – weirdly- sympathetic.
As ‘Babs’ is stuck inside her apartment on bedrest, she receives a telegram that coincides with her orchestra’s trip to Florida. Fearing that whatever is in the envelope may stress her out even further, her roommates agree to not tell ‘Babs’ what’s on the card until the baby is delivered.
Here’s the point in the film where I determined that I would never willingly subject myself to this movie again – not without tissues and some ice cream, however.
On their train ride to Florida ‘Mike’ and a few of ‘Bab’s’ roommates spot her quietly weeping in her bunker. They suspect they know what’s wrong, but anxiously wait until ‘Babs’ tell them before they inadvertently ‘spill the beans’.
She tells them, over a steady flow of tears, that she believes that her husband – Joe – may be dead/missing because he hasn’t written to her in four months.
‘Mike’ being an eternal optimist (and also a very optimistic 7-year-old) implores her sister to have a little faith in God if she were to ever see Joe again.
It was at this instant during the movie where the film turned from a light, romantic comedy featuring two sisters, to a heartwrenching romantic war drama between two lovesick lovers.
The orchestra’s train reaches Florida and the ladies head to their hotel room for the night. As they were getting ready for bed, a yelling match breaks out between ‘Mike’ and Rosalind, the roommate who discovered the telegram intended for ‘Babs.’ Just as things were beginning to calm down, ‘Babs’ saunters into the room to check on her sister.
Rosalind nervously tries to hide the telegram before ‘Babs’ has a chance to see who it’s addressed to with no luck. ‘Babs’ insists that everyone is hiding something from her, but, Rosalind lies and says it was sent to her.
The group returns to New York after a week-long concert series and ‘Babs’ still hasn’t gotten over her ills. Sensing that she could miscarry, the clarinetist Marie (one of ‘Bab’s’ other roommates) gives her uncle Ferdinand (What a name!) a call and asks him to forge a letter in Joe’s name.
Next the day, ‘Babs’ receives a letter that looks eerily similar to ones that the United States Army sends out when they, “Regret to inform you…”
As ‘Babs’ opens the letter, a wave of happiness washes over her face. Elated with the news, she rushes to find the nearest church to give thanks to God for keeping her husband safe. Her roommates thought that this forged telegram would give them some sort of solace, but, in the end, it made them feel guilty for betraying such a close friend
The final scene of the movie sure is a doozy, so, strap in folks – it’s going to be a good one.
Right before their next concert is supposed to start, ‘Babs’ goes into labor. As the band is at the concert hall impatiently waiting to hear the status of their friend’s child, they get a surprise visit from Marie’s uncle. He tells them that he didn’t have the audacity to lie to an army wife and that he didn’t forge the letter.
To my and everyone’s else shock, Joe is actually alive. Uncle Ferdinand’s letter wasn’t sent! All this time, they believed that he was M.I.A, in actuality he never was! He was perfectly fine! The film ends with everyone rejoicing with glee and leaves me on the floor in a puddle of tears and laughter.
I hate/love this movie.
This first time I watched it, I was in tears – genuinely. I’ve never been so happy/sad in my entire life. I’m not entirely sure why this movie is considered a musical “comedy” because it made me cry at multiple points in the film.
Anyone who watches this should heed my warning: DO NOT LET THE MUSICAL COMEDY LABEL FOOL YOU. The final 10 minutes of this movie had my stomach in knots.
Did he live?
Is ‘Babs’ a widow?
Why did her roommates lie to her?
WHY WOULD YOU PUT POOR JUNE ALLYSON THROUGH SOMETHING LIKE THIS?
Besides my emotional objections to the ending (and the terrible way her roommates treated her), I honestly did enjoy the film.
June Allyson did a wonderful job of carrying the emotional weight of the film (isn’t she incredible?) As for Margaret O’Brien, normally I don’t like child actors (Bill Mumy being the exception) but, she did a great job being the comedic release in an otherwise somber plot.
All in all, Music for Millions is the best film I never want to see again. Not that it’s bad or anything, or that June Allyson and Margaret O’Brien were wretched in their roles, it’s just that it emotionally drained me, in the best way possible.