A b-musical with a wholesome outlook, Pot o' Gold (1941) attracted such an actor as Jimmy Stewart likely because it was produced by the son of Theodore Roosevelt than due to any belief in the script.
His presence upraises the story considerably because he's so convincing as a down-home naive good guy. Stewart personally regarded this as among his worst films, but I didn't find it all that bad.
Jimmy plays a music store owner whose business goes belly-up. He's forced to go to work for his tycoon uncle's health food company. But his devotion to a certain band & their landlady (Mary Gordon) who practically gives the band free room & board causes considerable tension with his uncle.
The plot centers around helping the band achieve success, balancing family obligation with Uncle Charlie (Charles Winniger) as his last living relative, & getting the girl, Miss Molly (Paulette Goddard), who sings with the band that Uncle Charlie has declared to be his enemy.
The band, played the actual Horace Heidt & His Musical Knights, practices on the roof of their apartment building right next door to Uncle Charlie's factory. Charlie's in continous warfare because of their noise, but thinks nothing of his factory's loud impact on the neighborhood.
Jimmy arrives to find the whole street in a state of blissful song & dance, living in a perpetual musical, thanks to the rooftop jazz orchestra.
Molly sings "Hi, Cy, What's Cooking?" & "Pete the Piper Man," upbeat jazz novelty numbers. When Jimmy whips out his harmonica & plays along on "Piper," the bandleader likes it & wants him in band.
Jimmy's fondness for Molly & the entire "enemy" household is something he has to keep from his uncle's knowledge. He also has to hide the fact that he's the nephew of the boarding house's mortal enemy.
Arrested for assault after throwing a tomato that struck his crabby uncle, Jimmy's let go on bail, paid for by the band who pawned all their instruments. But Jimmy accidentally climbs in a paddy wagon & gets carried off to prison anyway. It's a jolly place where with his harmonica & a little support-the-war jingle "When Johnny Toots His Horn," he becomes a popular guy within minutes.
A couple of black prisoners & the black prison chef turn out to be great tap-dancers & as all the prisoners do a chorus of "It blows it blows it blows" it's had not to take that as an editorial comment. It's just a complete party in prison. When the error of his presence is discovered, though, they just let Jimmy go.(Hey wait a minute. Prison chef???)
Jimmy Stewart really did sing "When Johnny Toots His Horn" & does it quite well. It looks like he's also legitmately playing that harmonica. But in a later song, when Jimmy sings in the midst of Molly's dream-fantasy, it's actually the voice of Horace Heidt.
Throughout he's been fearful of Molly finding out he's the nephew of the band's declared enemy. Back at the apartment house dinner is served. The musicians having no instruments sing a gay song "A Knife A Fork & a Spoon" while making music at the dinner table with utensils & plates.
Paying harmonics on the crystal goblets they sing in praise of the landlady's Irish stew, followed by a tune that runs "Boarding house, O boarding house, to us you're home sweet home." The dinner songs are so bad they're great. Later one of the musicians turns out still to have his guitar so they all sing a swing ballad, "Do You Believe in Fairy Tales."
This is where Molly, napping in her room, goes into a dream-world to the song about fairy tales. Her knight in shining armor shows up in the medieval castle, playing his harmonica & wearing the same rumpled suit of clothes he wore in the waking world. He then sings the fairy tale song though he's lip syncing.
Uncle Charlie advertises on a radio station which in those days meant funding an entire show. Because he hates music it's not such a great show.
The highlight is rhymy poetry about health food. But as the plot unfolds, the band will get to be on the show while Charlie's away, increasing the listener numbers before Uncle Charlie can complain.
Pot o'Gold didn't start out all that bad but it gets more boring toward the middle. It needed more tunes & less plot. Although the music is not hit parade stuff, it's pleasant at its worst & quite good at its best. But after a slow patch it begins to pick up again when Jimmy & the band become involved inthe radio show.
The band & Jimmy conspire to make Charlie think he's having a nervous break down. While Charlie's in the Canadian wilderness for a rest cure, Jimmy takes over the radio show, featuring Horace Heidt & His Musical Knights.
Molly does "Broadway Caballero" on the first "new" show. Paulette Goddard's got a great voice for a swing rhumba. She also does a butch act as the Broadway Caballero flirting with girls & being very Marlene Dietrich.
Goddard first came to fame as the first Ziegfield girl to ride in the crescent moon. She had small roles in later Charlie Chaplin films during their six-year marriage.
Despite beauty & talent as an actor & singer, she just never scored great film roles, & in her dissatifaction quit Hollywood & retired to Europe where she eventualy married Erich Maria Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front.
When I was a little kid, big stage numbers like the "Broadway Caballero" centerpiece of the film, allegedly "on the radio," always puzzled me. It got me to believing all that stuff really was going on during radio programs even though nobody could see it.
Though the band's a success & offered a contract, & Molly should be happy, she finds out Jimmy's her enemy's uncle, so she sabotages the opportunity & while on the air announces the "pot o'gold" contest giving away a thousand dollars a week.
The infuriated uncle who hears the radio program, but is too far away to stop what's going on. By the time he gets back home, it'll all go over so profitably that everyone lives happily ever after.
Following a few hysterical escapades everyone lives happily ever after & crabby Uncle Charlie changes his nature very suddenly with profitability dangled in front of his face.
Despite that this is a cheapo production, Pot o'Gold is has A-film performances from Jimmy Stewart & Paulette Goddard. The band was also reasonably good, a top comemrcial band of its day, & one which surprisingly still exists under the leadership of Horace Heidt, Jr.
Horace Heidt & His Musical Knights really did have a popular national radio show which did indeed have a Friday night money prize as portrayed in the film. It was in fact radio's first money-give-away show.
The box office failure of Pot o'Gold was at least partly due to theaters not wanting to show a film that advertised a radio program that encouraged potential film-goers to stay home on Friday nights.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl