A Song Is Born (1948)

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Many critics, film historians, and those involved in the entertainment field readily admit that A Song is Born was a major flop. Unfortunately, it didn't have much going for it to start with. As one can see by reading the information listed further below, this movie was a remake of a Goldwyn film, Ball of Fire, produced seven years earlier. Goldwyn had the same director from Ball of Fire direct A Song Is Born, and it's been said that he also had Virginia Mayo watch her predecessor in the original movie many times, perhaps trying to have Virginia recreate what Barbara Stanwyck had done previously. Trying to recreate a previous movie or role is never a wise decision.

So what does this fan think? A Song Is Born is a cute movie, though definit|ely not my favorite. There are certainly times where I felt it dragging, however I'm not a huge fan of the type of music covered in this film. Perhaps someone else might enjoy those scenes more. I found the type of character Danny played intriguing simply because it's so different from other characters he's portrayed. And while I certainly missed hearing Danny sing, I think a typical Sylvia Fine song would have been out of place in this movie (unless inserted into a dream sequence, such as in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). Needless to say, there are definitely some cute scenes, especially between Danny and Virginia. I thought she did a particularly good job in this role, though I have never seen the original movie, Ball of Fire. This role was certainly different from Virginia's other roles in Danny's films, and I found it a nice change.

Film Information

Filmed: June 16 - Sept. 26, 1947

Released: Nov. 6, 1948
(Koenig, David.
Danny Kaye: King of Jesters, pg 113)

A Song Is Born began shooting on June 16 on an allotted seventy-six day schedule that was then augmented to an incredibly cushy eighty-one days; it almost seemed padded to take Danny Kaye’s shrink appointments into account. Filming was briefly interrupted in early August when Hawks became ill, but even the leisurely timetable and the director not wanting to spend a minute longer on it than necessary, production fell gradually behind. Shooting finally ground to a halt on September 26 after eighty-seven days, eight days behind schedule. The budget was a lofty $2,851,983, virtually the same as that of Red River; there can be no question which made better use of its money.” [McCarthy, Todd. Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood. 1997.]

It was during this period of time that Danny and Sylvia were having marital troubles. Newspaper articles have reported the couple separating around the beginning of September 1947. Danny and Sylvia did reconcile and were together again the following year.

According to an interview with the director, Howard Hawks, Danny went to see a psychiatrist twice a day. [McBride, Joseph. Hawks on Hawks. 1982.]

“In 1948, Goldwyn was in danger of losing Danny, who was unhappy with the rehashed scripts he was being asked to do, particularly A Song Is Born, a dismal remake of Ball of Fire, a wonderful film Goldwyn had produced only seven years earlier starring Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper. Goldwyn was smart enough to leave Danny alone, but he forced Virginia Mayo to watch Stanwyck’s performance in the original over and over.” [Granger, Farley and Robert Calhoun. Include Me Out: My Life From Goldwyn to Broadway. 2007.] (Pg 56)

“The flop was not Danny’s fault, it was Goldwyn’s.” [Granger, Farley and Robert Calhoun. Include Me Out: My Life From Goldwyn to Broadway. 2007.] (Pg 134)

This is Virginia Mayo’s fifth and final film with Danny.

On the set actor Ludwig Stossel exhibited great skill at playing gin rummy. As Kurt Singer explains in The Danny Kaye Story. (This picture was being sold on Ebay.)

"He won against Virginia Mayo without appearing to be thinking, beat Hugh Herbert while glancing at a magazine and collected a round sum of money from directors, camera-men or anyone else who would play with him.

Everyone on the staff was angry. Everyone had lost money. Everyone grumbled to Danny. For several days he viewed the series of badly matched card games and then confided to three of the actors. 'I have an idea. Think I will fix Herr Stossel once and for all. After all, in Walter Mitty I was a cardsharp, and I think I can give him a first-rate Mississippi gambler treatment.'

With that, luck changed. Stossel lost. Dnany won. Game after game, the same thing.

Stossel put down his magazine, furrowed his brow and began to play with a new concentration. But Danny was unbeatable. He won every day of each week in the month."

Everyone soon became suspicious. Something didn't seem right. People were shocked at the possibility that Danny could have been cheating, but no one dared say anything. But they didn't have too. Eventually Danny revealed it himself.

"There was an unheard gasp from the onlookers. Everyone, with the exception of the preoccupied Mr. Stossel, knew that Danny was cheating flagrantly. 'What will happen next?' was the thought that flashed through the minds of each of them. 'Danny Kaye a cardsharp? What a pity! What a scandal!'

Danny did not say a word. Yes, he had cheated and won back the money which had been lost by the actors and crew during the past weeks. His fellow actors in on the secret spread the word that Kaye was just having his fun and, in a way, meting out his form of justice.

Danny picked up the money from the last game and without moving a muscle said to the group in general, 'I've sent all the money to the cancer fund--including Mr. Stossel's.'

A sigh of relief followed by many chuckles cleared the emotionalized air. The rummy champion, Mr. Stossel, had met his match--even if it required the slick tricks of the prankster, Danny Kaye."


Brief Articles Regarding A Song Is Born - 1947

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