» » The Helen Morgan Story (1957)

Short summary

The 1920's and 30's career of singer Helen Morgan is followed from her early days singing outdoors in a carnival, through her speak-easy and chorus-girl days, to her stardom on Broadway in Ziegfeld's "Show Boat". Her involvement with Larry Maddux, a gin-runner and con-man, and Russell Wade, a prominent, married New York lawyer, and her decline thanks to these failed romances and alcohol are punctuated by performances of many of the songs she made famous.

This movie was originally planned for Doris Day to star in. This is one of the few planned projects that Day vehemently refused to play. She did not feel she wished to portray the sordid aspects of Helen Morgan and it would be totally different from her screen image.

This was Warner Bros. only feature in black-and-white CinemaScope.

As with many other films made in the 1950's, this movie was preceded by a television episode of an anthology series. The original, live production of _"Playhouse 90: The Helen Morgan Story" (1957)_, starring Polly Bergen, was presented on CBS TV five months before the release of the film version. Miss Bergen won that year's Emmy Award for Best Single Performance, Lead or Support, by an actress.

Others considered for the role of Helen Morgan were Judy Garland (who reportedly said about the part, "No more sad endings for me"), Susan Hayward, Jennifer Jones and Peggy Lee.

Patti Page relates in her new book that she had tested for the title role of Helen Morgan wearing a dark wig before they cast Ann Blyth.

Although Ann Blyth had done her own singing in her other movie musicals, her trained soprano voice was judged too operatic for the role of Helen Morgan, and pop singer Gogi Grant's voice was dubbed in. Ironically, the real Helen Morgan's light soprano voice was actually closer to Blyth's in quality than it was to Grant's. Ann Blyth revealed to writer-producer John Fricke that studio head Jack L. Warner had insisted on an intense, belting, Judy Garland-type sound for the film's Morgan.

The last Warner Bros. release in CinemaScope. Warner largely abandoned 'Scope production over the next few years, the few 2.35:1 films they made being in Technirama (Sayonara, Auntie Mame, John Paul Jones, The Miracle), before Panavision took over from 1960.

Yvonne De Carlo was offered the role of Helen Morgan but chose the female lead in another Warner Bros. production, La esclava libre (1957).

Sammy White, who plays himself, appeared with the real Helen Morgan in three productions of "Show Boat" - the original 1927 Broadway stage production, the first Broadway revival in 1932, and the 1936 film version. White played the comic role of hoofer Frank Schultz in "Show Boat".

LeRoy Prinz, who choreographed the musical numbers in this film, also choreographed the dances in the 1936 film version of "Show Boat", which featured the real Helen Morgan, along with Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, Charles Winninger, and Paul Robeson.

Alan Sues' movie debut.

Leonid Kinskey's final movie.

Warner Brothers released this as a double feature with Johnny Trouble (1957).

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: tref
    The film explains the decline of Helen Morgan (Ann Blyth) into alcoholism as the result of unsuccessful romances, especially one with Larry Maddux (Newman), a two-bit bootlegger…

    Larry is an almost one-dimensional and ultimately unbelievable character, but he does have qualities that are developed further in later Newman films: he is opportunistic, exploitative, smooth-talking, a man from the wrong side of the tracks who tries to better himself…

    Like other Newman characters, he is an outlaw—a con man and gangster—and it is noteworthy that Curtiz had directed Cagney, Bogart and other tough guys in Warners' Golden Era… Larry is also the first of Newman's womanizers—detached, rough, abusive, but irresistibly charming and sexy… He manages to seduce Helen while remaining nasty and cynical, then abandons her, only to keep reappearing and ruining her life… At best he can say, "In my own way, Helen, I love you," although in the unconvincing ending, he reforms…
  • comment
    • Author: Laizel
    After Doris Day scored a success with Ruth Etting in Love Me or Leave Me and Susan Hayward did well with both Jane Froman and Lillian Roth in With a Song In My Heart and I'll Cry Tomorrow, it was decided that chanteuses of the past were good box office. So Ann Blyth gave it her best effort in a whitewashed version of The Helen Morgan Story.

    Problem is that those other women had reasonably happy endings to their stories. Helen Morgan died in 1941, ready to make a comeback, but the years of booze, legal and illegal, took their toll on her body. She was only 41 years old, but packed a lot of hard living and heartache into her body and soul.

    I guess it was decided that the audiences wouldn't take to her real unhappy ending so an ending that was out of This Is Your Life was tacked on to this film. It ends roughly in the middle thirties.

    Although it's not mentioned at all in the story, Helen Morgan had a Hollywood career. She did an early sound film Applause, shot in New York while she was still on Broadway and introduced in that What Wouldn't I Do For That Man. That was one of her biggest hits and absent from this film. I guess Warner Brothers couldn't secure the rights.

    Of course her two best known shows were Showboat and Sweet Adeline. Irene Dunne played her role in the film adaption of Sweet Adeline, but we are fortunate to have Helen doing her original role of Julie in the 1937 Universal film of Showboat. It's where fans today can see and appreciate her best. She also has a number in Al Jolson's Go Into Your Dance and sings another of her hits, The Little Things You Used to Do. Now Warners had the rights to that one.

    The Helen Morgan presented here is a hard luck woman who had the misfortune to love and be loved by two wrong men for her. Bootlegger Paul Newman and married attorney Richard Carlson are the men in her life. Actually she did have two marriages, late in her life, and way after the action of this film takes place.

    Newman plays one of the first in a long line of cynical characters he breathed life into in his career. To paraphrase a current hit film, he just can't seem to quit Helen nor she him. And Richard Carlson just wants to have his cake and eat it to, wife and kiddies at home and a tootsie on the side, many in fact.

    Ann Blyth does a fine acting job. Why she wasn't allowed to use her own fine voice is a mystery since she actually sounds more like the real Helen Morgan than the dubbed Gogi Grant does. You'll see that for yourself in Showboat. Personally I'd have told Jack Warner to take the part and put it in an inconvenient place with that kind of arrangement.

    It's hardly the real Helen Morgan Story, but it's a grand excuse to hear some fabulous Tin Pan Alley tunes of an era never to return.
  • comment
    • Author: Agalas
    Clearly inspired by other biopics like Love Me or Leave Me (1955) and I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955), this is another tale of a chanteuse whose career success is affected by booze and bad men. Helen Morgan was a star in the 1920's, a nightclub singer who crossed-over into theater for Flo Ziegfeld on Broadway in Showboat. However like so many others, a rapid ascent gave way to a slow decline.

    The screenplay by Oscar Saul, Dean Reisner, Stephen Longstreet, and Nelson Gidding, rationalises that the sado-masochistic love of Helen (Ann Blyth) for Larry Maddox (Paul Newman) is what brings her success and failure. Her alcoholism is an ironic symptom of the era of prohibition. Helen is ambitious, but her love for Larry tells us that she would give it all up if he would agree to marry her. However as Larry isn't the marrying kind, she is miserable, not a good state for an entertainer to be in. The lower class milieu that accompanies showbusiness is a breeding ground for these crooks, who see talented women as their meal ticket and a way to improve themselves, and it's no coincidence that Ruth Etting and Fanny Brice too had their troubles with gamblers. When Larry slaps Helen repeatedly and calls her a tramp, the scene could be from any number of biopics.

    The dialogue uses period slang for amusing affect eg 'You made those dames look like they were hanging out to dry', Larry is 'stuck on' Helen and tells her 'You're hooked'. When Helen is drunk at a rehearsal, it is said of her 'She's only running on 4 cylinders. It's the gasoline she uses'. The narrative has period oddities such as a lesbian at a rent party, and the wife of lawyer Russell Wade (Richard Carlson) who has an arrangement where it appears she too can be a lesbian, though she refuses to release her meal ticket. Helen gets the standard self-pity in 'I'm no good' and 'Everything I touch turns bad', and we hear the tale of the death of her father when she was a child (Freud, anyone?). However what no one seems to notice is that when Helen is appearing in Showboat and at her nightclub AND drinking, the plain fact seems to be is that she is overworked. Also when Ziegfeld offers her the part of Julie in Showboat that would make her famous, there is no indication that she can even act.

    Although the biopic is one of Hollywood's most corrupt genres - revisionist history existing as a star vehicle - it is redeemed when the person biographed is presented as a star. Although Ann Blyth can sing, her vocals are (inexplicably) dubbed, not with Morgan's recordings - Morgan died in 1941 - but by Gogi Grant. Grant's voice is lovely, has that Garland loudness and heartthrob sincerity for ballads, and is also able to jazz it up for 'On The Sunny Side of the Street'. Director Michael Curtiz only lets us see Helen as a star in two numbers - 'The Man I Love', and Why Was I Born?', both when she is supposedly drunk and of course, in perfect voice. Curtiz uses the genre standard cut-aways so we have others opinion of how wonderful Helen is, but otherwise we get Helen singing numbers interrupted or up-staged by drama. There are two other numbers which Helen completes in full - her two songs from Showboat performed in non-Showboat settings, Bill and Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man, but the songs are less showy.

    Blyth uses Morgan's signature scarf and sits on the accompaniest's piano as she sings, however often her buck teeth up-stage her. Blyth had been memorably directed by Curtiz in Mildred Pierce (1944) with Joan Crawford, and the later Helen recalls Crawford, in her stark make-up and, in a scene where she is required to tell a lie, where her face is a grimace. Curtiz uses expressionist camera-work to indicate Helen's drunken point of view, and the numbers she falters in when performing are camp - her tipsy rehearsal for 'Somebody Loves Me' wearing a hideous dress, and 'You Do Something to Me' where she falls off the piano. Curtiz cuts from her fall to a newspaper headline 'La Morgan stops Broadway show - flat on her face!'. When Helen is 'missing' on a drunken binge, she gets splashed by a passing car, and is ridiculed in a bar when she sings along to a radio broadcast of her own vocal. However, Blyth's screams of Helen in detox jump over camp into empathy.

    Curtiz uses the cringe-worthy orchestration of Morgan songs behind dialogue scenes - you can bet 'The Man I Love' gets a workout in the Helen/Larry scenes, but also the silhouette of someone who hangs themselves. Newman is too young for his role - he was actually older than Blyth when the film was made, but he seems younger - and his technique shows. But although he has practically nothing to do, Alan King is good to have around.
  • comment
    • Author: Taun
    With a song in her heart, Helen Morgan was one of the top Broadway divas of the pre-Ethel Merman era. By the 1950's, such chanteuses as Jane Froman, Lillian Roth, Blossom Seeley and Ruth Etting had their stories told on film, so it was inevitable that someone did Morgan's. Polly Bergen did this story for TV, but Ann Blyth, the lovely soprano of "Rose Marie" and "The Student Price", got the movie-and got dubbed by a recording star-Gogi Grant. In those operettas, Blyth totally tossed out the memory of Veda from "Mildred Pierce", but by 1957, musicals were slowly being phased out on the big screen. Perhaps formula stories like this (plus plenty of musicals filmed for TV) were responsible, as more and more they reeked of familiarity. With this one, the formula combined with two recent similar stories, "The Lillian Roth Story" ("I'll Cry Tomorrow") and "The Ruth Etting Story" ("Love Me or Leave Me") to glue its plot together.

    Lillian Roth fought alcoholism and Ruth Etting was at the mercy of a mobster, and here, Helen Morgan is both. This provides plenty of drama, but unfortunately it is mashed together in an unconvincing manner that the other films managed to dramatize. Here, Paul Newman is the duplicate of "Love Me or Leave Me's" James Cagney. Unfortunately, as magnetic as Newman is, his character is weakly developed and lacks the heart Cagney displays in his Oscar nominated role. Richard Carlson is good as the equivalent to Cameron Mitchell's "Love Me or Leave Me" character, a basic good guy stuck in a loveless marriage. It's all predictable what happens in both relationships.

    As for Blyth, she does very well exploring Morgan's downfall and in spots, really captures her changing image. Gogi Grant's vocal range is appropriate to the downfall as well, and at times has voice mannerisms close to Judy Garland whom it is rumored was a contender for this role which may have been too close to home. But what fails to come through in her performance is the ambition, overwork and despair that would drive her to become a lush.

    There are many great standards and of course the two songs from "Show Boat" which have become her signature songs. Unfortunately, they are only heard as cabaret numbers, not shown being performed in the Broadway production or shown being filmed for the magnificent 1936 film version. In black and white more suited for early TV, the film lacks the impact the same story would have had if it was made 15 years before, as do many films of that era set in the 1930's. Then, the ending comes along, repeating one seen in one of the musical bios I discussed earlier, and on comes a major let down and lack of originality. Blyth shines, however, in a drunk scene in a New York dive where she badly sings along to a recording of herself on the radio.
  • comment
    • Author: PC-rider
    Since I was born decades after this film was made and this film was made about the period of Helen Morgan's life decades before 1957, I wasn't sure I would be able to appreciate it as much as perhaps it deserved to be. Actually I found it to be somewhat timeless in its depiction of the eternal quest for fame and fortune and the pitfalls that occur along the way. Even in today's headlines we see talented performers who achieve fame and fortune only to stumble due to relationship difficulties, substance abuse and shady characters in their entourage. Although I am not familiar with the real Helen Morgan, Ann Blyth does a credible job in portraying how stardom doesn't always lead to happiness and Paul Newman is very good as an opportunist with a conscience.
  • comment
    • Author: Umge
    Mostly fictional, miscast biographical hogwash of hard luck songtress Morgan. Ann Blyth, in her last theatrical feature, was the wrong actress for the title role, many were considered she was probably the least suitable, so the film starts off with a major flaw from the get go. Judy Garland whose style especially when young was compared to Morgan's would have been ideal. Another shortcoming is that although Blyth was a singer whose voice was relatively close to the real Helen Morgan's she is dubbed by Gogi Grant, also a fine singer but completely different from Morgan in sound and technique. If they were going to dub her why not use Helen Morgan's voice? Curtiz direction is unremarkable here, a few of his more customary florid touches would have helped greatly. Paul Newman who was just starting out when this was made is adequate but missing that loutish air that is needed for the reptile he is playing either Kirk Douglas or Robert Ryan would have been more suitable. The real Morgan story is a compelling one so this comes off as a wasted opportunity.
  • comment
    • Author: Maldarbaq
    I think the only reason they made "The Helen Morgan Story" is because of the success of similar movies such as "Love Me or Leave Me" and "I'll Cry Tomorrow"--both exceptional movies from 1955 about very hard luck singers of the 1920s. Like these other films, "The Helen Morgan Story" is about a lady with lots of talent--but also had a talent for screwing up her life. But, unlike these other films, you really never care about her or anyone in the films. For example, in "Love Me or Leave Me", Doris Day plays a real life lady who had a gangster boyfriend BUT she left him and cleaned up her life--so the notion of overcoming circumstances makes this an enjoyable film. In "I'll Cry Tomorrow" you like the story because Susan Hayward did a nice job of putting over the role. Here, there really is nothing good. With "The Helen Morgan Story", however, it feels like an episode of "The Jerry Springer Show" as her boyfriend (Paul Newman) slaps her around and treats poor Helen (Ann Blythe) like crap. It gets old very fast--it's just vicious and nasty. And, it's hard to care about her as well--she's just pathetic. Overall, I found it to be a real chore to watch this one--especially since in real life it only got worse and worse and worse until the lady was dead. Not pleasant nor particularly entertaining.

    By the way, there is no narrator listed on IMDb but the beginning of the film sure sounded as if the voice was Efram Zimbalist Junior. If you can enlighten me on this, let me know.
  • comment
    • Author: Wiliniett
    The 1950s gave us such great musical biographies and "The Helen Morgan Story" is another one of them.

    Ann Blyth is fabulous as she conveys the tormented life of this great performer. She made a success of herself in show business but threw it all away to alcohol and the inability to choose the right man for herself. Blyth was fabulous in the lead. It's a part that will remind you of Doris Day's Ruth Etting in "Love Me or Leave Me," or Susan Hayward in "I'll Cry Tomorrow."

    With those blue eyes, Paul Newman was phenomenal here. He was born to play the part of Larry, the man who loved Morgan deeply, but he himself said that he came first. Her other lover, played by Richard Carlson, who gave a very weak performance in the role.

    The songs are belted out and often the voice sounded somewhat like Lena Horne-Horne made many of the Morgan songs quite popular as well.

    Alan King appears in a straight dramatic role as Larry's associate. Cara Williams, who would be nominated for best supporting actress the following year in "The Defiant Ones," was good as his girlfriend and there is a stopping scene by Virginia Vincent, who commits suicide. Vincent was often seen on television's "The Untouchables" in the '50s as well.

    The movie does a great job of depicting Morgan's torment and success. Many of the dames of the period got themselves involved with gangsters and liquor and Morgan was no exception.
  • comment
    • Author: Macage
    I don't know a lot about Helen Morgan...just what I learned from Wikipedia. But here's the problem with this film. One possibility is that the film -- though somewhat fictionalized -- basically portrays Morgan as she was. In which case she was a pathetic sap. The other possibility is that the film portrays her unfairly as a pathetic sap. Either way, there's little reason for admiring Helen least based on this film.

    Ann Blyth can, at times, be a little shrill. Of course, the ironic thing is that even though Blyth was an accomplished singer, and had been in many movie musicals, Warner Brothers used Gogi Grant's singing voice throughout the movie. Frankly, if they weren't going to use Blyth for her voice, there were other, better actresses available. Although, I must say that the scene with DTs is quite memorable, as are the closing scenes.

    Those who love Paul Newman probably won't like him very much in this role. His character is as bad a cad as you'll find, dumping Morgan, slapping her around, and manipulating her and everyone to his satisfaction. A pretty pathetic character to be playing.

    More likable is Richard Carlson as the other love of Morgan, and a wealthy businessman at that. Alan King is not bad as a small-time confidence man, but the role is so clichéd as to be worthless. Cara Williams has a role as a dance hall girl-type.

    Interesting, three contemporaries to Morgan, each of whom she had a professional relationship with, appear in the film in sort of cameo roles -- Rudy Vallee, a very young columnist Walter Winchell, and famed song writer and Morgan's former accompanist Jimmy McHugh.

    I found the end of the movie, though well-acted, to be disappointing. If one didn't know better, one would think blue skies were ahead. They forgot to mention that she died of cirrhosis of the liver at the young age of 41.

    Although I would have preferred another actress in the role of Helen Morgan, this film does have a lot going for it. least once.
  • comment
    • Author: Nuadora
    If for no other reason, the movie is memorable for the great vocals by Gogi Grant. It has its inconsistencies, such as Helen Morgan wears the same 5 inch stillettos throughout the movie. Were they even available in the 1930s? Go past that and this makes a great tearjerker, or a "rainy-day stay in the house and curl up on the couch" movie. Today, I'd say it would be reated PG-14.
  • comment
    • Author: Nern
    During the wild and reckless 1920s, pretty small-town girl Ann Blyth (as Helen Morgan) gets her start as a singer for sex-minded bootlegger Paul Newman (as Larry Maddox). Although deserted after a "one night stand" in Chicago, Ms. Blyth hooks up with Mr. Newman for the long haul. "The customers drink more when they cry," advises Newman, and Blyth becomes a successful "torch singer" (one who sings the blues over lost loves). For publicity and profit, Newman enters Blyth in a "Miss Canada" beauty pageant, although she is not Canadian. Blyth is kept out of jail by kindly lawyer Richard Carlson (as Russell Wade), who becomes the another significant man in her life...

    Gogi Grant sings beautifully for Blyth, but one wonders why the actress wasn't allowed to sing for herself. Her style more closely fit the real Helen Morgan's range. Morgan was a big star during the 1920s and 1930s and anyone listening to the radio in 1957 would also be familiar with Ms. Grant's hits - and the titular heroine's real ending. Moviegoers in 1957 must have been puzzled. Blyth is given a role to showcase her acting skills, but holds back; she'd be least haggard looking alcoholic on skid row. Newman had recently been making progress, but appears to still be finding his way. Shadowy scenes staged by director Michael Curtiz and photographer Ted McCord are a strength.

    ***** The Helen Morgan Story (10/2/57) Michael Curtiz ~ Ann Blyth, Paul Newman, Richard Carlson, Gene Evans
  • comment
    • Author: Thundershaper
    Sitting through this exercise in self-congratulatory Hollywood tedium is enough to give you the shakes nearly as bad as those experienced by the title character.

    Helen Morgan (Ann Blyth) is a young singer from Danville, Illinois who dreams of seeing her name in lights. Stardom comes quicker than you can say the words "cheap montage," but with it comes gobs of heartache, mostly in the form of wrong guys and too much alcohol.

    Directed by Michael Curtiz and written by a credited committee of four, "Helen Morgan" throws up every convention of the time in which it was made, with no real heart in evidence. The New York Times called it "as heartwarming as an electric pad," which gets across the level of manipulation on offer even if it oversells the warmth by a few degrees.

    Blyth looks terrific, anyway, convincingly lip-synching Gogi Grant's off-camera singing. Paired up with a young and handsome Paul Newman as a shifty bootlegger named Larry Maddux, you get a lot of sex appeal, anyway.

    Right away you know you are in trouble, when we see Helen in a train while a group of Charleston-dancing men strum ukuleles and wear mink coats. It's the 1920s, in case you didn't know, a point that Curtiz continues to harp upon in scene after scene.

    Everything is force-fed to you in this film. It's all about the men in the world of Helen, as she gets pinballed from one bad thing to another, whether it's being left out to dry by Larry after a one-night fling, or later being caught masquerading as a Canadian for a beauty pageant.

    That's one of the few elements, by the way, which happened to the real Helen Morgan, but here it just serves as another installment of the pain parade Larry puts her through, not to mention her chance to meet another wrong guy who gets to disqualify her.

    "I'm so ashamed," she tells him.

    "There's one thing you don't have to be ashamed of," he replies. "Your looks. You're a very pretty girl."

    This counts for a gallant overture in this very dated, awkward film.

    Blyth isn't bad, just not very convincing. Forced as she is by a stupid script to never take a stand for herself, just drink more and more to register her pain, I'd say she does as good as she can.

    Newman's better, much better, mainly because he gets to make his choice comments from the sidelines while poor Ann has to drag this dead cat of a story on her petite shoulders. Playing anti-heroes became a specialty of his, and he does the best he can with this one.

    Judy Garland reportedly turned down the lead role in this production with the famous line "No more sad endings for me." Judy was smart; you can be, too. Unless you're a Newman completist, or a self-abusive depressive, give this one a miss.
  • comment
    • Author: Bort
    Producer: Martin Rackin. Copyright 1957 by Warner Brothers Pictures Corporation. New York opening at the Astor 2 October 1957. U.S. release date: September 1957. U.K. release: 29 December 1957. Australian release: 12 June 1958. U.S. and Australian running time: 118 minutes. U.K. length: 8,914 feet (99 minutes). U.K. release title: BOTH ENDS OF THE CANDLE.

    SYNOPSIS: Singer takes to drink.

    NOTES: Warner Bros purchased the rights to Helen Morgan's story from her estate in 1942 — a year after her death. The title role was initially offered to Susan Hayward — to capitalize on her success in "I'll Cry Tomorrow" — but she turned it down.

    COMMENT: Despite its simple, melodramatic, "Love Me Or Leave Me" triangle framework, "The Helen Morgan Story" is not only unwound at a wonderful pace, but given such breadth that it introduces a whole host of interesting support characters and diverting scenes. True, Ann Blyth is not much of an actress. She never was. But it still comes as something of a shock to see such a poor performance here, considering that she responded so effectively to Curtiz's direction in "Mildred Pierce". Not only does she give little indication of Morgan's personality and charisma, she doesn't even look like her. Fortunately, all her singing chores are entrusted to Gogi Grant, a splendid vocalist who really gives the old Morgan standards a great run.

    The many welcome musical interludes are, for the most, simply staged, but marvelously effective. And what a great score! In the Cagney role, Paul Newman gives a smashing, hard-edged performance — right up to his last-minute change of heart (which is the least believable plot twist of all the unbelievable episodes the writers have managed to dream up). In fact, Newman's powerful portrayal of the embittered gangster ("I got a chest full of medals") brings what could have been a conventional, clichéd character to vibrant life. Newman projects a magnetism that makes both his portrait and Morgan's reaction to him utterly believable. (Compare Omar Sharif's tepid and lackluster interpretation of a similar nemesis in "Funny Girl").

    By contrast, co-star Richard Carlson is weak as water (as usual), but Cara Williams — more attractively gowned and photographed than Blyth herself — and Alan King head an energetic and highly ingratiating support cast. Alas, Rudy Vallee appears only briefly (but enjoyably).

    In addition to numerous other incredible liberties that the script takes with Morgan's "life", insult is added to injury when no mention whatever is made of the star's Hollywood fling in such films as "Applause", "Roadhouse Nights", "Sweet Music", "Go Into Your Dance" and "Show Boat". In fact the "story" ends with a spurious, happy re- union stolen from "The Joker Is Wild".

    But what does truth matter? When the songs, the lighting, the director's firm control and occasional inventiveness (Curtiz just loves to work with a mammoth budget), the crowd and street scenes are so marvelous. The number and variety of sets, their depth, the vast number of extras, Curtiz's tight CinemaScope compositions, all overwhelm us with a fabulous sense of period. Above all, Ted McCord's superb black-and-white cinematography (some of the outdoor, Depression shots have the look and texture of Steiglitz photographs) entrances the senses with its wondrous lighting.

    Always most attractive just to look at, "The Helen Morgan Story" is a terrific example of Hollywood craftsmanship at its best. It's a shame it wasn't appreciated for the gem it is at the time of its original release. Most critics homed in on the fictitious story line, dismissed Blyth's impersonation, and let it go at that.

    I say, never mind the flaws. Judge the movie as entertainment. Is the story interesting, is the acting engaging, are the songs and singers absolutely captivating? My answer is yes, yes, yes!
  • comment
    • Author: Saithi
    The movie doesn't come up to the height of Love Me or Leave Me. The reviews of the day called it a soap opera and it has that feeling. Love Me or Leave had a better script and a better cast. The reason that Blyth was miscast is the same reason that they didn't use her voice (Gogi Grant dubbed over all the singing). Blyth doesn't have the emotional heft to match the torch-singing quality that is necessary for the part or necessary to match the dubbed singing by Gogi. A more powerful actress would have made the scenes with her and Newman much better. His acting ability stands out of course, but it is mostly wasted on this script. Who would have been perfect for this?...easy...Judy Garland. She may have looked to old for the part at this point...she didn't have the beauty of Blyth...who was a good singer in her own right...but not for this. Blyth looked like Morgan...and she was fantastic in Kismet...perfect. I had the pleasure of meeting her about 10 years ago and shared some coffee with her and her husband. She's a lovely lady. This movie is just lacking.
  • comment
    • Author: snowball
    It's all there, professional hardware and expertise, up on the

    cinemascope screen - but for two oddities: the lead roles.

    Newman and Blyth look good (she even looks like Debbie's older

    sister as seen in Singin In the Rain) and Newman at 30 is about at

    handsome as the 50s screen ever was........but they are both light

    for grim roles. Doris Day pulled it off in Love Me Or Leave Me and

    Cagney was the full gargoyle as Marty the Gimp which is probably

    what the Larry role Needed from Newman...but he was really too

    pretty. Looking alot like how Some Like It Hot turned out, it looks

    like it wants to be a comedy....which it probably now almost is.

    Anne Blyth is Minnie Mouse, I think and that is what doesn't help.

    And where's Joan Blondell when WB need her......and I bet Richard

    Carlson kissed Michael Curtiz feet in gratitude for the high profile

    role here after all those D grade schlockers he had prior. He even

    had his name in lights in the fabulous credits. This is alot like the

    1933 CASE OF THE LUCKY LEGS without the laughs. This film is

    so well made, but it doesn't work, whereas other bios from the

    same period are dynamic. Like for Doris Day and Susan Hayward.
  • comment
    • Author: TheSuspect
    (Plot) An aspiring singer named Helen Morgan achieves stardom, only to have it snatched away from her due to poor decisions in her love life, and constant alcohol abuse.

    I knew nothing about Helen Morgan going in. The only reason I decided to watch this movie, is because of Paul Newman's presence. I'm a huge Paul Newman fan. This is one of his first roles. The movie is a rather drab and joyless experience, for almost two hours or so. I'm sure the real Helen Morgan was a fascinating person, with many issues that were sympathetic, but Ann Blyth's portrayal of her is simply boring. This movie does a very poor job telling her story. Her love story with Larry Maddux (Paul Newman) seems quickly thrown together without proper thought, and shows contempt for its audience. I got quite annoyed with the on and off relationship between Blyth & Paul Newman. She's also somewhat of a home- wrecker. She falls for a married man named Russell Wade (Richard Carlson) Its tough to empathize with a person like that, even though she seemed to be good hearted. From what I've read, they depicted Helen Morgan correctly. Her alcoholism is shown in decent detail, but it's far from vivid like it's trying to be. It might be cruel of me to say, but I didn't give a damn anymore about Helen Morgan after about the 50 minute mark. I was simply waiting for this mess to end.

    *SPOILERS* If you don't wish to be spoiled, don't read any further!

    After doing some research, I found out the happy ending was completely fabricated. The real Helen Morgan died at the age of 41, when she collapsed on a stage while performing. She died due to years of alcohol abuse. The ending of the movie heavily implies that Helen Morgan has turned her life around. I think it's a bit of a slap to the face of the real Helen Morgan.

    Final Thoughts: Leave this in obscurity where it belongs. As good as Paul Newman is, I don't have many good things to say about this movie. Look elsewhere for info on Helen Morgan. This mediocre biopic isn't it

  • comment
    • Author: Goldfury
    This is as if one of the Lilliputians had been tapped by Hollywood to top-line The Lemuel Gulliver Story. If that doesn't fly how about Tab Hunter in The Frank Sinatra Story. Th't how ludicrous it is to cast Ann Blyh, a minor talent at best, as a charismatic star of the 20s and 30s. You can see the thinking. Morgan's hey day was the 20s and 30s and by 1941 she was dead, the handful of films she played in weren't being shown on TV so who - of the Hollywood target audience, approx 15 to 25 - is going to say THAT'S not Morgan. By far the best thing about it is the score, as loaded with standards as MGM's Love Me Or Leave Me two years earlier, another tale of a real life singer of the 20s and 30s done wrong by a gangster. Thing is Doris Day was far more credible than Blyth and has a better voice than Gogi Grant. Alan King is effective in support but this isn't a keeper.
  • Cast overview, first billed only:
    Ann Blyth Ann Blyth - Helen Morgan
    Paul Newman Paul Newman - Larry Maddux
    Richard Carlson Richard Carlson - Russell Wade
    Gene Evans Gene Evans - Whitey Krause
    Alan King Alan King - Benny Weaver
    Cara Williams Cara Williams - Dolly Evans
    Virginia Vincent Virginia Vincent - Sue
    Walter Woolf King Walter Woolf King - Florenz Ziegfeld
    Dorothy Green Dorothy Green - Mrs. Wade
    Edward Platt Edward Platt - Johnny Haggerty
    Warren Douglas Warren Douglas - Mark Hellinger
    Sammy White Sammy White - Sammy White
    The De Castro Sisters The De Castro Sisters - Singers
    Jimmy McHugh Jimmy McHugh - Jimmy McHugh
    Rudy Vallee Rudy Vallee - Rudy Vallee
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