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If I Had My Way



If I Had My Way is a 1940 musical comedy film directed by David Butler and starring Bing Crosby and Gloria Jean. Based on a story by David Butler, the film is about a construction worker who takes charge of the daughter of a friend killed in an accident.


Filming took place in Hollywood between February and April 1940. This was another independent production for Crosby outside his Paramount contract and he took a financial interest in it. The film had its New York premiere at the Rivoli Theater on May 5, 1940.

Plot

Buzz Blackwell, Fred Johnson and Axel Swenson are construction workers in San Francisco who are helping to build the Golden Gate Bridge. They are good friends and Buzz and Axel even help Fred in raising his daughter Patricia. When Fred tragically dies in an accident, Patricia is forced to go live with her relatives in New York City whom she has never met. Buzz and Axel decide to travel with her.

They soon arrive at the home of her uncle Jarvis Johnson, a snobby rich man with supercilious wife. Jarvis has received a letter from Buzz but wants no part in raising Patricia. When they show up, Jarvis pretends to be someone else and sends them to the other "J. Johnson", Joe, another uncle. Joe and Marian are poor ex-vaudevillans but welcome the girl with open arms. Buzz wants to give Joe the money Fred left for Patricia, but finds out a drunken Axel used that money to buy a Swedish restaurant.

Buzz is determined to help and turns the restaurant into a nightclub, using a loan from Jarvis, which he obtained through false pretenses. Jarvis returns to claim his money back, but the club is a success and he is repaid.

Cast

  • Bing Crosby as Buzz Blackwell
  • Gloria Jean as Patricia Johnson
  • Charles Winninger as Joe Johnson
  • El Brendel as Axel Swenson
  • Allyn Joslyn as Jarvis Johnson
  • Claire Dodd as Brenda Johnson
  • Moroni Olsen as Mr. Blair
  • Nana Bryant as Marian Johnson
  • Donald Woods as Fred Johnson
  • Kathryn Adams as Miss Corbett
  • Brandon Hurst as Hedges
  • Verna Felton as Mrs. De Lacy
  • Dell Henderson as Mr. Harris
  • Joe King as Bank Guard
  • Emory Parnell as Gustav Erickson
  • Blanche Ring as herself
  • Eddie Leonard as himself
  • Julian Eltinge as himself
  • Trixie Friganza as herself

    Reception

    Reviewers in 1940 had kind words for Bing and Gloria, but complained about the timeworn storyline. "Although it can hardly be termed an original model," said Boxoffice, [the Crosby film] is nicely tailored to his distinctive brand of comedy and crooning. Bing is ably aided and abetted by Gloria Jean, captivating miss of the silvery voice. In fact the teaming of these two song birds is a ten-strike in smart casting and the resultant feature has much to offer customers of all ages and tastes, with a bonus for the oldsters who will enjoy a nostalgic thrill through the appearances of Blanche Ring, Eddie Leonard, and several other oldtimers whose stars shone brightly during the golden era of the theatah."

    Bosley Crowther writing in The New York Times was not impressed saying: The sum total is but a moderately amusing musical, more often flat than sharp—and this we say in spite of the fellow sitting next to us who kept telling his girl-friend solemnly, “This is very entertaining, indeed.”

    Variety did not think much of it either. "Bing Crosby will likely want to forget this cinematic adventure just as quickly as possible. Way below par as compared with his releases for both Universal and Paramount during the past two years, If I Had My Way will need all of his draw strength to get it through the key runs for nominal grosses."

    Upon the film's DVD release in 2006, DVD Talk praised Crosby and thought Jean was cute, but criticized the plot and called the film "strictly second-run material".

    Soundtrack

  • "Meet the Sun Half-Way" (James V. Monaco / Johnny Burke) sung by Bing Crosby and Gloria Jean.
  • "I Haven't Time to Be a Millionaire" (James V. Monaco / Johnny Burke) sung by Bing Crosby, Gloria Jean and El Brendel.
  • "The Pessimistic Character" (James V. Monaco / Johnny Burke) sung by Bing Crosby.
  • "If I Had My Way" (James Kendis / Lou Klein) sung by Bing Crosby.
  • "April Played the Fiddle" (James V. Monaco / Johnny Burke) sung by Bing Crosby and Six Hits and a Miss.
  • "Ida, Sweet As Apple Cider" (Eddie Leonard / Eddie Munson) sung by Eddie Leonard.
  • "Little Grey Home in the West" (Hermann Löhr / D. Eardley-Wilmot) sung by Gloria Jean.
  • "I've Got Rings On My Fingers" sung by Blanche Ring.

    Bing Crosby recorded a number of the songs for Decca Records. “April Played the Fiddle” enjoyed seven weeks in the charts, peaking at No. 10. “Meet the Sun Half Way” reached the No. 15 mark during 4 weeks in the charts. Crosby's songs were also included in the Bing's Hollywood series.

    Home media

    On November 14, 2006, Universal Studios released If I Had My Way as part of the Bing Crosby:Screen Legend Collection on Region 1 DVD. The 3-disc set also includes Double or Nothing (1937), Waikiki Wedding (1937), East Side of Heaven (1939), and Here Come the Waves (1944).