Gordon Miller (George Murphy) has a hit in the works, especially since he latched onto a playwright whose real talent is his singing voice. Now all that flimflamming Miller must do is put his musical revue on stage before ... more »the rubber check underwriting it bounces his troupe from Broadway to the Bowery. As the typewriter-toting crooner, Frank Sinatra steps into his first top billing in this antic backstage musical based on the Broadway/Marx Brothers movie hit Room Service. With a nimble cast (including Gloria DeHaven, Adolphe Menjou and Walter Slezak) and buoyant Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne songs to go with farce, footlights and Frank, what else can a movie do but Step Lively?« less
"If I were to start a tirade on what is wrong with modern films it would run ''straight into Amos and Andy,'' as Jack Benny used to say. So, I will gracefully hint rather than start a topic I can't stop. Those beautiful, glamorous, charming, absolutely idiotic studio musicals they churned out by the millions in the days of Rudy Valle and Al Jolson have gone the way of those late greats - blank stares and non-recognition. Ah, yes, those musicals of sailors and dancers and child stars and 24 hour leave and Fred and Ginger whirling gracefully off into the blue azure, are forgotten. Remembered only when the shadows cast by the slowly creaking rocking chair and the withered shawl draped by the timeless burning embers are set in memory back a million years - 1944. Farewell, memories of talent and vitality, of....if you find this as sickening as I do you'll be glad to learn I'm being sarcastic. All said before is pure rubbish. I am fourteen years old, for cryin' out loud! And I love the forties, fifties, ect., as much as any eighty-year-old you care to name. And, in that grand old year of 1944 a man named Frank Sinatra made a film called ''Step Lively.'' This is an adorable movie. Following the simple logic that to be reading a review on Frank Sinatra you must have some sort of taste, I'm sure you''ll agree. I saw the Marx Bros. ''Room Service,'' on which, of course, this is based, and two scenes with Harpo are absolutely irreplacable. And it would be insane to assume that George Murphey could top Groucho Marx, or Gloria DeHaven and Anne Jeffreys push Lucille Ball and Ann Miller out of the running. But this movie is actually quite hilarious. I'd never seen Walter Slezak before, but if it were not for a gentleman to be discussed later he would steal the picture. His inane chatter brings forth occasional bursts of comedic brilliance, if you'll pardon a lofty sentence. Eugene Pallette is plump and gruff and, as always, charmingly so. Gloria DeHaven's rich voice is pleasant, and she's polished and capable. George Murphy is actually surprisingly good here. He is the main reason for the film's frantic pace, which is what makes the whole thing work. He can hoof, croon unremarkably, be very funny, even act in the loosest of terms, and emerges likeably and the main core of why the fringes hang on reasonably without heading into the insane. The songs are, if not brilliant, either witty or quite beautiful, the routines are fairly entertaining and clever. But all of this would be worth second to nothing if it were not for the slight young man who emerges into view about fifteen minutes through the proceedings. I refer, of course, to none other than the Chairman of the Board, The Entertainer of the Twentieth Century, Ol' Blue Eyes, The Sultan of Swoon, The ''Most Fascinating Man in the World".....Dick Haymes. Excuse me, Frank Sinatra. ''Step Lively" was Sinatra's fifth film, and the first in which he plays a character with a name other than Frank Sinatra. Well, what's there to say about Sinatra? His voice in 1944 was, in my opinion, at the most breathtakingly beautiful it ever got.( Not saying it was at it's best, of course, you'd have to name 1956 for that.) If you hate Frank Sinatra, watch the movie. Even I tend to get so caught up in the swirl of tabloids and Kitty Kelly and Mobsters and the Wrong Door Raid and all that tiresome rot about Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, that I forget there once was a skinny kid from Hoboken with no scandals, a girl-next-door wife, two cute children, and the nation-wide furor that erupted over his first screen kiss. Really! Swoonatra is absolutely adorable. No other word for it. He strolls in the film as thin as a piece of paper and looking about twelve-years-old, and immediately everyone else disappears. Whatever you care to say about him, and there's plenty of it, he had more charisma and magnetism than I've ever seen in my life. If you've seen ''Higher and Higher,'' his previous film, it's interesting to note how much more assured and comfortable in this. No one has ever changed so drastically from year to year in a 70-year career as Sinatra. In 1944 Anne Jeffreys chases the boyish innocent around the room. In 1954 the same man chased Ava Gardner around the world. Ah, well. As for Mr.Sinatra's acting...did anyone ACT in these things? He doesn't seem to know what to do with his hands, but his natural sincerity and shy sweetness are disarming and convincing. You can see the fringes of an Academy Award showing, if you look very hard. His songs, it goes without saying, are without a flaw performance-wise. It's hard to imagine anyone - other than the jealous bobbysoxer's-boyfriends - who could dislike him in ''Step Lively.'' The whole movie would be hard to dislike; the hey-kids-let's-put-on-a-show plot is enjoyable, and it whirls by with so many machine-gun-gags and such frantically chaotic insanity it can't help but be wonderful. The rocking chair may be reduced to sawdust and the shawl slip to the fire to burn to a ''Rosebud'' nothingness, but ''Step Lively'' and Frank Sinatra are like Ol' Man River - they just keep rollin' along."
Fun in the forties
John M Taulman | Palm Beach, FL United States | 03/13/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of Frank Sinatra's first with the great George Murphy and the beautiful and incomparable Gloria DeHaven. This is a simple and fun movie that doesn't require any thing but smiling from you. A forties pretty girl showcase that will have you humming the Sammy Cahn songs long after you turn it off Songs like "Come out wherever you are" or "As long as theres Music" by deHaven and Sinatra are incomparable. This is the fun musical of the early 40s and not to be missed. Maybe I'm just old, but love shows like this."
Madcap musical comedy delight
Byron Kolln | the corner where Broadway meets Hollywood | 06/20/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Another fun backstage musical from Frank Sinatra's days at RKO. STEP LIVELY (1944) is further enlivened--no pun intended--by lovely blonde songbird Gloria DeHaven, and a script based on the classic Marx Brothers farce "Room Service".
Cash-strapped theatrical producer Gordon Miller (George Murphy) couldn't be happier when he discovers that his meek writer Glenn Russell (Frank Sinatra) hides a lustrous singing voice. He signs Glenn on as the new leading man; now all he needs is to stage the show before the check written by would-be backer Jenkins (Eugene Pallette) bounces! Fun performances all-round, including Adolphe Menjou and Walter Slezak as the hotel managers.
One of Sinatra's early hits as part of his contract with RKO, STEP LIVELY is a fast-moving backstage comedy which makes good use of the snappy "Room Service" story premise. Gloria DeHaven shares a wonderful chemistry with Sinatra; and also pairs well with George Murphy in a really fun musical number, "Ask the Madame". The other Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn songs include "Where Does Love Begin?", "As Long As There's Music", and "Some Other Time".
REMAKES CAN BE QUITE GOOD
Olivier Comte | Neuilly FRANCE | 11/14/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"(I apologize to Amazon.com and my fellow litterature and cinema buffs. I wrote in my DOUBLE DYNAMITE review that ROBERT BENCHLEY was uncredited. Great writers never die but actors do and Benchley was dead in 1948. Howard Freeman who played the bank owner was taller and heavier than Benchley. I tripped over my internet tongue in a big way.) STEP LIVELY is well known as a remake of the MARX BROTHERS' ROOM SERVICE. The play, by GEORGE ABBOTT had been a smash it (500 performances in its 1937 Broadway run. RKO had paid the huge sum of 255000 dollars for the film rights and the film lost money. I don't know what were the terms for a remake. Anyway, STEP LIVELY is quite funny, and good too. The author, played by Sinatra, was played by Frank Albertson in 1938 and created on the stage by the great EDDIE ALBERT. It was the first part, in 1953, played by JACK LEMMON. All that makes us wish for a time machine. The Cahn-Styne songs are successful and Sinatra in good form. The choreography, by Ernst Matray is imaginative. The cinematography by Robert De Grasse is first rate. ADOLPH MENJOU, as the Hotel supervising director, is outstanding, as always. WALTER SLEZAK, as the hotel manager, surpasses himself (the part was played on Broadway by DONALD MAC BRIDE). EUGENE PALLETTE is an instant nostalgia agent. ANNE JEFFREYS and GLORIA DE HAVEN are beautiful. Who can ask for anything more?
Frantic and funny madcap comedy...
Ruth Anderson | 06/13/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Step Lively is Sinatra's fourth film and the first where he received top billing. The material is stronger than most early Sinatra pictures - the dialogue is snappy and the action is non-stop - it's a great example of the "madcap" comedy. The movie's pace is mind-bogglingly frantic, led by the great George Murphy as a struggling, fast-talking producer determined to put his show on at any cost. Step Lively is a nice variation of the "put on a show" musical - only this time struggling actors take over a hotel instead of the usual barn. I love a good backstage musical like Kiss Me Kate or Summer Stock - Step Lively probably falls somewhere between those two (Kate is a hard one to beat!). Sinatra gets to wrap his voice around some lovely Cahn/Styne tunes, including "Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are," "As Long As There's Music," "Some Other Time," and "Where Does Love Begin," the latter being my favorite. All are great examples of Sinatra's lush, romantic style that marked the early years of his career. These songs haven't proven to be classics in the sense that they haven't been revived by the current crop of standards vocalists (like Michael Buble, etc.), but they should appeal to fans of music from the period anyway (and really, it's hard to resist Sinatra's earnest, sincere delivery). I love how the film gives a nod to Sinatra's famous mass appeal to women in the forties - when he sings his first number he captivates every woman in the room (as one of the characters says, if Sinatra was the Pied Piper, all of the women would follow him anywhere!). The DVD is "no-frills" but the picture is crisp and clear and the movie sounds great."