Monday, September 5, 2011
The Helen Morgan Story directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Ann Blyth as the titular character purports to show the life of torch singer Helen Morgan. I use the word purport since The Helen Morgan Story as noted on Wikipedia "has fictional touches liberally added for dramatic purposes". This isn't really surprising since most all biographical movies change and add facts in order to make a feature movie entertaining, as opposed to someone making a documentary.
The failing with The Helen Morgan Story is that I knew nothing about Helen Morgan before I watched the film, and after watching The Helen Morgan Story I feel I still know very little about her. What I gleaned from the movie was Helen Morgan was a torch singer, picked the wrong type of man, and had a problem with alcohol. I'm sure there was more to her life than these facts.
Ann Blyth was quite attractive in her role and a very good actress with one exception - she wasn't very believable in the parts of the movie where she had to appear drunk. This is a weak spot, acting drunk, where I have seen many other actors and actresses struggle. Paul Newman, as one of Morgan's poor choices in men, was just as cool as you would expect. A surprise, at least to me since I associate him with stand-up comedy, was Alan King as Newman's sidekick. He not only was very believable in his part, but also had great repartee with his girlfriend/wife in the movie, Cara Williams of Pete and Gladys fame.
The songs in The Helen Morgan Story were sung by Gogi Grant and lip-synched by Ann Blyth. This is a real puzzlement to me as to why this was done, since Ann Blyth was a singer in her own right. Ann Blyth/Gogi Grant perform eighteen songs in the movie. The Helen Morgan Story also features Rudy Vallee performing one song and The Castro Sisters are also featured in the movie.
One last interesting fact I found when researching the movie was that Doris Day was originally offered the part and turned it down, since she didn't think the portrayal of alcoholism would be conducive to her clean cut image. I personally don't think the inclusion of Doris Day instead of Ann Blyth would have changed the movie very much.