For Reel

Sing and Like It (1934)
June 26, 2017, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: William A. Seiter
4 Stars
Sing and Like ItFans of character actors often watch otherwise interminable films just to see Edward Everett Horton, Pert Kelton, ZaSu Pitts, and myriad of others steal a scene or two. Sing and Like It had the novel idea of forgoing everything but the bit players. There is no generic love story in the middle of it, nor do the supporting players simply function as outsiders who conveniently move the plot along for others—they are the active participants who tell their own story. In the case of Nat Pendleton’s T. Fenny Sylvester, he will literally strongarm his way to getting what he wants, threatening a hapless theater producer (Horton) into making a star out of the clearly untalented singer Annie Snodgrass (Pitts). For all the film’s cynicism, there is something refreshing about how earnest each of the characters are—Pendleton truly believes Pitts is a genius, Pitts truly believes Pendleton will fall in love with her, and Horton truly believes he’s absolutely screwed. That these characters so readily wear their hearts on their sleeves makes the sarcastic banter of Kelton all the more biting. Sing and Like It is a satire about how taste-makers have so thoroughly taken power over the arts that “quality” is no longer of any concern, as seen when the terrific Ned Sparks literally threatens a critic to cheer (and therefore the rest of the audience to join him) during a clearly bad performance. If Pitts’ awful rendition of “Your Mother” is a repeating joke on the film, it is the audience who favors the critic to the art that director William A. Seiter wishes to humiliate.

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