Music for Millions

  • MGM, 1945, B/W, 115 minutes, ***½
  • Released February, 1945

Barbara “Babs” Ainsworth (June Allyson) is a string bass player in the (fictitious) Manhattan Philharmonic Orchestra (conducted by Jose Iturbi). She lives at Mrs. McGuff’s boarding house with several other girls who are also members of the Orchestra, including Rosalind (Marsha Hunt, harp player) and Marie (Marie Wilson, clarinet player). Their good supporting friend Andy Andrews (Jimmy Durante) plays cymbals in the orchestra and is also Iturbi’s assistant manager.

Babs is pregnant, and her husband Joe is off at war in the Pacific. Her little sister Mike (Margaret O’Brien) comes to live with her, and Babs is thrilled but completely surprised. A letter from Aunt Kate explaining it all arrives days after Mike arrives. Apparently Aunt Kate has gone to work in a “war” plant and can no longer care for Mike.

Babs is worried about Joe – no letters have come for four months. A telegram for Babs from the War Department arrives at the boarding house, but is intercepted by Rosalind. After conferring with the other girls, it is decided that they will hide the telegram from Babs until after the baby is born. Babs is simply too fragile in her current condition to take any bad news. As time goes by, Babs becomes more and more despondent and begins to suspect the worst. In hopes of cheering her up a little, Marie commissions Uncle Bish to forge a letter from Joe explaining that he has been lost on an island for months.

Some time later, Babs receives a letter from Joe explaining that he has been lost on an island for several months. Babs is very happy, the girls are pleased with Bish’s effort and all is well in the world. Then Marie learns from Bish that he never wrote that letter…

Really wonderful film from – and about – the war era. Margaret O’Brien is brilliant, as always, and the cast is outstanding. This is the year Margaret won her Best Juvenile Performer Academy Award.

Details

  • Produced by: Joe Pasternak
  • Directed by: Henry Koster
  • Original Screen Play by: Myles Connolly
  • Musical Adaptation and Direction: Georgie Stoll
  • Orchestration: Joseph Nussbaum, Ted Duncan, Calvin Jackson
  • Incedental Music: Michel Michelet
  • José Iturbi Conducting and Playing the music of Dvorak, Grieg, Herbert, Debussy, Tschhaikovsky, Liszt, Handel and Chopin
  • Choreography: Jack Donohue
  • Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Hans Peters
  • Set Decorations: Edwin B. Willis
  • Associate: Helen Conway
  • Costume Supervision: Irene
  • Associate:Kay Dean
  • Recording Director: Douglas Shearer
  • Director of Photography: Robert Surtees
  • Film Editor: Douglass Biggs

Awards

  • Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay

Cast

  • Margaret O’Brien [“Mike”]
  • Jose Iturbi [Andy Andrews]
  • June Allyson [Barbara Ainsworth]
  • Jimmy Durante [Andrews]
  • Marsha Hunt [Rosalind]
  • Hugh Herbert [Uncle Ferdinand (“Bish”)]
  • Harry Davenport [Doctor]
  • Marie Wilson [Marie]
  • Larry Adler [Larry]
  • Ben Lessey [Kickebush]
  • Connie Gilchrist [Travelers Aid Woman]
  • Katharine Balfour [Elsa]
  • Helen Gilbert [Helen]
  • Mary Parker [Anita]
  • Madeleine LeBeau [Jane]
  • Ethel Griffies [Mrs. McGuff, the Landlady]
  • Eddie Jackson [Singer]
  • Jack Roth [Drummer]
  • Additional Cast: Lillian Yarbro [Jessie
  • Mrs. McGuff’s maid]
  • Willie Best [Red Cap]
  • Sam McDaniel [George, Pullman Porter]
  • Robert Dudley [Rafferty, Postman]
  • Byron Foulger [Mr. Perkins]
  • Nestor Paiva [Willie Bartender]

Musical Program

  • [0:00] Main title (played by Orchestra behind titles)
  • [0:07] Fourth Movement of Symphony No. 5 in E Minor (“New World Symphony”) [Dvorak] (played by Orchestra directed by Jose Iturbi)
  • [0:33] Jam Session [Jackson] (played by the Orchestra while waiting for Jose Iturbi)
  • [0:34] Toscanini, Iturbi and Me (sung by Jimmy Durante at the Piano)
  • [0:37] Excerpt from Piano Concerto in A [Grieg] (played by Orchestra with Jose Iturbi at the piano)
  • [0:54] Clair de Lune [Debussy] played on harmonica by Larry Adler accompanied by small band at restaurant
  • [1:02] March of the Toys [Herbert] (played by Orchestra conducted by Jose Iturbi)
  • [1:10] Umbriago (hilarious performance by Jimmy Durante, dance band and joined by audience)
  • [1:16] At Sundown (sung by Marsha Hunt accompanied by some of the Orchestra members on bus)
  • [1:24] Waltz in E Minor [Chopin] (played by Jose Iturbi at the piano)
  • [1:26] classical medley (played by Orchestra behind travel montage)
  • [1:53] Hallelujah Chorus from “The Messiah” (sung by Choir and played by Orchestra conducted by Jose Iturbi)