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The Helen Morgan Story (1957)

Not Rated | | Biography, Drama, Music | 5 October 1957 (USA)
Torch singer Helen Morgan rises from sordid beginnings to fame and fortune only to lose it all to alcohol and poor personal choices.

Director:

Michael Curtiz

Writers:

Oscar Saul (original screenplay), Dean Riesner (original screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ann Blyth ... Helen Morgan
Paul Newman ... Larry Maddux
Richard Carlson ... Russell Wade
Gene Evans ... Whitey Krause
Alan King ... Benny Weaver
Cara Williams ... Dolly Evans
Virginia Vincent ... Sue
Walter Woolf King ... Florenz Ziegfeld
Dorothy Green ... Mrs. Wade
Edward Platt ... Johnny Haggerty
Warren Douglas ... Mark Hellinger
Sammy White Sammy White ... Sammy White
The De Castro Sisters The De Castro Sisters ... Singers
Jimmy McHugh Jimmy McHugh ... Jimmy McHugh
Rudy Vallee ... Rudy Vallee
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Storyline

The 1920's and 30's career of singer Helen Morgan is followed from her early days singing outdoors in a carnival, through her speak-easy and chorus-girl days, to her stardom on Broadway in Ziegfeld's "Show Boat". Her involvement with Larry Maddux, a gin-runner and con-man, and Russell Wade, a prominent, married New York lawyer, and her decline thanks to these failed romances and alcohol are punctuated by performances of many of the songs she made famous. Written by Ron Kerrigan <mvg@whidbey.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Her Real Story From Real Life! See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama | Music

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

5 October 1957 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Jazz Age See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This movie was originally planned for Doris Day to star in. This is one of the few planned projects that Day vehemently refused to play. She did not feel she wished to portray the sordid aspects of Helen Morgan and it would be totally different from her screen image. See more »

Goofs

In real life, Helen Morgan married three times. In the film, she never marries. See more »

Quotes

Larry Maddux: This town's ready. I'm ready to open it for you like an oyster.
See more »

Connections

Featured in The Great Canadian Supercut (2017) See more »

Soundtracks

Do It Again
(uncredited)
Music by George Gershwin
First tune played at the Helen Morgan Club
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Ann has the last laugh
19 May 2019 | by HotToastyRagSee all my reviews

Back in the 1950s, when musical biopics abounded, Hollywood didn't really care about casting actors and actresses who looked or sounded like their real-life counterparts, like Doris Day in Love Me or Leave Me and Susan Hayward in I'll Cry Tomorrow. Why, then, would Hollywood ever dub Ann Blyth's beautiful singing voice when she was cast to play a singer? Helen Morgan was not an opera singer, but if you know what she sounds like, Ann could have dummied her voice down and sounded exactly like her. Gogi Grant, who dubbed every song, sang in a husky, belting alto voice. Whether or not Ann's dubbing was agreed upon beforehand or a tragic surprise, as sometimes was the case, it's inexcusable.

That being said, Ann Blyth has the last laugh as she acts her way through someone else's singing voice and pulls off an incredible performance. In her dramatic scenes, she's harrowingly raw. During the songs, her facial expressions almost fool you into thinking she hasn't been dubbed.

If you liked either or both of the Ruth Etting or Lillian Roth biopics, it's a sure bet you'll love The Helen Morgan Story, which is a cross between the two. Starting as a hula dancer in a carnival sideshow, the ambitious singer works her way through sleazy nightclubs and speakeasies until she achieves fame and unhappiness. When do musical biopics feature a happy performer?

Alcohol and bad judgment are Helen Morgan's downfalls, and as both temptations continue to rear their pretty heads and cause trouble, the movie draws very obvious parallels to the Etting and Roth biopics. It's not anyone's fault that the three women shared similar stories, and it's certainly not Ann's fault that she was asked to act in similar scenes, so keep that in mind when you watch her performance. It's extremely good, and she brings a layer of darkness to her character than Doris Day wouldn't have been able to give, who was the first choice and refused the part. When Ann cries and shares a traumatic memory from her childhood, you really feel her pain and how deep the trauma reaches. This is a woman, beautiful and talented, who has immense problems.

The men of the movie are Paul Newman and Richard Carlson. Obviously, Paul plays the scoundrel and Richard the respectable one, but there's more to each man than meets the eye. Paul isn't just a bad-boy scamp, he's positively terrible, and the fact that Ann continues to melt in his arms whenever he resurfaces shows her self-hatred and lack of self-respect. This is not a movie you'll like Paul Newman in, no matter how cute you normally think he is. Richard Carlson is wealthy, classy, and respectful, but as much as I usually like him, there's a realistic tinge to his character, for nobody's perfect.

Even though Ann Blyth was dubbed, I do recommend watching this movie, especially if you like her or the genre. If the reason she left Hollywood was because of this movie, it's understandable and justified. No one should hide a voice so beautiful, and while she did make some famous movies with famous costars, she could have easily been the queen of musicals and starred in Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Music Man, and Carousel, to name a few. No one would blame her for being underutilized, and after watching this movie, no one would blame her for never making another.

DLM Warning: If you suffer from vertigo or dizzy spells, like my mom does, this movie might not be your friend. There are two parts of the movie where the camera tilts to one side then tilts to the other to show Ann Blyth's dizziness, and it will make you very sick. So, when she goes onstage drunk and when she's wandering around on the sidewalk, "Don't Look, Mom!"


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