Born to Sing (1942)
Edward Ludwig directed this B movie musical written by Harry Clork and Franz Spencer (aka Schulz) which stars Virginia Weidler (in lieu of Judy Garland) along with Leo Gorcey and a couple of other Dead End Kid/Bowery Boy types like dancing Ray McDonald and Larry Nunn (in lieu of Mickey Rooney). This light and airy MGM escape-fare even features a patriotic Busby Berkeley choreographed finale sung by ill-fated baritone Douglas McPhail (his last film). The cast is loaded with other recognizable faces including Rags Ragland Sheldon Leonard Henry O’Neill Margaret Dumont Our Gang’s Darla Hood and the prolific Charles Lane & Ian Wolfe (uncredited).
‘Snap’ Collins (Gorcey) has just gotten out of the New York Penitentiary later referred to as reform school and is met by his friend Steve (McDonald). Shortly thereafter they run into another friend Mike Conroy (Nunn) who’s wearing Snap’s old favorite suit; so he chases Mike into a building & up the stairs and the three of them end up in an apartment where they smell gas. Upon investigation they discover Frank Eastman (O’Neill) who’s just tried to kill himself because he couldn’t go on any longer. After the ‘boys’ save his life Eastman’s daughter Patsy (Weidler) arrives and first assumes the boys were trying to rob her father. Mike had found and pocketed the suicide note before she could see it. However the truth comes out – Eastman’s musical compositions had been ‘stolen’ by show producer Arthur Cartwright (Lester Matthews) actually it was Cartwright’s agent (Lane) who had taken them because of the producer’s recent failures. Eastman couldn’t go to the police or take Cartwright to court because he felt no one would believe him over the famous producer; Eastman had written them while serving his time in prison.
Because Patsy is cute the boys want to help her. They go to Cartwright’s to try to get his music back but are unsuccessful even though Steve impressed the producer with his dancing skills. In fact Cartwright writes the boys a check and then calls the police to arrest them on blackmail charges. While being taken in the boys find themselves in the same paddy wagon as the infamously corrupt cab company owner Pete Detroit (Leonard). Detroit’s gang which includes ‘Grunt’ (Ragland) turns over the paddy wagon and busts them all out of ‘jail’. While hiding out in a former Nazi Bundist they discover the boys learn they were identified in the escape and meet ‘Eight ball’ (Ben Carter) a stereotypical Black character who’s the custodian there. They decide to stay off the streets but they also hatch a plan with Patsy who they’d rescued from a welfare worker (Connie Gilchrist) to put on a show of her father’s tunes before Cartwright to prove that they were his in the first place and that they’d been stolen.
The boys proceed in hiring kids including ‘Quiz Kid’ (Hood) off the streets for their production. When Patsy dressed in black-face and Eight ball visit Eastman in jail he’d been accused of the same bogus blackmail charge they learn that he no longer has a copy of his music. However a talented youngster named Mozart (Richard Hall) with perfect pitch is able to copy down the stanzas while Patsy plays the songs on a harmonica. But Detroit catches up with them it seems he’s been implicated in the same blackmail scheme and is about to take the boys in to explain that he’s not involved before Patsy tells her sob story and wins him over. Detroit then decides to help by supplying a singer within his employ Murray Saunders (McPhail) for the show making sure Cartwright’s production is disrupted and his audience kidnapped and taken to the kids’ show! Of course their production (which is the last third of the film) is a big success winning over Mrs. E. V. Lawson (Dumont) and a Broadway critic (Wolfe) who befuddle the police captain (Cy Kendall) when he stops the performance before the big finale. The show must go on; McPhail’s rendition of the aforementioned flag-waving song ends the movie.