Sing and Like It (1934)
A cleverly written comedy with a familiar story: a mobster wants to get into show business in order to feature a female act he likes. However the twist in this one is that the female isn’t the mob’s moll but a singer whose song makes the boss so sentimental he cries. Directed by William A. Seiter with a screenplay by Marion Dix and Laird Doyle that was based on a story by Aben Kandel the cast includes a lot of familiar faces: Nat Pendleton plays the mob boss (of course) Edward Everett Horton plays the Broadway producer (of course) he muscles in on Zasu Pitts plays the untalented singer who’s name (naturally) is Annie Snodgrass John Qualen plays her meek boyfriend Ned Sparks plays Pendleton’s sarcastic right hand man with all the great lines (as usual) Pert Kelton plays Pendleton’s squeeze Ruby Richard Carle plays a tough theater critic the show must “impress”; and Matt McHugh Stanley Fields and Joe Sawyer plays hoods in Pendleton’s gang. Also appearing is Roy D’Arcy as the tenor who like Horton must endure the amateur thrust upon him.
Kelton complains to Pendleton that she’s got nothing to do all day but sit around the apartment while he’s out doing his illegal activities. She wants to be a star but he doesn’t want her showing her ass-ets to anyone else. Later that night on a job he hears Pitts singing a syrupy sentimental song about “Mother”. The gang stops what their doing to go and make her sing it again. Entranced and with his moll’s dream still in his head he hatches a plan to put Pitts on the stage convinced that what has touched him with be loved by everybody. Sparks can’t believe it but has gotten used to doing what the boss says regardless as he subtly insults the big lug. In fact Sparks performs a most necessary function for Pendleton as his translator from his street talk into understandable words for those not in the gang. These exchanges are hilarious! Pitts thinks she actually has real talent assumes she must submit herself to Pendleton (e.g. like all actresses on casting coaches) and tells Qualen she will return to him when she’s a success.
Pendleton calls to get the name of the best producer on Broadway from Kelton who assumes he’s taken her suggestion and is about to make her a star. Then he and his gang visit Horton who is aghast at the idea of letting these people be his partner but is then convinced of it. He is equally appalled when he hears Pitts sing and later when he tries to teach her to act. These are some more very funny scenes in the film with Horton getting to say some lines which rival those spoken by Sparks especially when Pendleton decides the show needs laughs and also forces Horton to allow the “cut up” in his gang to write the show! Kelton of course is outraged when Pendleton brings Pitts home and expects her to assist the singer. But the moll agrees as long as the mob boss will let her be the understudy. She later makes plans with one of the gang members to “do away” with Pitts for her own chance at fame. Unfortunately this ultimately leads to an impossibly resolved plot hole which along with a too quick and implausible (even for a comedy such as this) conclusion leaves one with a less than satisfying feeling. It’s as if writer(s) and director couldn’t figure out how to finish it. Still there are plenty of laughs in this one.