• U.S.

Cinema: New Picture: Sep. 4, 1939

3 minute read

The Star Maker (Paramount) is an engaging archeological exploration into a vanished world of the U. S. amusement industry, the gaslit, two-a-day vaudeville that was historically bounded on one side by P. T. Barnum, on the other by radio and talking pictures. Loosely based on the life and exploitations of Impresario Gus Edwards, who detected promise in such kiddies as Georgie Jessel, Lila Lee and Walter Winchell and plucked the youthful Eddie Cantor out of a knife-throwing act, The Star Maker has as its frame the similar career of Larry Earl (Bing Crosby). Like Impresario Edwards, Larry goes on mopping up with his moppets until a children’s protective society forcibly shows him the error of his ways. By that time Larry has uncovered practically everything the U. S. has to show in the way of juvenile talent from miniature tap dancers to a 14-year-old coloratura soprano (Linda Ware), who is good enough to sing with Walter Damrosch (Walter Damrosch). And in the meantime grownup Bing Crosby has had a chance to sing as well as they have ever been sung such Gus Edwards classics as School Days, Sunbonnet Sue, In My Merry Oldsmobile and By the Light of the Silvery Moon, any of which sounds fresh enough to step into the 1939 hit parade.

A monument to the career of 58-year-old Gus Edwards, who served as its technical adviser, The Star Maker, shrewdly aimed at the U. S. cinema public’s demonstrated appetite for nostalgia and precocity, should be a turning point in the career of another veteran showman. The picture resulted from a meeting in Hollywood last year between ailing, retired Impresario Edwards and oldtime Moviemaker Charles R. Rogers, who had just been fired as production head of Universal. With the Edwards life story in his briefcase, unemployed Producer Rogers set out to do a picture on his own, went to Paramount to borrow Bing Crosby. Paramount would not lend Crosby, hired Producer Rogers instead. He auditioned 1,583 juvenile performers. Two of the hopefuls, a midget and a little girl who despite her mother’s promptings stolidly refused to open her mouth, were incorporated into the script.

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