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Swanee River (20th Century-Fox).

Busy Producer Darryl F. Zanuck takes time out from the drum-thumping phases of U. S. history (as seen and heard in Drums Along the Mohawk) to do a long, lavish, Technicolored, cinema biography of U. S. Composer Stephen Foster. Foster, while drinking himself to death, turned out most of the best U. S. folk songs. In pictures about composers a vacant look, head noddings and rhythmic hand flourishes denote musical inspiration. With these appropriate symptoms Don Ameche, as Stephen Foster, is shown conceiving his songs. Al Jolson (Christy the minstrel man) sings them, manages to mar their simplicity with a few flourishes of his own.

Though Foster keeps his wife in surprising style for a poor tunesmith, Andrea Leeds plays Mrs. Stephen Foster with a suitably pained expression which becomes quite anguished when she suddenly ups and leaves him. It turns out that those two or three decorous benders audiences have seen the composer on were cinemevidences of alcoholism.

In sad company with The Great Waltz, The Unfinished Symphony, Swanee River proves again that, while great composers’ music may be entertaining in pictures, their lives seldom are.

Katia (Mayer-Burstyn) is a leisurely, Frenchified version of a Cecil B. deMille luxury film, which gives girlishly graceful Danielle Darrieux, in the title role, opportunity to be the intimate of still another European prince. In Mayerling, she was the mistress of Austrian Archduke Rudolf. In Katia she is the morganatic wife of Russian Emperor Alexander II.

John Loder, who has appeared in U. S., British and German films, plays for the first time in a French picture. When British Cinemactor Loder asked his friend, the Duke of Windsor, what he thought of his performance as Emperor Alexander II, ex-King-Emperor Edward VIII said: “Just like one of the boys.”

Charlie McCarthy, Detective (Universal). In this often dull, sometimes raucous, rarely amusing whodunit, Charlie McCarthy knows all the answers except what to do next with a talented ventriloquist’s dummy in pictures. He sings a song, echoes some reminiscent gags (Sample: “I don’t mind suffering, it’s just the pain I can’t stand”). He is also credited with solving a murder which is really solved by Ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, who is said to be somewhat jealous of Charlie, has a clause in his contract stating that Charlie McCarthy must never be billed above Edgar Bergen.

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