You Can’t Have Everything (1937)
So is the belief of Judith Poe Wells, self-proclaimed playwright and granddaughter of Edgar Allen Poe in this lovely little film that starts off with steamy spaghetti at a little Italian restaurant.
We all have our guilty pleasures. This film is mine. It’s not great by any stretch of the imagination. Don Ameche plays what may be the worst alcoholic to ever grace the silver screen, though perhaps he looks worse simply because someone had it out to make him look as ridiculous as possible by graying the sides of his hair to make him look older (also done in a few other films of his during that time). His baby-face deceives him even with the make-up. He just looks awkward. And Alice Faye is the passionate playwright, Judith Poe Wells, who obsesses over her grandfather, Edgar Allen Poe, and the desire to write plays that really mean something to her generation.
There are many things in this film that touch my heart and still other parts of the film I skim through, but we’ll start with the good stuff. The film starts off with Judy peering into the window of Romano’s while it’s raining sheets, longingly looking at the fresh spaghetti being cooked. As one that has a bit of an addiction to pasta, this is close to my heart. Hungry, Judy decides to go in and have herself some spaghetti even though she knows she doesn’t have the money to cover the dinner. She goes out in style. She orders three plates of spaghetti and chows down on breadsticks while being watched by a fellow who is more than a tad tipsy. Intrigued by her dilemma when she can’t pay (on first viewing, I was expecting insects to be involved ala Victor-Victoria), he helps her try to foot the bill, first by suggesting she sing and then paying the bill himself. Alice sings a rousing and appropriate rendition of “You Can’t Have Everything.” Mr. “Spaghetti King” Romano’s wife wouldn’t have it, however, she insists Judy must pay or wear their sign out in the rain to bring in more customers. Stubborn, Judy takes the sign and is followed by the tipsy fellow who calls himself Blake.
Mr. Blake takes Judy home to the YWCA. She’s about ready to give up on New York City, but not before telling Mr. Blake her dreams of being as great a writer as her grandfather. She also gives the name of the play and here is where the insanity begins. The next day, Judy receives a check for $250 from the biggest producer in town for the rights to the play. She believes she’s going to see it on the stage and can’t shake the man she met in the restaurant.
Prior to coming to New York City, Judy was a song plugger in a sheet music store. After being a writer, had I lived in the 1930s, I think song plugging in sheet music stores would have been my schtick. Big dream, yes? In every film where there are song pluggers, though they seem to hate their jobs, it seems like grand fun to me. Seriously, but I digress…
I also obsess over family history, what they did and where they came from. Judy pulls on my heart strings when she picks up a picture of Edgar Allen Poe and holds it to her heart as she decides she’s leaving New York and then caressing it again when she finds out the option on her play has been picked up. Makes me happy, especially since the behavior comes off as obsessive.
Now a short dip into the ugly. The Ritz Brothers–The Ritz Brothers haunt many of Alice Faye and Don Ameche’s mid-30s films. It’s most unfortunate. They have a lot of airtime in You Cant Have Everything, unfortunately, and they make me glad that you can so easily and quickly seek forward on DVDs. It’s a beautiful thing. I wish I could understand The Ritz Brothers. I wish I could say it was a generational gap, but I really don’t think it is. And it really irks me that I can’t tell them apart very easily. Sure, Al Ritz [Edit: Harry Ritz] is the ringleader and always out in front, but tone him down a bit and I can’t tell him apart from his brothers.
Back to the lovely, Don Ameche sings a beautiful rendition of “Afraid to Dream.” Alice also sings “Danger, Love At Work” and reprises “Afraid to Dream” with then husband Tony Martin (many actually thought she was Don Ameche’s wife as they did so many films together). She also sings “Pardon Us We’re In Love” at the sheet music store. Lots of specialty acts are involved, like The Ritz Brothers, David Rubinoff (known for being on the Chase and Sanbourn Hour–Don Ameche was a regular as well) does a lovely solo number on the violin that seems humanly impossible, Tip, Tap, & Toe do a couple rousing tap numbers, and though not in a specialty number in this film, Gypsy Rose Lee, who appears as Ameche’s old flame makes her debut.
Judith Poe Wells does everything from cross dressing to singing ballads. She’s young, but spirited and is always looking for a story. I can identify for the most part, although I’ve never dressed in a tux. The film is light, frothy, a little over-flowing with extraneous specialty numbers, but a good platform for Faye and Ameche to step upon before entering into bigger and better roles. Faye had five films released in 1937, one big budget film (In Old Chicago, also with Don Ameche) and the rest fairly minor pictures. Always fun to see actors and actresses grow and this is one of the sillier, but fun spots to measure from.