11/8/12: Happy Go Lovely

“I’m B.G. Marino. The B.G. stands for Paul.” Bruce Humberstone’s 1951 romantic musical comedy Happy Go Lovely, while not a musical per se, does include quite a few excellent song & dance numbers.

Happy Go Lovely takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland of the time, and stars the one of Britain’s most versatile actors of the era, David Niven: He won the Best Actor Oscar in 1959 at the 31st Academy Awards for his portrayal of Major Pollack in Delbert Mann’s romance, Separate Tables; he’s been James Bond (1967’s Casino Royale); co-starred in the World War II drama The Guns of Navarone; played the notorious jewel thief The Phantom in Blake Edwards’ The Pink Panther & 2 of his sequels; spoofed The Thin Man in Murder by Death; and been in countless romantic comedies, including playing Godfrey in Henry Koster’s remake of Gregory La Cava’s classic, My Man Godfrey.


In Happy Go Lovely, Niven plays as B.G. Bruno, the richest man in all of Scotland. The city is preparing for its illustrious, annual Edinburgh Festival. A traveling repertoire company is in town, under the direction of John Frost, played wonderfully by Cesar Romero. You might remember him as The Joker from the 60’s TV show, Batman. Frost hopes to have his show, Frolics to You, ready for the Festival’s opening but he’s having trouble getting backers so the show has financial problems. He keeps losing his set because the set designer & owner, Mr. Jonskill (John Laurie), keeps taking it back – well almost taking it back, but Frost keeps smooth-talking him out of it at the last minute. The cast too is feeling the financial pinch, and its star quit. Frost replaces her with chorus dancer Janet Jones, played by female lead Vera-Ellen, while he connives to meet & get funding from Bruno. Vera is best known for her role as Judy in the great master Michael Curtiz’s White Christmas.

As I said, Happy Go Lovely has some great song & dance numbers. They’re incorporated as part of Frolics to You.  The songs were arranged by Angela Morley, a role for which she was not credited. She’d go on to be nominated for 2 Oscars for Song Scoring in the 70’s: In 1975 at the 47th Academy Awards for the title song to The Little Prince; and 3 years later for The Slipper & the Rose Waltz from The Slipper & the Rose – The Story of Cinderella. The Musical Director of Lovely was Louis Levy. He worked with Hitchcock on 9 different motion pictures, including the original The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage, and The 39 Steps. Whether it’s mere coincidence (as if something as awesome as coincidence could possibly be described as ‘mere’) or intentional, there is a definite The 39 Steps connection to Happy Go Lovely. John Laurie was in 2 of Hitch’s movies, including The 39 Steps; and Wylie Watson, who plays the Stage Door Keeper in Lovely, was also in 2 Hitchcock films and he has the important role of Mr. Memory in The 39 Steps.


I recommend you watch David Niven in Bruce Humberstone’s Happy Go Lovely when you have an hour & a half or so to spare. It’s yet another very good golden age romantic comedy, but with a stage musical within a romantic comedy “play within a play” bonus. I’ve included it below in its entirety but, unfortunately, I couldn’t find a streamable version of it that was both complete & commercial free. So this one includes ads. 3 Stars!


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