Katri Walenska (Anna Maria Alberghetti) is a young polish girl who has jumped ship in New York Harbor. She swims to shore, hoping to find a new life in America.
With nothing to her name but a couple of bucks, a photo of her parents and a letter that her parents had written to an old friend, Katri decides to track down that old friend, an ex-Opera star named Jan (Lauritz Melchoir), and stay with him.
When Katri finds Jan, she’s surprised to discover that the man is a washed up, has-been alcoholic who has no recollection of her or her parents. Still determined to make it in America, Katri befriends Jan’s neighbors (including Terry, portrayed by Rosemary Clooney), who are all performers.
Meanwhile, Katri is being tracked down by U.S. Immigration officials, who know that she entered the country illegally and want to ship her straight back to Poland.
Norman Taurog directs 1953’s The Stars Are Singing, which is the debut film of famed songstress Rosemary Clooney. The script was penned by Liam O’Brien from a story by Paul Hervey Fox.
The film’s title implies that it will be a 100-minute song extravaganza. You know the type: packing about a million musical performances into its running time and sacrificing a whole lot of plot in the process. This type of film can be enjoyable if you’re in the right mood for it… but luckily, The Stars Are Singing doesn’t quite go down that plotless path.
There are certainly plenty of songs in the film, and they are delightful to listen to — especially those sung by the great Rosemary Clooney! I’m a big fan of her, and even if the film was completely plotless I would have enjoyed it for her performances alone.
The musical performances are a huge draw for the film and make it fun to watch, but these characters are facing a true dilemma as well. Katri’s new performer friends know that she’s in the country illegally and that immigration officials are after her. It’s been all over the papers, but they decide to hide her and help her out anyway. Throughout the film the audience is left wondering whether they’ll be caught and what Katri’s fate will be if they are, since she’s managed to elude the police for so long. And will her new friends face consequences as well for helping her?
A couple of subplots keep the film interesting when it isn’t focusing on musical performances, too. We see Jan struggle to recover from his alcoholism and come to terms with his lost career. We see the whole gang fight for success in the musical world, after years of getting by on small gigs doing radio jingles. Rosemary Clooney has a romance. There’s even a running gag about dog training that’s used for comic relief and filler.
Undercurrents of seriousness like the immigration plot and Jan’s subplot don’t bring down the film’s mood. The subject matter is tackled with a great hopefulness and the film is generally quite upbeat.
The Stars Are Singing is a very pleasant film. I wouldn’t add it to my list of all-time favorite musicals, but between the great musical performances, the lovely cast and the surprisingly intriguing plots, it’s definitely worth watching. The score: 3.5/5