The staff at the home of the wealthy Mr. Drake (Leon Errol) have not been paid for seven months, but they love their boss and aren’t concerned about the money they haven’t been making. Mr. Drake allows them to live in his mansion and treats them more like friends than servants.
One day, Mr. Drake instructs his staff to put together a lavish meal for eight people. When the food’s all cooked and the table’s set, all of the servants and staff are surprised that Mr. Drake has put the dinner party together for them. He invites them to eat at the table with him.
And then he drops the bomb: he’s gone broke, and he’ll lose his mansion in thirty days.
Not ones to give up that easily, the servants come up with a plan to help Mr. Drake. Millie (Michele Morgan), one of the maids of the house, will pretend that she’s Mr. Drake’s daughter and she’ll rope in a wealthy suitor who can save the Drake estate.
Millie gets a makeover, an announcement is put in the paper that Drake’s daughter has come to town, and soon the suitors come a-knockin’ on the mansion door… including none other than one Mr. Frank Sinatra! Sinatra’s no star in the world of this film, though — he’s a songbird with not near enough wealth to save Mr. Drake’s house.
Tim Whelan directs 1943’s Higher and Higher. Rounding out the cast alongside Sinatra, Michele Morgan and Leon Errol are Jack Haley, Victor Borge, Barbara Hale, Mel Torme, Mary Wickes and Dooley Wilson.
Higher and Higher has a bright mood and a fast pace from the very beginning, which endeared me to it immediately. The first musical number, “It’s a Most Important Affair,” is a whole lot of fun and will draw any fan of musicals into this film without a problem.
The film’s premise brings the fun, in addition to the lovely songs. Millie tries (and often fails) to keep up the charade of young, refined Miss Pamela Drake.
Sinatra adds to the film’s appeal as well, of course. His character shares his own name. In his first scene, he introduces himself as Frank Sinatra, leading a young lass to faint in his arms. (I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same, if Frank Sinatra showed up at my door. But this bobbysoxer proves herself nuts in a hilarious song called “I Saw You First.”) He has a few solo musical numbers, and all are wonderful, as you would expect them to be. He sings one of his enduring tunes, “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening,” a couple of times in this film.
An uber-talented cast, a gaggle of wonderful songs, a fun story… there’s so much to love about Higher and Higher. I’m not sure why this musical isn’t better-remembered. It doesn’t reach the heights of genre classics such as Singin’ in the Rain, but it’s a delightful watch. The 90-minute running time breezes by, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The score: 4.5/5