Dixiana (Bebe Daniels) is a singer and dancer living in New Orleans in the 1840s, performing at the Cayetano Circus Theatre.
The Cayetano acts as a playground for the wealthy aristocrats of the area, and Dixiana attracts the attention of one of those wealthy artistocrats: Royal Montague (Ralf Harolde), an influential gambler.
Dixiana isn’t smitten with Royal, though. She’s fallen in love with Carl Van Horn (Everett Marshall), a man from a family with wealth as great as – if not greater than – Royal’s. Dixiana has decided to give up her career as a performer to marry and start a new life with Carl.
After one final performance, Carl brings Dixiana to meet his parents (Joseph Cawthorn and Jobyna Howland) at their plantation in a more rural part of Louisiana. Her friends from the Cayetano, Peewee (Bert Wheeler) and Ginger (Robert Woolsey), tag along on the trip, threatening to reveal the fact that she previously made a living as a circus performer.
Complications ensue as Carl’s family reacts to his relationship, and as the ever-persistent Royal Montague seeks to bring down Carl and steal away Dixiana’s affections.
Dixiana was directed by Luther Reed (Rio Rita, The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi). Reed also adapted the screenplay from a story by Anne Caldwell, who contributed to the script’s dialogue. This film marked the screen debut of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.
This film appears in Mill Creek’s 50 Classic Musicals boxed set. The quality isn’t great, with a pretty fuzzy picture and some muffling of the sound.
This print is also unfortunately missing about fifteen minutes of footage, including Bill Robinson’s musical number. IMDb and Wikipedia both list the film’s original run-time as 100 minutes, while here it is about 85 minutes. The last reels of Dixiana were in 2-strip technicolor and are missing from most low-budget releases of the film, this release included.
Dixiana has a lot of very funny dialogue — sometimes delivered over-zealously, but it adds bundles of fun to the film.
Carl’s father is a plantation owner, which of course means that there are a few cringe-worthy bits of dialogue and stereotypes used. (One particularly troubling scene in the beginning has Carl and his father talking about how happy the slaves on their plantation are.)
Luckily, the majority of the comedy has nothing to do with the plantation and as a result the film is for the most part enjoyable. The focus is on Dixiana’s struggles and the feud between Montague and Carl throughout most of the film, rather than on Carl’s family and their lives outside of New Orleans.
Solid performances are given by most of the cast, though as I mentioned before, the delivery of dialogue can sometimes be a bit over-the-top.
The film does drag a bit before the great rivalry between Royal and Carl emerges. The scenes at the plantation — the comedy routine of Peewee and Ginger with the cigars, the song by Carl about becoming a married man — feel slow and somewhat tedious. The best scenes in this first portion of the film involve Bebe Daniels, who has a magnetic screen presence.
I won’t be giving this film a score since a sizable chunk of it is missing from Mill Creek’s print, but I found it to be a decent watch. It delivers some laughs and there are a couple of nicely-done, quite lavish musical numbers. Not a bad entry into the 50 Classic Musicals set.