Rush Blake (Pat O’Brien) is a talent scout down on his luck. He’s struggling to find a new singer for the radio broadcaster he works for, and he gets fired over it.
Rush heads to a restaurant, where he hopes to scrounge up a few borrowed dollars to catch a train out of town. Singing at the restaurant is Buddy Clayton (Dick Powell), a man who croons silly songs for an adoring audience of (mostly-female) diners.
Rush is sure that Buddy is the star he’s been looking for, so he sets up an audition. When Buddy’s performance fails to impress the broadcasting company, Peggy Cornell (Ginger Rogers), a radio singer known as the “Cinderella Girl,” steps in to help.
Ray Enright directs 1934’s Twenty Million Sweethearts. The film was remade in 1949 as My Dream is Yours, starring Doris Day.
Twenty Million Sweethearts is a bit dull and overly-talky in the opening. The script spells out every detail of Rush’s problem of seeking talent, losing his job, and trying to win it back. Powell and Rogers bright up the film greatly when their characters finally enter the story, and they make a sweet pair.
Though it takes a few minutes to get moving, the film becomes much more exciting. It’s a piece of light entertainment with lovely tunes sung by Rogers, Powell and others. Ginger is always a delight to watch, and she gets to share a few scenes with one of my favorite character actors, Allen Jenkins (who has a fun role as a budding songwriter).
The film uses multiple sources of conflict. First, we have Rush’s quest to find a star and save his job. Later, Buddy has a tug-of-war struggle between his career and his love for Peggy.
Since both plots are quite simple, the fact that there is more than one conflict keeps the film moving at a steady pace and stops it from being bogged down by the (sometimes tedious to watch) character of Rush.
Twenty Million Sweethearts is a musical-comedy with some light drama thrown into the mix. The best laughs come from the scene of Buddy’s first failed audition, during which Jenkins looks physically pained by the yell-singing of the most repetitive song ever written about a trapeze. File this one under the category of “pleasant diversions for slow afternoons.” The score: 3/5