Music in My Heart (1940)

Robert Gregory (Tony Martin) is an English actor working on Broadway as an understudy. Just as he’s about to get his big break and fill the leading role for a night, he’s also facing deportation. He manages to squeeze in one performance and then heads to the boat that will take him away from New York.

On the way to the boat, Robert’s cab hits another cab, which is headed to the same boat. Inside that cab is Patricia O’Malley (Rita Hayworth) — Pat, for short — who is headed to sea to get married to wealthy publisher Charles Gardner (Alan Mowbray).

The two share a cab and head away from the accident in attempt to make it to the boat on time, but they miss it, despite their best efforts. Charles assumes Pat is dumping him, while Pat and Robert begin to like each other, and Pat invites Robert to stay with her uncle until he can catch another boat.

Will Pat find love with an actor, or reunite with the millionaire for a strategic marriage? Complications await her regardless in Music in My Heart, directed by Joseph Santley and written by James Edward Grant. This film is notable for being Rita Hayworth’s first Columbia musical.

(Image via Movies Pictures)

(Image via Movies Pictures)

Music in My Heart is a very cute film which not only does a great job of warming the viewer’s heart but also speaks to the theme of, “Money can’t buy love or happiness.” Pat is attracted to a marriage with Gardner because he is generally very kind to her, but also because he has money. She isn’t in love with him, but gets along with him, and her want for money is understandable. It isn’t only for herself, but for her family, having long fallen behind on their rent and constantly struggling to make ends meet.

Still, though her wish for financial security is understandable, the film delivers the message that happiness is more important. Her family is poor, but they do manage to get by, and best of all they have genuine love for each other.

(Image via Film Affinity)

(Image via Film Affinity)

Even Gardner himself recognizes the choice that Pat should make. *SPOILERS* He encourages Pat to follow her heart by the end of the film, and even uses his social influence to pull some strings, putting a stop to Robert’s deportation! This makes for a syrupy-sweet ending, but also strengthens the undeniability of the film’s “love above all” theme. *END SPOILERS*

Though the “love vs. money” theme is nicely explored, this remains quite a light musical, an airy romance between two very likable characters found in Pat and Robert. The performances of Tony Martin and Rita Hayworth are both quite good.

There’s also a stellar supporting turn by Eric Blore as Griggs, butler to Mr. Gardner. Griggs is not your average order-following butler, and is instead an outspoken, snarky fellow who counsels Gardner through life’s troubles, in what seems to often be a misguided fashion

To top it all off, the film features some nice music to be enjoyed. Robert’s duet with Pat’s younger sister Mary, of a story song about a “bird in gilded cage” (serenaded to Pat as she speaks with Gardner) is a favorite. There’s another number which has Robert singing to a capuchin monkey, accompanied by a trio of neighborhood girls not unlike a younger version of the Andrews sisters, which effortlessly blends a classically-influenced tune with the swingin’ American sound of 1940.

Music in My Heart offers a sweet, easy-to-love debut for Rita Hayworth, who would go on to become one of Hollywood’s most prominent stars by the middle of the 1940s. I would recommend this film to her fans especially, as I don’t often see it discussed and think it is well worth a watch those who like the actress. Anyone who enjoys classic romantic comedies with a touch of music will have fun with this one as well. The score: 3.5/5

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