Sunday, July 11, 2010

Comfort Food & Guilty Pleasures: Mickey Rooney plays the drums and the ponies

The Strip (1951, László Kardos) **
Light weight  “B-Movie” noir with Mickey Rooney as a veteran who comes to LA to strike it big in the local music scene as a drummer. Through a confluence of events he meets up with a mobster (James Craig) and goes to work running a betting parlor until he meets a dancer and is talked into replacing the drummer in the band at Fluffy’s on the Sunset Strip. The joint is owned by William Demarest who plays “Fluff” the avuncular impresario; he even composes a song and sings it with Mickey (nominated for an AA) “A Kiss To Build A Dream On”. The house band is a “dream team” with Louis Armstrong and his band along with Jack Teagarden (as themselves). We also get to hear Louis do it (presumably for the first time). Mickey Rooney actually plays the drums in the movie, but he fails to impress as a tough guy. Nice location shots of the Sunset Strip and Hollywood nightspots of the day. This was definitely made as the bottom half of a double bill as poor Mickey was on the shady side of his career in 1951 after having been one of MGM’s biggest moneymakers a decade earlier. Sally Forrest shares top billing, playing the dancer who was the object of Mickey’s affection.  Sally’s career never really took off, even though she did some interesting work with Ida Lupino in Never Fear (1949) also playing a dancer in a much better film noir. For me the highlight of the movie is when given the choice of betting parlors to manage Rooney picks the Playa del Rey location (“Give me the beach, I like the fog”).

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