Lady Be Good is an MGM musical film released in 1941. The film stars dancer Eleanor Powell, along with Ann Sothern, Robert Young, Lionel Barrymore, and Red Skelton. It was directed by Norman Z. McLeod and produced by Arthur Freed. This was the first of several films Powell made with Skelton. Powell received top billing, but Sothern and Young are the main stars. They play, respectively, Dixie Donegan, a would-be lyric writer and Eddie Crane, a struggling composer.
The film takes its title and theme song ("Oh, Lady be Good!") from the 1924 George and Ira Gershwin Broadway musical, Lady Be Good, but otherwise has no connection to the play. According to film historian Robert Osborne in his introduction to a broadcast of the film on Turner Classic Movies in August 2006, MGM devised the film as a vehicle to launch Sothern as a musical star. However, since she and Young were known primarily as light comic stars, the studio brought in Powell for a supporting role, but gave her top billing to attract audiences.
This film's most notable sequence involves an epic tap dance routine by Powell, to the melody of Gershwin's "Fascinating Rhythm" (another song taken from the play). This musical number later featured in two films in the That's Entertainment! documentary series. In one of the films (That's Entertainment! III), behind-the-scenes footage reveals how this scene was accomplished. So Powell could dance between a series of pianos without interruption, stage hands quietly removed pieces of the set off-camera as she worked her way across the stage. This musical sequence was directed by Busby Berkeley. Another sequence features Powell doing a dance routine with a dog that she trained for the number. There are also phenomenal dance routines by the Berry Brothers. The film won an Academy Award for Best Song for The Last Time I Saw Paris, composed by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II.
Eddie Crane, a young composer, is struggling with a tune he has just written. When his girlfriend, Dixie Donegan, provides words almost by accident, the song is published and is a great success.
A few years later, now married and successful songwriters with a hit Broadway show behind them, Dixie realizes that Eddie is spending more time in rich New York society than composing. They divorce, but quickly realize they are still in love and cannot do without each other. They remarry and write more successful songs, but then Eddie goes off to South America, ostensibly to get inspiration to write a symphony. Dixie again seeks a divorce, but the astute judge denies it. Eddie returns and they realize that despite all, they are still in love.Eddie Crane - Robert Young
Dixie Donegan - Ann Sothern
Marilyn Marsh - Eleanor Powell
Joe 'Red' Willet - Red Skelton
Judge Murdock - Lionel Barrymore
Nightclub Compere - Phil Silvers
Lull - Virginia O'Brien
Buddy Crawford - John Carroll
Mrs. Wardley - Rose Hobart
Singer - Connie Russell
The title, "Lady Be Good" was used on an American B-24D Liberator bomber, which flew for the United States Army Air Forces during World War II out of north Africa. It disappeared on an April 4, 1943 during the raid on Naples, Italy. It was found virtually intact in the Libyan desert in 1958.
2004: AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
"The Last Time I Saw Paris" – Nominated
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists: