John Cardwell (Adolphe Menjou), a trombone player, is only one of a large group of unemployed musicians. He tries unsuccessfully to gain an interview and audition with Leopold Stokowski, but not to disappoint his daughter, Patricia (Patsy) (Deanna Durbin), he tells her that he has managed to get the job with Stokowski's orchestra. Patsy soon learns the truth, and also learns that her father, desperate for rent money, has used some of the cash in a Lady's evening bag he has found, to pay his debts.
The irrepressible and willful Patsy seeks an interview with Mrs. Frost, whose bag it was, and admits her father's actions. Mrs. Frost (Alice Brady), a society matron and wife of rich radio station owner John R. Frost (Eugene Pallette), lightheartedly offers to sponsor an orchestra of unemployed musicians. Taking her at her word, Patsy and her father recruit 100 musicians, rent a garage space and start to rehearse. Realizing that Patsy took her seriously, Mrs Frost flees to Europe.
Mr. Frost tells John and his friends that he will not sponsor them, as they had supposed, unless they can attract a well-recognized guest conductor to give them a 'name' and launch them on their opening night.
Patsy, undaunted, sets out to recruit none other than Leopold Stokowski to be that conductor. Stokowski at first definitely refuses—though when Patsy sings as the orchestra is rehearsing Mozart's "Alleluia" from Exsultate, jubilate, he strongly suggests that she seek professional voice training and eventual representation.
By mistake, Patsy conveys the story to a newspaper music critic that Stokowski will conduct an orchestra of unemployed musicians, and that John R. Frost would broadcast the concert on the radio. When the story breaks, Frost protests his embarrassment to his friends, but they suggest valuable publicity would result. Frost immediately signs the one-hundred-man orchestra to a contract, though Patsy tries to tell them that Stokowski has not agreed.
Stokowski is astonished and offended at the news, but Patsy enters Stokowski's palatial house surreptitiously, along with the entire orchestra. She apologizes to him, and insists that he listen to the players. The conductor is so moved by their performance of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 that he postpones a European tour and agrees to the engagement.
The concert is a rousing success for everyone, especially when Patsy, called upon to make a speech, instead agrees to sing the "Brindisi" (Drinking Song) from Verdi's opera La traviata.Deanna Durbin as Patricia "Patsy" CardwellAdolphe Menjou as John CardwellLeopold Stokowski portraying himselfEugene Pallette as Mr. John R. Frost, the eventual sponsor of the "One Hundred Men"Alice Brady as his wifeAlma Kruger as Mrs. Tyler, John Cardwell's landladyMischa Auer as Michael Borodoff, a flautist and one of John Cardwell's neighborsBilly Gilbert as the owner of the garage where the "One Hundred Men" rehearseJed Prouty as Tommy Bitters, a man engaged in a good-natured war of pranks with John R. Frost. (Frost suspects Bitters of planting the Stokowski story in the newspaper until Patsy confesses her role to Stokowski.)Jack Smart as Marshall, Leopold Stokowski's doorkeeperFrank Jenks as a taxi driver who keeps a running tab for Patsy and later calls it an "investment" in her singing voiceGerald Oliver Smith As Stevens, the butler
Leopold Stokowski was, at the time of the film's release, co-conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra with Eugene Ormandy. Political and artistic differences with the orchestra's board had already led Stokowski to allow Ormandy to assume a greater leadership role at the orchestra, and eventually would lead Stokowski to break with the orchestra entirely. This might explain why the city in which the film is set, and by extension Stokowski's "regular" orchestra, is never positively identified in the film. The music was recorded in multi-channel stereophonic sound but released in monaural sound; three years later Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra appeared in the first feature film to be presented in stereo, Fantasia. Ballerina who taught ballet in postwar Japan, as a stand-in for Deanna Durbin in this film."Symphony No. 5 in E minor: Fourth Movement" (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky) performed by a symphony orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski"It's Raining Sunbeams" (Friedrich Hollaender, Sam Coslow) performed by Deanna Durbin"Rakoczy March" (Hector Berlioz) performed by a symphony orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski"A Heart That's Free" (Alfred G. Robyn, Thomas Railey) performed by Deanna Durbin"Zampa, ou la fiancée de marbre: Overture" (Ferdinand Hérold) performed by the unemployed orchestra"For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" (Traditional) performed by the unemployed orchestra"Lohengrin: Prelude to Act III" (Richard Wagner) performed by a symphony orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski"Alleluja" from the motet "Exultate, jubilate" (K.165) (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) performed by Deanna Durbin
The film opened to highly favorable critical reviews and is remembered as a hit. Of all the elements of the film, Deanna Durbin's ability to sing and act drew the highest praise.
Awards and honors
The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. In addition, Charles Previn, in his role as head of the music department for Universal Pictures, won the Academy Award for Original Music Score. (No specific composer credit was ever specified.) Previn's scoring consisted of using two original songs (by Sam Coslow and Friedrich Hollaender) and a carefully chosen selection of music from classical symphonic works and operas. The other three awards for which this film was nominated were Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing (Homer G. Tasker), and Best Original Story.
2006: AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals – Nominated
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists: