Serenade Me, Mr. Powell: 20 Million Sweethearts (1943)

twenty-million[1]

Ginger Rogers is a triple threat. She can sing, act and dance. She even won an Oscar for her 1941 performance in Kitty Foyle.

I taped several of her films that I haven’t seen (I’m trying to see all of her movies). One of these movies that I taped was Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934). The movie features Ginger Rogers and Dick Powell with a supporting cast of Allen Jenkins and Pat O’Brien.

Ginger Rogers is best known for the 10 films that she made with Fred Astaire. The screen team is recognized for their singing and dancing, but Astaire is generally the only one who gets to sing. Rogers only had the chance to sing solo in two of their 10 films together. These rare times occurred when Astaire refused to sing a song that was originally written for him. An example of this is “The Yam” in Carefree (1938).

The treat about the movie Twenty Million Sweethearts is we actually hear Ginger sing several songs. I find it ironic that Ginger Rogers had the chance to sing more in a movie with Dick Powell than she does in her movies with Fred Astaire.

Dick Powell was one of the top “crooners” in the 1930s. His smooth voice could make women melt like butter. Fred Astaire was known more for his dancing. I’m sure women wouldn’t mind if he sang to them, but I have a feeling they would rather it be in their ear as he whisked them around on a dance floor.

Here is a comparison of the two men’s singing qualities:

Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers in “Twenty Million Sweethearts.” (1934)


Fred Astaire singing “The Way You Look Tonight” to Ginger Rogers in “Swing Time” (1936)

I personally would rather have Powell sing to me over Astaire. Who do you prefer?

Comet Over Hollywood, named for the 1938 Kay Francis film Comet Over Broadway, offers anything from Hollywood beauty tips to rants about Katherine Hepburn. Jessica Pickens is a journalism student at Winthrop University who is interested in silent films to anything made before 1964. She writes for Winthrop’s student newspaper, The Johnsonian, and the Shelby Star in Shelby North Carolina. Her Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Comet-Over-Hollywood-Blog/105843689466479?ref=ts

  • Jim

    Good column, Jessica. In a way, it’s a shame that Ginger’s fame as a dancer has eclipsed her other talents. She was a wonderful actress with a real flair for comedy. If you haven’t seen her in “Stage Door,” you should do so immediately.
    Even though people used to tell my father he looked like Dick Powell, I prefer Astaire as a singer. He had a more “modern,” jazzier style which has worn better over the years.

  • Hank Zangara

    I had occasion to meet Miss Rogers twice, and I was a huge fan even before that. I agree with Jim – you must see “Stage Door” with Ginger, Kate Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden and Ann Miller. What a cast!
    But I also recommend “Roxie Hart” the film “Chicago” was based on. It’s not a musical, but G.R. is amazing in this comedy/drama.
    For diehard collectors here’s a real gem: the Kino DVD “Hollywood Rhythm Vol. 2″ has Ginger performing in “Office Blues,” an early 1930 musical short, alone worth the cost of the disc!
    And then there’s Busby Berkeley’s “Golddiggers of 1933″ wherein Ginger sings “We’re In the Money” in Pig Latin!!

  • John Primavera

    Dick Powell was no slouch when it came to singing.
    He toured with Bob Hope and Yvonne DeCarlo in the
    famous USO tours to entertain the war-weary G.I’s
    and went dramatic in the 40′s when the public went
    for the musical voices of Frank Sinatra and Crosby.

    He later was among the few who went into tv when many movie stars shunned the new medium(including
    Ginger Rogers). He was taken from us much too soon
    when he died at the top hosting his own Dick Powell Theatre tv series. His widow, actress June Allyson, continued the series until the end of the
    ’62-’63 tv season.

  • fredginger2009

    I don’t understnad why you say that Ginger Rogers never got to sing in the movies she made with Astaire. It seems to me that she sang at least once in all of them. In GAY DIVORCEE she sang “The Continental”, which won an Oscar. In ROBERTA she sang “I’ll be hard to handle”, in TOP HAT she sang “The Piccolino”, in FOLLOW THE FLEET she sang “Let Yourself Go” and part of duet “I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket”, in SWING TIME she sang “Pick Yourself Up” and “A fine romance”, in SHALL WE DANCE she sang “They all laughed”, in CAREFEE she sang “The Yam”, in THE CASTLES she sang “Yama, Yama Man”. These were definitely not songs that were undesirable, except maybe for the last which was a spoof, and in fact both Astaire and she recorded many of them. I also don’t know why this idea persists on many websites that Astaire did not want to sing “The Yam” becasue he did not like it. He recorded it several times. I agree that Rogers did not sing as often as Astaire, but let’s not exaggerate.

  • David Ecklein

    Volume 1 and 2 of the Busby Berkeley 30s musicals are out, and I hope the powers that be are working on volume 3 – which hopefully will include “20 Million Sweethearts” and many others.

    Comparing Dick Powell and Fred Astaire is like comparing apples and oranges. In my opinion, Powell wasn’t much of a dancer, and Astaire wasn’t much of a singer – although both tried, with entertaining results, if not matching the other abilities which made each of them immortal.

  • Lmorrow

    Dick Powell was a fair actor, but, a medicore singer. The man put no soul or heart in any of his songs. He actually seems to throw away songs in the manner he sings them. It is obvious that he did not care about the music or the words. It is very odd to compare him in any fashion with Fred Astaire. Dick Powell was a business-type performer. Astaire was an artist. Give me Fred anytime!

  • Peggy Deegan

    Sorry, but I prefer Fred Astaire anyday over Dick Powell. He was the best ever. And I love Dick Powell, but not as a singer.

  • Clare

    I do love Dick Powell. But I think Fred Astaire had the better voice.
    “It’s nothing new to say that Fred Astaire is a great dancer. We all know that. But what was even more important to those of us who ever wrote songs for him was that he was also a great singer. Remember, I’m talking about writers of the caliber of Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Vincent Youmans, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Dorothy Fields, Howard Dietz, Arthur Schwartz, Harry Warren, Alan Jay Lerner, Burton Lane, and many others. Fred introduced and was responsible for more hit songs than many of the top singers. He knew the value of a song and his heart was in it before his fet took over.”-Irving Berlin

  • BRIAN

    Dick Powell

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  • Albert Drover

    I am absolutely nuts about Fred and Ginger as a duo, but must say that Fred’s voice leaves a lot to be desired. Dick’s voice seems much purer to me. I have all of Fred and gingers films, and a further 30 of Gingers, but cannot find a supplier of 20 million sweethearts – does anyone know if it is still available or has someone a copy to sell?

    • yogi8

       If you still want it, I can steer your towards a copy.

  • http://stefmagura.wordpress.com/ Stefanie Magura

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who liked Four’s a Croud.  I was surprised to know that it  wasn’t much of a hit.  I guess it was harder to except Flynn in non-period settings.

  • http://stefmagura.wordpress.com/ Stefanie Magura

    oops.  Wrote a comment on the wrong post. Can’t delete it.  *face turning red*

    Edited to say: fixed the comment so it would make sense with the conversation. *whew*