This week’s musical: Let Freedom Ring (1939)
Director: Jack Conway
Plot: Steve Logan (Eddy) returns to his home back west after graduating from Harvard. Now a lawyer, he finds his town full of corruption being led by Jim Knox (Arnold). Logan sets out to save his friends and family by disguising himself as “The Wasp” and uses the power of the press to break down Knox.
– The story and script were by Ben Hecht.
– Co-stars Edward Arnold and Lionel Barrymore were on the opposite sides of a less-violent feud the previous year in Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It with You.
– Overseas the film was known as, among other titles, Song of the Plains.
– “Dusty Road,” performed by Nelson Eddy
– “Love Serenade,” performed by Eddy
– “Ten Thousand Cattle Straying,” performed by Eddy
– “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” performed by Eddy
– “America,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” performed by Eddy and Virginia Bruce
Let Freedom Ring, is more of a western than a musical. Though Nelson Eddy sings three or four songs during the film, his beautiful voice isn’t the focus of the film.
Coming from the great year of 1939, this movie isn’t as well-known as its contemporaries. However, this little western sparkles just as bright and continues to show that there was something in the water that year that made the majority of the films coming out of Hollywood great.
Along with some lovely songs performed by Eddy, we also have the treat of an excellent supporting cast of character actors: Guy Kibbee, Edward Arnold, Victor McLaglen, Charles Butterworth, Gabby Hayes. What more could you ask for than that?!
McLaglen and Butterworth have several particularly funny scenes. Virginia Bruce also does well in the film, but unfortunately has very little screen time. Lionel Barrymore is also a treat (as always), but similarly has little screen time. In the film, Eddy actually seemed to have more energy and be less wooden without his frequent co-star Jeannette MacDonald.
This film is interesting if you think about what is going on around the world at this time. Much of Europe was being invaded by Germany and preparing for war. While the United States had not yet joined World War II, the conflict overseas was still at the forefront of most people’s minds. Nelson Eddy’s character gives several speeches, particularly about not being oppressed by tyranny. I’m fairly certain his lines were written with the European situation in mind.
Whether you are a fan of westerns or musicals, this little film is one you should catch. With great songs, humorous moments and rousing speeches, it’s a fun way to spend 90 minutes.
Comet Over Hollywood owner Jessica Pickens is a classic film lover, but her trade is healthcare public relations. She formerly was a reporter in North Carolina, similar to Torchy Blane. Since Comet Over Hollywood was introduced in 2009, Pickens has interviewed actors James Best and Dolores Hart and covered the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival in Los Angeles. Visit her Facebook page.