Pre Code Hollywood Season: FD Cinematheque
Reaching for the Moon (1930)
Director: Edmund Goulding
Cast: Douglas Fairbanks, Bebe Daniels, Edward Everett Horton, Claud Allister, Jack Mulhall, Walter Walker, June MacCloy, Bing Crosby
Reaching for the Moon is a 1930 American Pre-Code black and white musical film. Originally released at 91 minutes; surviving versions are usually cut to 62 minutes. A 74-minute version aired in 1998 on USA cable channel AMC. The DVD version runs just under 72 minutes. The film’s working title was Lucky Break and is known as Para alcanzar la Lunain Spain. It is not to be confused with the Fairbanks silent film, Reaching for the Moon (1917).
The film was originally intended to be a musical with songs written by Irving Berlin but problems soon developed. From the start, Berlin found Edmund Goulding, the director, difficult to work with. Also by mid-1930 the studio realized that the public’s demand for musicals had disappeared. So Goulding jettisoned many of Berlin’s songs from the score.
Although just five Berlin songs had been recorded, the film, even in its scaled-down form, proved very expensive to make. By the time the filming was complete, the costs had come to about a million dollars, a huge budget for the times, and one that virtually ruled out the possibility of the film returning a profit.
The one song that was retained was “When the Folks High Up Do the Mean Low Down” introduced by Bing Crosby who had filmed it late at night after completing his work at the Cocoanut Grove. Variety commented on this song specifically, saying: “None of the Berlin songs is left other than a chorus of hot numbers apparently named “Lower Than Lowdown” [sic]. Tune suddenly breaks into the running in the ship’s bar when Bing Crosby, of the Whiteman Rhythm Boys, gives it a strong start for just a chorus which, in turn, is ably picked up by Miss Daniels, also for merely a chorus, and then in an exterior shot to the deck where June MacCloy sends the lyric and melody for a gallop of half a chorus.
Wall Street wizard, Larry Day, new to the ways of love, is coached by his valet. He follows Vivian Benton on an ocean liner, where cocktails, laced with a “love potion”, work their magic. He then loses his fortune in the market crash and feels he has also lost his girl.
- Douglas Fairbanks as Larry Day
- Bebe Daniels as Vivien Benton
- Edward Everett Horton as Roger
- Claud Allister as Sir Horace Partington Chelmsford
- Jack Mulhall as Jimmy Carrington
- Walter Walker as James Benton
- June MacCloy as Kitty
- Helen Jerome Eddy as Larry’s Secretary
- Bing Crosby as Bing
- “When the Folks High-Up Do the Mean Low-Down”
- Written by Irving Berlin
- Sung by Bing Crosby, Bebe Daniels, June MacCloy and chorus.
- Written by Irving Berlin
- (heard instrumentally over the opening credits, as background music for a love scene, then briefly at the end)
Film Collectors Corner
Watch Reaching For The Moon Now – Instant Video on You Tube
Not released on Blu Ray