Sunnyside Up (1929)

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Pre Code Hollywood Season: FD Cinematheque

Sunnyside Up (1929)

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Director: David Butler

Cast: Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Marjorie White, El Brendel, Mary Forbes, Peter Gawthorne, Sharon Lynn, Frank Richardson, Joe Brown, Henry Armetta, Sherwood Bailey, Jay Berger 

121 min

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Sunny Side Up is a 1929 American Pre-Code Fox Movietone musical film starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, with original songs, story, and dialogue by B. G. DeSylvaLew Brown and Ray Henderson. The romantic comedy/musical premiered on October 3, 1929 at the Gaiety Theatre in New York City.[3] The film was directed by David Butler, had (now-lost) Multicolor sequences, and a running time of 121 minutes.

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The film centres around a Will-they won’t-they romance. Wealthy Jack Cromwell from Long Island runs off to New York City on account of his fiancee‘s relentless flirting. He attends an Independence Dayblock party where Molly Carr, from Yorkville, Manhattan, falls in love with him.
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Comic relief is provided by grocer Eric Swenson (El Brendel), above whose shop Molly and her flatmate, Bea Nichols (Marjorie White), live.[3][4] Gaynor performs a charming singing and dancing version of the song “(Keep Your) Sunny Side Up” for a crowd of her neighbors, complete with top hat and cane. Later in the film, a lavish pre-Code dance sequence for the song “Turn on the Heat,” including scantily clad and gyrating island women enticing bananas on trees to abruptly grow and stiffen, with the graphic metaphor lost on no one, occurs without Gaynor’s participation.

Gaynor and Farrell made almost a dozen films together, including Frank Borzage‘s classics Seventh Heaven (1927), Street Angel (1928), and Lucky Star (1929). Gaynor won the first Academy Award for Best Actress for the first two and F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise.

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The Times and The New York Times both express the opinion that the film, and the singing voices of Gaynor and Farrell, are all tolerable if not exactly worthy of praise. Despite the sugary sentimentality, the film is engaging, while the cinematography and special effects are impressive.[3][4]

Footage from Sunny Side Up was included in the comedy film It Came from Hollywood, which parodied B movies.[5]

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The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


I’m A Dreamer, Aren’t We All?

Several times throughout the film Gaynor sings the tune “I’m a Dreamer, Aren’t We All?” and, on one occasion, sings it impressively, according to the New York Times.[3] The credits are: words, De Sylva & Brown; music, Ray Henderson.

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The song was punned by the Marx Brothers in the film Animal Crackers (1930). Groucho asks his brother to “play the song about Montreal“. Chico asks, “Montreal?, and Groucho replies, “I’m a dreamer, Montreal.” The pun has been much-recycled [7] not least in Stewart Parker‘s award-winning play I’m a Dreamer, Montreal.

An early popular recording was by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra on October 16, 1929 with a vocal group including Bing Crosby[8] and this reached the charts in 1929.[9] The tune was also recorded by John Coltrane in 1958 [10] and included on his album Bahia (1964).

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Turn on the Heat

Another song in the film. This one would be used in the Pooch the Pup cartoon Hot and Cold (1933).[11]

(Keep Your) Sunny Side Up

Another song in the film that would later be used as the theme song to the 1988 British sitcom Clarence.

In the 1950s, the song was used as the theme song for Sunnyside Up, a variety program produced by HSV-7 (a television station in Melbourne, Australia_. The song’s melody was later adapted by the Essendon Football Club for its club song, “See the Bombers Fly Up”, written by Kevin Andrews in 1959.[12]

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See also


  1. Jump up^ Quigley Publishing Company “The All Time Best Sellers”, International Motion Picture Almanac 1937-38 (1938) p 942 accessed April 19, 2014
  2. Jump up^ “WHICH CINEMA FILMS HAVE EARNED THE MOST MONEY SINCE 1914?”The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848-1956). Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia. March 4, 1944. p. 3 Supplement: The Argus Weekend magazine. Retrieved August 6, 2012.
  3. Jump up to:a b c d NY Times October 4, 1929 Movie Review
  4. Jump up to:a b The Times, December 30, 1929, New Gallery Cinema “Sunny Side Up”
  5. Jump up^ “Collage of 10 worst films now a movie of its own”, Lodi News-Sentinel, November 25, 1982. (p.8).
  6. Jump up^ “AFI’s Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees” (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  7. Jump up^ Glenn Mitchell, The Marx Brothers encyclopedia (Reynolds & Hearn, 2003) ISBN 1-903111-49-8
  8. Jump up^ “A Bing Crosby Discography”BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  9. Jump up^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn’s Pop Memories 1890-1954. Wisconsin, USA: Record Research Inc. p. 452. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  10. Jump up^ The Complete Prestige Recordings
  11. Jump up^ “The Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia: 1933”. The Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
  12. Jump up^ History behind every AFl club theme song

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