How to take a bandleader and news columnist and
make them movie attractions, a cooked-up "feud" driving tissue
narrative against backdrop of song. Itworks, and how, as barometer of what
pleased in days when a public paid real attention to stuff press and radio fed
them daily. There was no better demo of media power than Walter Winchell giving/taking
licks from yowsah-man Ben Bernie, their contretemps profitable in a long run
for both. To that slim frame add 20th Fox funmakers Jack Haley, Patsy Kelly, Ned
Sparks ... well, the list goes on. Beyond these, Joan Davis just has to show up,
and so does in specialty slapstick. Wake Up and Live is what we'd
accurately call "escapism" in a best sense of old Hollywood. Being unfamiliar with pop culture
of the day would make it seem like foreign language. When a thing like this
surfaces on DVD, I'm amazed, but gratifyingly so. Wake woke 1937 trade to rave
response, a "bulls-eye" and single day record holder for a past five
years at Broadway's Roxy. It was understood that Jack Haley was a feature star
born with this. Winchell and the cast guested on Ben Bernie's radio program to
stir interest, the home box holding thrall over a wider public than even movies
by '37. The only rub for such synergy was its failing to translate overseas.
Wake Up and Live took a lofty $1.2 million in domestic rentals, but foreign was
meager with $358K. Still, there was $190K profit at the end, and indication
that a cycle of such musicals would click, which they did over a next several
seasons until the real breakthrough that came withFox's Betty Grable series.
Wake Up from Fox DVD Archive looks fine.