The research into Ralph Rainger that has kept me more or less hors de combat from Rifftides lately included the not entirely disagreeable task of watching The Big Broadcast of 1938. Film musicals still recycled vaudeville in those days, so what we get is a series of blackouts draped over a flimsy structure called a plot. It’s an excuse to see, among other things, a few vintage W.C. Fields bits and hear Martha Raye, a drastically underrated singer. Part of the plot involves Bob Hope’s character dodging three ex-wives while he pursues Dorothy Lamour.
Hope and one of the exes, played by Shirley Ross, have a drink in the lounge of a transatlantic liner. Beautifully underplayed (in contrast to the rest of the movie), the scene introduced one of Rainger’s best songs and – according to Hollywood lore – reduced the crew to tears while it was being filmed. Here’s why.