No, I have not started reviewing porno movies. Rather, “Ding Dong Williams” (1946), a musical from RKO, is a real rarity – a movie about film composing, a subject near and dear to my heart. I had never heard of this movie and didn’t know anything about it, but happened to tape it off TCM last year (yeah, I’m a little behind) because it was sandwiched between two movies I wanted to tape, so when I set the timer I just let it run through.
Felix Bressart plays an older, European style film composer whose music is derided as old fashioned for a climatic scene for a movie he is scoring. His bosses tell him to score it with a modern sound or out he goes.
That night he and his secretary are at a nightclub when he hears the clarinet playing of bandleader Ding Dong Williams and feel his music is just what they need for the climax of the movie. They invite him and his band to come work for the studio. The fact that Ding Dong can’t read or write music causes all sorts of complications, but all is neatly resolved 61 minutes later.
There have been several films about movies that feature film music as a sideline, but I think this is the only movie based around the writing of a film score. I know that Randy Quaid played a film composer in a move called “Martians, Go Home” (never saw it) and Jack Black played a film composer in last year’s romantic comedy “The Holiday”, but these are few and far between.
The leads were played by people who never made it (Glenn Vernon and Marcy McGuire,) which may be why the movie has fallen into obscurity. Robert Clarke, later the Hideous Sun Demon, appears (uncredited) as a nightclub bandleader. There’s also a funny take-off on singing cowboys.
One sequence is an orchestral rehearsal that takes place on a soundstage. I checked the IMDB and my suspicions were confirmed: the conductor was none other than C. Bakaleinikoff, music director for the movie.
For those of us who love these odd little nooks and crannies of film history, movies like “Ding Dong Williams” should be treasured. Thank goodness for TCM, where little gems such as these pop up, and surprise even hardened movie buffs such as myself. There are still lots of movie treasures to be uncovered.