Three Little Words

Three Little Words

5.0 1
Director: Richard Thorpe

Cast: Fred Astaire, Red Skelton, Vera-Ellen


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MGM's Three Little Words is a "twin" musical biopic, covering the lives and careers of songwriters Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. Fred Astaire plays Kalmar, a frustrated magician, while Red Skelton is cast as Ruby, a wannabe baseball player. After…  See more details below


MGM's Three Little Words is a "twin" musical biopic, covering the lives and careers of songwriters Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. Fred Astaire plays Kalmar, a frustrated magician, while Red Skelton is cast as Ruby, a wannabe baseball player. After "meeting cute" during a disastrous vaudeville show, the oil-and-water Bert and Harry become a popular songwriting team, dashing off such favorites as "Who's Sorry Now?," "Nevertheless," "So Long Oo-Long," "I Wanna be Loved by You," "All Alone Monday" and the title song (the film unfortunately skimps on Kalmar and Ruby's Gilbert-and-Sullivan style novelty ditties, with the exception of "Hooray for Captain Spaulding," Groucho Marx' signature tune in Animal Crackers). Adhering more to MGM formula than the facts, the script contrives to have Kalmar and Ruby split up over a trivial misunderstanding, only to be reunited by their wives for an "all is forgiven" radio broadcast hosted by bandleader Phil Regan. Vera-Ellen co-stars as Kalmar's vaudevillian wife Jessie Brown, while Arlene Dahl portrays Ruby's movie-star spouse Eileen Percy. Gloria DeHaven is seen as her own mother, Mrs. Carter DeHaven; and Debbie Reynolds plays "boop-a-doop" girl Helen Kane, her singing voice dubbed in by Ms. Kane herself. Though not quite as humorous as the subject matter would seem to dictate (Red Skelton gets his biggest laughs in the scenes wherein he, as Harry Ruby, participates in spring training with his favorite baseball club) Three Little Words is an excellent example of MGM's musical unit at the height of its powers.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
No more accurate than other MGM musical biopics, Three Little Words has some interesting elements to it, even if they're not fully exploited. The fact that both Kalmar and Ruby have outside interests other than songwriting -- magic and dancing for the former, baseball for the latter -- is a nice change. (Unfortunately, Kalmar's injury that keeps him from dancing is conveniently forgotten; this allows Fred Astaire to perform as he must, but it damages the "integrity" of the plot.) Also of note is the believable and entertaining verbal sparring and friendly antagonism between the two lead characters, as well as the curious moral question raised (but not appropriately resolved) concerning whether friends should lie to one another to spare their feelings. None of this really matters in the long run, of course; what matters are the numbers, and as long as Astaire and Vera-Ellen are around, the film is in excellent hands. Red Skelton and Arlene Dahl also handle their numbers well, but with less aplomb than their co-stars. The film has a leisurely but somewhat comforting pace; although several numbers make an impression, none are spectacular, but this adds to the overall relaxed atmosphere of the piece. Astaire and Vera-Ellen would team up again in The Belle of New York.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Mgm (Warner)

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Fred Astaire Bert Kalmar
Red Skelton Harry Ruby
Vera-Ellen Jessie Brown Kalmar
Arlene Dahl Eileen Percy
Keenan Wynn Charlie Kope
Debbie Reynolds Helen Kane
Gale Robbins Terry Lordel
Gloria DeHaven Mrs. Carter De Haven
Phil Regan Himself
Harry Shannon Clanahan
Paul Harvey Al Masters
Carleton Carpenter Dan Healy
Anita Ellis Singing Voice of Vera-Ellen
Helen Kane Singing Voice of Debbie Reynolds
Phyllis Kennedy Mother
Donald Kerr Stage Manager
Pat Williams Assistant
Tony Taylor Kid
Harry Barris Pianist
Douglas Carter Stagehand
Harry Cody Prop Man
Bert Davidson Photographer
Elzie Emanuel Black Boy
Pat Flaherty Coach
Sig Frohlich Messenger
Alex Gerry Marty Collister
Billy Gray Boy
Sherry Hall Pianist
George Magrill Piano Mover
Mickey Martin Callboy
John R. McKee Baseball Player
Beverly Michaels Shipboard Woman
Fred Millican Baseball Player
Harry Ruby Baseball Player
Fred Santley Juice Vendor
George Sherwood Director
William Tannen Photographer
Charles Wagenheim Johnny
Pierre Watkin Philip Goodman
Harry B. Mendoza Mendoza the Great
Sid Saylor Barker

Technical Credits
Richard Thorpe Director
Fred Astaire Choreography
Jack Cummings Producer
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Harry Jackson Cinematographer
Bert Kalmar Score Composer
Ben Lewis Editor
Urie McCleary Art Director
Warren Newcombe Special Effects
Hermes Pan Choreography
André Previn Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Helen Rose Costumes/Costume Designer
Harry Ruby Score Composer
George Wells Screenwriter
Edwin B. Willis Set Decoration/Design

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Three Little Words 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
DCGuy More than 1 year ago
The movie deals with the song writing duo of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby who produced many songs from the late 1910 to 1920's. Fred Astaire and Red Skelton play the song writing team and the co-stars are Vera-Ellen and Arlene Dahl who play their respective spouses. Many well choreographed dance scenes in this movie with Vera-Ellen showing how athletic and graceful she is. Astaire is in his usual fine form in this movie. Red Skelton does not get to perform his usual pratfall comedic routines in this movie, but he still has his moments. Arlene Dahl has her usual glamorous aura. You also get to see a very young Debbie Reynolds acting in this movie (although her singing was dubbed). Some of the music is not too familiar with the current music trends of present, but the "Who's Sorry Now" song should be familiar to many. It is sung by Gloria DeHaven who played her mother in the movie (her mother was also in the musical field). Outside of the song writing aspect of the movie, both men yearn to other dreams besides song writing. Astaire wants to be a magician while Red wants to be a baseball player. In the end, they realize that song writing is something that they were probably better in. The movie has a hidden message that you need to have a backup plan in life. When your first aspirations don't pan out, you need to have something to fall back on in life. For the two men, it was songwriting.