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
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
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.