AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Irish Eyes Are Smiling
Alternate Title: When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
Director: Gregory Ratoff (Dir)
Release Date:   Oct 1944
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles opening: 19 Oct 1944
Production Date:   21 Feb--mid-Apr 1944; late May--early Jun 1944
Duration (in mins):   90
Duration (in feet):   8,150
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   Monty Woolley (Edgar Brawley)  
    June Haver (Mary "Irish" O'Neill)  
    Dick Haymes (Ernest R. Ball)  
    Anthony Quinn (Al Jackson)  
    Beverly Whitney (Lucille Lacey)  
    Maxie Rosenbloom (Stanley Ketchel)  
    Veda Ann Borg (Belle La Tour)  
    Clarence Kolb (Leo Betz)  
  and The Metropolitan Opera Singers: Leonard Warren    
  and Blanche Thebom    
    Chick Chandler (Stage manager)  
    Kenny Williams (Specialty dancer)  
    Michael Dalmatoff (Headwaiter)  
    Alphonse Martell (Headwaiter)  
    Marian Martin (Prima Donna)  
    Charles Williams (Song plugger)  
    Bob Perry (Trainer)  
    Russ Clark (Trainer)  
    Art Foster (Sparring partner)  
    John Sheehan (Referee, stage manager)  
    Jean Del Val (Waiter)  
    Marietta Canty (Phoebe)  
    Joey Ray (Electrician)  
    George Chandler (Electrician)  
    John Harmon (Leg man)  
    Sam Wren (Piano player)  
    Harry Seymour (Piano player)  
    Mary Adams Hayes (Acrobat)  
    Ray Spiker (Acrobat)  
    Leo Mostovoy (Pawnbroker)  
    Mary Gordon (Irishwoman)  
    Emmett Vogan (Purser)  
    Pat O'Malley (Stewart)  
    John Maxwell Hayes (Clerk)  
    Frank Marlowe (Hoofer)  
    Ray Walker (Hoofer)  
    Charles Wilson (Detective)  
    John Duncan (Call boy)  
    Maurice Cass (Dr. Medford)  
    Edward Cooper (Butler)  
    Dink Trout (Meek husband)  
    Minerva Urecal (Militant wife)  
    Arthur Hohl (Barker)  
    Lee Murray (Walters)  
    J. Farrell MacDonald (Doorman)  
    Robert Homans (Policeman)  
    Eddie Acuff (Harry)  
    Billy Newell (Hotel clerk)  
    Frank Jaquet (News clerk)  
    Fred Howard (Stage manager)  
    Max Smith (Quartette member)  
    Martin Sperzel (Quartette member)  
    John Rarig (Quartette member)  
    Gurney Bell (Quartette member)  
    Lester Allen (Heming)  
    Emma Dunn (Mother Machree)  
    Evelyne Eager    
    Mary Stewart    
    Grace Davies    
    Teddy Blue    
    Valerie Traxler    
    Ed Stanbridge    
    Robert Hamilton    
    Al Gallagher    
    Allan Ross    
    Riley Thompson    
    Mary Jane Shores    
    Bill Benter    

Summary: In 1911, songwriter Ernest R. Ball is dismissed from his job as an instructor at the Cleveland Conservatory of Music for writing sentimental ballads. Ernest then goes to a burlesque theater in search of Belle La Tour, a singer to whom he has written regarding one of his songs. In Belle's dressing room is Mary "Irish" O'Neill, a diminutive singer and dancer, who is not afraid to let loose with a dangerous left hook when confronted by a fresh man. Irish, who is in the dressing room while recuperating from an encounter with the overly familiar stage electrician, does not reveal her true identity to Ernest and instead encourages him when he sings one of his ballads. Belle arrives and spoils Irish's deception, however, by firing her and ordering Ernest to leave. Outside, Ernest and Irish talk as they stroll and discover that they are both orphans who have dreams of building successful careers in New York City. Having fallen in love with Irish, Ernest begs her to postpone her trip to New York until he has enough money to accompany her, but she insists on leaving the next morning. Determined to raise the cash for the trip, Ernest goes to a vaudeville house to sell one of his songs. Middleweight champion boxer Stanley Ketchel is moved to tears by one of Ernest's touching ballads, but his cantankerous manager, Edgar Brawley, assumes that Ernest stole the song. Ernest angrily leaves, but returns during Stanley's show, when Stanley offers twenty-five dollars per round to any man who can fight him. The sentimental Stanley refrains from pounding Ernest too hard, and the young composer wins seventy-five dollars, with which he then travels to New York. Despite his best efforts, Ernest cannot find Irish and soon takes a job as a song plugger with Leo Betz's music publishing company. Leo sends Ernest to a fancy nightclub with a tune for vaudeville singer Lucille Lacey, but when Edgar, who is surprised to see the young man, laughs at him, Ernest launches into a well-received rendition of one of his own compositions. Lucille is so impressed with Ernest that she takes him under her wing and introduces his songs in her shows. In less than a year, Ernest becomes well-known and his songs are performed throughout the country. Although Lucille is interested in Ernest romantically, he still thinks only of Irish and is delighted to find her working as a hat check girl at a posh restaurant. Irish is embarrassed by her lowly job, however, and refuses to believe that Ernest still loves her, but he finally persuades her to quit her job and leave with him. While Ernest is waiting for Irish, he overhears Edgar making a bet with Lucille's smooth-talking friend, Al Jackson, who always wins their wagers. Edgar bets $25,000 that he can make a musical comedy star out of the next woman to leave the ladies lounge, and although Al tries to cheat, Ernest arranges for Irish to be the woman Edgar must pick. The confused Irish believes that Ernest and his high society friends are making fun of her and storms out, and Al insists that Edgar stick to his bet. Hoping to get rid of Irish so that she can have Ernest to herself, Lucille arranges for her to be employed in a small theater out of town. Although Ernest and Edgar conduct a frantic search for Irish, Al finds her first and promises her a job at his new theater in Cuba. As Irish prepares to sail to Cuba, Ernest finds her and pleads with her to return to him. Mistakenly believing that Ernest loves Lucille, Irish refuses, and the dispirited Ernest disembarks. After the boat sets sail, however, a drunken Al reveals the true nature of the bet to Irish, and that Ernest really does love her. Irish returns to New York aboard the pilot's boat, but when she goes to Ernest's hotel, she discovers that he has left abruptly. Edgar comforts the heartbroken Irish by putting on a new show with her as the star. He advertises the use of Ernest's new song, "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," and Ernest, believing that Edgar has stolen his composition, rushes back to New York. Ernest and Irish are reunited backstage, where she tells him that she will give him a black eye unless he kisses her. The show is a success, and although Edgar happily collects his wager from Al, who has returned from Cuba, he is infuriated to learn that Al is the ultimate winner because he is the show's secret backer. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Gregory Ratoff (Dir)
  Ad Schaumer (Asst dir)
  Serge Bertensson (Dial dir)
Producer: Damon Runyon (Prod)
Writer: Earl Baldwin (Scr)
  John Tucker Battle (Scr)
  E. A. Ellington (Based on a story by)
  George Jessel (Trmt)
  Phoebe Ephron (Trmt)
  Henry Ephron (Trmt)
  Darryl F. Zanuck (Orig story idea)
Photography: Harry Jackson (Dir of photog)
  Edward Cronjager (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler (Art dir)
  Joseph C. Wright (Art dir)
Film Editor: Harmon Jones (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
  Al Orenbach (Assoc)
Costumes: Renè Hubert (Cost)
Music: Alfred Newman (Mus dir)
  Charles Henderson (Mus dir)
  Mack Gordon (Mus consulant)
  Herbert Spencer (Orch arr)
Sound: George Leverett (Sd)
  Roger Heman (Sd)
Special Effects: Fred Sersen (Spec photog eff)
Dance: Hermes Pan (Dances staged by)
Make Up: Guy Pearce (Makeup artist)
Production Misc: Al Fisher (Mus research)
  R. A. Klune (Prod mgr)
Color Personnel: Natalie Kalmus (Technicolor dir)
  Richard Mueller (Assoc)
Country: United States

Music: "The Irish Washerwoman" Irish traditional.
Songs: "I'll Forget You," music and lyrics by Annelu Burns and Ernest R. Ball; "Dear Little Boy of Mine," "Let the Rest of the World Go By," "A Little Bit of Heaven, Sure They Call It Ireland" and "Turn Back the Universe and Give Me Yesterday," music by Ernest R. Ball, lyrics by J. Keirn Brennan; "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," music by Ernest R. Ball, lyrics by Chauncey Olcott and George Graff, Jr.; "Mother Machree," music Ernest R. Ball and Chauncey Olcott, lyrics by Rida Johnson Young; "Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee," music by Henry I. Marshall, lyrics by Stanley Murphy; "I Don't Want a Million Dollars" and "Bessie in a Bustle," music by Mack Gordon, lyrics by James. V. Monaco; "Strut Miss Lizzie," music and lyrics by Henry Creamer and J. Turner Layton.
Composer: J. Turner Layton
  George Graff Jr.
  Ernest R. Ball
  J. Keirn Brennan
  Annelu Burns
  Henry Creamer
  Mack Gordon
  Henry I. Marshall
  James V. Monaco
  Chauncey Olcott
  Rida Johnson Young

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 12/10/1944 dd/mm/yyyy LP12983

PCA NO: 10005
Physical Properties: col: Technicolor
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

Genre: Musical
Sub-Genre: Show business
Subjects (Major): Ernest R. Ball
Subjects (Minor): Boxers
  Cleveland (OH)
  Dismissal (Employment)
  Hat check girls
  Irish Americans
  Mistaken identity
  Music publishers and publishing
  New York City
  Theatrical backers
  Theatrical managers

Note: The working title of the picture was When Irish Eyes Are Smiling . The film is loosely based on the life of composer Ernest R. Ball (1878--1927), who achieved immense popularity with his sentimental ballads. Ball studied at the Cleveland Conservatory before moving to New York City, where he worked in vaudeville and then as a composer at a music publishing company. He achieved great success with his songs and vaudeville performances, and wrote scores for several Broadway musicals. Ball, who was married twice, had three children with his first wife.
       According to HR news items, Vivian Blaine was originally set to star in the film. According to a studio press release, quoted in a HR news item, director Gregory Ratoff was assigned to the picture "because of his knowledge of Irish folklore and his collection of clay pipes." The picture marked the feature-film debuts of Metropolitan opera singers Blanche Thebom and Leonard Warren. Alfred Newman received an Academy Award nomination in the Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture) category. On 15 Mar 1948, Lux Radio Theatre presented a radio broadcast of the story starring Dick Haymes and Jeanne Crain. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   14 Oct 1944.   
Daily Variety   4 Oct 44   p. 3.
Film Daily   6 Oct 44   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Jan 44   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jan 44   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Feb 44   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Mar 44   p. 47.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Apr 44   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   19 May 44   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jun 44   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Oct 44   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Nov 44   p. 8.
Los Angeles Times   20 Oct 1944.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   8 Apr 44   p. 1835.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   7 Oct 44   p. 2129.
New York Times   8 Nov 44   p. 27.
Variety   4 Oct 44   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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