The screen edition of the Kern-Hammerstein musical play is a skillfully photographed work which includes among its ballads, songs and snatches some of the most distinguished melodies of this cinema season. From the Music Hall’s screen and also the throats of John Boles and Gloria Swanson, “Music in the Air” sends out in a high-hearted cavalcade all the gay, tender and superbly romantic lyrics which warmed the flinty heart of Broadway back in the Winter of ‘32. The reporter, after listening to "I’ve Told Every Little Star," finds his typewriter keys jogging along to the rhythms of the music. Then there are “One More Dance,” “The Song Is You,” “We Belong Together” and “There’s a Hill Beyond a Hill,” which is the particular favorite of this columnar ear.
Mr. Kern’s matchless songs are enough to insure “Music in the Air” a position among the superior musical pictures. The photoplay as a whole is always a step or two behind its score, but since it manages to avoid a good many pitfalls of the operettish type of entertainment, perhaps we should be grateful for its numerous virtues. For one thing it confines its spectacle effects to the village capers of light-hearted Hungarian lads and maidens. Although the narrative is pretty kittenish in its burlesque of the artistic temperament, it is a definite improvement over most of its recent predecessors, and it is actively pleasant even when it fails to be properly robust in its comedy.
As a setting for his partner’s music, Mr. Hammerstein is telling about the kindly music-master of Ebendorf who composes “I’ve Told Every Little Star,” and then drives off to Munich to see his old college friend, now a celebrated music publisher. His pretty daughter and the young village schoolmaster, who love each other with a pure Theocritean devotion, go along with him to see the sights. When the rural visitors reach their destination they find themselves in the midst of a temperamental quarrel between the lyric writer and the prima donna of an impending operetta. The quarrelsome artistes promptly pair off with the rural sweethearts in order to annoy each other. The writer promises the lass that he will put her in a show. The prima donna causes the boy to lose his head and almost persuades him to run off to Venice with her. After all the comic interchange of high pressure temperament, the country visitors are glad to crawl back to Ebendorf and the innocent diversions of smalltime life.
Joe May, the German director of “Music in the Air,” tells this musical comedy story in a spirited style and he has succeeded in pacing the narrative briskly enough to avoid the prolonged periods of aridity to which the musical films have accustomed us. Miss Swanson makes an agreeable return to the screen as the prima donna. The years have not scarred her loveliness, and in addition she possesses a pleasing voice and a gift for light comedy. June Lang, in her screen début, reveals a charming face and manner as the guileless country maid. John Boles owns the most cultivated voice in the troupe, and he also is able to dash through the comic episodes with considerable success. It is in the comparatively minor rôles, though, that “Music in the Air” proves to be most personable. There are the delightful Al Shean in the music-master part, which he played on Broadway, Joseph Cawthorn as the crotchety orchestra conductor, Reginald Owen as the music publisher, and Roger Imhof as the good burgomaster of Ebendorf. “Music in the Air” is an agreeable addition to the holiday entertainment lists. The symphony orchestra at the Music Hall offers Tchaikovsky’s “Capriccio Italienne.” Leon Leonidoff’s stage pageant, “Whim-wham,” is in three scenes: “Wings of Love,” “Rhythms in Melody” and “My Guiding Star.” —New York Times
Joe May (November 7, 1880, in Vienna – April 29, 1954, in Hollywood), born Julius Otto Mandl, was a film director and film producer born in Austria and one of the pioneers of German cinema.
After studying in Berlin and a variety of odd jobs, he began his career as a stage director of operettas in Hamburg before starting to make films from 1912 in Berlin. In 1902 he had married the actress Mia May (born Hermine Pfleger) and took his stage name from hers.
In 1914 he founded his own film production company, May-Film, and began to produce a successful series of crime films, whose detective hero went by the name of Joe Deebs. Some of these were directed by May himself, others by Harry Piel. (Around the same time May also worked on the Stuart Webbs series of detective films for another company). In 1917 he gave Fritz Lang one of his earliest breaks in the film industry as screenwriter on the film Die Hochzeit im Excentricclub (Wedding in the Eccentric Club) and Lang also worked… read more