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Home Film ArticlesRecommended Movies Sing and Like It (Movie 1934): Riotous ‘B’ Actors’ Showcase

Sing and Like It (Movie 1934): Riotous ‘B’ Actors’ Showcase

Sing and Like It ZaSu Pitts Pert KeltonSing and Like It with ZaSu Pitts and Pert Kelton: By 1934, Pitts was a movie veteran with over 100 features and shorts to her credit, among them the 1917 Mary Pickford star vehicle A Little Princess and Erich von Stroheim’s 1924 masterpiece Greed.
  • Sing and Like It (movie 1934) review: A capable ensemble of below-the-title names is put to good use in William A. Seiter’s Damon Runyon-esque B comedy mixing show business and mobsters.

Sing and Like It (movie 1934) review: Entertaining B comedy has wiry vocalist enmeshed with mom-fixated gangster

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

While in the middle of a bank heist, a tough but simple-minded gang boss overhears an off-key singer rehearsing a “mother song” for an amateur group. The result is a hilarious “B” comedy: William A. Seiter’s 1934 romp Sing and Like It.

Nat Pendleton plays handsome, muscular, and dumb gang leader Fenny Sylvester, who suffers from a sort of Mommy Complex; Zasu Pitts is squawky singer Annie Snodgrass. The other key cast members are Edward Everett Horton as high-strung stage director Adam Frink and Pert Kelton as Fenny’s showgirl gun moll Ruby.

And to think that Marion Dix and Laird Doyle’s wacky screenplay (from a story by Aben Kandel) brings these disparate characters together by way of a sappy ditty about a child missing his mother.

‘Mudder Song’

Due to his “condition,” Fenny becomes obsessed with Annie’s (egregious) rendition of the “Mudder Song,” forcing her to become the leading lady in the reluctant Adam Frink’s new Broadway show.

At Fenny’s insistence, Annie stays with him and Ruby during preparations for her stage debut. When Annie’s virtue is questioned, Ruby – who refers to Annie as a cartoon character look-alike (Olive Oyl?) – wisecracks, “She’d be safe on a battleship.”

But as it happens, Annie has a boyfriend, Oswald (John Qualen), who kidnaps her before the show and holds her for ransom.

Capable cast

The funniest thing about Sing and Like It is its cast of quirky characters. As a plus, Nat Pendleton, ZaSu Pitts, and Edward Everett Horton play beautifully off of each other.

For instance, Pitts/Annie trying to portray a romantic leading lady in the show under Horton/Frink’s antagonistic direction – “She’s as stiff as a poker, but not as useful” – is a continuous source of delight. In fact, everyone insults Annie’s gawky, old-maid appearance, except for the devoted Oswald and the obsessed Fenny, who, in a humorous scene à la Warner Baxter mentoring Ruby Keeler in 42nd Street, gives Annie a pep talk before the show.

Sentimental hunk Nat Pendleton

And of course, there’s that trite “mother song,” which makes Fenny cry every time he hears it.

I must add that Nat Pendleton, an Olympic wrestler seen in supporting roles in countless movies of the 1930s (The Sign of the Cross, Lady for a Day, etc.) was one of the sexiest and most handsome actors of that era.

In Sing and Like It, I especially appreciate the way Pendleton calls Edward Everett Horton, hardly the most masculine of actors, “Dearie” and “Honey.”

No like it

Now, there’s one thing that bothers me in Sing and Like It: The violence.

There is nothing funny about striking people in the face or abusing women. But then again, this was 1934, a time when brutish slapstick was commonly accepted.

As for Annie and Frink’s show, needless to say it turns out to be a great success. Everyone cheers Fenny’s “Mudder Song” – just as his own mother is released from prison. Too bad we don’t get to see what she looks like.

Sing and Like It (movie 1934) cast & crew

Director: William A. Seiter.

Screenplay: Marion Dix & Laird Doyle.
From Aben Kandel’s story “So You Won’t Sing, Eh?”

Cast: ZaSu Pitts, Pert Kelton, Edward Everett Horton, Nat Pendleton, Ned Sparks, Richard Carle, John Qualen, Stanley Fields, Joe Sawyer, Roy D’Arcy.

Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca.

Film Editing: George Crone.

Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase & Albert Herman (as Al Herman).

Producers: Merian C. Cooper (executive producer) | Howard J. Green (associated producer).

Production Company | Distributor: RKO Radio Pictures.

Running Time: 72 min.

Country: United States.

Sing and Like It (Movie 1934): Riotous ‘B’ Actors’ Showcase” review text © Danny Fortune; excerpt, image captions, bullet point introduction, and notes © Alt Film Guide.

Sing and Like It (Movie 1934): Riotous ‘B’ Actors’ Showcase” notes

Nearly three decades after Sing and Like It, Pert Kelton would have a key role in another – far bigger and far more musicalized – comedy, Morton DaCosta’s Oscar-nominated 1962 hit The Music Man, in which she plays Shirley Jones’ mother.

Sing and Like It movie credits via the American Film Institute (AFI) Catalog website.

Pert Kelton and ZaSu Pitts Sing and Like It movie image: RKO Radio Pictures.

Sing and Like It (Movie 1934): Riotous ‘B’ Actors’ Showcase” last updated in April 2023.

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1 comment

Marcus Tucker -

I live for this movie, becuase it’s so much fun. Sing and Like It is a really great way to get people who think they don’t like classic cinema to watch old films. I really enjoy Nat Pendelton in every film he appeared in because he was so very self aware of his image. In a later era he would have been an action star, but he was right for his era just because he was pretty damn funny.

Seeing the violence against Pert Kelton (who played the perfect nasty bitch) is like watching black face for me personally. It just seems surreal in this day and age when Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock seem to take care of themselves just fine in their films. But I never quite believed that Pert Kelton would take a punch from any man and let him live to tell the tale.


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