I Dream of Jeanie (1952)

 

 

 

Director:  Allan Dwan. 

Starring:  Ray Middleton (Edwin P. Christy), Bill Shirley (Stephen Foster), Muriel Lawrence (Inez McDowell), Eileen Christy (Jeanie McDowell), Lynn Bari (Mrs. McDowell), Dick Simmons (Dunning Foster), Scott Elliott (Milford Wilson), Andrew Tombes (R.E. Howard), James Dobson (Spike), Percy Helton (Mr. Horker), Glen Turnbull (Specialty Dancer), Louise Beavers (Mammy), James Kirkwood (Doctor), Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer (Freddie), Fred Moultrie (Chitlin).

the story of popular song-writer Stephen Foster

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

Good movie.  Cincinnati, Ohio.   Young Stephen Foster is at work as a book keeper.  He receives 50 copies of his song "Oh, Susannah," one of the most popular hits of its day.  His colleagues are shocked that he received no royalties for the song and that his name is not even on the song sheet. 

Stephen has been saving up to marry his girl, Inez McDowell.  But when one of the black street kids is seriously hurt in an accident he gives all his savings of $22 dollars and 3 Dixie dollars to pay for the child's medical care.  Foster is very grateful to the blacks he has known for they have taught him everything he knows about music  -- a music which is very definitely characterized by a black flavor.

Stopping to help the injured child makes Stephen too late to pick up Inez at the steamboat river dock.  When he arrives at the McDowell home, his rival Milford Wilson is already at the house.  Apparently, he was the one who picked up Inez at the dock.  Jeanie, the sister of Inez, is very glad to see Stephen, but Inez is still furious with him and won't see him.

Stephen lives out in the converted stables of the McDowell home.  He starts playing some of his songs that he wrote.  Jeanie comes out to console him and stays to sing duets with him.  Inez comes out to complain about the music.  She only likes the Classics and considers Foster's popular music vulgar. 

Stephen learns that he is in deep trouble.  Mr. Howard, the publisher of "Oh, Susannah," tells Stephen that he owes the publisher $1,000 because Foster also sent the song to eleven competitors.  Later the famous minstrel Edwin P. Christy of the Christy Minstrels comes in to say that Stephen owes him $800 in order to buy out the other popular singers to whom Stephen also sent copies of "Oh, Susannah." 

But Stephen's brother, the wealthy Dunning Foster, arrives in the nick of time.  He goes on the attack against both Christy and Mr. Howard for not giving his brother any royalties for his song.  Christy takes it well and befriends the Foster brothers.  He heads over to see Stephen with Dunning and finds four new sure-fire hits that Stephen has written.  Christy is so enthusiastic that he takes over Inez's recital to sing Foster songs for the assembled group. 

Inez is furious again at Stephen.  To try to make it up to her, he says he will introduce her to the famous opera singer Jenny Lind.  He also swears to Inez that he will devote himself only to the Classics. 

But Inez proves to be not only completely self-centered but also a two-timer for she is in love with Milford.  Jeanie deliberately shows Stephen Milford kissing Inez.  Stephen falls apart and runs away.  Before leaving he tears up a lot of the music in his apartment. 

Jeanie, Mrs. McDowell, Dunning Foster and Christy do all they can to find Stephen.  They decide to travel south downriver in search of Stephen.  They all meet at Natchez, Mississippi on the Mississippi River.  They are about to give up hope when Jeanie hears the sound of Stephen playing his flute in the local bar.  They are re-united. 

Stephen finally realizes that it is Jeanie he loves rather than her selfish sister, Inez. 

 

I really liked the movie, partly because I grew up in segregated Florida and learned many Stephen Foster songs in school.  My favorite was "Old Black Joe."  I also liked the movie because I had visited the Stephen Foster Museum along the Suwannee River in Florida to find that I had never even heard quite a few of Foster's most famous tunes.  The movie is a musical and many of Foster's tunes are sung by four very good singers.  I especially liked hearing for the first time his song about his Old Dog Tray.  In addition, I liked the emphasis on the importance of black-influenced minstrel music in the popular music of the time.  Plus, the story is a nice, sweet love story.  Much of the music now-a-days would not be played because it is politically incorrect, but don't let that discourage you.  I'm a civil rights activist and I love that minstrel music and dancing.   American music has been greatly influenced by our African-Americans and we should celebrate that, even if the old music is no longer politically correct.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 


Historical Background:

 

See CHAPTER 9.  PLANTATION LIFE  of Discovering Jacksonville and the Surrounding Area:  Historical Tours.

 

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