Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938): Henry King’s Oscar Nominated Musical, Starring Alice Faye

Henry King’s well-crafted Depression musical, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, boast 28 of Irving Berlin’s greatest songs.

Spanning two decades (1915 to 1938), the saga (scripted by Kathryn Scola, Lamar Trotti, and Michael Sherman) depicts the journey of Roger Grant (played by the stiff but handsome Tyrone Power) from San Francisco’s Nob Hill beginnings as a classical musician all the way to fame and success playing ragtime.

Along the way, he hires and then fall in love with singer Stella Kirby (the fabulous chanteuse Alice Faye, who was Berlin’s favorite choice for the role), but beforw wining her heart, he first has to defeat the amorous efforts of his rival Charlie Dwyer (Don Ameche).

You can spot in the cast the young but already vibrant Ethel Merman, before she became a big Broadway and Hollywood star.

Oscar Nominations: 6

Picture, produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, with Harry Joe Brown
Original Story: Irving Berlin
Interior Decoration: Bernard Herzbrun, Boris Leven
Song: “Now It Can Be Told,” music and lyrics by Irving Berlin
Score: Alfred Newman
Editing: Barbara McLean

Oscar Awards: 1


Oscar Context

In 1938, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” competed for the Best Picture Oscar with nine other films: Frank Capra’s comedy “You Can’t Take It With You,” which won, “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Boys Town,” “The Citadel,” “Four Daughters,” “La Grande Illusion” (“Grand Illusion,” Renoir’s French film), “Jezebel,” “Pygmalion,” and “Test Pilot.”

“Alexander’s Ragtime Band” lost out the Art Direction and Editing Oscar to the Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling adventure, “The Adventures of Robin Hood.”
The Writing Oscar went to Eleanore Griffin and Dore Schary (later head of MGM) for “Boys Town,” and the Best Song to Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin for their mega-hit, “Thanks for the Memory,” from the Paramount musical, “The Big Broadcast of 1938.”

Oscar Records

Frank Capra became the first filmmaker to win three Director Oscarsin a very short period of time (1934, 1936, 1938).