Music for Millions (1944): Koster’s Oscar-Nominated Musical Film, Starring Margaret O’Brien, June Allyson, and Jimmy Durante

Reliable craftsman Henry Koster directed Music for Million, a musical film (or rather drama with music), starring Margaret O’Brien, and real life musicians Jose Iturbi and Jimmy Durante.

Margaret O’Brien, child star, plays “Mike,” a girl who arrives in N.Y. to stay with her pregnant older sister Barbara Ainsworth (June Allyson), who lives with her co-players in a symphony orchestra.

The orchestra plans to go on a tour of army camps,  when a telegram informing them of the death of Barbara’s soldier husband in the Pacific war theater.

The girls keep the tragic news from Barbara until her baby is born.

The orchestra plays classical standards before military audiences.  Iturbi conducts the group and plays piano pieces, while Durante sings, while functioning as Mike’s surrogate grandfather.

Just after giving birth, Barbara receives a letter from her husband that he’s recuperating in military hospital.

Running time: 115 minutes

Commercial appeal:

A Christmas release, the movie hit theaters on December 18, 1944.

Many women, whose husbands served in the army during WWII, could relate emotionally to June Allyson’s perpetually anxious wife, waiting to get news about her husband.

The movie, made at the height of Margaret O’Brien as a popular, who received top billing–it followed Minnelli’s musical masterpiece, Meet Me in St. Louis–was successful at the American and international box-office, due to its timely subject and great music (both classic and more modern).

Made on a budget of $1.7 million, Music for Millions generated a profit of close to $1 million for the studio.

Oscar Nominations: 1


Margaret O’Brien as Mike

Jose Iturbi as Himself

Jimmy Durante as as Andrew

June Allyson as Barbara Ainswort

Marsha Hunt as Rosalin

Hugh Herbert as Uncle Ferdinan

Harry Davenport as Docto

Marie Wilson as Mari

Larry Adler as Larry

Ben Lessy as Kickebus

Connie Gilchrist as Travelers Aid Woma

Katharine Balfour as Elsa

Helen Gilbert as Hele

Mary Parker as Anit

Ethel Griffies as Mrs. McGuff

Eddie Jackson as Singer

Jack Roth as Drummer


Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy

Performed by Larry Adler on harmonica, and Jose Iturbi on piano

Dvorak, Symphone N. 9 in E Minor, 4th Movement, conducted by Iturbi

Piano Concerto in A Minor, music by Edvard Grieg, performed by Iturbi

The March of the Toys from Babes in Toyland,  music by Victor Herber

Waltz in E Minor, music by Fredric Chopin, performed by Iturbi

Hallelujah Chorus, from The Messiah, music by Handel

Toscanini, Iturbi and Me, written by Harold Spina, Walter Bullock and Jimmy Durante

At Sundown, written by Walter Donaldson

Umbriago, written by Jimmy Durante and Irving Caesar

Jam Session, music by Calvin Jackson