Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (1933)

“His Home Was the Park! His Roof—the Sky!” In one of his best film performances, Al Jolson portrays an enlightened New York City bum known as “Bumper,” the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Central Park.” A delightfully offbeat musical comedy directed by Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front), Hallelujah, I’m a Bum is a true artifact of the Great Depression. Bumper and his sidekick “Acorn” (Edgar Connor) return to New York City after spending the winter in Florida. No ordinary tramp, Bumper is pals with the actual Mayor of New York City, “John Hastings” (Frank “The Wizard of Oz” Morgan). When Hastings accuses his beautiful girlfriend “June Marcher” (Madge Evans) of cheating, she tries to commit suicide by jumping over a bridge in Central Park but is saved by Bumper, who falls in love with her (she’s conveniently amnesiac and starts to fall for him too). Forget the plot and enjoy Jolson at his best, the catchy Rodgers and Hart songs and rhyming dialogue, and the great supporting cast, including silent comedians Harry Langdon (as the garbage-picking “Egghead”) and Chester Conklin (as “Sunday”). In the United States, the film was released to mixed reviews and proved to be a box-office disaster. For the British release, the title of the movie was changed to Hallelujah, I’m a Tramp since “bum” is slang for “butt.” Believe it or not, Morgan’s character actually remarks, “There’s no place like home.”

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