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My Gal Sal

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Subject: 15th Academy Awards, Joseph C. Wright, Richard Day (art director), Academy Award for Best Original Musical, Attorney for the Defense
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My Gal Sal

My Gal Sal
Original Poster
Directed by Irving Cummings
Produced by Robert Bassler
Written by Seton I. Miller
Darrell Ware
Karl Tunberg
Helen Richardson (uncredited contributing writer)
Based on story "My Brother Paul" from the book Twelve Men 
by Theodore Dreiser
Starring Rita Hayworth
Victor Mature
Carole Landis
Music by Leigh Harline
Cyril J. Mockridge
Cinematography Ernest Palmer
Edited by Robert L. Simpson
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • April 30, 1942 (1942-04-30)
Running time 103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2 million[1]

My Gal Sal (1942) is a 20th Century Fox musical starring Rita Hayworth and Victor Mature. The film is a biopic of 1890s composer and songwriter Paul Dresser and singer Sally Elliot. It was based on a biographical essay, sometimes erroneously referred to as a book, by Dresser's younger brother, novelist Theodore Dreiser. (Dreiser was the original family name.) Some of the songs portrayed as Dresser's work were actually written by him, but several were created for the film by the Hollywood songwriting team of Ralph Grainger and Leo Robin.[2]

Plot summary

Sally Elliott (Rita Hayworth), a musical star meets up with Indiana boy Paul Dresser (Victor Mature), a runaway who after a brief stopover with a medicine show arrives in Gay Nineties New York. He composes the title tune for the fair lady and becomes the toast of Tin Pan Alley.[3]



The film won the Best Art Direction (Richard Day, Joseph C. Wright and Thomas Little). It was nominated for Best Score[4]


20th Century Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck purchased the story of My Gal Sal from Paul Dreiser for $50,000 in the summer of 1942. Zanuck initially had the script and the lead role of Sally Elliott tailor-made to fit the talents of Fox's biggest female star at the time, Alice Faye. However, Faye opted that she was tired of starring in costume musicals and turned the film down. Afterward, the part was offered to Betty Grable, who was becoming known as a successor to Faye at Fox, but who turned it down, believing Fox was over-working her.

Zanuck thereafter had the script rewritten and redirected to showcase Irene Dunne, but her busy film schedule meant holding up production on My Gal Sal for eighteen months. Zanuck subsequently approached Mae West with the role, but she too turned it down. To this end, Zanuck considered grooming newcomer Carole Landis for the part, but her screen test failed to impress the producers. Despite not winning the part of Sally Elliott, Landis did end up playing the secondary lead of Mae Collins in the film, because she had already been publicized to be appearing the film.

Zanuck finally approaced Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, about borrowing Rita Hayworth for the film. Zanuck had been impressed with Hayworth's performance in the 1941 film version of Blood and Sand, also for Fox. Cohn, on the other hand, was hoping to buy My Gal Sal from Fox and cast Hayworth in the part upon the film's transfer to Columbia. Zanuck, however, rebuffed at selling the film, but instead offered Hayworth an exclusive two-movie contract to star in My Gal Sal and Tales of Manhattan (1942). Cohn eventually agreed to loan Hayworth to Fox for both movies.[5]


My Gal Sal received positive reviews upon its 1942 release.

Daily Variety said the film was a very "lively, merry musical treat. A pricture crammed with color, songs, and movement, carrying broad appeal for all theatergoers, both young and old." Hayworth was proclaimed to have done a "beautiful job" as Sally, while Victor Mature turned out an "impressing performance" as Dresser.

Life stated: My Gal Sal hits a current demand, both in the movies and in radio, for the nostalgic delights of the 1890s."

The film went on to become one of the most-successful Fox films during 1942.


  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "NY Times: My Gal Sal". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  5. ^ Theodore Dreiser Biography Is Bought by Fox -- Monogram Gives Production Schedule By DOUGLAS W. CHURCHILLSpecial to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 05 Mar 1941: 17.

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