Higher and Higher (film)

Higher and Higher is a 1944[1] musical film starring Michèle Morgan, Jack Haley, and Frank Sinatra, loosely based on a 1940 Broadway musical written by Gladys Hurlbut and Joshua Logan. The film version, written by Jay Dratler and Ralph Spence with additional dialogue by William Bowers and Howard Harris, diverges significantly from its source.

Higher and Higher
Theatrical poster
Directed byTim Whelan
Produced byTim Whelan
Written byMusical:
Gladys Hurlbut
Joshua Logan
Jay Dratler
Ralph Spence
Add'l dialogue:
William Bowers
Howard Harris.
StarringMichèle Morgan
Jack Haley
Frank Sinatra
Music bySongs:
Jimmy McHugh (music)
Harold Adamson (lyrics)
Constantin Bakaleinikoff
CinematographyGene Milford
Edited byRobert De Grasse
Distributed byRKO
Release date
  • January 1, 1944 (1944-01-01) (US[1])
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2 million[2][3]

The film has songs by Jimmy McHugh (music) and Harold Adamson (lyrics), as well as one song by Rodgers and Hart, "Disgustingly Rich," that remains from the stage production.


The household staff of millionaire piano manufacturer Cyrus Drake hasn't been paid for 7 months when his bankruptcy and impending foreclosure is announced. With the wife and daughter of Cyrus on a long trip abroad, a scheme is formed to pass off the attractive young scullery maid Millie as the socialite daughter, Pamela Drake, and marry her off to a rich man so there'll be money for all.

The valet, Mike O'Brien, helps with the transformation, unaware that Millie is secretly in love with him. Asked if she'd ever been courted, Millie mentions that she likes the way a young man next door sometimes sings to her. His name is Frank Sinatra. Frank's crooning is featured, to the delight of his bobby soxer fan base. There are also many tongue-in-cheek jokes at his expense, e.g. "You sound like someone I've heard on the radio!" and "I'm going to listen to Bing!".

The social secretary Sandy begins to teach Millie the proper etiquette and how to walk and talk like a debutante. At her coming-out ball, where Georgia Keating, a high-society friend of the Drakes, wants her daughter Katherine to be considered the most desirable deb, Millie is nudged toward Sir Victor Fitzroy Victor, K.B.O.B.E, a titled nobleman she should marry.

No one there knows Victor can't even pay his hotel bill and is actually a petty thief named Joe Brown. He's hoping to catch a rich girl to pay off his own debts. Millie isn't in love, but agrees to marry him for everyone's sake. Mike mistakenly thinks she's in love with Frank, so he helps Millie get out of the wedding at the last minute. Mike also stumbles onto a hidden speakeasy in the Drake basement which contains the Drake family's valuable first harpsichord and a fully stocked wine cellar. When the place is opened as "Drake's Amsterdam Tavern, New York's most novel nightclub," their financial troubles are over. Victor, aka Joe Brown, works there as a bartender! Finally realizing his love for Millie, Mike nobly bows out so she can be with Frank. Mike leaves to resume his vaudeville career. When he receives an invitation to Frank and Katherine's wedding, Mike returns to confront Frank for spurning Millie. Much to his surprise, he finally learns that Millie has only ever been in love with him. Mike and Millie begin their romance, dancing beautifully Higher and Higher into the clouds.

Main cast

Production notes

Higher and Higher marked the second of Sinatra's forty-plus film roles.[4] (His first was in the film Reveille with Beverly, in which he played himself.)


The film made a profit of $780,000.[5]


The film was nominated for a 1945 Oscar for Best Music, Original Song for the song "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night", and also for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture for Constantin Bakaleinikoff.


  1. AFI: Higher and Higher Linked 2013-07-17
  2. HOLLYWOOD SPREADS ITSELF By FRED STANLEY HOLLYWOOD.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 13 Feb 1944: X3.
  3. "Top Grossers of the Season", Variety, 5 January 1944 p 54
  4. "Frank Sinatra - The Early Years Collection : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Dvdtalk.com. Retrieved 2012-11-26.
  5. Richard B. Jewell, Slow Fade to Black: The Decline of RKO Radio Pictures, Uni of California, 2016
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