Swing High, Swing Low (film)

Swing High, Swing Low is a 1937 American romantic comedy drama film directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray.[1][2]

Swing High, Swing Low
Theatrical poster
Directed byMitchell Leisen
Produced byArthur Hornblow, Jr.
Written byVirginia Van Upp
Oscar Hammerstein II
StarringCarole Lombard
Fred MacMurray
Music byPhil Boutelje
Victor Young
CinematographyTed Tetzlaff
Edited byEda Warren
Paramount Pictures
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 12, 1937 (1937-03-12)
Running time
92 minutes
82 minutes (DVD)
CountryUnited States

It is the second film adaptation of the popular Broadway play Burlesque by George Manker Watters and Arthur Hopkins (after The Dance of Life (1929) and before When My Baby Smiles at Me (1948)).


Working her way as a hairdresser on board a liner traveling through the Panama Canal Zone, Maggie King brushes off a brash young soldier, "Skid" Johnson, on his last day in the Army. However, he is persistent, and the next day she and her friend Ella reluctantly go on a double date with him and his piano player friend Harry in Balboa. In a nightclub, she expresses her distaste of trumpet music, whereupon he impresses her with his amazing prowess with the instrument. When a man tries to pick her up at the bar, he and Skid end up brawling, which lands Skid and Maggie in jail. As a result, Maggie misses her ship back to the States.

With no money left after helping pay the fine, she is forced to move in with Skid and Harry. She talks a skeptical Murphy (a woman) into hiring the unambitious Skid and her as a trumpet player and showgirl, respectively, at "Murphy's Cafe y Bar" by telling Murphy that they are married. She clashes with fellow showgirl Anita Alvarez, Skid's former girlfriend, but Anita soon leaves for a better job. Maggie and Skid eventually fall in love and do marry.

She prods the reluctant Skid into going to New York City to play in a major nightclub, leaving her behind. She finds out afterward that Anita works there. He is a big success, teamed with songstress Anita. Fame and fortune go to his head. He neglects to send Maggie the fare to join him and does not answer her letters. Finally Maggie borrows the money from Murphy. Anita intercepts her telegram to Skid, telling him where to meet her boat. After waiting at the pier for a long time, Maggie calls Anita's hotel room on a hunch, and a drunk Skid answers (Anita invited him in for a nightcap after a night on the town together). Maggie divorces him. Ella finds out and tells her old boyfriend, wealthy rancher Harvey Howell. Mary plans to sail to France to obtain a divorce and marry Harvey.

Skid is so devastated, he starts drinking and missing performances, costing him his job and his career. Finally, he tries to reenlist, but fails the physical exam. Then, he runs into Harry, who has been searching for him. Harry has gotten a band together for a live radio performance to audition for an important sponsor and (to help his old friend out) wants Skid to play with them. Skid's old agent Georgie tries to get Maggie, just returned from France, to pull Skid into shape. She rushes over and does her best. During the broadcast, Skid is terrible at first, but after Maggie tells him that she is sticking to him "til death do us part", he recaptures his old brilliance.



Frank Nugent, critic for The New York Times, wrote "'Swing High, Swing Low,' like most Ferris wheels, doesn't go anywhere—at least, nowhere that you have not been. Its players really are worthy of better treatment."[1]


In 1965, the film entered the public domain in the United States because the claimants did not renew its copyright registration in the 28th year after publication.[3]

Swing High, Swing Low was released on DVD (all regions) by Synergy Entertainment on May 15, 2007.


  1. Nugent, Frank S. (April 15, 1937). "Movie Review: Swing High, Swing Low (1937)". The New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2008.
  2. Malcolm, Derek (May 18, 2000). "Mitchell Leisen: Swing High, Swing Low". The Guardian. Retrieved November 15, 2008. Do you recall Swing High, Swing Low, Easy Living, or Remember the Night? Probably not. They were made by Mitchell Leisen, who worked through the 30s, 40s and 50s and was never considered a major director. But looking at his films now, you can see at least a minor master.
  3. Pierce, David (June 2007). "Forgotten Faces: Why Some of Our Cinema Heritage Is Part of the Public Domain". Film History: An International Journal. 19 (2): 125–43. doi:10.2979/FIL.2007.19.2.125. ISSN 0892-2160. JSTOR 25165419. OCLC 15122313.
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