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Dick Powell shines on Cinefest’s silver screen

— Every March, the Syracuse Cinephile Society’s annual Cinefest draws hundreds of vintage film fans from around the world to little ol’ Liverpool. The attendees view rare movies, most of them shot during the first half of the 20th century.

This year’s screen gems include “Thanks a Million,” a nearly-forgotten1935 musical starring crooner Dick Powell and featuring performances by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and vocal specialties by the Yacht Club Boys.

Noted film critic and author Leonard Maltin, a Cinefest regular, describes “Thanks a Million” as a “very entertaining musical…Good fun, with several breezy tunes.”

Directed by Roy Del Ruth, “Thanks a Million” will be shown at 9 a.m. Sunday, March 16, at Cinefest 34, at the Holiday Inn, on Electronics Parkway. Registration for all four days of Cinefest costs $85, or $30 per day. Screenings begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday, March 13 and run through 5 p.m. Sunday, March 16. Movie memorabilia rooms will be open to the public on Saturday; syracusecinefest.com; 409-4625.

Jazz band politician

Dick Powell was tailor-made to play the lead in “Thanks a Million.” His character, Eric, fronts a jazz band that makes a living playing political rallies. At one such gig, when the candidate shows up drunk Powell pinch-hits for him, and the party machine decides to make the crooner their candidate for governor.

Along the way, Fred Allen portrays a wisecracking manager, Ann Dvorak plays Powell’s sweetheart and Raymond Walburn appears as a blustery politician. And the music truly shines.

The Whiteman Orchestra spotlights mono-monikered Ramona on piano along with The King’s Men singing “New O’leans.” When she was born in Ohio in 1909, Ramona was named Estrild Raymona Myers. No wonder she opted for a single first name. Ramona had replaced Mildred Bailey as Whiteman’s featured vocalist in 1932, and she worked for “The King of Jazz” for most of the decade.

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