With the name of Busby Berkeley attached to it, it comes as a surprise that Garden of the Moon, while a musical, contains none of the cinematic choreography for which the director/choreographer is famed. There are no big production numbers involving scores of girls, no overhead shots and precision drill-team routines. However, that doesn't mean that the musical numbers don't have flair; it's simply of a quieter kind. Mostly band numbers, they're shot with an eye to keeping the camera engaged, often swooping across to take in individual players and featuring enough cut-aways to keep visual interest. Garden also benefits from a fine Harry Warren score; it's nothing to write home about, but it's tuneful and diverting and each of the songs is a welcome respite from the silly standard-issue plot. A more dynamic leading actor would have perhaps made this film something other than the minor little pleasure that it is. John Payne is fine and sounds good; he simply lacks the real star charisma that the part demands. Pat O'Brien is better, although he tries a bit too hard throughout, and Margaret Lindsay is a very amiable leading lady.
The Garden of the Moon is a fancy New York nightclub owned by Pat O'Brien. Margaret Lindsay (replacing a recalcitrant Bette Davis) is the girl who comes between O'Brien and his bandleader, John Payne. The duplicitous O'Brien spends most of his screen time figuring out various underhanded means to keep Payne from breaking his contract--and to keep Ms. Lindsay for himself. Though directed by Busby Berkeley, Garden of the Moon is surprisingly shy of dance numbers. Its musical highlight is that Looney Tunes standard "The Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish," with vocal solos by John Payne, Johnnie "Scat" Davis, and Jerry Colonna.