February 03, 1992 12:00 PM

Ned Beatty, Adrian Dunbar

Let’s cut to the chase. See this movie. Okay, it’s what is known in the trade as a “little movie” (i.e., in budget and box office potential). It is, however, as winsome and charming as anything to hit the screen in the last year or three.

Adrian (My Left Foot) Dunbar plays an English concert promoter and self-promoter named Micky O’Neill who, as he puts it, “finds a kind of giving in the taking.” Intent on resuscitating a barely breathing English nightclub, he hires a singer named Franc Cinatra. “Who’d you book for next week?” someone waggishly asks after franc flops. “Bing Crosby with a K?”

Micky’s love life is nothing to light up a marquee either. When his fiancée, Nancy (Tara Fitzgerald, in her screen debut), declares her adoration in the heat of lovemaking, all Micky can muster is, “Vice versa, darling.”

But soon Micky is on to something big: He has booked a Mr. X, who would have you believe he’s the infamous tenor Josef Locke. (Locke, a superb, real-life Irish performer, went into hiding in the ’50s to avoid prosecution for tax evasion: he subsequently settled the matter with authorities.) Hear My Song then evolves into a tale about Locke: Just before his disappearance, he judged a beauty pageant. Nancy’s mother, Cathleen (Shirley-Anne Field), won the tiara—and Locke’s heart—but the romance was cut short when the arrival of tax authorities necessitated a speedy exit.

Unfortunately, Mr. X turns out to be an impostor, much to the fun of Micky’s ticket buyers and the heartbreak of Cathleen, who still carries a torch for the tenor. Now determined to redeem himself, Micky sets off in search of the real Locke (played by Ned Beatty).

Hear My Song, which invites favorable comparison with Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero and Gregory’s Girl, does lose some steam as it heads for the climax and does occasionally take on the coloration of an old-style Disney movie. But these are quibbles in view of the jaunty, lilting score and the buoyant screenplay. Dunbar, coauthor of the script, is wonderfully appealing as a man who tells the truth only as a last resort, while Beatty brings great comic flair and vulnerability to his role as a pub-crawling, poker-playing, handkerchief-waving singer on the lam, who is, in his own way, on the level. (R)

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