Its the Fourth of July, and the New York tenements are having a block party; before the party really gets going, Molly (Gaynor) accidentally meets her crush, millionaire Jack Cromwell (Farrell). They hit it off big time, and Jack is impressed with her singing, so he invites her to Southampton, where he can use her talents for a carnival show and, most importantly, to make his fiancée, Jane, jealous.
Musical numbers and Will They or Won't They? ensues.
This is the fifth team up (out of their 12 films) between Gaynor and Farrell, and its the first film to show off their voices, too. Unlike other musical films of the time, this one has the distinction to have decent camera work for the early sound era, and four hits, including (Keep Your) Sunnyside Up, Im a Dreamer, Arent We All," Turn on the Heat, and If I Had a Talking Picture of You.
Sunny Side Up demonstrates the following tropes:
- Beta Couple: Bea (Mollys friend and roommate) and Ed.
- Bluff the Imposter: Jack has brought over Molly under the ruse that she's the daughter of important motor magnates from Detroit. Jane decides to quiz her and asks Molly who she knows in Detroit. Molly stupidly starts naming car brands: the Dodges, the Fords, etc, and it isn't very convincing.
- Crowd Song: After singing (Keep You) Sunnyside Up, Molly invites the crowd to sing the chorus with her. They all join, but she stops the show when she sees one man isnt smiling and makes him smile to continue the song.
- Let's Put on a Show!: Two examples: the neighborhood block party for the poor people in NYC, and the Carnival show for the rich in Southampton.
- Loves Me Not: The song Youve Got Me Pickin Petals ODaisies as performed by Ed and Bea. They both pick actual daisies and make it half song, half a vaudeville act.
- Meet Cute: Jack walks into Molly and Beas apartment instead of Erics and finds Molly in her slip. Shes angry and embarrassed until she finds out who he is.
- The Mistress: Since Jacks footing the bill during Mollys stay in Long Island, everyone thinks Molly is his little affair before marrying Jane. Molly isnt pleased with this rumor.
- The Musical: One of the early ones.
- The Musical Musical: Molly is a performer for her neighborhood, so naturally Jack wants her to be in the carnival show his family is putting on.
- Ms. Fanservice: Not only do we see Ms. Gaynor in her slip, but the big production number of Turn on the Heat is ripe with scantily clad dancers and not too subtle imagery.
- The Oner: The film begins with a tracking shot of the tenements as kids run around the street and the camera goes in and out of peoples apartments during the hot Fourth of July.
- Operation: Jealousy: Not only does Jack want to bring Molly to Southampton to star in the carnival but also to help him make his fiancée jealous. It works, but Jack ends up not disliking the choice he made.
- Shout-Out: Bea mentions John Gilbert as an example of the unattainable men Molly's usually infatuated with. Jack Cromwell becomes the next one when she seems him in the newspaper.
- Something Else Also Rises: During the Turn on the Heat number, the scantily-clad chorus girls perform a dance that causes palm trees to shoot straight up from the ground and bananas to instantly sprout and ripen.