Monday, November 26, 2001


This was a pleasant little trifle, sort of like a TV variety show except with a (slim) plot and at feature-film length. It was centered around the real-life Hollywood Canteen where stars waited on, danced with, and performed for servicemen during WWII. The plot involves two servicemen (Robert Hutton and Dane Clark) hanging out there for the weekend. Hutton has a big crush on starlet Joan Leslie (played by herself) and he manages to get a kiss from her, and later wins a weekend of activities with her. Between plot points, we see musical numbers at the Canteen (with, among others, Roy Rogers and the Andrews Sisters). The funnest parts of the film, however, are when real-life stars act like normal, everyday folk. The best ones at projecting this "normal" air (which must have involved about as much acting as a typical fictional film role) are Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and John Garfield. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet have a cute bit of conversation and other stars like Alexis Smith, Eddie Cantor, and Paul Henried breeze through fairly quickly. It's mostly Warners stars; Bogart gets mentioned a couple of times, but he never shows up.

It's a little weird when Joan Leslie plays herself, but probaby somewhat fictionalized: she lives with her parents and sister and has to sneak Hutton out of the house late one evening. Although I have read that she really did live with her family, it still seems improbable for a starlet like her who had several years and movies under her belt to have to sneak around her parents with her boyfriends. Her real-life sister played herself, but her parents are played by actors (her father is Jonathan Hale, who played Mr. Dithers in the "Blondie" series). It's a bit too long (over two hours) and not all the numbers are compelling, but it was still fun to see Bette Davis try to act like a average, run-of-the-mill person. Among those in Hollywood at the time who oozed star quality, Bette must have been pretty near the top of the heap.

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