Friday, January 24, 2003


This all-star wartime revue from Paramount is much more enjoyable than MGM's similar (but overlong and bloated) THOUSANDS CHEER. The plotline: Eddie Bracken is a sailor whose dad (Victor Moore) has told him that he runs Paramount when in reality he's just a security guard there. Now Bracken and his Navy buddies are in town and expecting a tour and a show, and Betty Hutton (as Bracken's pen-pal girlfriend, a switchboard operator at the studio) helps Moore pull off his trick (shades of LADY FOR A DAY). Bracken and Hutton are both good, better than they would be a couple of years later for Preston Sturges in the hyperactive farce MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK. Walter Abel is the "real" studio boss B. G. DeSoto (a caricature, I assume, of truly real Paramount producer B. G. DeSylva), and the underrated Anne Revere is his loyal secretary. Of course, the narrative is just a backdrop for a bunch of musical numbers and comic skits, most of which are bundled together in the last half-hour, as an all-star show for the Navy. Folks like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd, Franchot Tone, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Susan Hayward, Fred MacMurray, and Cecil B. DeMille participate. Some of the songs are top-notch; one, "That Old Black Magic," danced wonderfully by Vera Zorina, won an Oscar. Another, "A Sweater, a Sarong, and a Peek-a-Boo Bang," sung by Paulette Goddard, Dorothy Lamour, and Lake, is a very funny commentary on celebrity. The best bit, however, is a song, presented as though it was a number in a new Preston Sturges movie (with Sturges doing a cameo) called "Hit The Road to Dreamland," sung by Dick Powell and Mary Martin, joined toward the end by a black male vocal quartet who take the song in a whole new direction. I don't think I'd ever seen Martin in a movie, or in anything except as Peter Pan on TV, so that alone made the film worth watching. Hope and Crosby are top-billed but don't really have much to do. A famous sketch by George S. Kaufman, "If Men Played Cards Like Women Do," is presented here with Fred MacMurray, Ray Milland, and Franchot Tone, and is quite funny, mostly since the men play it completely straight, never shifting into mincing camp (until the very end). This is also the only movie (I'm guessing) where you can see Arthur Treacher in drag! Very fun.

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