Tuesday, August 26, 2003


This is the New York City version of HOLLYWOOD CANTEEN, a wartime revue set at a USO club for soldiers. As with the Hollywood version, this one has a thin plot line involving a forbidden romance and features stars acting like "normal" folks as they volunteer at the club. As far as the story goes, Lon McAllister is California, a naive boy looking for his first kiss; Sunset Carson is Tex who falls for a li'l old Southern gal; William Terry is Dakota, who has sworn off women for the duration, but who winds up involved with the icy Cheryl Walker. He also helps his buddy Jersey (Fred Brady) write love letters to his gal. Marjorie Riordan is sweet on California and, as a hostess at the club, isn't supposed to get involved with the men, but she eventually gives California his kiss, if a rather anti-climactic one. The somewhat tedious story is broken up with lots of songs: Peggy Lee croons "Why Don't You Do Right," the song made famous 40 years later by Jessica Rabbit; Ethel Merman belts out lustily about marching through Berlin; Gracie Fields sings about killing Japs, then performs "The Lord's Prayer." There are big band numbers by Count Basie, Xavier Cugat, Benny Goodman, and Kay Kyser. George Jessel does a vaudeville routine set in a phone booth; Katherine Cornell plays Juliet to a GI's Romeo. Other celebs who pop in include Edgar Bergen, Merle Oberon, Gypsy Rose Lee, Judith Anderson and Talullah Bankhead. Katharine Hepburn, playing herself in a short bit at the end, comes off just like one of her film characters. As one might expect, the comics and musicians are fine, but the filmmakers didn't quite know what to do with the actors (particularly those like Cornell, Alfred Lunt, and Lynn Fontanne who didn't do many movies), and they seem a bit at sea. The movie is good for one go-around, but it's not a keeper.