Monday, July 14, 2014


We are warned right away via musical number: "Hey there, mister, you better hide your sister 'cause the fleet's in!" Shy sailor Casey Kirby (William Holden) gets roped into kissing a movie star for a publicity photo and all his fellow sailors start jokingly referring to him as the Navy's best ladies’ man. Jake (Leif Erickson), who fancies himself a real stud, bets Casey's buddy Barney (Eddie Bracken) that Casey can't get the Countess of Swingland (Dorothy Lamour), a singer at a San Francisco dance hall, to kiss him in public; apparently, she has the reputation of being a real ice queen. Barney really needs to win the bet so he does everything he can to get Casey and the Countess together. Thus begins a series of misadventures between Casey and the Countess: first he misinterprets her interest—she lets him accompany her one night in order to escape the attentions of a rich old geezer—then she learns about the bet but doesn't understand that Casey is really falling in love with her. For good measure, the Countess's brash roommate and fellow singer (Betty Hutton) gets interested in Barney.

This cute Paramount musical was filmed in late 1941 before Pearl Harbor, though it was released in early 1942, after the United States entered the war, so it occupies a strange narrative place. In the movie, there is no mention of war; in fact, Holden refers to having one last short stint in the Pacific before his Navy duties are over, something that probably would have rung false to moviegoers of 1942. The plot is a variation on the Astaire/Rogers movies in which a mismatched couple slowly fall in love. This doesn't have the wit or visual style of those films; it relies more on physical comedy, and your tolerance for the wacky stylings of Betty Hutton will determine how much of this you will sit through. I lasted til the end but just barely. The very young William Holden (pictured to the right of Bracken) is quite comely and creates an interesting character: he's not shy in the obvious comical way that most actors of the time would have been, but instead he seems more like a thoughtful, quiet young man still figuring out his place in the world. Lamour is brittle and fairly unappealing; I didn't know what Holden saw in her that made him continue with his mild pursuit. I'm not a fan of Hutton, and this movie didn't change my mind, but she does have one good number, "Arthur Murray Taught Me to Dance in a Hurry." I like Bracken and he's fine here, managing the tricky task of being the comic sidekick without going overboard and becoming irritating. Jimmy Dorsey and his band perform backup throughout and there are two standards in the soundtrack, "Tangerine" (which became a hit again in the disco era) and "I Remember You." Also with Gil Lamb, a tall Ray Bolger-type dancer, and Big Band performers Jimmy Dorsey, Helen O'Connell and Bob Eberly. Cute but not essential. [TCM]

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