Friday, June 16, 2017


During World War II, Rosie the Riveter was a pop culture propaganda figure created to encourage and empower the homefront women who were 1) taking over the manual labor jobs that were left empty when the male workforce emptied out, and 2) working at defense plants producing aircraft and weapons for the war. This B-movie, rather surprisingly, handles the wartime propaganda very lightly and focuses more on a romantic comedy angle. The story, clearly inspired by the 1943 classic THE MORE THE MERRIER, is set in a defense factory town where, due to the huge influx of workers, housing is scarce. Rosie (Jane Frazee) and Charlie (Frank Albertson) arrive simultaneously at a boarding house run by Grandma Quill, both wanting the last available room. While they argue, two more workers, Vera (Vera Vague) and Kelly (Frank Jenks), show up, having already been promised rooms by Grandma's rambunctious grandson Buzz (Carl Switzer). The solution: the two men, who work the midnight shift, will share the room during the day, and the women, on the day shift, will sleep there at night. Of course, complications ensue: Rosie already has a fiancĂ©, Wayne, a boring stick-in-the-mud who is the personnel manager at the factory where they all work, but after getting stuck at the top of a Ferris wheel with Charlie, sparks fly; Vera finds herself getting sweet on Kelly; Grandma's adult daughter Stella keeps moving in and out depending on how mad she is at her husband, and teenage granddaughter Stella is constantly using the roomies' phone to make and break dates—when asked what would be so bad about spending one evening dateless, she replies, "That shouldn't happen to a dog!"

The outcomes are predictable; not only does the stick-in-the-mud get dumped, but Charlie, who's been desperate to be a Marine, finally gets his wish. This plotpoint is really the only time that a propaganda message is highlighted, and it leads to the song "Rosie the Riveter" being turned into a big patriotic production number at the end. This Republic Pictures film has production values a cut above the norm, and if the script is occasionally weak, the acting is fine. The Vera Vague story is interesting: the actress' real name was Barbara Jo Allen, and Vera Vague was a character she did in comedy routines on the radio. It proved so popular that she adopted the name herself in some of her movies where the shrill character was appropriate to the role. In this film, her character is called Vera and she is billed as Vera Vague, a little trick that she did quite a bit in the 40s. Switzer (Alfalfa in the Our Gang movies) and Louise Erickson are good as the kids, as is Maude Eburne as the grandmother. [Streaming]

No comments: