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Edwin J. Burke
Shanghai nightclub singer Jean falls in love to a sailor, but after his ship left Shangahai, he is of the oppinion that he cannot support her in the States, so he writes her in a letter, that he will not see her again, but two practical jokers intercept it and write another with an opposite content. Jean comes to the states, but her sailor doesn't aknowledge her, but the two don't give up trying to bring Jean and sailor back together. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
The extremely beautiful (and sexy) Alice Faye has long been underrated as an actress and a singer. One of the best moments of film acting I've ever seen was Faye's big scene in "Alexander's Ragtime Band", as the former girlfriend of bandleader Tyrone Power who has come to attend a performance of his Army show in the hopes of going backstage afterwards to tell him she loves him after all and she's decided to take him back. The show ends with a stirring finale, as Power and his cast (all in uniform) march up the theatre's gangway singing "We're on our way to France". The show has ended every performance with this number. Faye's great scene comes at the moment when she realises that this time it isn't an act: Power and the other soldiers are marching directly from here to a troopship, and if she can't get through the theatre crowd in time to say goodbye to him, he'll never know how she really feels... Faye's emotional response is riveting, and absolutely believable.
Sadly, for most filmgoers, Alice Faye is either altogether forgotten or a camp icon. In the original screenplay for 'The Last of Sheila', Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins made a cheap joke about Alice Faye's name being pig-Latin for 'phallus'. She deserves better.
'She Learned about Sailors', regrettably, is typical of the fare that 20th Century-Fox usually lumbered Faye with. She plays a nightclub chantoozey in Shanghai, although 'Shanghai' looks just like one of Fox's low-budget Chinatown sets. The later action shifts to Stateside ... which also looks like one of Fox's sets, but not quite so low-budget.
The great delight of this film is the knockabout comedy team of Mitchell and Durant, as two sailors who play a 'joke' on Faye and their shipmate Lew Ayres. Short stocky Frank Mitchell and tall urbane Jack Durant were a vaudeville act whose turn consisted of bizarre acrobatics and violent knockabout, with Durant picking up Mitchell and flinging him all over the stage. They first made their impression on film in 'Stand Up and Cheer'. Like a lot of other vaudeville acts, they soon discovered that the act they'd honed for years on the vaude circuit would get stale very fast on the movie screen.
In 'She Learned about Sailors', blessedly, Mitchell and Durant get to perform *two* knockabout routines, and these are classic examples of vaudeville pratfall humour. This film and 'Stand Up and Cheer' used up all their material. Afterwards, Mitchell drifted out of showbiz. Durant, a handsome man who strongly resembled Clark Gable (and who could have worked as Gable's stand-in if he'd signed with MGM), drifted through several more films, playing bit roles with no lines, such as his brief appearance as a lighthouse engineer in 'Captain January'. When Mae West left Paramount for Fox, Durant briefly dated her ... but it was a publicity stunt to hype her fading career and give him some name value.
Alice Faye sings pleasantly (and briefly) in 'She Learned about Sailors', but none of her material here is memorable. Harry Green does his usual annoying little Jewish guy routine, this time hiding behind a Spanish name. I'll rate this movie 6 out of 10, mostly for those two comedy turns.
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