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Beautiful high society type Doris Worthington is entertaining guests on her yacht in the Pacific when it hits a reef and sinks. She makes her way to an island with the help of singing sailor Stephen Jones. Her friend Edith, Uncle Hubert, and Princes Michael and Alexander make it to the same island but all prove to be useless in the art of survival. The sailor is the only one with the practical knowhow to survive but Doris and the others snub his leadership offer. That is until he starts a clam bake and wafts the fumes in their starving faces. The group gradually gives into his leadership, the only question now is if Doris will give into his charms. Written by
Gary Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
WE'RE NOT DRESSING (Paramount, 1934), directed by Norman Taurog, may sound like a pre-code movie set at a nudist colony, but in spite of this offbeat title, it's actually a tuneful, in fact, very tuneful musical-comedy set on a South Pacific island. Heading the cast is Bing Crosby, taking a new direction in his fourth leading role for Paramount in a revamped story to James M. Barrie's novel, "The Admirable Crichton."
The story opens on a yacht christianed "Doris" where Prince Alexander (Jay Henry) and Prince Michael (Ray Milland), a couple of phonies out to nab rich women, accompany the wealthy yacht owner named Doris Worthington (Carole Lombard) on a cruise in the South Pacific. Also on board is her Uncle Hubert (Leon Errol), and his man-chasing fiancée, Edith (Ethel Merman). Doris is loved by Alexander and Michael, but while faced with a dilemma as to which one she should marry, she also has her eye on a deck hand sailor named Steve Jones (Bing Crosby). Aside from taking orders from her, he takes on the responsibility in caring for her pet bear, Droopy. When the drunken Hubert takes over the helm of the yacht, causing it to go out of control, it eventually sinks, causing all passengers to jump overboard in their life preservers. The crew is lost at sea while Steve, accompanied by Droopy and the ever-complaining Doris, comes upon an deserted island. Eventually the island is inhabited by the two princes, Hubert and Edith. On the other side of the island are George and Gracie Martin (George Burns and Gracie Allen), a couple of botanists working on experiments, adding more to the confusion.
Unlike the easy-going character he was to play on film through much of his career, WE'RE NOT DRESSING places Crosby on the tough side, especially on the island where he takes control over the castaways, ready to fight the two princes, and keeping the temperamental Doris under control by dunking her head in the ocean water or giving her a facial slap in return for a kiss.
A fine selection of tunes by Harry Revel and Mack Gordon include: "It's a Lie, It's a Lie!" (sung by sailors); "A Sailor Must Be True to Any One Girl," (sung by Bing Crosby); "It's a Lie, It's a Lie!" "It's a New Spanish Custom" (sung by Ethel Merman); "I Positively Refuse to Sing" (with a brief insert of "Stormy Weather"); "May I?" "She Reminds Me of You," "Goodnight, Lovely Little Lady," "Love Thy Neighbor," "May I?" "Once in a Blue Moon" (all sung by Crosby); "It's the Aninal in Me" (sung briefly by Merman); and "Goodnight, Lovely Little Lady" (sung by Crosby). Of the many songs, "May I?" is no doubt the best in the bunch. The latter part of the story finds Crosby crooning the haunting "Once in a Blue Moon" to Lombard in the foreground of the shining moon. According to Bob Dorian, former host of American Movie Classics, in one of its several broadcasts in 1992, commented on the cut number, "It's the Animal in Me," sung by Ethel Merman, and inserted to another musical, THE BIG BROADCAST OF 1936 (1935) starring Jack Oakie. In spite of that tune taken out of WE'RE NOT fadeout.
WE'RE NOT DRESSING can be categorized as the most tuneful of the Bing Crosby musicals, consisting as many as six songs heard before reaching the twenty minute mark. More tunes are sung, some reprized, before coming to its 75 minute conclusion. Reminiscent to early sound musicals of the 1929-30 period, the film consists of a leading couple (Crosby and Lombard) supported by a secondary comical couple (Merman and Errol) taking part in songs while going into their comedic dance. As an added attraction, there's the comedy team of the serious-minded Burns and daffy Allen as another secondary couple around to enlighten things with their now familiar comic exchanges having no bearing with the story. In one prime scene, Gracie demonstrates to George how she captures lions and tigers with her numerous "moose traps." This sequence is generally amusing until George's predicament becomes a bit too painful to become humorous as he falls victim to Gracie's contraption, with his feet trapped in shackles and hands tied over his head to be left behind as he faces a loaded rifle pointing directly in his direction. In spite of this minor flaws, any film consisting of a live crooning and roller skating around the deck, is one crazy movie.
Of the Crosby musicals of the early 1930s, WE'RE NOT DRESSING ranks one of the longer survivors on commercial television in the 1970s before shifting over to cable stations as American Movie Classics (1991-92), the Disney Channel (1990s) and Turner Classic Movies where it premiered August 17, 2006 during its all day tribute to Carole Lombard. Distributed to home video in the 1990s, WE'RE NOT DRESSING continues to find a new audience with its current availability on DVD. Good night, lovely little lady. (***)
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