|Index||6 reviews in total|
This Dickie Moore musical strikes all the appropriate notes for its
mid-war audience, competently but without any real flair. The biggest
potential for interest in the story, the introduction of the
classically-trained star to hep jive popular music, is side-stepped at
the beginning: he's picked it up on the side already. That pretty well
establishes the tone: this is a simple story, without serious
conflicts, passions or surprises.
The musical numbers are mostly adequate; they're passable but bland, with the notable exception of one pleasant vocal duet. The numbers were written for the movie, and appear to have been designed not to offend anyone. If you're a real fan of swing from the forties, you may be disappointed.
The dialogue is similar; while there are moments that sparkle, much is generic and predictable. The unquestioning sexism in the story is typical of the period, and is here mostly humorous now. Fortunately, it's a story made to play well to youth yet not anger the establishment. It works if used as such: enjoy it and move on.
How does a minor production company keep costs down but still get the
public's attention in the middle of the war? One way is to combine
elements of major studios' successes and hire one known quantity as
headliner. Here, the known quantity is the handsome former child star
Dickie Moore, leading a group of largely unknown actors.
As for the end product, this one has all the elements of a wartime musical, B-picture style: a patriotic theme (without the bevy of stars of a Stage Door -- or Hollywood -- Canteen), a pseudo "let's put on a show" element (in the form of a school orchestra contest), and (thankfully) lots of music. Calling it a mishmash would be unfair, because the film does flow enjoyably, and there's just enough plot to hold it all together.
In the opera-gets-no-respect department, this film introduces a new talent, soprano Gerra Young, to draw the curious, but also delivers on the title's promise to provide plenty of the more popular jive of the day. (Hmmm, what movies today combine rap and opera?) And for whatever reason, this film turned out to be Young's only screen appearance.
In short, "Jive Junction" provides a brief break from the concerns of wartime, whether for the troops at the front or for families back on the home front.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Poor cute Dickie Moore must have taken a friendly ribbing for this
jazzy war era musical comedy, one where he agrees to help the girls put
the boys in their place. At one point, he tells one male classmate that
he doesn't fight; He uses his hands for music only! Of course, being
World War II, he obviously has a female love interest (perky Tina
Thayer), but he's simply just one of the boys who is one of the girls.
It all surrounds the efforts of the girls at this school of music to
provide entertainment for the soldiers on leave, and at first, it's all
classical music that the audience hears. One of the feistier female
students declares, "I don't like the cooking here. Strictly from the
long underwear department!"
The opening sequence is a nice little ballad sung by a Deanna Durbin sound-alike (Gerra Young in her only film role), but the musical stand-out is the jazzy title song at the opening of the teen canteen, and a novelty song called "Cockadodle Doo", sung by Virginia Wiedler/Peggy Ryan look-alike Beverly Boyd. In fact, even while this was made by poverty row studio PRC, it seems more like one of the many teen focused programmers made by Universal where the Dickie Moore role was usually played by Donald O'Connor. The middle of World War II saw a mostly female population, and for the high school aged male population, the anticipation of active duty must have been an Adrenalin booster. This left the needs of every day society in the hands of the women or older men left behind, and
"The soldiers are defending our country. What are you defending but the crease in your trousers?" one sarcastic female teen asks one of the jealous male teens of the attention that the visiting soldiers get. The guys decide to get their share of attention by giving the performance to end all performances, reminding their girlfriends that one day, they too might be soldiers or sailors on leave, and need equal encouragement for the war that was supposed to end all wars. A great musical montage of the boys in the band turns things around their way, giving a truly patriotic feeling to this minor but moving little entry in the "Let's put on a show!" series of many teen films that really rocked the 40's. The story is also stronger than a lot of these films which were mainly variety shows (short of the Mickey/Judy teamings, of course), involving an estate probate issue which may prevent the big show from going on. This is a reminder of the homestead of the war era where civilians fought along in ways today's generation can't even fathom.
PRC quickie for wartime audiences who understandably didn't care as long as they got a few minutes of escape. It's a no-name cast with forgettable musical numbers and the familiar "Let's put on a show" plot. So why watch it now after so many years. Okay, there's no compelling reason, but it does provide a pleasant hour's diversion along with a good look at youth styles and attitudes during those stressed-out war years. This is also a must-see for fans of cult director Edgar G. Ulmer, proving once again that his camera never faltered regardless of the material. Here his stamp can be clearly seen in the brief but effective montage of highschool band competition. But I'm still wondering why that cheap PRC outfit couldn't at least pop the money to cap Gerra Young's teeth for her many singing close-ups. Too bad, because this looks like her one-and-only shot at Deanna Durbin's teen-age operatic crown. Then there's Dickie Moore's eyes, the biggest, blackest, and most liquid of any on Hollywood record of that day or any day. Probably that was what got him started in the movies in the first place. Alright, so I'm no closer to a good reason for watching than I was before. But then how many times have you sat down expecting no more from the movie than pleasant entertainment. You can get that here along with a good glimpse of what youth were like before the teen sub-culture and Rock 'n Roll changed band leaders into strutting stage performers,
Oh dear, I am not sure about the ad line from the 40s which exclaimed "The gayest musical with the gayest new stars".... and I am sure teen star Dickie Moore would have been mortified in later years at that re surfacing.... (he married Jane Powell in the 80s!!) ... however this well made PRC mini musical from 1943 attempts to entertain us with the idea of a high school band opening their own rural milkbar for US soldiers as their war entertainment effort... only to see the girlfriends swoon and dance with the servicemen instead. As a hep musical with lively teens, JIVE JUNCTION ultimately promises more than it delivers (unlike MISTER BIG made at Universal the same year) but it does have one absolutely magnetic interest... and that is the astonishing talent of teen star Dickie Moore. You just can't believe how handsome this kid was.... and he certainly could act. As a truly beautiful baby star in the early 30s in Our Gang and other high profile films he went on to appear in major RKO and FOX films like HEAVEN CAN WAIT. Later in MEMBER OF THE WEDDING in the 50s. JIVE JUNCTION lacks the energy and choreography that it needs and too often is static and under-presented... which is a shame because PRC keenly spent some cash on the production values but slacked on the energy required to sock the pic across. Directed by Edgar Ulmer (of DETOUR fame) it should be better than it is. There is a huge orchestra scene late in the film but by then my interest seriously waned. However for Dickie Moore fans he is a knockout.
This film was produced by Producers Releasing Corp. (PRC), among the
so-called "Poverty Row" film studios of the 1930s and 40s. So you can
imagine how little money was spent making it.
The music is forgettable. Cast member Gerra Young does exhibit an operatic-quality voice, but is sort of a discount Deanna Durbin. The IMDb database doesn't show any other film appearances for her, so let's hope she was able to move on to some kind of position in Grand Opera.
The opening credits for the print recently broadcast by Turner Classic Movies indicates this film has been preserved by the National Film Museum. This immediately begs the questionWHY?
Are their resources so plentiful that they can afford to preserve junk? Some low-budget or B musicals of that era have redeeming features which make them worthwhile. This film has none.
In my opinion, skip this movie. It REALLY wastes an hour of your time.
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|