A Universal Army enlistment promotion, produced as a musical showcase for Harry James, the Andrews Sisters, Joe E. Lewis, and Donald O'Connor & Peggy Ryan. The film's thin plot has James ...
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A Universal Army enlistment promotion, produced as a musical showcase for Harry James, the Andrews Sisters, Joe E. Lewis, and Donald O'Connor & Peggy Ryan. The film's thin plot has James drafted, and joining him is the band's lead vocalist Lon Prentice (Dick Foran), who doesn't believe that Army training and regulations are necessary for anyone of his skill and fame. Shemp Howard steals the film whenever James and the Andrewses aren't performing. As Sgt. Snavely, he's effectively teamed with Mary Wickes as his shrewish fiancée, trying desperately to keep her away from the attentions of nightclub comic and USO performer Lancelot Pringle McBiff (Joe E. Lewis). Shemp also has the opportunity to clown onstage with the Andrews Sisters during a musical finale, as they perform Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree. Arguably, Shemp's best solo feature film credit. Written by
Ah, if only more movies were this unpretentious and this much fun!
This is one of those movies which usually gets dismissed as ephemeral junk (look at the ratings in all those "Movies for TV" type books). But so far this year I have seen it twice, and have enjoyed it immensely both times round. This is certainly not due to the plot, which is your standard guy joins armed forces..guy has attitude problem...guy learns the error of his ways type plot which seemed to be recycled endlessly by Universal at around this time in their Abbott and Costello pictures. Fortunately the plot doesn't intrude too much into this movie, and in fact apart from its patriotic fervor, which is understandable in the context of the time, one of the joys of this picture is that it doesn't take itself in the slightest bit seriously.
What this picture does have going for it is a great cast, and a veteran comedy director. While the cast may not be big name stars, for anyone out there familiar with the entertainment world of this period, almost everyone in it has a recognizable persona. It also has some great music, and some really off the wall humour. The opening sequence with Shemp Howard and Mary Wickes is an absolute delight, and the surreal nature of the humour continues throughout (especially the bit with Ernest Treux), even into the musical numbers. The Andrews Sister's "apple tree" effort has to be one of the most bizarre (and entertaining) musical numbers I've ever seen. Finally, watching this picture reminded me of what a personable performer, and of what an under-appreciated singer Dick Foran was. I give it 8 out of 10. No accounting for taste, is there?
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