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First of all, had you done your research, you would've known that all
three branches of the military had (and still have) entertainment
divisions whose sole job is to produce shows for the troops. If you
looked at the "Crazy Credits" section you would've learned that famed
composer Irving Berlin staged the two soldier shows as depicted in the
Yes, many of the skits and songs are terribly dated and yes "This is the Army" is largely a propaganda film, but Berlin singing his "Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" was the lament of every draftee.
Virtually *every* film made during WWII was done either as propaganda or to bolster the spirits on the homefront.
I respectfully suggest watching it again, but instead of looking at it with 2004 cynicism, look at it in the context of the times.
As a twenty-year resident of Yaphank, New York, which is on Long Island
about 60 miles east of Manhattan, I've learned some of the background
of this movie.
Irving Berlin wrote "Yip, Yip, Yaphank" while stationed at Camp Upton in Yaphank during WW I. (Camp Upton is now the Brookhaven National Laboratory.) For this show, which was indeed written to be performed by the soldiers, Berlin wrote "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" and the melody of "God Bless America," which was actually cut from the show in its original form.
The show even ran briefly on Broadway in 1918 with a Camp Upton cast, according to the Internet Broadway Data Base.
After the war ended, the songs were put away, then brought out for the morale-boosting efforts of WW II. Berlin frequently rewrote and reused his songs; he revised the lyrics of "God Bless America" for Kate Smith and the rest, as they say, is history.
This is The Army is patriotic. It is non-stop music from end to end. Ray
Heindorf did an excellent job with the montages of music that are
heard throughout the picture. It's a treat to hear Irving Berlin sing his
own song "O How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning" with its original verse
The print I saw was duplicated from a 35mm print. One can only hope that Warners will restore this film to its original glory. It is a piece of history and its loss would be terrible.
If you plan to rent it, dont get a copy in black and white. The costumes are beautiful in color. The color prints currently available have marginal problems due to the condition of the original master print. Dont let this put you off seeing this. It's well worth the flaws.
Oh yes, there are only a handful of women in the entire production. I warned you.
This movie is a classic of World War II movies. It was made as a moral
booster during the war, and includes the music of Irving Berlin. One thing
to note especially is the song "Someday I'm going to murder the bugler"
which is sung by Irving Berlin himself (wearing his own WWI
In order to really appreciate this movie you need to understand the world in which it was made, which was a whole lot different than 2004. There was a world war and everyone was concerned about stopping evil. (as opposed to today, where everyone is concerned about how terrorism, or the fight against it, is going to disrupt their daily life)
This movie was made as a way to give people something to feel good about, and show patriotism.
I first saw this film on cable in the late 1970's, and was mesmerized by the
story and the music. Certainly, as many people comment, it is
propagandistic, but it is also a masterpiece, showcasing an almost-forgotten
time. Irving Berlin is one of this country's most prolific and best-loved
songwriters, and this musical extravaganza is an homage to his talent and
The cast is unique and wonderful. The main characters are played solidly by "name" stars, but the musical ensemble cast (real U.S. soldiers at the time) are what set this film apart.
A reviewer complaining that it isn't "realistic" overstates the point. So what if you think an "average" army base couldn't produce a cast for a show like this. Film is a medium that attempts to suspend reality and let you enter a place, situation, relationship, time period, etc. that you might not otherwise get to experience. It's sometimes the view of one person's "reality," a manifestation of their own "vision."
My copy of this film is on a very old (early 80's) VHS copy, a low-end bargain release which is of marginal quality, but I love every minute of it. I certainly hope someone reviews some of the specific DVD choices out there, I'd like to get the DVD before I wear out the VHS!
If you enjoy a good flag-waving, patriotic musical, this is a film you will enjoy. If you enjoy Irving Berlin's music, it's a soundtrack you will enjoy. Personally I'd put this on a par with the 1942 film, "Yankee Doodle Dandy," and both films share a few cast members!
Most of Irving Berlin's shows on Broadway were revues and not book type
shows. For that reason they're not frequently revived. All of them
contain topical jokes that only history majors like myself would get
now. But the extreme topicality of This Is The Army and its World War I
predecessor Yip Yap Yaphank guarantee you don't see this one revived
too often no matter how many good songs come from it.
Even to do This Is The Army we have a threadbare plot of sorts. George Murphy is a song and dance man doing the lead in the Ziegfeld Follies when he gets his draft notice for World War I. Like Irving Berlin in real life, he offers to put his entertainment talents at the army's disposal. Murphy also marries Rosemary DeCamp at the same time he goes in the army.
Flash forward to a new World War and Murphy's son Ronald Reagan is going out with Joan Leslie who's the daughter of Charles Butterworth another performer from the Yip Yap Yaphank show back in the day. Reagan gets his draft notice just like dear old dad and he says let's put on a show for the boys. Of course dear old dad volunteers to help as do other veterans of the World War I show.
One thing that Warner's was smart about, they didn't give Ronald Reagan any singing or dancing to do. Reagan's talents such as they are were confined to behind the curtain.
A lot of Hollywood regulars are mixed with members of the original cast of actual soldiers who put on This Is The Army on Broadway. The score is also a mixed one with Irving Berlin allowing several of his older numbers mixed in with the Broadway score of This Is The Army. Most particularly God Bless America which Kate Smith had introduced in 1939 and sang in the film. It dwarfs all the other numbers in the score by comparison, in fact it's only rival in popularity in this film is Irving Berlin's soldier's lament of Oh How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning. And that originally comes from Yip Yap Yaphank. And of course that other barracks ballad telling what civilians will have to do without, the title song of the show and the film.
This Is The Army is dated flag-waving to be sure, but as Irving Berlin said in another song in another show, do you know of a better flag to wave? Both Yip Yap Yaphank and This Is The Army are the product of an immigrant kid who escaped poverty and persecution in the old world of Europe. If Irving Berlin's life isn't the American success story than I don't know a better example. He was grateful to his adopted country and these shows were his way of payback.
I doubt if B picture actor Ronald Reagan had the remotest conception that he would be sitting in the White House as a tenant one day and that he would be giving the nation's greeting to Irving Berlin on his 100th birthday. But that's an American success story too.
This movie was produced as a fund-raiser and as a morale booster. At the time it was filmed we were on the verge of losing the war and the public needed a patriotic lift. The songs are not, perhaps, the best Irving Berlin ever wrote, but they speak of the era in which they were written. For those who are politically-correct, I agree that African-Americans are not shown in the best light, but, right or wrong, that was the attitude then. The minstrel show was still a popular entertainment and the idea of white actors in black-face was considered simply show business. This show was actually staffed by real, honest-to-goodness soldiers with a few actors tossed in for the starring roles. Even if you dislike the movie, appreciate it for the look it gives into American life during the 40s. I, for one, enjoy it a lot and have watched it a half-dozen times. By the way, the sound on the VHS tape is better than on several of the DVD versions that are available.
This is the type of musical that Hollywood did best and it sure was
popular with the public. However, 65 years later, the film has lost
much of its appeal due to changes in movie styles as well as the fact
that the film's value as a propaganda tool is now lost--after all, the
war has been over since 1945. So what was rousing and exciting then to
the folks at home now just seems rather dated and slow--though the film
still does have very good production values.
The film is basically a bazillion patriotic songs rolled up into the thinnest of plots. Frankly, I think the film could have been a lot better had the story received greater emphasis and they'd dropped a few musical numbers. This would have given the film a much needed infusion of energy--though again, back during the war years, this wasn't as big a concern.
The story, such as it is, begins during WWI. A group of soldiers (George Murphy, Alan Hale, George Tobias and Charles Butterworth and others) are interested in performing a musical to raise morale and the when they are given permission, the show is a huge hit. Many years later, when WWII arrives, the children of these same men and others put on their new and timely stage show. It's a major success and the soldiers are sent on a tour of the USA to increase the public's patriotism and backing of the war. There's a little more to the plot than this--but not much.
As I said, it's really just an excuse to string together tons of musical and dance numbers--so many that you feel a bit overwhelmed. Some of the numbers are very good, the one with Irving Berlin was interesting (not good--just interesting from a historical sense) and a few were rather bad. The worst was the one that was a minstrel show--something that you'd hoped would have died out by 1943. It was just embarrassing and makes you cringe. Also, in a few separate parts of the film, Joe Lewis made some irrelevant appearances, as he couldn't sing and was as light on his dancing feet as a rhino! He just looked very lost but you can't blame him--he was ordered to appear in the film and since he was a sergeant, he had no choice!
If I could, I'd give the film a score for 1943 (8) and one for today (4 or 5). But, since I can't, I'll give it a 6. Interesting from a historical standpoint but pretty tough going at times, though some of the songs were catchy and the color cinematography was lovely.
As a history teacher, I was a bit concerned with a couple reviews that gave the film a 1. It wasn't nearly that bad and some of the reasons they gave it such a low score seemed petty. One was a diatribe about why they hated Ronald Reagan and really didn't review the film itself. Another was very critical about how the film was propaganda. My answer to that is YES it is propaganda and so what?! Given that it was a life and death struggle for survival in WWII only a knucklehead would see this sort of propaganda as an evil! Should Hollywood have either ignored the war or done pro-Hitler films instead?! Read your history books or talk to some vets before you make such silly assertions.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The musical "This Is The Army" qualifies as the most unusual war film
that Warner Brothers produced. This Home Front musical stirred up
controversy with scenes where active duty armed forces personnel
cavorted in female apparel. Essentially, two Irvin Berlin stage plays,
"Yip, Yip, Yaphank," a 1917 stage production, and Berlin's successful
1942 Broadway play "This Is The Army," served as the basis for the
film. "Casablanca" scenarist Casey Robinson and veteran screenwriter
Claude Binyon, an army captain now, added a back stage story about a
young soldier's reluctance to marry his sweetheart before he marches
off to war. The movie also spelled out its patriotic, gung-ho ideology
in the last scene with the song "This Time Is The Last Time." The
lyrics of this song suggested that there would not be a World War III.
Warner Brothers assigned Casablanca director Michael Curtiz to "This Is
The Army." Production on this Technicolor "A" picture got underway
February 24, 1943 and ended May 14, 1943.
The action unfolds in New York City in 1917 as dancer Jerry Jones (George Murphy) receives his draft notice. Jones marries his sweetheart Ethel (Rosemary DeCamp) and then reports for duty. At boot camp, Jerry struggles to make the transition from dancer to foot soldier. He makes his drill instructor, Sergeant McGee (Alan Hale, Sr.), painfully aware of his problem with regimentation. When Sergeant McGee talks about Jerry's problem to the camp commandant, Major John B. Davidson (Stanley Ridges), the commander decides that Jerry's talents may be put to better use on a morale boosting play. Jerry produces and stages "Yip, Yip, Yaphank," a show about Army life. As the show draws to a finish, the doughboys march off the stage in full fighting gear, down the aisles, and head for their transport ship. Jerry sees action somewhere in France, and comes home a cripple. He walks with a slight limp, but his handicap does not restrict him from his first lovethe stage. He opens a theatrical talent agency.
The film leaps from 1918 to 1941, and Jerry's son, Johnny (Ronald Reagan), enlists in the Army to fight World War II. Johnny's sweetheart Eileen Dibble (Joan Leslie) wants to marry him before he leaves, but he refuses to exchange vows. Meanwhile, Jerry gets together with Major Davidson, and they arrange for Jerry to produce another morale boosting musical. Reluctantly, Johnny helps out his father. Unlike "Yip, Yip, Yaphank," the new show incorporates African-Americans in the cast, most prominently boxing champion Sergeant Joe Louis (the actual Joe Lewis), and features an all black musical number "That's What The Well-Dressed Man in Harlem" will weararmy khakis. As the soldiers are about to perform their final number, Ethel persuades Johnny to marry her. In the closing number, Johnny and the troops march off to World War II singing "This Time Is The Last Time." No sooner had Warner Brothers prepared to go into production on "This Is The Army" than an issue arose involving overseas distribution and the Office of Censorship. Warner sent a memo to Hal Wallis about the matter dated December 28, 1942, that Allison Durland, an unofficial adviser to the OOC who handled Latin American affairs for the PCA, said, "regardless of extenuating circumstances he does not believe export license would be granted because of female impersonators." As Warner Brothers would learn to their surprise, Central and Latin American countries considered men dressing up as women as repugnant and immoral. That American soldiers would be impersonating females did not go over well either.
Although Warner Brothers released This Is The Army to domestic theaters on August 14, 1943, the studio had to confront the unexpected crisis over female impersonators, a predicament unique to this movie, because they produced no other films during the war that created so much controversy over something that everybody involved in deemed more amusing than offensive. Warner Brothers foreign distribution executive Carl Schaefer sent a memo to Warner on December 17, 1943, after he had conferred with Rothacker. Schaefer told Warner that he had "been advised unofficially we will be denied export license for This Is The Army if men play chorus girls as in the stage production." At length, Schaefer explained the rationale to Warner, "Female impersonators do not exist in Latin America: men in women's clothing are highly insulting and revolting to Latin American sensibilities and censors. Even could the film be exported, United States soldiers cavorting in dresses would represent ammunition to the enemy's propagandists. The Universal Pictures film "Argentina Nights" (1940) proved this point.
"This Is The Army" is a blast to watch.
Made to raise money for a war relief fund, the picture had the
of the Army and used many Hollywood people who were in
services at the time. Unusual in that there is only one
number with a female chorus line and three dance numbers with men
drag. The dancing in general is not too exciting (unless you
chorines with hairy chests). The flag waving plot can safely be
Joe Louis in particular and Blacks in general are not treated well, though the 'Harlem' dance number has the best dancing in the picture. Be warned that there is a 'Minstrel' number in blackface.
Irving Berlin fans will be thrilled since the picture was made from two of his shows (Yip Yip Yaphank and This Is the Army).
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