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During World War II, all the studios put out "all-star" vehicles which featured virtually every star on the lot--often playing themselves--in musical numbers and comedy skits, and were meant as morale-boosters to both the troops overseas and the civilians at home. This was Universal Pictures' effort. It features everyone from Donald O'Connor to the Andrews Sisters to Orson Welles to W.C. Fields to George Raft to Marlene Dietrich, and dozens of other Universal players. Written by
Decca Records star Bing Crosby, who did not appear in this film, combined with The Andrews Sisters on two "Billboard"-charting songs featured in the score: "Vic'try Polka" (music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn), sung in the picture at the conclusion of a greatest-hits medley by 'The Andrews Sisters, a number-five "Billboard" tune in 1943; and "Is You Is or Is You Ain't (Ma' Baby)" (music and lyrics by Louis Jordan and Billy Austin (I)), performed in the movie by Mr. Jordan singing with his orchestra, a number-two "Billboard" ditty for Crosby and the trio in 1944. On their own, the Andrews Sisters waxed for Decca and then repeated in this film a jivey song of farewell, "Shoo-Shoo" Baby" (music and lyrics by Phil Moore). Between late December 1943 and mid-April 1944, the sisters' 78 ranked as high as #3 among the "Billboard"-charting singles. Placing alongside was the Ella Mae Morse cut of "Shoo-Shoo Baby" on Capitol. In another musical from Universal, South of Dixie (1944), Ella gave out with her rendition. See more »
In a great tribute to all the performers who have entertained American Fighting Forces, Follow the Boys assembles a nifty all-star group to let the folks on the home front see what the soldiers are getting. The film combines real footage in the field mixed with performers recreating their USO acts.
The result is a bit like a training film for the USO, but it does help us appreciate how so many performers went above and beyond the call of duty. From the wonderful Andrews Sisters to magical Orson Welles, it is an eclectic revue. There is a particularly touching section in the middle, from Artur Rubinstein to a montage underscored by beautifully melancholy songs from Dinah Shore.
Of course to get to all this, you must wade through a negligible plot about a husband-and-wife dance team (George Raft and Vera Zorina) who split over one of those obnoxious movie misunderstanding as he wants to put all his efforts into entertaining the troops. The dialogue is pedantic, Zorina is a cold fish, and Raft is stiff - until he's dancing.
Though he seems to be enjoying himself ONLY when he's dancing, Raft had an emotional investment in the film. In real life, he was among the troop entertainers, and he had also been very close to Carole Lombard, who had died earlier engaged in exactly that work. Perhaps it was his personal tribute to her. He is in one of the best numbers of the film: Louis Jordan and his orchestra perform "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby" and then accompany Raft as he dances "Sweet Georgia Brown" in the rain for a group of black soldiers. Though Raft was at his peak weight here, he was still nimble afoot.
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