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
What this Universal production lacks in production values, it more than makes up for with sheer pizazz. Those Jivin' Jacks and Jills left me gasping for breath. There's enough sheer energy in their acrobatics to light up a city for a week. And don't forget the Andrews Sisters who do some pretty fancy steppin' themselves. In fact, this is a showcase for the threesome, topped off by a signature version of "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree". Plus trumpeter James gets a lot of time with his band and even makes fun of himself with an army trumpet, (was that really Huntz Hall of the Bowery Boys holding James's sheet music and playing it straight for maybe the only time in his clownish career).
Speaking of comedy acts, short homely Shemp Howard gets a featured role along with long tall Mary Wickes. Their little routines together are gems, especially the nightclub table between swinging doors. Add Joe E. Brown as Howard's rival and there's more mugging than you can count. Hard to believe that director Cline puts all these lively elements together in a single, smooth 68-minute package.
Also, you can tell this was early in the war since the patriotic touches are in abundance, and everyone is eager to do his or her part, even slacker Dick Foran who finally comes around. A snappy dynamo like this musical should have been sent to the Axis in Tokyo and Berlin. Then they would have known there was no hope of winning a war against the sheer pep and energy of the American homefront. Anyhow, count this one as a genuine sleeper amongst low- budget, hep-cat musicals.
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