Seven Days' Leave (1942)
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If one is a Lucy fan, this movie is a great watch. Lucy is actually drop-dead gorgeous in this flick, more so than she had ever been in her entire career, in my opinion.
Also, Harold 'The Great Gildersleeve' Peary adds to the fun, along with Marcy McGuire as the younger sister to Lucy's character.
Unfortunately, this film as a whole is quite mediocre. And, Victor Mature sings twice. FFWD required.
All in all, one watch of this movie is definitely worth it. The video is even worth owning if you like Lucy.
U.S. and Philippino losses in that first year of the war were heavy, and the treatment of the prisoners of war there was shocking and brutal, and fairly well-known before 1945.
Watching this film, now, some sixty-four years later, one almost gets the sense of this being a "mockumentary." Of course, it isn't. It's a romantic comedy. But Victor Mature and his Army buddies are entirely too happy for newly minted soldiers facing the grim reality of mortal combat.
This film is a goofy, confusing and fast-paced romantic comedy. It has some nice comedic moments but the true value of this film fiction lies in the romantic music and in the performance of Lucille Ball.
Personality wise, Victor Mature comes off as being kind of ... cheesy ... which is unfair because many people who have considered his entire career find in him an actor capable of subtle and nuanced performances. He could and did play 'noble and heroic' types and he could also be the less-than-acceptable Cad & Bounder. In this film he's a high-voltage goof-ball surrounded by screwball types.
Film buffs who do not know much about cinema productions made during the war really ought to make it their mission to see this film the next time it comes around on Turner Classic Movies. It is fun, in the aforementioned goofy way, Ms. Ball scintillates, and the singing of Ginny Simms and the big band music is exceptional, truly exceptional.
Some day, some day soon, hopefully, some august person will write a dissertation or a pop culture book on the subject of ...
Where Did Rock & Roll Go Wrong ?
Looking back at Bill Haley & The Comets, Buddy Holly & The Crickets, the doo-wop era and the blues-oriented vocal groups of the 1950s, most anyone can see that rock & roll music grew out of the "swing" movement in the big band era.
But what happened to the genius deployed in the big band styles ? How could it have become obsolete so quickly ? Was it "television" that killed the big bands ?? Get a load of the song stylings in this peculiar film, crafted, clearly crafted, as a form of 'feel good' entertainment for the home-front at a time when the news was bad, grim and getting grimmer, and most anyone will have to ask -- where did all those brilliant singers go ??? This is a good film and got a six, but only because the plot is entirely paper-thin. But that didn't stop either Ball or Mature from hamming it up and having a very good time on the silver screen.
Through the magic of cable television, today's viewers are of course familiar with leading lady Lucille Ball. Her name will be what attracts viewers to this film. She's a descendant of a Confederate general and a girl with some means. And according to the screwball plot of this film, Victor Mature means to marry her and get some means because he's the last descendant of a Union general who wanted one of his offspring to marry one of the Confederate heirs and bind the nation's wounds so to speak.
Mature is just a buck private, not quite like Abbott&Costello were, but still a buck private and a man with a way with the ladies. I think you can figure out where this one is going.
The film and its silly plot just serve as an excuse to showcase some radio shows and big bands and other assorted acts from the World War II era. Mature is found on a real popular radio program of the day that traced missing heirs and he also appears on Truth Or Consequences with Ralph Edwards. And Harold Peary makes an appearance as the Great Gildersleeve and unless you are familiar with that popular radio comedy you probably won't understand Peary and his significance in being in Seven Days Leave.
Singer Buddy Clark is in the film and when I saw his name in the credits I looked forward to hearing him. Sad his numbers probably wound up on RKO's cutting room floor. I'm sure that bothered him no end.
Seven Days Leave is one terribly dated World War II era film that folks not brought up in that culture will not really enjoy.
The plot line surrounds a soldier (Mature) who must convince Ball to marry him in order to receive an inheritance. The problem is that they are both engaged. But this is Hollywood in its golden age where reality didn't matter, and we all know what that means. McGuire gets the guy too (Arnold Stang, remembered more as the voice of TV's Top Cat), a squeaky voiced squirt who knits. Appearances by "The Great Gildersleeve", Band leader Les Brown and radio host Ralph Edwards ("Truth or Consequences") round out the cast, plus a nice collection of second rate but enjoyable 40's songs keep the rhythm hot.
After a nice opening ("Please Won't You Leave My Girl Alone"), we meet McGuire singing "Take Me Back to New York" (not to be confused with Cole Porter's "Take Me Back to Manhattan") who then sings "I Get the Neck of the Chicken" after attracting helium voiced Stang. After a rendition of "Can't Get Out of This Mood" by former Kay Kyser vocalist Ginny Sims, McGuire speeds it up to a chase between her and Stang. An acrobatic dance team gives an amusing performance, while Lucy briefly sings "Pop Goes to Weasel" in the "Truth or Consequences" sequence, and another soldier gives hysterically funny impressions of Ronald Colman, Lionel Barrymore and Charles Laughton.
SYNOPSIS: Soldier needs to marry socialite within seven days to get $100,000 inheritance.
COMMENT: Not a highly-rated musical by most critics, but I found it vastly entertaining. Its fast-paced highjinks are of special appeal to nostalgia radio buffs: Harold Peary does his Gildersleeve - complete with fatuous giggle - and the script takes in no less than two radio shows, including the hilarious "Truth Or Consequences",
As for the songs: Beyond an obviously dubbed voice handling Mature's chores as a crooner, there's a great line-up including Ginny Simms' "Can't Get Out Of This Mood" - a wonderful solo number which is then delight¬fully reprized by Marcy McGuire and Arnold Stang. Miss McGuire (who is supposedly a puckish sixteen but actually looks somewhat more mature) also has the delightfully zesty "Touch Of Texas" song and dance. The dances themselves are most energetically staged - and here Mature is in unbelievably rhythmic form, particularly in the rousing opener, "Please Won't You Leave My Girl Alone?", which is lavishly reprized at the conclusion by the whole cast.
As if this were not enough, both Les Brown's and Freddy Martin's Orchestras strut their stuff; and there's also an hilarious spoof contributed by Lynn, Royce and Vanya of the de rigeur nightclub number of numerous "B" musicals where a top-hatted Fred Astaire second-rater whirls a girl around the dance-floor for an inordinate amount of cheap footage. If these skillfully mistimed acrobatics don't raise a few laughs, Peter Lind Hayes is on hand with some maliciously accurate Ronald Colman, Lionel Barrymore and Charles Laughton impersonations.
You would think there was not much left for Miss Ball to do, but as usual she proves herself an expert comedienne, handling both slapstick and wit with equal dexterity - and so attractively photographed and costumed as to make Mature's interest totally believable. Her "punishment" on "Truth Or Consequences" is a gem.
Anyone who fails to be entertained by at least some aspect of this film is mighty hard to please. I liked it all, just about. True, the fast gallop slows to a canter now and again, but Tim Whelan is as sure-footed a director as they come. All told, Seven Days' Leave is breezy, zestful, escapist, nostalgic if juvenile entertainment, presented with craftsmanship and style, and enacted by a marvelous cast.
Mature joined the Coast Guard for the duration of the war after this one. An amiably dashing fellow when he was young, Mature had an unexpected gift for tongue-in-cheek. Alas, when he returned to Hollywood in 1946 he began to take himself all too seriously. Producers obliged by casting him as Doc Holliday, Samson, Demetrius, Horemheb, Chief Crazy Horse, Zarak Khan, Kasim Khan, Hannibal, etc. His talent for self-parody was not utilized again until After the Fox (1966).
So, you've got a VERY contrived plot, lots of silly and superfluous singing and Victor Mature doing comedy. All in all, it sounds pretty bad...and it is. Even worse is when a fourth-rate guy does imitations of various celebrities. They announce each one before he begins--and you really need to be told who they are supposed to be because you really cannot tell by listening to him! A silly and forgettable film.
By the way, there is a very strange character in the film. Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) is the lawyer who handles the estate, right? Well, this same character (and actor) played Gildersleeve in quite a few other films. Plus, Gildersleeve was a very popular radio character who appeared regularly on "Fibber McGee and Molly" and later had his own spin off radio show starring, who else, Peary!
ANYWAY, THIS MOVIE stands out as being quite unique, difficult to classify and definitely custom tailored to a United States just entering World War II. From beginning to end all of the action takes place in NYC with a gang of newly trained, uniformed Soldiers. But it is far, far away from any Theatre of War. It would appear that it is a sort of 'Bachelors Party' for the Military.
THE CAST OF this one features so many of the performers who were popular at this time. This featured group was not only made up of film actors; but who was on top of his game in Music, Theatre, Vaudeville and Radio. So, we had a healthy helping of the varying musical talents of Les Brown, Freddy Martin, Mapy Cortes, Ginny Simms and the eccentric dance team of Lynn, Royce & Vanya.
FROM THE WORLD of big time Network Radio, we see Ralph Edwards & Company recreate a broadcast of TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES. The 'show' interestingly enough includes the pre-show warm-up and 'selection' of contestants.
AND THOSE CONTESTANTS were the co-stars Lucielle Ball & Victor Mature. For the muscular Mr.Mature, this was a radical departure from his other roles that he would play. His 'Johnny Grea' proved that he could handle comedy, as well as his greatly varied characterizations in ONE MILLION B.C., KISS OF DEATH and SAMSON & DELILAH.
OF COURSE THE co-star, Lucielle Ball was smooth in her performance; which was more of a straight role. This was long before she had become both a Redhead, as well as being 'Lucy Recardo.'
THE VERY TALENTED Peter Lind Hayes made a rare film appearance as a sort of second banana to Victor Mature; giving him ample screen time to both do some great comic bits and to display his abilities as an impersonator of well known actors Ronald Coleman, Lionel Barrymore and Charles Laughton.
THE PICTURE SERVED to introduce to two others, now familiar to several generations since. The first was Harold Peary, from THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE show (a spin off from FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY). The powers that be at RKO thought that including GILDERSLEEVE would be a draw. (Well, Schultz, we can't say we disagree.)
THE OTHER PERFORMER bowing in his first flick was Arnold Stang. Small, be-speckled and speaking in a near slur, he would have a long and highly visible career on Radio, TV, the Movies and in commercials. His tag-line of "Chunky! What a chunk o' chocolate!", can still be heard reverberating across the years! (in our minds)
THE STYLE OF acting in use here would appear to be a throwback to an earlier era. it is very much like that used in Vaudeville, Burlesque and in the Silent Movies. The overdone expressions and held poses would seem to suggest a kinship with both Newspaper Comic Strips and the popularity of the Comic Book; which had only recently emerged as a force in publishing.
AT THE CONCLUSION of this Comedy-Musical fun fest, we have the women now in uniform seeing off the soldiers on a troop transport; which was heading into a true Theatre of the War. It didn't matter either.
THE FRIVOLITY WAS now over and was replaced with the grim realities of combat.