Panama Hattie (1942)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.  

USA, 1942.  Screenplay by , , based on the play by , Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by George Stoll.  Production Design by Cedric Gibbons.  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .

Loosely adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name but, as with many stage adaptations brought to the big screen in the forties, mostly rewritten and its score gutted.  Only a few of Cole Porter’s songs remain (you can tell, because they’re the good ones) in this mess of a plot involving a tacky singer () who performs in a Panama nightclub while romancing an officer () from a fine Philadelphia family.  , and provide a Greek chorus of sorts as three sailors causing no end of trouble in the background, while  has an illogical boner for Dailey’s English butler and the film flits between their adventures and Sothern’s class-mobility panic love story without ever deciding what to do about any of them.  The highlight of the film is an uncredited Lena Horne making a deep impression in two numbers, and while she does a marvelous “Just One Of Those Things”, she elicits even more of our admiration for pulling off a song as bad as “The Sping” without embarrassing herself; Horne was often given parts that were designed to cause no harm to the film’s main plot when her scenes were cut out for distribution in the southern states, and this is a good example of such ridiculous bigotry (not to mention what pity one feels for an audience denied the one enjoyable aspect of this abysmal movie).  Sothern is never convincing as trash, she would make a far better impression as bourgeois women in movies like A Letter To Three Wives a few years later, and her singing is passable at best, while a lengthy sequence involving the sailors smoking out sabotaging spies is an Abbott and Costello sketch that feels as if it was accidentally edited in from another movie.  Vincente Minnelli made his uncredited directorial debut on a sequence shot after Norman Z. McLeod quit the gig.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s