Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 1943. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by Paul Jarrico, Richard Collins, based on their story Private Miss Jones. Cinematography by George J. Folsey. Produced by Joe Pasternak. Music by Herbert Stothart. Production Design by Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Irene. Film Editing by George Boemler. Academy Awards 1943.
All-star musical parades meant as morale boosters were common practice during the war, with MGM releasing this strangely plotted but colourful and comforting film to rival Warner’s This Is The Army the same year. Kathryn Grayson plays an opera singer who decides to give up her career to accompany her father to his training camp where he is commanding officer and where she will entertain the troops. It’s an opportunity for her to get to her know her father better, her parents divorced when she was a child and she’s spent little time with him since, and this inspires her to pull a Three Smart Girls and attempt a scheme to get her parents back together (mom is played by MGM’s trusty forties mother figure Mary Astor). Meanwhile, Gene Kelly plays a lowly recruit who falls madly in love with Grayson and risks getting into serious trouble trying to court her. That madness takes up the film’s first act, while the second is turned over to a USO show on film: MGM pulls out the best of its roster and has its brightest stars perform skits and songs with some awkwardly filmed inserts of Mickey Rooney interrupting them (and doing a poor job of seeming like he’s performing for a live audience). Lucille Ball, Virginia O’Brien, Ann Sothern, Red Skelton, Margaret O’Brien and José Iturbi‘s orchestra are on hand to perform, with the best of them, of course, being Judy Garland performing “The Joint Is Really Jumpin’ in Carnegie Hall”. As films of its ilk go, this is among the less corny of them, but like the rest it has lost a great deal of its relevance since and most of its numbers and skits have not aged well.