Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
USA, 1944. The Samuel Goldwyn Company, Avalon Productions. Screenplay by Don Hartman, Allen Boretz, Robert Pirosh, suggested by The Nervous Wreck by Owen Davis. Cinematography by Ray Rennahan. Produced by Samuel Goldwyn. Music by Max Steiner. Production Design by Stewart Chaney, Perry Ferguson. Costume Design by Miles White. Film Editing by Daniel Mandell, James E. Newcom.
Having conquered the Borscht Belt and the Broadway stage, David Daniel Kaminski was discovered by Samuel Goldwyn under the stage name of Danny Kaye and was given the opportunity to win movie audiences over in films that continue to delight viewers today. His first feature film role shows off the full range of his masterfully honed skills, from his ease with song and dance to his Olympic-level verbal acrobatics and smooth command of physical schtick.
He plays an obsessive hypochondriac who keeps a job as the elevator operator at a medical clinic just to have doctors handy, his obsession with illness so strong that he can convince others they’re sick too. He spends his free time with his best friend and roommate Dana Andrews and is in love with nurse Constance Dowling, not noticing that she’s not into him but her fellow nurse Dinah Shore really is.
When the boys are drafted into service, they’re delighted to learn that the girls have enlisted as WACs, but Kaye screw things up when he accidentally gets Dowling smuggled onto the ship that is taking him to the middle of the Pacific, causing a great deal of hubbub on board involving chases in the cargo hold and an accidental trip to captain Louis Calhern’s private quarters. When they arrive on their island, Kaye is put in the brig but ends up becoming a war hero thanks to his, by now typical, dumb luck.
The musical numbers are inserted via the most outrageous excuses, one of them a dull song in a movie theatre lobby, another more charismatic piece a dream sequence in which both Kaye and Shore really shine. The actor would go on to play more accident-prone nincompoops, always childlike but never childish, endearing even at his most ridiculously contrived.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Scoring of a Musical Picture; Best Original Song (“Now I Know”)