One of the more humbling personal aesthetic reevaluations of the last few years: I’ve been wrong about musicals. I’m not sure why I didn’t like them. I liked certain ones - “West Side Story” is great, “Singin’ in the Rain” is delightful. But even though I liked a few tunes in the great 60s musicals, they seemed stagey and unreal and false; just couldn’t suspend disbelief. This was not a fault of the medium; it was my failing. The more I see of the 30s and 40s musicals, the more I love ‘em. The songs are great. The numbers are spectacular. The dames . . . well.
Here’s a wartime musical from 1944:
First thing out of the gate: a reminder of the alliances of the day and the male-deficient demographics of the time. Women orchestras, and flag displays with the Soviet banner next to Old Glory:
"Dot Diamond" is actually Marcy McGuire, an 18-year old redhead who had button-cute looks not condusive to grinding effects of time. (She was 16 when she debuted in the movie's titualar predecessor, "Seven Days Leave.")
A few seconds of her routine here in Flash form. The phrase "back the attack" would be familiar to the audience; it was used for bond drives. Back the Attack with another one, Jack / ready, aim, kiss! You can tell it's the early forties - she uses the clarinet as a machine gun.
Ain't she just the cutest thing?
The all-girl orchestra contains these two musicians, who catflight throughout the picture. This is 1944, remember. This would be horribly verboten in some cultures today:
The plot? Oh, who cares. But. Three sailors get a seven day leave, and the two ordinary ones get mixed up in the romantic entanglements of the handsome third guy. He's not just good looking, he's rich - and as soon as the ship docks, he leads home to the family estate, where he tries to pitch woo to the gal he left behind.
As I may have noted here and there, I'm not one of those guys who automatically falls for a blonde. My wife's an Italian russet-top. I grew up surrounded by nothing but blondes. There was, however, a certain something in this actress's performance.
Smarts. She just beams SMART. But of course you can credit the script, right? Any well-trained model can hit her mark and say her lines.
More about her in a bit,
The rich sailor's family has a manservant, of course:
You know how you're in a hot room in the winter, and you open the door, and the
cold air outside just seems so amazingly bracing and refreshing? Yes:
Dooley Wilson, Duly Playing. Mr. Wilson didn't actually play the piano ever, not even in "Casablanca" - he was a drummer - but people expected him to play, so he did.
Not many musicals can claim Margaret Dumont of Marx Brothers fame, but she makes an appearance, murdering a song with her hatpin voice:
But since the audience doesn't want to watch her forever, the scene is interrupted by Dot Diamond and her All-Girl Orchestra, all attired in over-the-top Carmen Miranda gear:
Yes, those streamlined Forties.
As you may note, the two "gals" are in constant contention. They spend all their time together, and appear to hate each other:
But they're bound by the Gal Code, and they stick together. In the end they're all they have, beccause life keeps handing them losers:
These fellows were actually a famous comedy team, except they don't get to be a team here, doing their team bits, An odd decision, but it probably means they weren't that beloved. Burns and Schrieber didn't work together forever, you know.
In the end, why, it's marriage and a dance number and socially-sanctioned legal intercourse and tap dancing and all the rest. But of course there's more.
The nightclub has a bit from Freddy Fisher, aka Colonel Corn. Couldn't have a musical without gag jazz:
And then there's the love interest. To recap:
Curious, I googled. She has no wikipedia page. A book written by someone with her name came up, but it seemed unlikely . . . but yes, it's hers. She quit acting and modeling, became a journalist, and wrote a book about aviators in the Vietnam War.
I do not know what more I could possibly add.
Except this, which plays in an endless loop in heaven or hell, depending on your belief system.