Sure, it's pretty lightweight, but like any half decent road movie it offers a more than pleasant ride. Johnny Prentice (Macmurray) tries to keep his struggling Chicago-based swing band from breaking up by convincing them they've got a shot at the legendary Cocoanut Grove in LA. The movie is basically the saga of the band getting across the US to make the Grove, in a trailer not unlike Lucy and Desi's (The Long, Long Trailer). Harriet Hilliard (of The Nelsons fame) comes on board as tutor for Johnny's adopted son, Half-pint, and naturally is soon discovered to be a fine singer who could change the fortunes of the band, especially when she unearths the hidden talents of band member Hula Harry (Harry Owens, whose orchestra provided most of the music).
What lifts this from most B-musicals of this period is a great sense of camaraderie among the musicians on the road, some delightfully eccentric characters (Ben Blue and Eve Arden as the Dancing Dilemmas; Rufe Davis, with a dizzying array of animal noises and sound effects; the child Half-pint, a demon at the drum kit) and some highly improbable scenes, verging on the bizarre, that work for comic value. And some of the songs! Thec signature tune, Says My Heart, will stick in the mind for a long time, as will a couple of the numbers done by the Yacht Club Boys (the deliberately clumsy cruise ship opener, and the OTT Four of the Three Musketeers) not to mention the two Rufe Davis songs. In between, the Hawaiian-flavoured tunes of Harry Owens and his orchestra keep the vibe well and truly on the mellow side.
Cocoanut Grove is silly, and for a road movie is somewhat studio bound, but its principals all have charm and there's enough pace to make the 90 minutes fly by. A delight!
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