2 December 2011 | weezeralfalfa
More than 'gets by'
Amazing how long it took for me to see this spirited 'B' Technicolor Fox musical on broadcast TV, having seen most of the other 'A' and 'B' Fox musicals of the '40s and early '50s. Essentially, a combo remake of the B&W 'Tin Pan Alley' and the Technicolor 'The Dolly Sisters', the latter being a semi-remake of the former, with 2 of the original 4 stars. Whereas 'Tin Pan Alley'is set just before and during the US involvement in WWI, the present film has a similar relationship with WWII. Both films turn into flag-wavers toward the end, as the male stars are drafted into the army, and the female stars conveniently go overseas to entertain the troops. In the present film, 'B' singer-dancers June Haver and Gloria DeHaven get a chance to shine without the dominance of 'A' stars, such as Betty Grable, Alice Faye, and Carmen Miranda. I thought they made a great pair of performers, whether performing singly, together, or with Dennis Day. In contrast to the legally blond Dolly sisters, the present sisters sported contrasting blond and brunette hair, foreshadowing the Marylin Monroe-Jane Russell team in 'Gentlemen Prefer Blonds', a few years later. The up and coming June Haver costarred with Betty Grable in 'The Dolly Sisters': a replacement for the retiring Alice Faye, who costarred with Grable in 'Tin Pan Alley'. In the present film, the sisters are much more of a sister act than in 'Tin Pan Alley', where Faye and Grable mostly did their own numbers. In this respect, it more resembles 'The Dolly Sisters', which was also filmed in Technicolor. However, the latter film mostly featured gaudy turn of the century costumes, whereas wardrobes in the present film were mostly kept relatively simple.
Bland William Lundigan, along with Dennis Day, replaced John Payne and Jack Oakie, respectively, as composer-lyricists. Like Oakie, Day contributes several songs, alone or with one or two of 'the girls'. Some like his distinctive Irish tenor voice, others do not. Very different from Oakie's vaudevillian style. Unlike the previous films, this one featured a variety of additional stars in minor roles or cameo, perhaps most notably Harry James(Betty Grable's husband), motherly Thelma Ritter, a young Steve Allen as a disc jockey, and vaudevillian-styled, tall and lanky, Dan Dailey in a surprise song and dance with 'the girls', near the ending. The latter was a toned-down counterpart to the memorable 'Sheik of Araby' song and dance number in 'Tin Pan Alley', which had rotund Billy Gilbert(as the sheik) performing with 'the girls'.
Dailey reportedly was perhaps Grable's favorite male costar, although
not having quite the looks of a matinée idol. Both this film and 'The Dolly Sisters' sorely missed the comedic and all around vaudevillian talents of Jack Oakie, as in 'Tin Pan Alley', as a counterweight to the melodramatic scenes. Even Clark Gable reportedly was hesitant to do a film with the scene-stealing Oakie. If Dailey had taken Lundigan's place in the present film and been allowed to participate in more song and dance routines, this would have largely compensated for the absence of Oakie. Thankfully, the present film was lighter on heavy romantic melodrama than the previous two, where this got tedious at times.
Haver, was kept under contract with Fox as a possible replacement for the older Betty Grable, while sometimes starring in her own 'B' films. She seemed to lack something exciting in Grable's personality and looks that appealed to audiences, and never became a big star, although quite beautiful and talented. She should not be confused with June Havoc, sister of Gypsy Rose Lee, who was a supporting actress in the very popular Fox musical 'Hello, Frisco, Hello', among other Fox films of the same era. Gloria DeHaven basically followed a similar path,although I found her quite appealing in this and other films.
The list of songs sung or danced to includes: "There Will Never Be Another You", "It's Been a Long,Long, Time","I'll Get By", "Deep in the Heart of Texas","I've Got the World on a String", "Taking a Chance on Love", "You Make Me Feel So Young", "MacNamara's Band", and "America, I Love You": the latter being the only tune sung in both 'Tin Pan Alley' and the present film, symbolizing the flag-waving orientation of the films.