Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tell me again about the "good old days"...

Four Jills in a Jeep (1944) is a good example of how, even in Hollywood's Golden Age, studio personnel could take a good story and a good concept and make something dull and uninspired out of it.

The true story of four female performers--three of them well-known stars--entertaining the troops near the front lines for the USO should be terrific entertainment, especially with the stars (Carole Landis, Martha Raye, Kay Francis and little-known dancer Mitzi Mayfair) playing themselves. Between belting out some of those groovy hepcat 40s tunes and dodging the bullets and bazookas, this shoulda been some funfest!

Instead the film treats us to some insipid romances with the blandest leading men they could find. (The romance between Mitzi Mayfair and Dick Haymes looks like the fever dream of a sadistic plastic surgeon specializing in clumsy nose jobs.) This is a movie which makes Martha Raye seem kind of dull. Martha Raye!

Most cruel of all, Fox Home Video has given us a handful of deleted scenes, including two musical numbers (such as the one pictured above) with all the spontaneous fun and improvisational energy that the film lacks! Clearly, the suits made a conscious effort to literally knock the life out of this film.

Or maybe the subject's cursed. About twenty years ago, Bette Midler made a similarly themed, well-intentioned, but still not very good film called For The Boys about a woman who dedicated much of her career to entertaining the troops. Somebody ought to make a good movie about this subject someday, but the track record isn't very good so far.

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