Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


FOLLOW THE BOYS (1944). Director/co-writer: A. Edward Sutherland.

"Little things that one man may not even notice can be irresistibly alluring to another."

Ex-vaudevillian Tony West (George Raft) hooks up with a movie star Gloria Vance (Vera Zorina) and becomes her partner in movies and life, but trouble ensues when he's judged 4-F when war breaks out and decides to do his bit by organizing camp shows full of celebrities entertaining "the boys." He can't understand why Gloria won't join him on his travels and the two nearly break up, all of which could have been avoided had Gloria only told the fellow she was pregnant. Obviously the framing story for this variety propaganda film is piss poor, but there are some entertaining moments in its nearly two hour running time: an amazing canine trapeze act; Orson Welles and Marlene Dietrich doing a comical magic act; the Andrews Sisters; Louis Jordan and his band; the all-black Delta Rhythm Boys singing "The House I Live In." When Jeanette MacDonald does "Beyond the Blue Horizon" the line "my life has only begun" has a certain irony when many of the very young soldiers she's singing to won't make it back from the war. The film's low-point is Peggy Ryan and Donald O'Connor doing a lousy hep cat number. As usual, star George Raft makes little impression, although he does do a creditable dance number to "Sweet Georgia Brown" in a rainstorm. Vera Zorina means so little today -- she also makes little impression in the film -- that it's Marlene Dietrich who's featured on the VHS cover and not Zorina. It's significant -- and admirable -- that the film includes black entertainers, although these sequences were probably deleted in prints sent to southern theaters. What doesn't make sense is why a film that's meant to boost wartime morale should have such a downbeat ending. Other cast members/entertainers include W. C. Fields, Dinah Shore, Ted Lewis of Hold That Ghost, George MacReady of Gilda, and Elizabeth Patterson, Mrs. Trimble of I Love Lucy.
Verdict: Hit or miss, but well-meaning one supposes. **1/2.

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