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

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Gene Nelson, Jane Powell, Gordon MacRae
THREE SAILORS AND A GIRL (1953). Director: Roy Del Ruth.

"Are you certain Judy Garland started like this/"

When some submarine sailors on leave, including Twitch (Gene Nelson of So This is Paris) and Porky (Jack E. Leonard of The Fat Spy), want to spend their back pay on girls and booze, the more sensible "Choirboy" (Gordon MacRae) importunes them to invest the money instead. His original intention is Wall Street, but due to the intervention of producer Joe Woods (Sam Levene) and Broadway hopeful Penny Weston (Jane Powell), they wind up putting $50,000 in a hopeless show. But will the combined talents of George Abbot, Moss Hart, and Ira Gershwin (none of whom play themselves), not to mention the U. S. Marines, turn this turkey into a hit? Three Sailors and a Girl suffers from the same problem as the show-within-a-show, U.S.S. Texas, in that it has serious book problems. Not only is the script a mass of cliches, but the characters are paper-thin stereotypes. Fortunately, there's some pleasure in the movie, including a few funny lines, the beautiful voices of both MacRae and Powell, and the snappy dancing of Gene Nelson (his fancy footwork in a garage is one of the film's highlights). The songs were contributed by two Sammy's: Cahn  and Fain, and the songs are at the very least pleasant and one or two are memorable: "The First Time That We Kissed;" "There Must Be a Reason." Jack E. Leonard, who was introduced in this picture, seems to be channeling Lou Costello at times, but has an amiable, portly presence. Small roles are enacted by Merv Griffin, Paul Burke, Jack Larson, and Burt Lancaster, who plays a show biz hopeful who is rejected because he looks too much like Burt Lancaster. Archer MacDonald is quirky as librettist Melvin Webster, and Veda Ann Borg [Jungle Raiders] is vivid as Woods' girlfriend. By now Sam Levene could have played this fast-talking role in his sleep but he's very good. George Givot is fun as the ham opera star Emilio Rossi, possibly an affectionate parody of Ezio Pinza.  Jack E. Leonard eventually developed a more brash personality and was more of a stand-up
comic than actor.

NOTE: This is not to be confused with Three Girls and a Sailor; Three Girls and a Gob; Three Gobs and a Girl; A Girl, A Guy, and a Gob; Three Sailors Go to Paris with a Gal; Three Sailors Go to Paris with a Guy; Three Gay Sailors, a Guy, and a Gob; or numerous others.

Verdict: More "technicolor twaddle," but some fun. **.


angelman66 said...

LOL, Bill, loved your commentary about the title of this one. They really did grind this genre of movie out at that particular moment in Hollywood. Debbie Reynolds and Doris Day kind of took over for the Jane Powell and June Allyson. In fact, I seem to remember Doris starring opposite both Gordon MacRae and Gene Nelson in more than one Warner Bros musical...

William said...

She probably did, and they probably had "sailor" in the title!