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

Thursday, February 1, 2018


Dick Powell and Mary Martin
STAR SPANGLED RHYTHM (1942). Director: George Marshall.

"I just can't make it tonight -- Veronica Lake is going to show me her other eye. " -- Bob Hope.

In this all-star Paramount wartime picture, the main plot has to do with Johnny Webster (Eddie Bracken), a sailor on leave who comes to Hollywood with his buddies. Eddie's father was once "Bronco Billy" Webster (Victor Moore of Carolina Blues), star of silent pictures, but is now reduced to being a guard at the studio gate. Ashamed of this comedown, Billy has lied to his son and told him that he is head of the studio! Eddie's girlfriend, Polly (Betty Hutton of the "craptastic" Betty Hutton Show), helps "Pop" put over the deception but needs some big help from the stars when Pop foolishly promises that his Paramount stars will put on a show for the sailor boys ... Star Spangled Rhythm has some slow stretches -- the whole second half consists almost entirely of acts, including one stop-the-movie-dead skit where four men play poker as if they were women -- but it also has its share of delights, including a hilarious bit when Polly enlists the aid of two men to help her get over the wall of the Paramount studio. Dick Powell and Mary Martin and an uncredited black group (the Mills Brothers?) do an excellent "Dreamtime" number on a train; there's a splendid and rather sexy production number called "Swing Shift" in a factory; and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson stars in another vibrant and all-Black dance number called "Sharp as a Tack." Dorothy Lamour, Veronica Lake, and Paulette Goddard spoof their images in "Sweater, Sarong, and Peekaboo Bang," and Sterling Holloway [Shake, Rattle & Rock], Walter Catlett and Arthur Treacher play the same ladies in drag. William Bendix has a funny shower scene with Bob Hope. Bracken, Hutton, and Moore are all on the money; Walter Abel scores as the real studio head, as does Anne Revere as his secretary; and Cecil B. Demille proves a perfectly adept actor playing himself. Cass Daley does her weird shtick, buck teeth and all. George Marshall keeps the pace fast and makes things visually interesting as well.

Verdict: Enjoyable romp. ***.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill, wow, what a cast, can't believe I have not seen this one yet, with so many stage and vaudeville and screen greats! Mary Martin in one of her rare film appearances, plus Betty Hutton, Bob Hope, Veronica Lake, Paulette Goddard (did you ever see Goddard and Lake together with Claudette Colbert in So Prooudly We Hail?), Victor Moore, Anne Revere et al....must see this one soon!

William said...

I'm almost positive I saw "So Proudly We Hail" but so long ago that I remember almost nothing about it; I'll have to check it out. This is one of the better wartime "everyone's in it" musicals.