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

Thursday, July 26, 2018


"Cuddles" Sakall, Edward Everett Horton, and Bette Davis
THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS (1943). Director: David Butler.

Joe Simpson (Eddie Cantor in a dual role) is an aspiring actor and tour guide who can't get a job because of his resemblance to ... Eddie Cantor. Joe befriends two show business hopefuls: singer Tommy Randolph (Dennis Morgan) and songwriter Pat Nixon (Joan Leslie). A shady "agent" named Barney Johnson (Richard Lane) fools Tommy into thinking he's got a job on the real Eddie Cantor's radio show, but he gets thrown out of Cantor's house moments after arriving with "contract" in hand. Meanwhile conductor Dr. Schlenna (S. Z. Sakall) and entrepreneur Farnsworth (Edward Everett Horton) are mounting a charity concert, Cavalcade of Stars, and want to use Dinah Shore, who works for Cantor. The catch is that they don't want Cantor because he tends to take over and "stink" everything up. (Cantor wants to dress the dancers like boiled potatoes and have them dive into a tub of sour cream.) However, they have to use him just to get Dinah. Joe hits upon the idea of impersonating Cantor, hiring Tommy, and taking over the production himself, while Cantor is temporarily kidnapped. But when the real Cantor breaks out of confinement ... ? Thank Your Lucky Stars is another of those all-star WW2 revues with a thin plot, this one from Warner Brothers, and it's one of the better ones. Cantor is very funny dealing with some over-anxious dogs and especially as he winds up in an institution where everyone thinks he's crazy and wants to operate on him; Ruth Donnelly is especially good as a nurse. The movie's highlights include: Errol Flynn doing a very creditable song and dance routine in a tavern;  Ann Sheridan warbling "Love Isn't Born, It's Made;" Alan Hale and Jack Carson in the comical duet, "I'm Going North;" John Garfield doing a comic interpretation of "Blues in the Night;" Cantor enthusiastically performing "We're Staying Home Tonight" while his household staff is forced to listen; Morgan and Leslie doing the duet, "No You, No Me;" Alexis Smith doing a very sexy Latin dance; and Dinah Shore demonstrating her singing chops with "How Sweet You Are." The two very best production numbers are "Ice Cold Katie," featuring Hattie McDaniel and Willie Best; and Bette Davis beautifully emoting and sort of singing to "They're Either Too Young or Too Old." The lowlight of the film is George Tobias, Ida Lupino and Olivia de Havilland doing a rather dreadful bebop number, and I'm not sure what to make of the odd-looking Spike Jones and his City Slickers as they do a strange jazz rendition of the "Volga Boatmen." As for the non-musical scenes, Sakall and Horton make a great and funny team, and it's a riot watching "Cuddles" Sakall telling off a tough but chastened Humphrey Bogart ("I hope my fans don't see this"). Joan Leslie does a pretty good impression of Ida Lupino at one point. The bouncy songs are by Arthur Schwartz and Frank Loesser. Director David Butler and producer Mark Hellinger make cameo appearances as themselves, and Mary Treen, James Burke, Mike Mazurki, Billy Benedict, and Benny Bartlett, among others, show up briefly as well.

Verdict: A real pleasure practically from start to finish. ***1/4. 


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - Need to see this one again...has been a while. A few months ago TCM played Hollywood Canteen and Stage Door Canteen but not this one! Love Davis singing!

William said...

Yes, Davis had a "voice" like no other. Actually she was in a Broadway show called "Two's Company. and even though she couldn't really sing she did a very nice interpretation of "Just Like a Man." That's her acting skill coming to the rescue!