Delightfully Dangerous, 1945, b&w, Arthur Lubin (dir.), Jane Powell, Ralph Bellamy, Constance Moore, Morton Gould and his orchestra, Arthur Treacher. 1:32. [1:30]
15-year-old Cheryl (Jane Powell) is a music student who wants to make it in theaterâ€”just like her older sister (Moore). Turns out Mooreâ€™s really a burlesque performer. Cheryl pays a surprise visit to New York. Hijinks ensue. Good musical numbers, decent plot, fine performances by all concernedâ€”but thereâ€™s some distortion in the sound track for the first half, unfortunate for a musical. That brings it down to $1.25.
Private Buckaroo, 1942, b&w, Edward F. Cline (dir.), the Andrews Sisters, Dick Foran, Joe E. Lewis, Shemp Howard, Harry James, Donald Oâ€™Connor, Huntz Hall, Mary Wilkes, Ernest Treux. 1:08.
Shemp Howard was much better on his own than as part of the Three Stooges, in my opinion, and he shines in this wartime flick as a sergeant who has trouble with his supposed girlfriend. The real plot: Harry James gets drafted and his group all enlist to stay with their leader. Thereâ€™s another draftee whoâ€™s not willing to obey orders. The plot makes as much sense as any of these war-promotion flicks, and thereâ€™s a great running gag: Harry James, an amazing trumpeter, canâ€™t get the hang of the Army bugle. The middle Andrews Sister is a bit much for my taste, but overall thereâ€™s good non-slapstick comedy, great music, and a generally decent print. $1.50.
Stage Door Canteen, 1943, b&w, Frank Borzage (dir.), Judith Anderson, Tallulah Bankhead, Ralph Bellamy, Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, Ray Bolger, Katharine Cornell, Gracie Fields, Lynn Fontanne, Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn, Jean Hersholt, George Jessel, Gypsy Rose Lee, Alfred Lunt, Harpo Marx, Elsa Maxwell, Yehudi Menuhin, Ethel Merman, Paul Muni, Merle Oberon, George Raft, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Ethel Waters, Johnny Weissmuller, Ed Wynn, William Demarest, Count Basie, Xavier Cugat, Benny Goodman, Kay Kyser, Guy Lombardo and many more stars of stage and screen (Iâ€™m not kiddingâ€¦Peggy Lee doesnâ€™t even get a credit). 2:12 [1:52]
First the bad news: The print isnâ€™t as good as it might be (some ghost images), although the soundtrackâ€™s fineâ€”and apparently a few minutes are missing. Oh, and the plotâ€™s not compelling. But the plotâ€™s mostly a way to show off an astonishing cavalcade of stars, either performing on stage or acting as waiters and the likeâ€”just like the real Stage Door Canteen and Hollywood Canteen (although itâ€™s hard to believe they got quite such an impressive concentration every night). If you know stage, screen and music of the 1940s, thereâ€™s probably another 30 people I should have listed here. Supposedly, this is Katharine Cornellâ€™s only screen appearance (a cameo). Katharine Hepburn singing The Lordâ€™s Prayer (very well). Yehudi Menuhin playing two numbers, one of them Flight of the Bumble Bee. Benny Goodman playing clarinet like he invented it. And so much more. Thoroughly enjoyable, wartime propaganda and all. Even with a second-rate print, this gets $2.25.
Career Girl, 1944, b&w, Wallace Fox (dir.), Frances Langford, Edward Norris, Iris Adrian, Craig Woods. 1:09. [1:07]
Three out of four ainâ€™t bad. This is the fourth. Traditional â€œgirl from the Midwest goes to New York to make it big on Broadway, gets her heart broken, but it works outâ€ story, with a wealthy fiancÃ©e back home who wants her to settle down and be Mrs. Mine-manager and a theatrical boarding house full of women who keep her from giving in. There arenâ€™t many musical numbers and they arenâ€™t all that great; the plot doesnâ€™t really reach resolution; but worst of all, the soundtrackâ€™s distorted enough that the musical numbers are mildly painful. Being generous, $0.75.