“That hat! I’ll have to watch my bell cords and lampshades.”
A soldier (James Ellison) about to leave for war romances a chorus girl (Alice Faye), failing to tell her he’s engaged to his childhood sweetheart (Sheila Ryan). Meanwhile, his father (Eugene Palette) and Ryan’s father (Edward Everett Horton) plan a welcome-back musical for him, starring both Faye and a Brazilian singer (Carmen Miranda).
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately notes that this “camp classic” (the first film “directed and choreographed by Busby Berkeley”) possesses “a nominal plot” — indeed, it’s simply a paper-thin variation on the “boy meets-loses-wins girl” trope, with a ridiculous mistaken-identity “subplot” thrown in for good measure, and a humorously hasty happy ending slapped on to bring things to a convenient close. But, as he points out, the “conventional story [truly] takes a back seat to the songs and dances”, which are “some of the worst yet most inspired, colorful, and extravagant musical numbers in cinema history” (quite a mixed compliment, there!). He posits simply that they “boggle the mind”, and likens the entire film to one of “those so-awful-they’re-fascinating half-time shows during the Orange Bowl”. With that said, film fanatics of any stripe (i.e., gay or straight) won’t want to miss watching — at least once — the film in which the infamously English-mangling Carmen Miranda (“I spilled the cat out of the beans!”) sings “The Lady With the Tutti-Frutti Hat” while “chorus girls do suggestive things with giant bananas”.
Note: Watch for limber-limbed Charlotte Greenwood strutting her stuff in a brief scene, and a (perhaps unknown; her identity is debatable) acrobatic dancer in a black leotard doing a nifty solo in a medley towards the end.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Carmen Miranda singing “The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat”
- Charlotte Greenwood’s surprisingly limber dance maneuvers
- Busby Berkeley’s marvelously surreal dance “creations”
Yes — to see Carmen Miranda in her most iconic film, and as a camp classic.