“He’s got a smile like concentrated vodka!”
A trio of Navy sailors — Ted (James Stewart), ‘Mush’ (Buddy Ebsen), and ‘Gunny’ (Sid Silvers) — romance three girls while on leave: Stewart falls for an aspiring dancer (Eleanor Powell), Ebsen flirts unsuccessfully with a singer named Peppy (Frances Langford), and Silvers attempts to reunite with the woman (Una Merkel) he married four years earlier after a marathon dance session, not knowing they have a child (Juanita Quigley) together. Stewart and Powell’s romance gets more complicated when the scheming publicist (Alan Dinehart) for a Broadway diva (Virginia Bruce) cooks up a plan to have her fall for Stewart, who rescued her beloved Pekingese dog while she was visiting the sailors’ ship and schmoozing with its adoring captain (Raymond Walburn).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Aspiring Stars
- Jimmy Stewart Films
- Roy Del Ruth Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “carefree Depression Era musical” — directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring tap dancing legend Eleanor Powell — “is corny and campy, yet enjoyable”. He points out that the story is “silly” (see the synopsis above) and possesses an “unconvincing plot twist” (most definitely true!), but notes that “there’s some okay comedy”, a “fine, varied Cole Porter score” (including “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”), and “absolutely terrific… tap routines” by Powell.
Unfortunately, while Powell is pretty and earnest, she isn’t the most nuanced of actors, and gravitates towards one facial expression (smiling, toothy mouth wide open) while dancing; Peary notes somewhat uncharitably that “when standing still” she “looks like she’d be a crummy Amateur Hour contestant”. But Stewart (apparently suggested for the part by Porter) is fine in one of his earliest roles:
and gets to warble “Easy to Love”.
Note: Of interest is the brief but memorably loopy scene with a “switchboard operator” (Helen Troy) “who anticipated by thirty years Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine:”
[describing Jimmy Stewart] “Oh, say — guess who I seen at Club Continental last night? Lucy James with that sailor she met through a Pekingese. Believe me, he’s a sea-goin’ thrill if I ever seen one. What’s he like? Well, tall — sort of the answer to a maiden’s prayer on stilts. Honest, he must be six feet four, and that’s just two inches shorter than a totem pole. Oh, but he’s got a smile like concentrated vodka! Vodka? Oh, it’s a Japanese drink made out of panther blood, I think.”
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Powell’s dancing
- Fine cinematography and Art Deco sets
- A couple of fun comedic interludes
- Cole Porter’s score
No, though it’s worth viewing simply as Powell’s iconic flick.