Musical Monday: Two Girls and a Sailor (1944)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Two Girls and A Sailor (1944) – Musical #120

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Richard Thorpe

Starring:
June Allyson, Gloria DeHaven, Van Johnson, Tom Drake, Jimmy Durante, Henry Stephenson, Henry O’Neill, Donald Meek, Frank Jenks, Frank Sully, Karin Booth (uncredited), Ava Gardiner (uncredited), Natalie Draper (uncredited), Gigi Perreau (uncredited), Arthur Walsh (uncredited)

Themselves: Carlos Ramírez, Ben Blue, José Iturbi, Amparo Iturbi, Harry James, Helen Forrest, Xavier Cugat, Lina Romay, Gracie Allen, Lena Horne, Virginia O’Brien, Lyn Wilde, Lee Wilde, Albert Coates

Plot:
Two nightclub singing sisters Jean (DeHaven) and Patsy (Allyson) Deyo have their own canteen for servicemen in their homes. Jean wishes for a larger space and a secret donor buys the sisters a canteen where top performers entertain servicemen during World War II. The sisters and their friend, former vaudeville star Billy Kipp (Durante), investigate who the donor could be. Meanwhile, they both fall in love with sailor John (Johnson). The plot is sandwiched between 22 musical numbers.

Trivia:
• June Allyson was originally set to play Jean (the pretty sister) and Gloria DeHaven to play Patsy (the plain sister). However, Dick Powell advised June Allyson to fight for the part of Patsy, because it was a better role with better lines. Powell also told Allyson that the audience wouldn’t believe Gloria DeHaven saying that her sister was “much prettier” than she. June cut her hair short with straight across bangs and did a screen test for Louis B. Mayer, and got the part that kept her under contract at MGM, according to her autobiography.
• The first time Van Johnson received top billing
• First of six movies pairing June Allyson and Van Johnson.
• Jimmy Durante’s first film at MGM since 1934
• Ava Gardiner plays an extra

Two

Tom Drake, Gloria DeHaven, Van Johnson and June Allyson in “Two Girls in a Sailor”

Awards and Nominations:
• Nominated for Best Writing, Original Screenplay by Richard Connell and Gladys Lehman

Highlights:
• Credits with caricatures of the stars
• The 22 Musical performances throughout the film, especially Xavier Cugat and Harry James

Lina Romay and Xavier Cugat with his orchestra performing “Rhumba Rhumba” in “Two Girls and a Sailor”

Notable Songs:
• “Did You Ever Have the Feeling That You Wanted to Go?” performed by Jimmy Durante
• “Sweet and Lovely” performed by June Allyson and Gloria DeHaven
• “Tisket a Tasket” performed by June Allyson and Gloria DeHaven
• “A Love Like Ours” performed by June Allyson and Gloria DeHaven
• “Estrillita” performed by Harry James
• “Rumba Rumba” performed by Xavier Cugat and Lina Romay
• “Charmaine” performed by Harry James and his orchestra
• “My Mother Told Me” performed by Gloria DeHaven
• “Granada” performed by Carlos Ramírez with Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra
• “Inka Dinka Doo” performed by Jimmy Durante
• “Take it Easy” performed Xavier Cugat and Lina Romay
• “In a Moment of Madness” performed by Helen Forrest with Harry James and His Orchestra
• “Concerto for Index Finger” performed by Gracie Allen and conducted by Albert Coates
• “Young Man with a Horn” performed by June Allyson with Harry James and His Orchestra

My review:
I have to start off by saying: I love this movie. It’s easily in my top 20 favorites.

Now, if you’re looking for Grapes of Wrath or an Academy Award winning-plot, you’re thinking too hard about this film. “Two Girls and a Sailor” is an honest to goodness fun time with awesome music. Also, if you aren’t a fan of June Allyson and have come to bash her, you have come to the wrong place. Comet Over Hollywood loves June Allyson and doesn’t understand the hate.

Now that we have that out of the way..this film is about two sisters wanting to help soldiers during World War II by having a canteen. They start off by inviting them to their home, which is too small and finally an anonymous donor gives them a warehouse and renovates it for a canteen.

Harry James performing Charmaine in “Two Girls and a Sailor”
(Screenshot by Jessica P.)

While “Two Girls and a Sailor” is star-studded with some of the 1940s top musicians and singers, they are not the leads in the film. From Virginia O’Brien to Harry James, these stars are performers at the Deyo Sister’s canteen, filling this movie with 22 fantastic songs that keep your toes tapping. This movie really gives you the opportunity to hear some of the top artists of the time: Harry James and his Music Maker, Xavier Cugat and his orchestra, pianist Jose Iturbi, and Lena Horne, just to name a few. If you ask me, Harry James is one of the best trumpet players. I just love Xavier Cugat and his singer Lina Romay.

According to Robert Osborne in 2013 introduction on TCM, one reason the film is padded with musicians is that June Allyson, Van Johnson and Gloria DeHaven were all unknown at the time. But when the film was released, audiences loved it and June Allyson and Van Johnson were launched into stardom. Jimmy Durante plays a former vaudeville star, down on his luck who befriends the girls.

While the film is mainly musical performances, the plot revolves around two sisters trying to figure out who the anonymous donor is, while also both secretly loving Van Johnson.

Again, “Two Girls and a Sailor” may not be highbrow, but it’s alot of fun. To prepare for this review, I’ve already watched it twice. It just makes me so happy and the music is amazing. Even if you are one of these June Allyson haters, please give it a try.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

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