Musical Monday: Tars and Spars (1946)

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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Tars and Spars (1946) – Musical #615

Columbia Pictures

Director: Alfred E. Green

Starring: Janet Blair, Alfred Drake, Marc Platt, Jeff Donnell, Sid Caesar, Joseph Crehan (uncredited), Hugh Beaumont (uncredited), Anita Alvarez (uncredited), Alex Romero (uncredited), Dick Winslow (uncredited)

Howard Young (Drake) is in the U.S. Coast Guard but has had shore duty throughout the war. Though he wants to be sent out on shore duty, he is stuck with a desk job on base. His only time at sea performing a military experiment for 20 days in the raft in the base’s harbor. When he returns from the operation, he meets Christine Bradley (Blair), a SPAR who is now on the base. Howard’s friend Chuck Enders (Caesar) jokes and tells her that he is a military war hero and was shipwrecked.

• Alfred Drake’s first film. Drake and Marc Platt were both coming off of performing in the original Broadway production of “Oklahoma.” Drake played Curley in the musical, and Platt danced as Dream Curly in the ballet.
• Sid Caesar’s first role. Caesar was in the real “Tars and Spars” review.
• A SPAR is the women’s branch of the United States Coast Guard during World War II.
• Choreography by Jack Cole
• Seemingly no relation to the 1944 U.S. Coast Guard all-star show of the same title written by Howard Dietz and Vernon Duke.
• Ella Logan was initially announced for the film in a comedic female role, according to a March 21, 1945, news brief.
• Coast guard and SPARS were to be featured in the film, according to an April 26, 1945, news brief.

Sid Caesar, Janet Blair and Alfred Drake

• Jack Cole’s choreography

Notable Performances:
• “Kiss Me Hello” performed by Janet Blair
• “Love is a Merry-Go-Round” performed by Alfred Drake
• “He’s a Hero” performed by the cast and Sid Caesar
• “I’m Glad I Waited For You”

Janet Blair and the chorus dancing in the number “Kiss Me Hello.”

My review:
During World War II, “Tars and Spars” was a Coast Guard show performed around the world. Written by Howard Dietz and Vernon Duke, it featured men and women who were in the Coast Guard performing various musical numbers. Today, each military branch accepts both men and women. But during World War II, special female reserves were created for each branch. The United States Coast Guard Women’s Reserve was known as SPARS, and it was inactive by July 25, 1947. But in 1946, the SPARS were still active.

This 1946 film took the name of the show, the idea that the Coast Guard was rehearsing for a show, and then wrote a comedic plot around it when they weren’t practicing.

In this movie musical, the Tars are Howard Young, played by Alfred Drake; Junior Casady, played by Marc Platt; and Chuck Enders, played by Sid Caesar. The SPARS are Christine Bradley, played by Janet Blair, and Penny McDougal, played by Jeff Donnell.

Howard Young is in the Coast Guard but has never even been at sea. His only time at sea is spending 20 days in a raft for an experiment. When he returns from conducting the experiment, he meets Christine, a SPAR, who believes he is a war hero. The comedic relief, Chuck Enders is Howard’s pal and is trying to avoid SPAR Penny McDougal who is in love with him.

Outside of this plot, the cast is rehearsing for the “Tars and Spars” show, which stars Christine and Junior Casady with his dance numbers.

“Tars and Spars” was released on the heels of “Tonight and Every Night,” the Technicolor musical which starred Rita Hayworth and paired Marc Platt and Janet Blair.

Platt and Blair starred in this 1946 film next but were not romanticly paired. In fact, Platt has very little screentime or lines but has a few outstanding dance numbers.

“Tars and Spars” also has a tie to the original Broadway production of “Oklahoma.” Both Alfred Drake and Marc Platt had roles in that musical. This was Drake’s first film.

This was also the first film of comedian Sid Caesar, who was also in the original “Tars and Spars” Coast Guard plays. His overly long comedic scenes reminded me of Danny Kaye or Red Skelton, but unfortunately wasn’t very funny. For example, his “I Love Eggs” song is irritating and also surprising that they would show someone wasting eggs at the end of rationing. He then does an extremely irritating comedic number where he’s describing the movie they will see on the ship.

“Tars and Spars” has big dance numbers like it is going to be a larger budget musical film, but also has a low budget feel. I feel like it would be a more enjoyable film without Sid Caesar’s comedic moments.

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