Musical Monday: Rosie the Riveter (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 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Rosie the Riveter (1944) – Musical #617

Studio: Republic Pictures

Director: Joseph Santley

Jane Frazee, Frank Albertson, Barbara Jo Allen (as Vera Vague), Frank Jenks, Lloyd Corrigan, Frank Fenton, Maude Eburne, Carl ‘Alfalfa’ Switzer, Tom Kennedy, Ellen Lowe, Louise Erickson, Kirby Grant

During the World War II housing shortage, Rosie Warren (Frazee), Vera Watson (Allen), Charlie Doran (Albertson) and Kelly Kennedy (Jenks) all are fighting over one room in boarding house. They reach an agreement that Rosie and Vera can sleep in the room at night while Charlie and Kelly work the swing-shift in a war factory, and the guys sleep there during the day while the women are working in an aircraft factory. Complications arise.

• Based on the story “Room For Two” by Dorothy Curnow Handley, which was published in the Saturday Evening Post.
• Barbara Jo Allen was billed as Vera Vague

• The war work focus on the plot
• Costumes by Adele

“Rosie the Riveter” (1944). Screencap by Jessica Pickens

Notable Songs:
• “Why Can’t I Sing a Love Song?” performed by Jane Frazee
• “Friendly Tavern Polka” performed by Jane Frazee and quartet
• “I Don’t Want Anybody at All” performed by Jane Frazee
• “Rosie the Riveter” performed by Kirby Grant

My review:
The symbol of “Rosie the Riveter” is an icon of World War II. To build morale and encourage women to work war jobs, the female symbol of both patriotism and glamour was created.

From songs to images to marketing campaigns, Rosie the Riveter has been used since World War II and even today.

And in 1944, the phrase was used in a low-budget movie musical and housing shortage comedy.

During World War II, finding a home, apartment or hotel room was next to impossible. The mix of war work and housing shortage make up this film’s plot.

The film begins with Rosie Warren, Vera Watson, Charlie Doran and Kelly Kennedy, all racing for a room for rent in a boarding house. The owners of the boarding home decide they can compromise with the four workers, all who are doing defense work. The girls, who work at an aircraft plant, will have the room to sleep in at night. The guys who work at night will sleep in the room during the day. The four find complications in the arrangement, such as overlapping schedules. Rosie also has to hide the situation from her stuffy fiancé, Wayne Calhoun (played by Frank Fenton).

While the plot is a fluffy musical comedy with humorous situations of sharing a room. But it also includes language to encourage women to embark on war work.

Jane Frazee’s character of Rosie puts off marrying Wayne, who is also her boss, because her work at the aircraft plant comes first. “Winning the war is more important,” she said.

It also lightly addresses some difficulties women had while working in factories. Signs are shown around the factory, warning the girls to watch out for men around the workplace.

“Rosie the Riveter” was based on a story published in the Saturday Evening Post but reminds me of movies like “Rafter Romance” (1933). It could also be compared to another housing shortage comedy, “The More the Merrier.”

I enjoy housing shortage films, because outside of the World War II era. It’s a plot device isolated to the 1940s era, and some may not understand if they aren’t knowledgeable about World War II.

Before this film, I had never seen actress Jane Frazee. She is charming and pleasant but reminds me of other actresses like Janet Blair. I also wasn’t familiar with Barbara Jo Allen (billed as Vera Vague), who was fun as the humorous friend. Frank Albertson is a favorite of mine, so I was thrilled to see him as the romantic leading man, and his pal is humorous Frank Jenks, bringing the “ole Magoo” to the film.

“Rosie the Riveter” is more a comedy than musical, though there are enough songs (and a significant dance number at the end) to qualify it as a musical.

The scenes with actual riveting being done in a factory are few, but this war-time musical comedy is a fun one. It’s not very well-known, but a fun snapshot of the era.

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