Musical Monday: Where Do We Go from Here? (1945)

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:
Where Do We Go From Here? (1945) – Musical #618

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Gregory Ratoff

Starring:
Fred MacMurray, Joan Leslie, June Haver, Gene Sheldon, Anthony Quinn, Carlos Ramírez, Alan Mowbray, Fortunio Bonanova, Herman Bing, Howard Freeman, Rory Calhoun (uncredited), Otto Preminger (uncredited)

Plot:
Bill Morgan (MacMurray) is eager to join the military, but he’s 4F and has been turned down by every branch of the military. Bill is in love with Lucilla (Haver), who loves a man in uniform, and Sally (Leslie) is in love with Bill. Since he can’t join the military, Bill helps with the war effort. While sorting scrap metal, he finds a magic lamp with a genie (Sheldon). Bill tries to wish himself into the military but ends up traveling throughout history.

Trivia:
• 20th Century Fox wanted Bob Hope to play the lead role. If they borrowed him from Paramount, Paramount would Betty Grable, according to a Feb. 25, 1944, news brief.
• Joan Leslie was on loan out from Warner Bros.
• Carlos Ramírez was on loan out from MGM.
• Fred MacMurray and June Haver were married nine years after the release of this film.
• The songs omitted from the film include: “It Could Have Happened to Anyone,” “Woo, Woo, Woo, Woo, Manhattan!” and “That’s How It Is.”
• Don Ameche and Ernst Lubitsch were supposed to have cameos during the Christopher Columbus portion, but neither remained in the film.

June Haver singing “Morale”

Highlights:
• Technicolor cinematography
• Fred MacMurray singing and dancing
• Otto Preminger has a cameo as a German general
• The songs were written by Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill

Notable Songs:
• “If Love Remains” performed by Fred MacMurray and Joan Leslie
• “All at Once” performed by Fred MacMurray
• “Morale” performed by June Haver
• “Columbus (The Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria)” performed by Carlos Ramírez, Fred MacMurray, Fortunio Bonanova and Chorus

My review:
With vibrant Technicolor and costumes designed by Bonnie Cashin, “Where Do We Go From Here?” (1945) is visually gorgeous.

But storywise and music-wise, it’s a bizarre little film. However, I think it’s worth seeing.

Today, many people know actor Fred MacMurray from his 1950s and 1960s Disney films and the TV show “My Three Sons.” But MacMurray got his start in the early 1930s with a dance band, playing the saxophone and singing. On occasion, MacMurray would play his saxophone on “My Three Sons,” but he rarely sang in his films or TV shows.

“Where Do We Go from Here?” gave audiences the opportunity to hear his smooth singing voice. MacMurray sings three songs and even gets to dance a little.

It’s fun to see him in a musical, though it is hard to believe that MacMurray — who stands at 6 ft., 3 in. — would be 4F.

MacMurray’s character, Bill, travels through time as his genie takes creative liberty with his wishes:
• First, he wishes to go in the U.S. Army. And he lands in the Revolutionary War on the eve of George Washington invading the Hessians. Otto Preminger has a small role as a Hessian general.

• Second, he wishes to go in the navy. He finds himself on Christopher Columbus’s (played by Fortunio Bonanova) boat on it’s way to the new world. From there, Bill goes ashore to New York and buys the Manhattan from a Native American (played by Anthony Quinn).

• Third, Bill wishes he could see the faces of everyone when they realize he bought New York and ends up in New Amsterdam in the 1600s. He goes to jail when he says he owns the island.

Finally, Bill heads back to current day 1944 and realizes which girl he loves.

June Haver and Joan Leslie play various roles in each of the time periods. The film was still early in the career of June Haver, but Joan Leslie was a well-established star at Warner Bros. I was surprised to see Leslie on loan out to 20th Century Fox. With her red hair, Leslie looks gorgeous in Technicolor. Though sources say she was dubbed by Sally Sweetland, knowing her real singing voice, I’m not sure this is true.

Haver and Fred MacMurray were later married in 1954 until his death in 1991, so it’s interesting to see them in this film together.

While some of the songs are ballads, many were based on the historic period that Bill is in. One interesting number is a 12-minute long operetta during the Columbus period called “The Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria.” At the time, it was one of the longest musical numbers on film. Character actor Fortunio Bonanova was a trained opera singer, but we rarely got the opportunity to hear him sing. However, he sings as Christopher Columbus in the brief operetta.

Originally, 20th Century Fox wanted Bob Hope in the role of Bill, which I could see perfectly in this role. However, it was fun to see MacMurray in the role.

“Where Do We Go From Here?” is a really odd and unusual film, but I think this may be part of the charm. It is a unique fantasy that is different than most musicals of this time.

The cherry on top of the bizarre story is the rare opportunity to see Fred MacMurray and Fortunio Bonaova sing, something they both did once in their careers but Hollywood seldom allowed them to. For this, I think this is a must-see film.

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