Musical Monday: Rhythm Serenade (1943)

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:
Rhythm Serenade (1943) – Musical #652

Studio:
Columbia British Productions

Director:
Gordon Wellesley

Starring:
Vera Lynn, Peter Murray-Hill, Julien Mitchell, Charles Victor, Jimmy Jewel (billed as Jimmie Jewell), Ben Warriss, Joss Ambler, Rosalyn Boulter

Plot:
When her school closes, Ann Martin (Lynn) is determined to join the WRNS, the Women’s Royal Naval Service of Great Britain. Before she can join, her uncle thinks she would be better suited running a nursery for the children of women needed for wartime factory work. While locating a house for the nursery, Ann meets John Drover (Murray-Hill), a mysterious man in a nearby cottage. The two fall in love while Ann’s brothers (Jewel and Warriss) determine why he’s not in uniform.

Trivia:
• Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warriss play brothers of Vera Lynn in the film. The two were a comedic duo and were cousins in real life.

Vera Lynn in “Rhythm Serenade”

Notable Songs:
• “Bye and Bye” performed by Vera Lynn
• “I Love to Sing” performed by Vera Lynn
• “When We’re Home Sweet Home Again” performed by Vera Lynn
• “With All My Heart” performed by Vera Lynn

My review:
When English singer Dame Vera Lynn, CH DBE OStJ, died at age 103 in June 2020, I sought out the three feature films she starred in from 1943 to 1944. This week’s Musical Monday, “Rhythm Serenade” (1943) was the second film the singer made.

Vera Lynn was one of the most popular singers of World War II and was named the Forces’s Sweetheart. Her performances of the songs “White Cliffs of Dover” and “We’ll Meet Again” were some of the most popular of the wartime era.

Due to her popularity, it’s not surprising that her career briefly brought her to the screen in three wartime stories.

In “Rhythm Serenade,” Lynn plays a teacher, Ann Martin, who plans to join the women’s Navy branch when her school closes. However, her uncle convinces Ann to start a nursery for the children of women working in his wartime factory. While she scouts a location, she meets a man living in a nearby cottage. While the two fall in love, people are curious why he isn’t in uniform while most of England’s young men are fighting in the war.

Ann learns that he is recovering from an accident and fell in love with a woman singing while he was sick, but he doesn’t know who she is – and of course it’s Ann.

The overall goal of the film is to not only boost morale for war-torn England, but also promote wartime work.

“Rhythm Serenade” is a charming and sweet story, and I loved seeing Vera Lynn in a film. Since Lynn was primarily a singer, I wasn’t sure how her acting would be, but she was perfectly lovely.

Her leading man is played by Peter Murray-Hill is also charming and tall, dark and handsome. Though he looked familiar, he had a short career on-screen – with only 13 film credits from 1938 to 1945.

I was also introduced to the cousin comedic duo of Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warriss, who were relatively humorous, but (like most comedic duos in supporting roles) had a little bit too much screen time.

While this is a charming film, it’s also not without it’s flaws. For one thing, while the plot revolves around Ann running a nursey, we never actually see her doing this. The film does begin with adorable children in her school before it closes, and two orphan children return, but otherwise, we don’t see much of this factory nursery.

There are also some plot holes. We never are sure when John realizes Ann is the same woman he heard singing. And the film ends with them clearly ending up together but it feels abrupt.

I also should warn, there is a use of the N-word early in the film. At the docks, a sailor tells Ann that a boat of Black sailors will be brought in that night, but uses derogatory slang while informing her of this.

Now if you are eager to see this movie, I have some bad news. Here in the states, this UK-made film isn’t easy to find in Region 1 format or streaming (like many UK classic films).

I bought this from a “grey market” DVD seller in June the day after Vera Lynn died, eager to remember the great woman. I didn’t receive this DVD until September. So I won’t recommend this seller to any of you, unless you are in no hurry to wait. If you have a Region 2 player, you may be able to find a DVD.

Thankfully, this was a pleasant film, so the wait didn’t end in disappointing. And it’s a nice way to remember Ms. Lynn.

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