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:
Salute for Three (1943) – Musical #719
Betty Jane Rhodes, Macdonald Carey, Marty May, Cliff Edwards, Minna Gombell, Noel Neill, Frank Faylen (uncredited), Charles Smith (uncredited)
As themselves: Dona Drake, Lorraine and Rognan
Press Agent Jimmy Gates (May) is trying to build up an unknown singer, Judy Ames (Betty Jane Rhodes), hoping she will land a spot on the “Girl I Left Behind” radio program. When war hero Buzz McAllister (Carey) returns home on leave, Jimmy cooks up a plot to create a phony romance between Judy and Buzz. But as the two spend time together, perhaps the romance isn’t so phony after all.
• This was Macdonald Carey’s last film before leaving to serve in the Marines during World War II. Carey’s next film was in 1947.
• The original working title was “Stage Door Canteen.” It had no relation to the film about the Broadway canteen.
• Robert Preston was originally announced to star in the film.
• Roy Rognan of the comedic dance duo Lorraine and Rognan was killed prior to the release of this film. He was in a plane crash in Feb. 1943, which is the same crash that singer Jane Froman was in and survived. His wife and dance partner Jean O’Rourke (or Lorraine) lived.
• Only feature film of Marty May.
• Montage of Cliff Edwards trying to get photos of Betty Jane Rhodes and Macdonald Carey together.
• “What Do You Do When it Rains” performed by Dona Drake and Her All Girl Band
• “There’s Danger in Kissing a Stranger” performed by Betty Jane Rhodes
• “My Wife’s a WAC” performed by Cliff Edwards
• “Left-Right” performed by Betty Jane Rhodes
This Musical Monday is one that plays to things I love in a World War II-era film:
• A USO canteen
• Big Band music
• A World War II romance storyline, complete with black out drills, parades and novelty songs
Filled with toe-tapping tunes with cleaver rhyming, “Salute for Three” (1943) is a sweet and fun film. In the movie, Macdonald Carey plays war hero Buzz MacAllister. He’s welcomed to New York City with a ticker tape parade, much to his embarrassment and guilt. He doesn’t like the attention. Judy Ames (Rhodes) is a struggling radio singer, who divides her time between singing at a stage door canteen and volunteering at a military hospital. Judy’s boyfriend and press agent, Jimmy Gates (May), hatches a plan for Judy to make Buzz fall for her so she can win a spot on a top radio program. In the process, the romance becomes real.
I just love Macdonald Carey, an underrated hottie of classic film. This was Carey’s last film before serving in the Marines, and his next film would be Suddenly It’s Spring (1947). Carey does a great job as a war hero who feels bashful, as well as ashamed of the attention, when so many are still fighting overseas without the fanfare.
Betty Jane Rhodes isn’t as well known today, but she sells a song well. The song and rhyming in “There’s Danger in Kissing a Stranger” is fun. She’s lovely and does well in the film.
Dona Drake, playing herself, is sadly underused in this film, as she leads her girl band. I would have liked to see her sing and dance more in the film. I was very happy to see Cliff Edwards in the film singing and playing his ukulele. His performance of “My Wife’s a WAC” is very cute. I also loved seeing Charles Smith in a bit part as a serviceman appearing on a radio program — he was adorable.
One novelty performer, dancers Lorraine and Rognan, bring the movie to a grinding halt with their comedic dance performance. But then I felt bad thinking that after I learned more about the pair. The married dancers were in the same plane crash with singer Jane Froman, who was later portrayed on film by Susan Hayward. Lorraine lived but Rognan was killed in the crash. The film was released after his death.
Despite that sad note, this is a lovely, sweet film that brought a smile to myself. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to access like so many Paramount films of this era.
Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at email@example.com