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:
Up in Arms (1944) – Musical #205
Samuel Goldwyn Productions, Distributed by RKO
Danny Kaye, Dana Andrews, Dinah Shore, Constance Dowling, Louis Calhern, Lyle Talbot, Elisha Cook Jr., Benny Baker, George Matthews, Tom Dugan, Walter Catlett, Lillian Randolph (uncredited)
The Goldwyn Girls: Virginia Mayo, Betty Alexander, Gale Adams, Gloria Anderson, Betty Bryant, Jan Bryant, Alma Carroll, Joan Chaffee, Linda Christian, Virginia Cruzon, Myrna Dell, Cindy Garner, Dorothy Garner, Myrna Dell, Inna Gest, Renee Godfrey, Ellen Hall, Eloise Hardt, June Harris, Mary Ann Hyde, Mildred Kornman, June Lang, Rosalyn Lee, Florence Lundeen, Mickey Malloy, Dorothy Merritt, Lorraine Miller, Mary Moore, Kay Morley, Diana Mumby, Lee Nugent, Dorothy Patrick, Shelby Payne, Helen Talbot, Ruth Valmy, Virginia Wicks, Audrey Young
Narrator: Knox Manning
Hypochondriac Danny Weems (Kaye) is drafted into the Army. He’s in love with Mary (Dowling), who is in love with his pal Joe (Andrews), and Virginia (Shore) is in love with Danny. Despite all of his imaginary illnesses Danny (and Joe) are drafted. When Danny learns they are shipping off, he can’t bear to imagine leaving without Mary and sneaks her on to the ship.
• Danny Kaye’s film debut
• Second feature film of Dinah Shore and her first film where she isn’t a specialty performer.
• First film of Constance Dowling
• Working title was “With Flying Colors.”
• Danny Kaye’s character was based on a character written by Owen Davis for the Broadway play “The Nervous Wreck” in 1923. This play was made into a musical called “Whoopee” starring Eddie Cantor.
• Virginia Mayo was considered for the role of Virginia, which went to Dinah Shore. Mayo appears as a Goldwyn Girl.
• The song “Melody in 4F” originally appeared in Danny Kaye’s Broadway show, “Let’s Face It.” The song was co-written by Kaye’s wife, Sylvia Fine.
• Col. Hamilton Templeton, Gunner’s Mate 1/C Marvin C. Beck, Navy Capt. Walter Voegler, and the Maritime Commission’s D. Harms were hired as technical advisors for the film.
• Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song for the song “Now I Know.”
• Louis Forbes and Ray Heindorf were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.
• First feature film of Dorothy Patrick
• Dana Andrews
• Shadow shots of Dana Andrews and Constance Dowling
• The Technicolor
• Dinah Shore singing “Tess’s Torch Song”
• The pastel dream sequence
• The Goldwyn Girls
• “Now I Know” performed by Dinah Shore
• “All Out for Freedom” performed by the chorus
• “Tess’s Torch Song” performed by Dinah Shore, reprised by Danny Kaye and Dinah Shore
• “Theater Lobby Number” performed by Danny Kaye
With it’s bright, paint box colors, beautiful stars and toe-tapping songs, UP IN ARMS (1944) is an energetic, enjoyable film. It was also transformative for several of the cast members.
Danny Weems (Kaye) is such a hypochondriac that he works as an elevator operator in a hospital so he can ask the doctors about his various ailments. Danny is also in love with Mary (Dowling), but it’s nurse Virginia (Shore) that’s in love with Danny. When Danny invites his friend and roommate Joe (Andrews) out on a double date, Mary and Joe find that they mutually like each other. Though Danny thinks that he is 4F, he is drafted nonetheless, and he and Joe are shipped out together. Mary and Virginia join the Army Nurse Corps and Virginia is on the boat with Danny and Joe. Desperate for Mary to go along, Danny smuggles her on to the boat too.
Already famous on stage and in nightclubs, Danny Kaye makes his feature-film debut in UP IN ARMS. The film gives Kaye the opportunity to display his signature tongue-twisting, fast paced songs and comedic style. There’s confusion and antics, all led by Kaye. Admittedly, some of Kaye’s jokes (causing confusion on the ship to hide Mary, etc.) are a bit much for my taste, but there are some clever and funny scenes. The movie theater song is a bit long but also clever, referring to actresses like Eleanor Powell, Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda.
Not only was this the first film role of Kaye, it was the first acting feature film role for Dinah Shore, Constance Dowling and Virginia Mayo (who is a Goldwyn Girl but one of few who gets a line). I particularly like Shore in this film, because she gets to cut loose a bit more than she did in later film appearances. While she’s known for ballads, she gets to sing “Tess’s Torch Song”—a performance I love of her’s— and dance with Kaye. I know most people walk away remembering Kaye’s Sylvia Fine-written songs, but for me “Tess’s Torch Song” is the performance that tuck with me for years. In this role, you see her radiant auburn hair and hear her Tennessee southern accent. This film makes me wish we got to see her in more musical films, rather than just a musical specialty act.
Constance Dowling is gorgeous with soft blonde hair, but I’ll admit, she’s fairly forgettable compared to her co-stars. I’d argue she’s even outshined by the Goldwyn Girls. While Mayo was a Goldwyn Girl, she stands out among the group.
But for me, my favorite performer in the film is Dana Andrews, who is incredibly handsome in this film (cue heavy, dreamy sighs when he appears on screen). Andrews was also early in his film career. Acting in films since 1940, Andrews would career would take off later this same year when he co-starred in LAURA (1944). But in this film, we get to see a different side of Andrews. He gets to play in comedy and play a warm friend to Danny Kaye. He gets the opportunity to smile more. Sadly, though Andrews was a trained singer, he doesn’t get to sing in this musical. But overall, he is impossible adorable here.
The supporting cast is incredible—and perhaps doesn’t as much screen time as I’d like—and I rounded out by Louis Calhern, Lyle Talbot, Walter Catlett and Elisha Cook, Jr.
While some of Kaye’s comedic scenes get to be a bit much, there are some very funny scenes. For example, the two guys and two girls are riding on a bus, but can’t sit together because the ladies outrank the men. They talk to each other across the bus, confusing the bus riders.
The whole film is exhibited in this gorgeous, vibrant paintbox Technicolor. The Goldwyn Girls are all beautiful with their bright red lipstick and later in pastel sun suits. There’s a fun, wild dream sequence where everyone is outfitted in lavender, light pink and teal. Then the whole dream changes and there are darker visuals with the Goldwyn Girls posing as dark trees.
The whole film is visually stunning. It’s also stunning how this comedic film set in motion the film career of Danny Kaye.
While I admittedly get a bit aggravated during the film, I still really like it. It’s fun and beautiful— and Dana Andrews being in it doesn’t hurt.
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