Musical Monday: Let’s Face It (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.

let's face it 2This week’s musical:
Let’s Face It (1943) – Musical #722

Studio:
Paramount Pictures

Director:
Sidney Lanfield

Starring:
Bob Hope, Betty Hutton, Zasu Pitts, Phyllis Povah, Dave Willock, Eve Arden, Dona Drake, Marjorie Weaver, Raymond Walburn, Andrew Tombes, Joyce Compton (uncredited), Yvonne de Carlo (uncredited), Kay Linaker (uncredited), Noel Neill (uncredited), Barbara Pepper (uncredited),

Plot:
Three wives — Maggie Watson (Arden), Cornelia Figeson (Pitts) and Nancy Collister (Povah) — are suspicious of their husbands who went on a “fishing trip.” Staying at a health farm near an Army base, the women connect with soldier Jerry Walker (Hope) and ask if he and two friends can come to the Hamptons with them to get back at their husbands. The problem being that Jerry is supposed to be getting married to his long term girlfriend, Winnie Porter (Hutton), who also runs the health farm.

Trivia:
• Danny Kaye was originally considered for the lead role, in what would have been his film debut. Bob Hope was cast instead, and Kaye’s debut would be UP IN ARMS (1944) the following year, according to Hope’s biographer.
• The film is based on a Broadway show, “Let’s Face It,” with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and written by Herbert and Dorothy Fields. “Let’s Face It” was based on a 1925 show called “Cradle Snatchers.” “Let’s Face It” ran from Oct. 29, 1941, and closed on March 20, 1943, with 547 performances. It starred Danny Kaye, Eve Arden, Vivian Vance, Nanette Fabray.
• Several of the songs from the Broadway show didn’t make it into the film.
• Working title was “The Cradle Snatchers.”

let's face it 4

Highlights:
• Eve Arden

Notable Songs:
• “Let’s Face It” performed by the chorus
• “Let’s Not Talk About Love” performed by Betty Hutton
• “Who Did? I Did? Yes I Did!” performed by Betty Hutton and Bob Hope

let's face it 2

My review:
Much is lost in translation when stage shows transition to film — so the historians and film critics say, since I wasn’t alive in 1943 when “Let’s Face It” was on Broadway. Starring Danny Kaye, the Broadway musical featured “Melody in F,” a tongue twisting, comedic number.

When the film transitioned to screen, most of the Cole Porter songs (and the Sylvia Fine written, Melody in F) were dropped and some of the plot is adjusted. Many of the original cast members were also left on stage, though Danny Kaye was originally a hopeful for the lead in the film.

However, “Let’s Face It” became a vehicle for comedian Bob Hope, costarring singing comedian Betty Hutton. Eve Arden was the only cast member to make it into the screen production. The film still credits Cole Porter for the music and a story inspired by the work of Herbert and Dorothy Fields.

The film follows Jerry, played by Bob Hope, who is ready to make some quick cash when three wives of philandering husbands want three Army soldiers to woo them for the weekend. The problem is, Jerry is supposed to get married that night. His girl Winnie, played by Betty Hutton, and her gal pals, figure out what’s up, and follow along. Ridiculous events ensue.

The Aug. 5, 1943, New York Times review complains that the film is corny, and that the highlight of the stage show of was Kaye’s performance of “Melody in F,” which is omitted from the film — though all he had to do was wait a year to see it in UP IN ARMS (1944)

The film is corny with Bob Hope jokes and zany antics, but it’s still a pretty good time. Truly, the highlight are the three wives, played by Eve Arden, Zasu Pitts and Phyllis Povah. Per usual, Arden has some funny one-liners. I particularly like when she bemoans, “I just feel old.”

As a Betty Hutton fan, I could have liked to see more Hutton, though she does get to sing two of the three songs in the film. I was surprised by the lack of music in this film, especially when the stage show touted songs by Cole Porter.

There are some funny gags throughout. I particularly like Bob Hope lighting multiple cigarettes in his mouth — most likely riffing on the famous NOW VOYAGER scene — but he does it to the point where it gets ridiculous.

My only real complaint is that Hutton runs a health spa, which in theory should be sort of fun. But there are some meanspirited fat jokes that I didn’t care for. Thankfully, that was all at the beginning.

The film does truly pick up with the entrance of Arden, Pitts, and Povah, who may steal the show from our leading actors.

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