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 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.
This week’s musical:
“Four Jills and a Jeep” –Musical #514
20th Century Fox
William A. Seiter
Carole Landis, Kay Francis, Martha Raye, Mitzi Mayfair, Phil Silvers, John Harvey, Dick Haymes
Themselves: Betty Grable, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, George Jessel, Jimmy Dorsey
This musical is based on Carole Landis’s book “Four Jills in a Jeep” about her USO tour in the UK and Northern Africa with Martha Raye, Kay Francis and Mitzi Mayfair. The actresses play themselves.
-Dick Haymes first film.
-The character of Ted Warren is based on Capt. Thomas Wallace, who Landis met abroad and was married to from 1943 to 1945.
-The film opens with a “Command Performance” radio program. These were recorded from 1942 through 1949 and were broadcast on the Armed Forces Radio Network (AFRS) with a direct shortwave transmission to the troops overseas. It was not broadcast over domestic U.S. radio stations.
-Betty Grable’s last black and white film.
-Mitzi Mayfair’s last film.
Publicity photo of Mitzi Mayfair, Martha Raye, Carole Landis and Kay Francis
-“You’ll Never Know” performed by Alice Faye
-“I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi (I Like You Very Much)” performed by Carmen Miranda
-“Crazy Me” performed by Carole Landis
The New York Times review said, “It (Four Jills in a Jeep) gives the painful impression of having been tossed together in a couple of hours.” This sadly is true. Carole Landis’s 1943 book “Four Jills in a Jeep,” which the film is based off of, is touching and interesting. The film doesn’t half of the charm that the book does.
Landis, Francis and Raye during their USO tour, which this film was based off of.
The book–written in first person by Landis–follow Landis, Kay Francis, Mitzi Mayfair and Martha Raye on their USO tour in England, Ireland, Scotland and Northern Africa which began in October 1942. Not shown in the film, Raye stayed behind in Africa and continued performing on her own; returning in March 1943.
In the book, Landis describes some of their hardships such as freezing cold accommodations and lacks of amenities that they were used to, which is hardly referenced in the film. (Read more about Raye’s USO efforts in this Comet post).
The book also follows Landis’s romance with Capt. Thomas Wallace. This thrown together film mainly focuses on this romance with “Ted Warren” (Harvey), who is supposed to be Wallace.
This musical film does feel thrown together: it is 80 percent musical performances and 20 percent gags written into a thin plot. There is very little attempt at trying to structure a story line that is followable.
The storyline focuses more on these musical numbers and gives very little screen time to Landis, Francis, Mayfair or Raye.
These four actresses spent time overseas to raise the morale for soldiers, and it doesn’t feel like this film even tries to honor their service. Instead, it makes it look like the trip is a constant manhunt. The scenes in Africa (which is the last 20 minutes of the 90 minute film) is the only part that shows some of their services: the actresses help out as nurses and then give a show after working all day in the hospital.
The disappointing thing about “Four Jills in a Jeep” is that this could have been a really warm film if some time had been spent on it. Maybe some of the Phil Silvers corn could have been cut, the storyline could more closely and truthfully followed the real events of Landis, Francis, Mayfair and Raye.
Left: Carole Landis marrying Capt. Thomas Wallace in 1943.
Right: Landis with actor John Harvey in “Four Jills in a Jeep” who played “Ted Warren,” who was supposed to be Thomas Wallace.
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