THAT LADY IN ERMINE (1948).
During World War II Bill Morgan (MacMurray) is frustrated by his 4F status, especially as lovely USO hostess Lucilla (Haver) is attracted by uniforms. With no uniform, Bill is relegated to washing dishes in the USO kitchen. He's assisted by sweet Sally (Leslie); unfortunately Bill is oblivious to Sally's interest in him.
Later that night Bill is sorting scrap metal and rubs an old lamp, letting out a genie (Gene Sheldon). The genie sends Bill careening back through time, to Washington's army, Christopher Columbus's ship, and then old New Amsterdam, where everyone speaks backwards Yoda-style. Will Bill end up in the army in the right century, with the right girl by his side?
The film's best moments are a pair of duets between MacMurray and Leslie, particularly "Love Remains." MacMurray does his own singing, and he does quite a good job. Leslie is dubbed by her regular singing voice from several movies, Sally Sweetland.
It's also fun to see MacMurray playing opposite his future wife, June Haver. She's so tiny next to MacMurray! Haver is particularly amusing as an Indian maiden.
The film's funniest gag involves the usage of the 20th Century-Fox fanfare near the end of the film. Be listening for it.
However, much of the film left me cold, especially when Leslie and Haver aren't on screen. There is an extended musical sequence with Christopher Columbus that I simply found boring. The Hessians singing a German drinking song, with all the barmaids wearing blond wigs, didn't do much for me either. Given the cast and my love for musicals, I wanted to like the film more than I did; perhaps I'll give it another chance at some point in the future.
Anthony Quinn plays an Indian chief who sells Manhattan, and Alan Mowbray is George Washington.
This film was directed by Gregory Ratoff. It was shot in Technicolor by Leon Shamroy and runs 74 minutes.
This movie isn't available on DVD or video, but it is shown from time to time on Fox Movie Channel.
For more on this film, visit Lou Lumenick's blog at the New York Post.
December 2012 Update: This movie is now available on DVD-R from the Fox Cinema Archives.