Saturday, September 06, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Up in Arms (1944) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Some of my fondest childhood movie memories are of watching Danny Kaye's '40s movies on KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles. My husband has the same memories -- it's neat to know that at points we were doubtless enjoying the same movies at the same time, years before we met!

Four of Kaye's films are now available from the Warner Archive in the collection Danny Kaye: The Goldwyn Years, which is part of the Archive's Samuel Goldwyn Classics series.

My favorite '40s Kaye film might be the earliest title in the set, UP IN ARMS (1944), which I watched this evening. Kaye plays Danny, a hypochondriac who's drafted into the army along with his best pal, Joe (Dana Andrews). Danny loves a nurse named Mary (Constance Dowling), but Mary loves Joe and another nurse, Virginia (Dinah Shore), is carrying a torch for Danny. They all end up together on a ship headed for the South Pacific, and crazy complications ensue.

One of the things I remembered most vividly from my childhood was the pink in the cheeks of the Goldwyn Girls, the beautiful background women who also appear in the musical numbers, and on this Archive disc the ladies look just as beautiful as I remembered. I would go so far as to say that some scenes on this DVD couldn't be improved with a Blu-ray, they look that good.

Kaye performs as expected, with his goofy patter songs and childlike persona, but to my thinking the really amazing performer in UP IN ARMS is Dinah Shore, who's absolutely dynamite singing "Tess's Torch Song," which is as delightful a musical number as one will find in the '40s, or performing the lively "Jive Number" with Kaye. She also sings a lovely ballad, "Now I Know." Shore has a real knack for comedy, and seeing this again, it's puzzling that her film career was as limited as it was. She had married George Montgomery in 1943.

The up and coming Andrews was about to hit it big, with his fourth release of 1944 being LAURA, to be followed by STATE FAIR (1945). Constance Dowling, who is lovely, would later play the murder victim in the underrated noir BLACK ANGEL (1946); her sister was actress Doris Dowling.

It's great fun watching the Goldwyn Girls; first and foremost among them was Virginia Mayo, who stars with Kaye in the other three films in this DVD collection. The Goldwyn Girls also include Myrna Dell, Dorothy Patrick, Linda Christian, and Renee Godfrey (seen this week in HIGHWAYS BY NIGHT). The Goldwyn Girls appear throughout the ship scenes, including a bizarre fantasy sequence where they form human torches.

There's a scene that's the stuff of pure fantasy, as the nurses sun in colorful beachwear and play with beach balls on the ship. Lyle Talbot and Elisha Cook Jr. sigh from afar that there wasn't anything like that in the last war, after which they look right at the camera and say, "There isn't anything like this in this war either!"

It's nice to think that this cheery, colorful film, which includes the stirring march "All Out for Freedom," entertained the military during WWII. In fact, there's a card at the end addressed to family and friends of men and women in the military, letting them know that the film was shown to members of the military at no charge, courtesy of the American film industry.

UP IN ARMS runs 108 minutes. It was directed by Elliott Nugent and filmed in Technicolor by Ray Rennahan. The supporting cast includes Louis Calhern, Richard Powers (Tom Keene), Tom Dugan, Benny Baker, Sig Arno, Walter Catlett, and Margaret Dumont.

The Archive's Danny Kaye set contains four films on four individual discs. The other films in the set, which will be reviewed here in the future, are WONDER MAN (1945), THE KID FROM BROOKLYN (1946), and A SONG IS BORN (1948). The UP IN ARMS disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website. Please note that the initial sets of this series sold at the Warner Archive site are traditionally replicated (pressed) rather than burned on demand.

2 Comments:

Blogger Larry Fiore said...

I had read mixed reviews of this film but your review,Laura, has convinced me to add it to my Classic Flix queue. I love most Danny Kaye movies and am looking forward to your Wonder Man review as it's one of my favorites.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Larry, I'd be most interested to hear what you think of UP IN ARMS when you get it from ClassicFlix. Hopefully my opinion isn't weighted too positively because of fond childhood memories, LOL. Just loved Dinah Shore! I haven't seen WONDER MAN in years so I'm looking forward to it!

Best wishes,
Laura

9:22 PM  

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