Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tonight's Movie: Song of the Islands (1942)

We've been enjoying something of a Betty Grable festival lately. Tonight's entry is the fairly entertaining SONG OF THE ISLANDS. At its best, the movie boasts lovely Betty Grable singing and dancing in a hula skirt and romancing hunky Victor Mature; its weak moments are painfully silly slapstick featuring Jack Oakie and Hilo Hattie.

The flimsy plot involves feuding families on a small Hawaiian island. Like other 20th Century-Fox musicals, it's filmed in dazzling color and features eye-catching costumes for Betty Grable. As with MOON OVER MIAMI, the film mixes stock footage and location longshots of doubles with close-ups of the leads against obvious back projections, which lends the film a sort of endearingly quaint quality, particularly when Betty makes her grand entrance singing the lovely title song on a boat, in front of a back projection ocean.

Betty's two luau dance numbers, choreographed by Hermes Pan, are fabulous, '40s musical escapism at its best. You can easily see why all the GI's loved her.

The film was directed by Walter Lang, who also directed Fox musical classics such as MOON OVER MIAMI, WEEK-END IN HAVANA, and STATE FAIR. SONG OF THE ISLANDS isn't the best of Grable's Fox musicals, but nonetheless it's breezy fun, with a short running time of 75-76 minutes (sources vary -- I should have timed it!).

In a 3-star review, Leonard Maltin describes the movie as "Buoyant Technicolor fluff full of engagingly silly songs." That's just about right.

SONG OF THE ISLANDS is available on VHS.

Update: This film is now available on DVD in the Fox Cinema Archives series.


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