Star-Spangled Rhythm (1942)

Star-Spangled Rhythmstar-spangled rhythm
Directed by George Marshall
Written by Melvin Frank, George S. Kaufman, Norman Panama, Arthur A. Ross, and Henry Tugend
Paramount Pictures
First viewing/Bob Hope Tribute Collection DVD


[In front of Old Glory and a plaster Mt. Rushmore] Bing Crosby: [singing] Germans, Italians, and Japs / Can’t kick us off our Rand-McNally maps.

This is one of those compilation movies that tries to weave a bunch of unrelated acts around a central story.  These are usually only moderately successful, as is this one, despite its cast of Paramount stars and songs by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer.

star-spangled rythm 2The framing story involves a sailor, Johnny Webster (Eddie Bracken), who is on shore leave in Hollywood.  His father, William ‘Bronco Billy’ Webster (Victor Moore), is a security guard at Paramount studio who has boasted of being head of the studio.  Telephone operator Polly Judson (Betty Hutton) is in on the scheme and has been writing to the sailor.  The couple has fallen in love via these letters.  Polly and Billy conspire to spirit producer B.G. DeSoto out of his office and fool Johnny and his buddies.  They get deeper and deeper into hot water until Billy ends up promising to host a big variety show for the whole shipful of sailors.

The show features musical numbers by some of Paramounts biggest stars including Bing Crosby (singing “Old Glory”); Dick Powell and Mary Martin (“Hit the Road to Dreamland”); Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson (“Sharp as a Tack”) and more.  Johnny Johnston sings to dream girl Vera Zorina as she dances to “That Old Black Magic”.  Comedy sketches feature Alan Ladd, Franchot Tone, Fred McMurray, Ray Milland, William Bendix, Susan Hayward, Marjorie Reynolds, and many more players.  Bob Hope emcees the whole thing.

star-spangled rhythm 1

Paulette Godard, Dorothy Lamour and Veronica Lake sing “A Sweater, a Sarong, and a Peek-a-Boo Bang”

The singing and dancing is more successful than the mostly sophmoric comedy.  This movie hasn’t aged particularly well but does give viewers the opportunity to see many second-tier stars of the era gathered in one place.

Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen were nominated for an Oscar for the song “That Old Magic”.  Star-Spangled Rhythm was also nominated for Best Music, Original Scoring of a Musical Picture.

Trailer – good also for a catalog of many the stars that were under contract at Paramount in 1942

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