Variety show movie musicals were all the rage in 1943. This might be the most patriotic of them all, with its chorus of soldiers and tunes by Irving Berlin.
The story is centered around two musical reviews Berlin wrote for the Broadway stage, Yip, Yip Yaphank (1918) and This Is the Army (1942), both largely casted with active-duty servicemen, of which Berlin was one in 1918.
Jerry Jones (George Murphy) is a talented singer and dancer. He and his buddies are all drafted while they are putting on a show. They go on to star in Yip Yip Yaphank as a morale-building exercise before being shipped off to France. Jerry loses a leg but keeps his spirits up and becomes a successful businessman.
We segue to 1942 and Johnny Jones (Ronald Reagan) is preparing to head overseas. A running theme is his reluctance to marry long-time girlfriend Eileen (Joan Leslie), fearing that would be unfair as he might be killed. Instead of combat, however, Johnny’s active duty is as stage manager of This Is the Army. With Alan Hale as a drill sergeant during both wars and specialty numbers by Frances Langford and Kate Smith and Berlin croaking out “Oh, How I Hate to Get up in the Morning”.
I suspect This Is the Army was a bit old-fashioned even for 1943. A cast member says as much about the blackface ministrel number performed to “Mandy”. We also have a strictly segregated show with the black soldiers all tapping in the number “That’s What the Well-Dressed Man in Harlem Will Wear”. There is much too much drag for my taste as well. I enjoyed a few of the numbers any way.
This Is the Army won the Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (Ray Heindorf). It was nominated in the categories of Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Color and Best Sound, Recording.
Clip – finale