Friday, March 11, 2011

This is the Army (1943)

This is the Army (1943)
Starring: Ronald Reagan, George Murphy, Joan Leslie, George Tobias, Alan Hale to start with this film?

Let's start with historical context:

In World War I, Irving Berlin was drafted into the U.S. Army. He was an entertainer in civilian life, and while in training in Yaphank, NY, he decided to get together an all-soldier show called "Yip-Yip-Yaphank". It included singing, dancing, skits and his immortal song "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning". After World War I, he and his buddies went back to their civilian jobs and life moved on. However, just thirty years later, another war began. This time, it was the sons of the those WWI veterans who went off to war. Berlin went on a tour of NY and found that his old training camp was up and running again - equipping a new generation of American soldiers. He asked for permission to restage his old musical, Yip, Yip Yaphank with the new recruits. His request was granted and the old show was redone and renamed "This is the Army." It was wildly successful and went on a tour of the United States, wrapping up in Hawai'i. In 1943, it was made into a movie which included a cameo appearance by Berlin himself, as well as others who were original to the show.

I've been wanting to see this movie for a while - but when we did see it....well, frankly, it was disappointing. Kinda. There are members of my family who say it was a waste of time and utterly boring, but I did like some parts.

In the movie, Irving Berlin's role is replaced by the fictional character Jerry Jones (played by George Murphy) to make it less of a biography and more about the show itself. It also follows the lives of a few other soldiers and their sons, including a coronet-player-turned-bugler who is just a ham :)
This Is the Army (1943)
"Someday I'm going to murder the bugler/Someday they're going to find him dead!"

Here's the basic synopsis of the movie from Wikipedia:

In World War I, the musical Yip Yip Yaphank is a rousing success. During the show, it is learned that the troop has received its orders to ship off to France, and thus the end number is changed so that the soldiers march through the theater with their rifles and gear and out into the waiting convoy of trucks. Jones kisses his new bride on the way down the aisle.
In the war, several of the soldiers in the production are killed. Jerry Jones is wounded in France, by shrapnel during a German artillery barrage. He loses the full use of one of his legs, ending his career as a dancer and must walk with a cane. Nevertheless he is resolved to find something useful to do. Sgt. McKee and the bugler also survive. 
Twenty-five years later, with World War II raging in Europe, Jones' son Johnny enlists in the Army shortly after Pearl Harbor is attacked. He tells his sweetheart that they cannot marry until he returns, since he doesn't want to make her a widow. He grudgingly accepts the order to stage another musical, just as his father did. The show goes on tour around the United States and eventually plays in front of President Roosevelt in Washington, D.C.. During the show, it is announced that the Washington, D.C. performance will be the last night, and that afterwards the soldiers in the production will be ordered back to their combat units. 
Johnny's erstwhile fiancée, who has since joined the Red Cross auxiliary, appears at the show.....
And I'll cut it there and let you guess what happens on that dramatic night :P
The two that made the movie worthwhile:
Eileen (Joan Leslie) and Johnny (Ronald Reagan) 
Oh, and isn't this just a lovely picture? 

So, I actually liked the story. It was sweet, funny and a little corny, and the acting was actually pretty good. According to Grandma, Ronald Reagan was no good as an actor - but I liked him. Okay, so this is the first movie I've ever seen with him in it - but still, if I liked him in a movie like this one, I'll probably like him even more in others :)

Things to watch out for:
I wish I didn't have anything to say here, but even this movie - as old and apparently harmless as it seems - has a pretty major issue:

There are some *really* long, boring, weird, gross musical numbers that have men dressed up as ladies. Skip them - they are not worth your time. Really, you don't need to watch. Fast-forward should be enough to make you gag. Okay, I'll stop. But really, listen to me! Your brothers (or dads - mine was dying :P) will not benefit from it and neither will you :P

Other than the above, nothing else is a problem. There's no bad language that I can recall, no inappropriate kisses....all good. It's mainly the dancing men-ladies that got my dander up :P The war scenes in the WWI part of the film are *not* scary. Compared to the other stuff we've seen - piece o' cake.

This Is the Army (1943)Miscellaneous Notes:
They do show a good bit of the actual musicals (always neat) and there are some pretty fun numbers. My favorite was at the end when Irving Berlin sang (in that little "baby" voice of his) "Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning". The song "This is the Army" is also good - the humor in the dialogue is typical, old, black-and-white slapstick stuff that *I* like (not sure if y'all will).

George Tobias is in this movie. We've loved him in Yankee Doodle Dandy, Sergeant York and probably other films that I've forgotten, and here he plays a pretty good role. Of course, he steals every scene he's in anyway :P

George Murphy is Jerry Jones (the WWI guy - Johnny's father) and I recognized him right off the bat. Believe it or not, I've only seen him in ONE other film and that was years ago. But I'll save that story for another post....

Jo's Rating:
For the Storyline:
Strength of Characters: ****
Strength of Plot: ****
For the Music:
Strength of Characters: **
Strength of Plot: *
Overall Rating: ***

It's still not *really* worth your time - unless you don't mind skipping most of the music and just enjoying the cute little storyline and watching a slew of famous actors try to get along and make the movie work :P It's a piece of Americana - and you'll probably watch it anyway, even after reading this review and the comment that Leia is going to leave on it :P

Has anyone else seen this movie? What were your impressions? Oh, and do you think Ronald Reagan was a good actor?


  1. One of those family members was me. I almost went to sleep during it, and spent the rest of time groaning. It was the WORST movie I have EVER seen!!!!! DON'T WATCH IT!!!!

  2. {Leia} - Oh, be quiet. You were asleep before it even started :P

  3. How did I guess that Leia would be one of the certain family members;)

    I am ashamed to say that I have not seen *any* movies with Ronald Reagen in it...I watched his funeral on TV! But that probably doesn't count, does it?:)

  4. haha, yeah. ok. i think i started gagging at the picture of the movie. the way the girl looks at the guy is almost enuf to make you gag.. :P
    hey, Jo, we made a movie! i bet you can guess what it's about... ;-)
    i'll email it to you when we're done if you want! :D hahaha...

  5. {Nana} - If I like a movie and then I say in a post that someone doesn't like it - it's probably Leia :P I saw Reagan's funeral on TV too - but he looks better alive and acting :P

    {Molly} - Well, you don't like romance movies anyway so I'm not surprised at your response :P Does the movie y'all made have fake blood in it!??! Hehe. I'd love to see it :)

  6. Hey Jo! Sorry I haven't commented in awhile! :) Haha! I know a girl who looks like the leading lady in that film! (at least from the picture you posted, which is lovely by the way!)
    She really is a beautiful gal! :) ~Rachel

  7. Yeah, well I didn't really see *him* [thank goodness...that could be scarring] just his coffin...he may not have even been in there...he may not even be dead! It's just a government conspiracy! *eh* sorry 'bout that...Riley [National Treasure2] moment there:) Love ya...

  8. yes! it actually does!! :-O (;-))
    haha, i guess. :) but, it does make me feel a little better knowing that Leia didn't like it either.... ;-)