EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|BEST FOOT FORWARD (director: Edward Buzzell; screenwriter: novel by John Cecil Holm/Irving Brecher/Fred Finklehoffe/John Cecil Holm; cinematographer: Leonard Smith; editor: Blanche Sewell; music: Hugh Martin; cast: Lucille Ball (Herself), William Gaxton (Jack O'Riley), Virginia Weidler (Helen Schlesinger), Tommy Dix (Bud Hooper, Nancy Walker (Nancy), Gloria DeHaven (Minerva), Kenny Bowers (Dutch Miller), June Allyson (Ethel), Jack Jordan (Hunk), Beverly Tyler (Miss Delaware Water Gap), Chill Wills (Chester Short), Henry O'Neill (Maj. Reeber), Sara Haden (Miss Talbert), Donald MacBride (Capt. Bradd), Bobby Stebbins (Greenie), Harry James and His Music Makers; Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arthur Freed; MGM; 1943)|
of the musical numbers were inconsequential."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Edward Buzzell ("At The Circus"/"Go West"/"Song
of the Thin Man") bases the film on a lightweight Broadway
musical. Under Buzzell's heavy-handed uninspired
direction, the film hardly puts its best foot forward.
The studio bosses woo the youth market, while making it a star
vehicle for MGM's newest acquisition Lucille Ball.
The star moves over from playing in cheaply made B
films for RKO to this glossy A production film in
gorgeous Technicolor, where she gets the full star
treatment. Five cast members from the original show
(Tom Dix, Nancy
Jordan and Kenny
retained (though some in different roles), as are all
of the musical numbers except for "Shady Lady Bird." The bland film offers a few
peppy numbers like "Buckle Down, Winsocki" and, added for the
movie, Harry James's
signature number "Flight of the Bumblebee"
"The Two O'Clock Jump."
Also added was Lucy singing "You're Lucky" (which
was dubbed by
Gloria Grafton). Unfortunately most of the musical
numbers were inconsequential,
as staged by Charles Walters.
MGM's leading musical producer Arthur Freed
pushed to do the film after catching the 1941 stage
version in New York, and the studio bought the rights
from Columbia. The film turned a nice profit, though
its old-fashioned formulaic story was banal and never
caught my interest. It's based on the book by John
Cecil Holm, with Holm, Irving Brecher and Fred
Finklehoffe providing the screenplay.
Lucille Ball is a popular glamorous Hollywood
actress whose star is fading and reluctantly agrees to
a publicity stunt her nervy agent Jack O'Riley (William Gaxton) arranges in order to get
her name in the newspapers to pique the interests of
the studios, as she travels 3,000 miles east by train
to attend in a small town in Pennsylvania a senior
prom at Winsocki
military prep school after a senior cadet, Bud Hooper (Tommy Dix), writes her a
fan letter and asks her to be his date. Bud is
surprised she accepts, which complicates things since
he promised his girlfriend Helen Schlesinger (Virginia Weidler) he would take her to the
prom and now has to lie to her that he's sick. To the
rescue come Bud's playful cadet friends, Dutch
Miller (Kenny Bowers) and Harvey "Hunk" Hoyt
Jordan), who convince the naive
Bud to take Lucy to the prom under Helen's name. The awkward situation leads
to a misunderstanding between Lucy and the jealous
Helen, when Helen unexpectedly comes to the prom.
Things escalate out of control when the school
authorities threaten to expel Bud for lying, when they
discover the truth. But predictably there's a happy
ending for everyone, even after the newspaper photos of
Lucy causing a riot at the prom by hayseed local
reporter Chester Short (Chill Wills) go national. But
things get patched up as expected and everyone walks
away with a smile--except the not targeted audience,
who had to endure such stiff comedy, awkward acting,
forgettable music and a trivial story line.
For vile comic relief,
the supposed ugly duckling Nancy Walker
is a rejected blind date who is bellyaching throughout
the prom that she can't even get a cadet to dance with
her because of her looks.
REVIEWED ON 1/29/2011 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ