Lighthearted fare from the Warner Bros. slate of classic stars is my recommendation for this Memorial Day.
Edward Everett Horton and S. Z. Sakall are producers Farnsworth and Dr. Schlenna (respectively) who are staging a show called “Cavalcade of Stars” in order to raise money for Allied charities during World War II. The duo have their mind set on getting Dinah Shore to perform in the show, but in order to do so they have to get approval from Eddie Cantor with whom Shore is under contract. Cantor agrees to allow Shore to be in the charity benefit, but with the caveat that he be made chair of the committee. Farnsworth and Schlenna try to resist Cantor’s offer fearing the egotistical star will take over the show, but acquiesce because they really want to feature the popular Shore. And what happens is – Cantor takes over the show.
In the meantime, aspiring singer Tommy Randolph (Dennis Morgan) and aspiring songwriter Pat Dixon (Joan Leslie) set up a plan to get their talents showcased in the Cavalcade Show by replacing Cantor with himself. Or rather, the other character that Cantor plays in the movie, look-a-like bus driver, Joe Simpson.
With plenty of laughs strewn about, that’s the basic premise of Thank Your Lucky Stars. In truth this David Butler directed 1943 Warner Bros. picture simply allows for the biggest stars on the Warner lot to show their not oft recognized talents for the purpose of providing entertainment to a country at war. And they do it in abundance with this charmer!
Thank Your Lucky Stars is like a true-to-life “let’s put on a show in the barn” scenario except without the barn. You get Bette Davis singing the Oscar-nominated “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old,” which is to my knowledge the only time she sang in a movie and she did a damn good job of it. Then there are numbers by John Garfield, Ann Sheridan, Errol Flynn and Hattie McDaniel, a fantastic duet by Alan Hale and Jack Carson, and a slightly awkward but sweet number by a trio made up of Olivia de Havilland, George Tobias and Ida Lupino.
One of my favorite songs in the movie, much to my own surprise, is a diddy titled “I’m Riding for a Fall” performed by Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie (dubbed by Sally Sweetland) and Spike Jones and His City Slickers. I tapped my feet all the way through it. In any case, you get the picture of this picture – I want the soundtrack and EVERY BIG SHOT IN TOWN APPEARS IN THIS MOVIE! Including Humphrey Bogart who delights in a scene opposite tough guy, Cuddles Sakall.
Not surprisingly, Thank Your Lucky Stars was a hit with 1943 audiences and critics who couldn’t dismiss it despite the somewhat thin plot:
“It is the loudest and most vulgar of the current musicals. It is also the most fun.” – James Agee
I must agree Mr. Agee. I love this movie!
Aside from the fun the movie itself was made for a great cause, or ended up being so in any case – the story goes that Bette Davis convinced Jack Warner to contribute the profits of Thank Your Lucky Stars to the war effort and every star that appeared in the movie donated his/her salary to the Hollywood Canteen. The enjoyment you’ll get from this movie coupled with the wartime theme make for a perfect way to spend a couple of hours on Memorial Day.
Thank Your Lucky Stars is available on the Warner Bros. and the Homefront Collection DVD set and on Warner Archive (WAC) Instant where it’s instantly available in HD. That’s how I came across this gem and you can trust me when I say it looks and sounds terrific. I am, by the way, undeniably hooked on WAC Instant on which – as mentioned in previous posts – I’ve been introduced to more new-to-me classics than anywhere else. If you want to know a bit more about it, you can read this entry by Leonard Maltin who admitted he too was hooked on the streaming service from the moment he signed on.
As a bonus here’s the Screen Guild Theater, old-time radio, 30-minute production of “Thank Your Lucky Stars” from September 27, 1943 with Eddie Cantor, Dennis Morgan and Dinah Shore signing a few of the songs from the movie.