Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
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To me, "Thank Your Lucky Stars" is easily the best of the home-front morale-boosters. The connecting plot featuring Eddie Cantor and the ever-perky Joan Leslie is funny, while the cameo appearances by the first echelon at Warner Brothers are of uniform interest, with many of the stars playing completely unconventional parts. Both Errol Flynn and Bette Davis sing, and quite amusingly too.
Producers of this show Edward Everett Horton and S.Z. Sakall would like to get Dinah Shore for their show. But she's under contract to Eddie Cantor. Today's moviegoers would not be aware of the fact that at the time Thank Your Lucky Stars was filmed, Dinah Shore was a regular on Eddie Cantor's radio show. And in fact he did have her under contract.
Cantor was also a man known to have a big ego and known for interfering with every aspect of production in film, stage, and radio. His character though in film was the meek little schnook who somehow triumphs over adversity.
Cantor may have had the ego, but he was also a big enough man to allow this public lampooning of his image. He plays two roles in this, as himself and as tour bus driver Joe Simpson who can't get a break because he looks like Eddie Cantor. In between all the musical numbers the plot is simply to have Cantor kidnapped and Joe Simpson to take his place so that Dennis Morgan can get some exposure. Of course there's a young love subplot involving hopefuls Morgan and Joan Leslie, but it doesn't interfere with a plot that's taken from The Man In the Iron Mask.
Arthur Schwartz and Frank Loesser wrote a nice score for this film and the big hit was a number talk/sung by Bette Davis, They're Either Too Young Or Too Old. This number was later done in the Jane Froman bio-film With A Song in My Heart with Susan Hayward lipsynching Jane Froman's record.
I also liked another number where a major Warner Brothers Star lampooned his image and had a jolly good time, singing That's What You Jolly Well Get. Errol Flynn was reported to have enjoyed himself immensely doing that very funny song.
Thank Your Lucky Stars is one of the most pleasant nostalgia trips to a bygone era of the studio system. You couldn't afford to pay all the stars in this film today if they were all free lance independent contractors today. It's why films like this can't be made again.
Paramount seemed to be the headliner in this sort of all-star musical fayre, with films such as Star Spangled Rhythm etc, but that is not to say the other studios didn't play their part either.
Thank Your Lucky Stars is Warner Bros' effort. A chance for Lieutenant Colonel Jack L.Warner, Head of the Studio and commander of the U.S.A.A.F 'S First Motion Picture Unit, to lift the roof from his studio and let the wealth of talent flood out.
Eddie Cantor shows off what a great sport he was, by playing two parts. He plays an overly 'hammed' up and unpopular version of himself, a role with so much substance and screen time that it seems to fill the entire picture. Indeed he gives so much to this role that I find it amazing that he had the time or the energy to portray his second role as Joe the one-time dramatic actor who's career was cut short by his likeness to Cantor, who, now long forgotten, eeks out a living as a tour bus driver in Hollywood.
Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie are the two showbiz wannabes trying to break into the big time using Joes likeness to Cantor to land a radio spot for his voice and her song.
All of this rather uninspired action takes place however around a Cavalcade of Stars benefit for the war effort where several notable movie stars of the day, have pledged to appear.
So from here on in you can forget the rather scratchy, boring and predictable plot and just enjoy the cameos and musical numbers, by some of the Warner Brother's Elite.
The famous 'scene-stealer' Alan Hale and funny man Jack Carson do a wonderful vaudeville sketch. John Garfield thoroughly lampoons his gangster/tough guy image as he struggles his way delightfully though 'Blues in the Night.' And George Tobias, Ida Lupino and Olivia De Havilland (Yum Yum) play for laughs doing a Beebop number.
Dinar Shaw is given plenty of screen time to give us three lovely numbers, and even has time to grace us with a comic turn as she sparks off beautifully with Cantor.
However, the real high points of this movie are Bette Davies and Errol Flynn. Davies, in true Deitrich style, talks and groans through 'They're either too Young or too Old,' a song which became a huge hit thanks to her rendition in this picture. Her obvious lack of singing talent seemed not to matter as her true screen radiance seems to overshadow everything else. A classic number, wonderfully delivered.
Flynn in my opinion, is the best 'cameo' performance of the film. Sporting a large almost handle bar moustache he sings and dances through a comic number as a cockney man who's tales of daring do and bravado are only out sized by his apparent love of ale and is inability to pay for it. Each verse is a story of heroics which is obviously untrue, as he dances between the locals who are trying to kick him out....great! He seemed to perform his musical turn extremely well..a bit too well if you ask me. Maybe he should have made more musical appearances.
However some of the star turns fail quite badly..Ann Sheriden is pants but pretty, Humphrey Bogart is given so little chance that he might have well stayed at home in bed, and Hattie MacDaniel gives us a Harlem number which isn't too good to say the least. Hattie sings brilliantly but the material she has to deal with is awful.
Another interesting point is the politically correct nod to South America, who were still neutral but could have sided with the axis at the drop of a hat. 'Goodnight, Good Neighbour' sung by Dennis Morgan and danced superbly by the wonderful Alexis Smith, was political ass licking in musical form, an attempt to strengthen the bond between North and South and an attempt to influence their decision on who's side they should eventually fall if and when.
Still, if its Hollywood wartime nostalgia you want then watch Thank Your Lucky Stars. Hollywood Wartime nostalgia you'll get.
Other reviewers have pretty much covered all angles but for me the high point is the appearance of Spike Jones and his City Slickers, performing one of their hilarious numbers. Once you've experienced Spike, you just can't get enough of his unique style, if that's the right word.
Bogart's appearance is amusing while Miss Davis provides a memorable performance. None of the other Warners stars really stand out. For me, 'Starlift' is a better star vehicle, though it would come almost a decade later.
While the stars occasionally shine in this Warner Bros. musical tribute, it's Eddie Cantor who deserves the most praise for providing most of the laughs. Cantor's dual role as a taxicab driver and an Eddie Cantor lookalike gives him some hilarious moments as he helps Joan Leslie and Dennis Morgan crash the studio gates with his Cantor impersonation. The Warner stock company (including S.Z. Sakall, Edward Everett Horton and many others) is on hand in supporting roles while the stars are given some amusing skits to appear in.
Errol Flynn is amusing in a cockney song-and-dance routine in a pub, Bette Davis talk-sings her way through 'They're Either Too Young Or Too Old', Ida Lupino and Olivia de Havilland do a jive number, mugging outrageously while chewing gum and mouthing words to a song called 'The Dreamer', Dinah Shore warbles an undistinguished song or two, Alexis Smith dances with style and grace, Ann Sheridan does a rather tiresome song number and Jack Carson and Alan Hale struggle through a less than witty routine that defeats both of them.
Humphrey Bogart, John Garfield (obviously tone deaf when he renders "Blues in the Night") and Sydney Greenstreet make fleeting appearances. Hattie McDaniel appears in an unusual novelty number. As one reviewer pointed out, "It's more like amateur night at the studio." But thanks to Cantor, the perky charm of Joan Leslie despite some awful songs and the appealing Dennis Morgan, it all comes together--silly, but lots of fun. Must have been a big hit with the servicemen during the war years, but just don't expect Grade A entertainment.
*** (out of 4)
Pretty much plot-less "musical" doesn't need a plot when you have guests stars that include Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, John Garfield, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Jack Carson, Dinah Shore, Ann Sheridan, Dennis Morgan, Ida Lupino and many, many more. What plot the film does have centers around a benefit show where a couple new to Hollywood tries to get on to make a name for themselves. We also have Eddie Cantor playing not only himself but the role of another man trying to break into the business. If you want any type of story then you're going to be disappointed but if you come to a film like this wanting a story then I'm not sure what to tell you. One must remember that the country was at war when this was made and in the end the studio just wanted to deliver something fun and that's what they did. With so many great A-list stars you can't help but have fun even when they're either making fun of themselves or making a fool out of themselves by singing. Flynn and Davis are really bad to listen to but at least they both are having fun with it. Bogart has a funny bit as the "tough guy" who gets pushed around by a nobody. Bogart's reply to this is priceless. Garfield is also quite good as he's the first one to appear in the film and he gets it off to a great pace. Character actor Richard Lane also appears as a character and does fine work as does the rest of the supporting cast. Cantor really seems to be having a blast with some great songs as well as making fun of himself as a boob throughout. All in all, this is a very entertaining movie even if the 127-minute running time goes on a bit too long but there's no way to deny the charm of seeing all these stars in one film.
First, it didn't take itself too seriously and Eddie Cantor was fantastic. Not only were his songs fun, but his self-deprecation was greatly appreciated. Throughout the movie he played two guys--himself and a guy who just happens to look like him. As himself, he was shown as a fat-headed and very insecure boob! He really played this up to the hilt! The other guy, though interesting, wasn't quite as funny a character. However, at the very end of the film, the "real" Cantor was taken to the Mental Hospital (presumably for good) and the "fake" one assumed the other's life!
Second, although some of the song and dance numbers were marred by the fact some of the Warner Brothers celebrities sing like cats in heat (especially John Garfield, though George Tobias wasn't much better), others were fun and made the most of the stars' limited abilities (Errol Flynn and especially Bette Davis, who I know sang HORRIBLY since I have a recording of her screeching on Broadway--oh, the pain). Plus, a few even did excellent jobs, such as Alexis Smith and Ann Sheridan. I can't count Dennis Morgan, Eddie Cantor or Dinah Shore because they were well-known for their singing.
So, in conclusion, I am not a big fan of musicals and I hate most studio review films. However, this one was good because it was light-hearted and fun.
No, the music is nothing to write home about, but the performers are an enthusiastic bunch, so who cares. There's drama queens Lupino and de Haviland as jive-talking hepcats (note they only dance "in place"), and, of course, Warner's reigning drama queen Bette Davis doing something or other in her inimitable style. But I especially like the Hattie McDaniel free-for-all that really does light up the screen. Apparently, however, someone decided to slow things down with Ann Sheridan's static number where the girls sit around like prom princesses. But at least we boys get to ogle them.
Too bad this rouser wasn't sent to Hitler and Tojo. They would have tossed in the towel immediately. Because it's obvious that no country with this kind of energy and dynamism could possibly lose a war. And, yes, it's still great unpolished entertainment, with what looks like a lot of people having a lot of fun.
This star-studded WWII morale-booster is not unlike similar star-studded WWII morale-boosters put out by other studios, featuring the big names in brief cameos sprinkled throughout a thin "let's put on a benefit" plot. Here the WB stars perform little vaudeville sketches, singing and dancing, as part of a charity show. And we're talking some big names here: Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, John Garfield, Ida Lupino, Ann Sheridan, Jack Carson, etc.
The real star, however, is Eddie Cantor. Much of the movie is about how annoying and overbearing Cantor is, with Cantor in a dual role as both a parody of himself and his resentful look-alike. In an exhibit of good-humored self-deprecation, Cantor allows his name to be dragged through the mud by critics of his corny jokes and swollen ego (his alternate character among them). As one character or the other Cantor moves the screwy plot along.
This movie is simply a star-studded, feel-good musical. And it is a lot of fun. The stars who really shine in this are John Garfield, Bette Davis, and Cantor. Dinah Shore is featured prominently in her first screen appearance and we even get to see Spike Jones and His City Slickers in action. Errol Flynn has a nice number and Alexis Smith shows off her dancing background. S.Z. Sakall is hilarious as always and the young romantic couple (Joan Leslie and Dennis Morgan) make sure to plug recent WB successes. (Leslie lets go with impressions of Lupino and James Cagney.)
It's interesting, in the scene where Olivia de Havilland and Ida Lupino dance on either side of George Tobias (in a slightly awkward jive routine), to note the contrast in the actresses' performances. Both de Havilland and Lupino are in the frame, basically playing clones of each other. But it seems like de Havilland just put so much more into her performance, particularly with her facial expressions.
It's a treat to see all of these stars in one movie and it's a treat to see them do something fun and different. The songs won't always blow you away, but they're pleasant enough. The finale is a medley of all the songs we've heard, with the welcome return of the stars we've seen. It's a fitting cap to the viewer's journey, and should leave everyone in a good mood. I think I liked the music more after hearing it all reprised in the finale.
Top-billed Humphrey Bogart has about a minute of screen time and, though he leaves an impression, he doesn't do any singing or dancing.
The plot itself is a very silly one with the Cantor look-alike meeting up with aspiring entertainers Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie. They concoct a plan to take over the project that Cantor is planning for a benefit for soldiers.
What makes the film good is the performances by so many of the stars of yesteryear who for this film, divorce themselves of their dramatic presence, and sing and dance.
I didn't know that Alexis Smith could dance up a storm. While Errol Flynn didn't have a great voice, he carries it well. Even John Garfield gets through the singing bit. Hattie McDaniel is wonderful in her rendition of Cold Hearted Katie, and the great Bette Davis just shines by singing and dancing to They're Either too Young or too Old.
Thank Your Lucky Stars was a film in tribute to our service people.
In fact, the weakest element in this movie is the music, which is almost all forgettable.
These various cameo appearances are fitted into a frame: Dennis Morgan is trying to break into show biz as a singer, while EE Horton and SZ Sakall, who are way down on the billing, are trying to put on a charity variety show. The three of them, plus Eddie Cantor, who plays himself and is very funny doing so, are the actual stars of this movie, though you would never guess it from the billing. All four are good.
There are other forgettable musical numbers, including several with Dinah Shore, who comes off as having no personality, a rousing if forgettable number for Black singers and dancers in which Hattie McDaniel holds up her own, and a monologue of sorts with John Garfield that's not half bad, but only because he's a good actor.
In short, a largely mediocre effort. If you like any of the stars who do the cameos, you will want to see them do their 3-5 minute bits. If you're looking for 2 hours of entertainment - this movie runs just over 2 hours - you won't find it here, though.
I've just watched it again two years later. Perhaps I'm in a more charitable mood, but this time I got more pleasure out of it. It really only works if you know the work of the various actors who appear, as most of them either play against type - like Errol Flynn or his frequent side-kick, Alan Hale - or satirize themselves, like John Garfield, who is really very good playing a highly exaggerated version of his usual tough guy. Ann Sheridan is a knockout in her number, thanks to her dress and the way she moves; you really don't notice that she wasn't a great singer. That's the case for most of these cameo performances: they're done by often very fine actors who didn't normally sing and dance on screen. Most seem to be having a good time doing something they didn't usually get to do, and none of them embarrass themselves. Bette Davis definitely couldn't sing, but she brings off her number through sheer personality. The same goes for many of the others.
If you don't know the classic Warner Brothers movies of the 30s and early 40s, this won't hold you. If you know how these stars normally appeared, you may get a kick out of seeing them do something very different, or making fun of what they normally did.
Shot during the shortages of WWII, you might think there's a talent shortage, but this film has plenty of talent. Unfortunately, it's used in hammy, half-baked scenes and performances. Just when I thought I couldn't take any more of this 2nd class collection of scenery-chewing and bad lyrics, I started enjoying the show. Yes, I said it. It surprised me, too. The movie is pure corn and I was eating it up. This collection of resurrected vaudeville zingers and minstrel show prancing somehow wormed its way into my heart. Maybe it's the puerile pratfalls or the gee-whiz dialogue or the one-joke skits or the Humphrey Bogart look alike... Hey wait, can that be the real Bogie? Don't fight it. Embrace the film. Get on to enjoying this diversion from the realities of war in 1943.
Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie play the two romantic leads.
Most of the soundtrack is by by Schwartz and Loesser, but these are some of Loesser's lesser efforts, often sung by B-grade singers. Still, the novelty of seeing Bette Davis singing, for example, is engaging.
By the time we get to the actual Cavalcade of Stars, we have an opportunity to see some bona fide stars in some interesting musical numbers.
Note the great pas de trois. Great dancing.
And my favorite part of the movie: the jive performance of "The Dreamer" by Ida Lupino, Olivia De Havilland and George Tobias. What gum-smacking fun!
There are real rewards if you stick with this film.
The young couple is appealing enough in the romantic subplot, and the various stars putting in cameo appearances are excellent, but the real show here is Cantor. He plays a dual role, a wanna-be-actor and "himself", although "himself" is stretching it a bit, since negative qualities are exaggerated for the sake of humor. The dialogue is witty and brisk, the insult humor is spot-on, and the wacky physical comedy involving a pack of stray dogs, Indians from Central Casting, maple syrup, and anything else they can think of to throw in clicks along with precision and has the desired effect. In short, it's a fun, funny movie.
Additionally, Edward Everett Horton and S.Z. Sakall are both hilarious in strong supporting roles.
I liked this enough to invest in another Cantor film on DVD, "Roman Scandals", and I can't wait to see it. I may have quite a Cantor collection very soon!
The film begins with Dinah Shore singing the title song, composed by the team of Frank Loesser and Arthur Schwartz, who composed the numerous additional novel songs. This was Dinah's first film role, she being cast as the primary female singer, with virtually no role in the dramatic scenes. No doubt , she achieved this status thanks to Cantor, who often included her on his radio shows in the early 40s, being groomed by Cantor to become a significant singing star. She has 2 additional songs, well separated from each other. She comes across much better than in the rather similar type of film "'Til the Clouds Roll By", perhaps because of the influence of Cantor. She is followed by a comedy routine by John Garfield and Cantor, in which Garfield attempts to sing(not very successfully) Dinah's recent hit "Blues in the Night" Actually, this routine is rather good, with Garfield playing a tough guy gangster, with Cantor his periodic victim.
Next, we have Spike Jones and his inimical cutup band, initially alone, then backing up the primary male singer Dennis Morgan, who is nearly always in the company of girlfriend spunky Joan Leslie. ....After Cantor does a typical Cantor song : "We're Staying Home", relating to the war, Alan Hale and Jack Carson do a vaudevillian song/dance/ comedy routine to "Way up North", rather reminding me of the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope team in "Road to Utopia", filmed that same year, but not released for several years.
Between bits of drama is the "Love Isn't Born, It's Made" number, featuring Anne Sheridan, surrounded by a female chorus group who look to be at a slumber party. Anne's sophisticated singing style is quite different from Dinah's. The last time I saw her in a film, she was chasing Frank Sinatra, as 'the other woman', in the musical "Step Lively".
After additional songs by Morgan, and by Dinah, we have an all African American production, centered around the song "Ice Cold Katie, Why Don't You Marry the Soldier". Hattie McDaniel starts off the singing, but various others dominate the singing at times, in a crowded street scene, in which another actress plays Katie, and is encouraged to marry a scared -looking soldier(Willie Best), who doesn't say or sing anything. Charismatic AA actor Jesse Lee Brooks is the tall robust justice of the peace, who dominates the dialogue and singing at times. He previously played the preacher in the well-remembered AA church scene, in "Sullivan's Travels", and would die the year following the present film. This was certainly one of the highlights of the film. Warner's flag-waving revue of the previous year: This is the Army", had also featured one all AA musical-comedy production.
The musical production featuring Errol Flynn I didn't think much of. Not Flynn's fault. This was followed by Betty Davis's performance of "They're either too old or too Young", in which she laments that all the potential appropriate men for her are overseas in the armed forces. This was much more focused than Flynn's number, and Betty was quite good.
The last original musical production was meant to contribute to FDR's 'good neighbor policy' to try to keep Latin American countries from siding with the European fascists. Morgan serenades a Latin senorita with "Good Neighbor, Good Night" . Interspersed between his singing bouts, Alexis Smith, with several male dancers, entertain with a romantic dance. Alexis would become Flynn's most frequent romantic lead in his 40s films, after he said goodbye to Olivia de Havilland, who had a small dancing part in this show, with Ida Lupino. Alexis would be featured as Cole Porter's wife in the tribute to Porter's music : "Night and Day".
The last of the film deals with Cantor's problem that his look-alike, Joe, has taken over his identity as a showman and stage producer, and he is in a mental hospital, slated for a lobotomy. The finale consists of brief reprises of the major musical productions, some with rather elaborate sets. Then, orchestra conductor Sakal is spooked when he sees that all his players have Cantor faces, some with fiendish grins, after Cantor has been whisked off for a lobotomy. Not clear if this is supposed to indicate that Joe has suddenly become more dominating than the obnoxiously dominating real Cantor, whom Sakal helped get rid of.
Of the 3 Warner films released in '43-44 in the current Warner Homefront DVD set, this is clearly the most entertaining, overall. In part, this is because of the pervading presence of Cantor and Sakal. But, it's also because it's the least saturated with flag-waving and enlistment promotional innuendos, and has the most semblance of a fairly entertaining story to go along with the many musical and comedy productions.
The only other time older movies were broadcast, was on Creature Features, which Dad often watched, with me hiding behind his chair peeking out at the Wolfman or another Universal monster, refusing to go to bed before the end.
Recently I have watched many older films, and happily Thank Your Lucky Stars was broadcast when I happened upon it. So many stars, singing, dancing, comedy bits, and even a plot. I was especially wowed by the musical number Ice Cold Katy. Pure entertainment.
Alexis Smith dancing was so mesmerizing. I didn't recognize her or her name, and find it a wonder she isn't more well known. I just had to look her up on IMDb, and hope to soon see more of her movies.
This may be the best film variety show I've seen, and I want to see others because of how it made me happy. I give this an 8, because of its entertainment value, and feel it is an 8 variety show. It does not compare to a drama with this high a rating, or a comedy. Within its genre, though, it is wonderful.
This film is a great little entertainer and carries you along all the way to The End in first class spirits. The War plays almost no part in the story.
Of all the studio "canteen" films, I consider this Warner Bros. effort the best. For two reasons: not a GI or a sappy love story of a gob on leave in sight; and having stars perform against type. Where else could you see: tough guy Bogart cowering from the wrath of Cuddles Sakall; dramatic actresses Olivia de Havilland and Ida Lupino as gum-chewing, finger-snapping jive singers and dancers; Bette Davis gracing us with an Oscar-nominated song; and a most debonair Errol Flynn totally at home as a song and dance man with an Irish pub song?
The central plot with Eddie Cantor in a dual role - as himself and as a look-alike actor-want-to-be bus driver- in loggerheads with show producers Edward Everett Horton and Sakall is a comedy gem. Cantor's humility here in playing himself as an ego-driven, self-absorbed, control freak may have been partly true, but he pulls it off with great aplomb. Dennis Morgan and a lively Joan Leslie provide the romantic leads. In addition to the stars named above, there are other specialty numbers featuring: Alan Hale, Jack Carson, Hattie McDaniel, Ann Sheridan, Spike Jones, John Garfield, and Alexis Smith. Getting the most of star screen time is Dinah Shore with three numbers.
It's all jolly fun, and moves along quickly, despite its 2 hour, 7 minute length. Worth catching. The dvd print is impeccably pure, crisp and bright.
Musical Numbers in order of Presentation:
1. Thank Your Lucky Stars (Dinah Shore); 2. Blues In The Night (John Garfield); 3. Now's The Time To Fall In Love (Eddie Cantor); 4. Hotcha Cornia (Spike Jones). 5. I'm Riding For A Fall (Dennis Morgan); 6. We're Staying Home Tonight (Eddie Cantor); 7. Way Up North (Jack Carson, Alan Hale); 8. Love Isn't Born, It's Made (Ann Sheridan); 9. No You, No Me (Dennis Morgan and Joan Leslie); 10. The Dreamer (Dinah Shore); 11. Ice Cold Katy (Hattie McDaniel and Willie Best); 12. How Sweet You Are (Dinah Shore); 13. That's What You Jolly Well Get (Errol Flynn); 14. They're Either Too Young Or Too Old (Bette Davis); 15. The Dreamer (Olivia de Havilland, Ida Lupino, George Tobias); 16. Good Night, Good Neighbor (Dennis Morgan, danced by Alexis Smith); We're Staying Home Tonight (Eddie Cantor); Finale Medley: How Sweet You Are, Way Up North, The Dreamer, I'm Riding For A Fall, Love Isn't Born, It's Made, Good Night, Good Neighbor, They're Either Too Young Or Too Old; Thank Your Lucky Stars.