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SHIP AHOY (director: Edward Buzzell; screenwriters: Harry Clark/based on a story by Matt Brooks/Bradford Ropes and Bert Kalmar; cinematographers: Robert H. Planck/Arthur Miller; editor: Blanche Sewell; music: Burton Lane, E. Y. Harburg, Margery Cummings and Walter Ruick; cast: Eleanor Powell (Tallulah Winters), Red Skelton (Merton K. Kibble), Bert Lahr (Skip Owens), Virginia O’Brien (Fran Evans), William Post, Jr. (H.U. Bennet), James Cross (‘Stump’), Eddie Hartman (‘Stumpy’), Stuart Crawford (Art Higgins), John Emery (Dr. Farno), Bernard Nedell (Pietro Polesi), Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra (Themselves), Jo Stafford & The Pied Pipers (Themselves); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jack Cummings; MGM; 1942)
“Mixes music, comedy, a spy spoof and patriotism into one lame film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Escapist wartime musical comedy directed by Edward Buzzell (“Go West”/”At The Circus”/”Best Foot Forward”) that mixes music, comedy, a spy spoof and patriotism into one lame film. The music part is OK, but the comedy part is not OK; we not only have to endure Red Skelton’s pathetic pratfalls but also the equally unfunny slapstick from his sidekick Bert Lahr. The film’s best features include the energetic tap dancing of Eleanor Powell, the swinging sounds of Tommy Dorsey’s big band, and a skinny young Frank Sinatra in only his second feature film appearance crooning the following songs “The Last Call For Love,” “Poor You,” and “Moonlight Bay.” Powell handles with aplomb the film’s main song and dance routine entitled “I’ll Take Tallulah.” Jo Stafford & The Pied Pipers also do a musical turn.

Tallulah Winters (Eleanor Powell) is the Tommy Dorsey band’s official tap dancer, and she’s taking an ocean liner to Puerto Rico for their next gig. An enemy agent posing as a government official enlists the naive entertainer, Tallulah, to carry a magnetic mine device on the cruise to be delivered at the next port stop, and she doesn’t realize she’s involved with enemy agents. Aboard the cruise are Merton Kibble (Red Skelton), a pulp fiction writer, and his assistant Skip Owens (Bert Lahr). The bumbling Kibble romances Tallulah, while the obnoxious Skip has an awkward romance with Tallulah’s shipmate and specialty performer for the band Fran (Virginia O’Brien). After a few mix-ups, including Kibble getting Tallulah’s bag with the mine, the lunkhead duo of Kibble and Skip save the day with the help of real government agents. Tallulah, while performing onstage and threatened with death by the villains, cleverly taps out a Morse Code SOS warning of the movement of the spies that agent Higgins (Stuart Crawford), in the audience with Kibble and Skip, successfully acts on.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”