THOUSANDS CHEER (director: George Sidney; screenwriters: Paul Jarrico/Richard Collins II; cinematographer: George J. Folsey; editor: George Boemler; music: Herbert Stothart; cast: Kathryn Grayson (Kathryn Jones), Gene Kelly (Eddy Marsh), Mary Astor (Hyllary Jones), John Boles (Colonel Bill Jones), Ben Blue (Chuck), Francis Rafferty (Marie), Lena Horne (as herself), Mickey Rooney (as himself), Lucille Ball (as herself), Red Skelton (as himself), Judy Garland (as herself), Eleanor Powell (as herself), Ann Sothern (as herself); Runtime: 126; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joe Pasternak; MGM; 1943)
“The best reason for the movie was to raise money for the war effort, which it handsomely did.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Conceived by its producer Joe Pasternak as a musical revolving around a wartime romance between a private named Eddy Marsh (Gene Kelly) and a colonel’s daughter, Kathryn Jones (Kathryn Grayson), with an army camp all-star variety show as the backdrop diversion. The best reason for the movie was to raise money for the war effort, which it handsomely did. Because of the war, some patriotic morale-boosting was tacked on by use of many cameos from some of the biggest stars on the MGM lot. A young George Sidney (“Anchors Aweigh”/Bye Bye Birdie”/”Half a Sixpence”) directs the routine musical without tripping over his feet, which is his first major pic; it’s written by Paul Jarrico and Richard Collins; ironically both of whom would be blacklisted during the McCarthy Red witch hunt days of the 1950s. The film has such awkward pieces as Jose Iturbi going lowbrow to play boogie woogie and a cheesy Shostakovich piece “United Nations Salute” conducted by Iturbi as a climactic offering of highbrow art. The variety show features stars such as Mickey Rooney as the m.c. doing impressions of Lionel Barrymore and Clark Gable, Judy Garland singing “The Joint is Really Jumpin’ Down at Carnegie Hall!,” Red Skelton matching wits with little Margaret O’Brien over ice cream at a drugstore counter, Frank Morgan as a lecherous doctor examining Wave recruits, Lena Horne singing “Honeysuckle Rose,” Eleanor Powell doing a tap dance, and Gene Kelly’s mop dance and acrobatic act. Some of the other stars in the extravaganza are Donna Reed, Ann Sothern, June Allyson, Lucille Ball, Virginia O’Brien, Marsha Hunt, Marilyn Maxwell, Gloria DeHaven, John Conte, Sara Haden, Kay Kyser and his orchestra, Bob Crosby and his orchestra.
Opera soprano Kathryn Jones (Kathryn Grayson) quits her opera gig in New York, with Jose Iturbi conducting, to be with her divorced dad, Colonel Bill Jones (John Boles), a camp commander transferred to a new post. Kathryn plans to entertain the troops he has been assigned to train. But her mother, Hyllary (Mary Astor), who divorced her father when she was a child because he was “married to the Army,” thinks she’s making a mistake. At the train station, Kathryn brings her dad and mom together. But before the train departs, Kathryn is kissed impulsively by Pvt. Eddy Marsh, an acrobat in civilian life. When hotheaded Eddy later encounters Kathryn on the train, he’s surprised to see her and she jokingly tells him that she followed him on board and wants to marry him. That’s the thread of the slight plot, evidently an excuse for all the variety acts. It features the romance between Eddy and Kathyrn, the efforts of the daughter to bring her parents together and, finally, the big army base show put on by some movie stars as the film’s climax.
It’s a lavish spectacle that received Oscar nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Music Score.
REVIEWED ON 11/13/2008 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ