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During the World War II year every major studio contributed at least
one all star extravaganza for the movie going public. Many times that
portion of the movie going public that was in the Armed Services and
over there got to see some of this stuff first. Universal Studio's
entry into this field was Follow the Boys.
The first twenty five minutes of the film consists of how screen team
and married in real cinema life team George Raft and Vera Zorina got
together. Raft plays one of the members of an old vaudeville show
business family who after vaudeville dies, goes to Hollywood to
continue his career. He meets up with Vera Zorina and they meet and
fall in love and get married. Their joint careers are going good until
Here's the part of the plot I cannot understand. Raft tries to enlist
and gets turned down because of a bad knee. He wants it kept quiet for
reasons I absolutely can't figure out. A few Hollywood stars like Gary
Cooper (a broken hip that never mended properly) and Ward Bond (another
broken hip and epilepsy) were quite legitimate 4-Fs. Why this was so
embarrassing for Raft didn't make sense to me.
But what he does is start organizing shows under the USO auspices and
at that point all the stars playing themselves came in. Another thing
about Follow the Boys I don't understand is that several of Universal's
biggest musical and comedy stars that were there at the time never
appeared. I'm talking about folks like Abbott&Costello, Deanna Durbin,
Allan Jones and Nelson Eddy. And they even got Jeanette MacDonald over
from MGM as one of the guest stars.
But it's still a good group that's here. Sophie Tucker, Dinah Shore,
Donald O'Connor, Peggy Ryan and the incomparable W.C. Fields. This was
Fields's farewell appearance and he does his famous pool room bit that
he perfected in vaudeville long before he became the screen's number
Dinah Shore sang I'll Walk Alone, one of the World War II era's biggest
song hits and Follow the Boys only nomination for an Academy Award. It
lost that year to Swinging on a Star from Going My Way. Dinah's
rendition will moisten the eyes I guarantee. She sold a few 78 platters
back in the day off this.
Orson Welles is in this one and in it he gets to show off in his number
two avocation, prestidigitation. Mr. Welles performs a few feats of
magic, something he did when he was not acting, writing, directing,
etc. And he had the loveliest of assistants in Marlene Dietrich.
Although George Raft was known for his gangster portrayals, back in the
day before Hollywood he was a dancer. He showed that talent off in such
films as Rumba and Bolero for Paramount in the Thirties and he was
pretty good. He and Vera Zorina made a fine dance team and Raft himself
does a nice soft shoe routine to Sweet Georgia Brown.
Jeanette MacDonald got to reprise one of her early screen hits Beyond
the Blue Horrizon and that was a treat indeed. Too bad no one thought
to team her with Nelson Eddy or Allan Jones, but I see the fine hand of
Louis B. Mayer here who probably didn't want them singing together for
anyone else but Leo the Lion.
I have a weakness for these all star extravaganzas so there's no way I
ever give one a bad review. Despite a story line that defies belief,
Follow the Boys should not be missed.
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