One of my favorite movie genres isn’t really an official genre at all: I love the mostly forgotten, everyday movies made between 1942 and 1945. I want to see what the average American on an average day during World War II might have seen. Movies that entertained or uplifted and then, once the war ended, passed into the Past along with rationing stickers and food points and Victory mail. A few films such as The More the Merrier (1943), the plot of which revolves around the housing shortage, were Academy Award nominated. In fact, it was nominated for Best Picture and co-star Charles Coburn won for Best Supporting Actor.
On the other hand, there were many more films that played the local theaters for a week or two and disappeared. Private Buckaroo was one such. It recently played on TCM and I found it highly entertaining. Unapologetically patriotic, this 68 minute film was released on May 28, 1942, just a little under six months after Pearl Harbor was attacked, and before any Allied victory of any note had taken place. In fact, in May of 1942 there was no assurance that we would even win the war.
Devoid of plot, it was full of the Andrews Sisters and Harry James, the latter of whom opens the movie with “You Made Me Love You,” a song that had put James on the Big Band map in November of 1941. The Andrews Sisters are busy belting out quite a few songs including, “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” one of their biggest hits, as well as “Six Jerks in a Jeep.”
There are three notable supporting actors in the cast. Shemp Howard had left the Three Stooges ten years before to pursue a solo acting career, but he would join them again in 1946 after brother Jerome “Curly” Howard suffered a stroke.
Huntz Hall appeared as the company bugler who tried to teach Harry James how to blow the bugle. Hall was an original member of the Dead End Kids, a group that appeared in the drama Dead End starring Humphrey Bogart in 1938. The movie chronicles the grim existence of underprivileged juveniles in the Bowery. The Dead End Kids would evolve through a couple of iterations before becoming the Bowery Boys in 1945.
A dance troupe known as the Jivin’ Jacks and Jills also appeared in the film. Universal Studios put together this group of teens in an attempt to appeal to a younger audience. One of its members, who also had a small speaking part, was considered the weakest dancer of the bunch. Ten years later, in 1952, Donald O’Connor would be starring with Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain.
This is a must-see movie for people who enjoy this “genre” or who love music history. I thoroughly enjoyed it and couldn’t help wonder throughout the movie if those who saw it in the theater had indeed escaped the fear and uncertainty of the time for at least those 68 minutes.
It is available in its entirety on Youtube. https://youtu.be/YcyiC79l910
You hooked me – I’ve got to see this
You’ll enjoy it!
Mary Margaret and I just watched this. Great music. Harry James could flat play. Loved the simple, straightforward patriotic expression. Thanks for the recommendation.
You’re very welcome! Glad you enjoyed it.