Some crazy, crazy stuff hit theaters during the Second World War. Audiences were receptive to it, as they were looking for an escape from worry or bad news. One of the craziest was 1943’s Thank Your Lucky Stars. Warner Bros. not only crammed in every star it could, but many of them act delightfully out of character. Speaking of which, there’s Eddie Cantor. Oh boy, there’s Eddie Cantor. Don’t worry, it will all become clear soon. Well, kinda.
Our first sight in the star-fest is Dinah Shore singing the title song and then declaring to Don Wilson that John Garfield is the sweetest guy ever. Backstage, the man in question is waiting to go on while Eddie Cantor pesters him about putting over his stuff. John looks like he wants to belt Eddie, but he walks out on the stage and sings his own version of “Blues In the Night,” with Cantor as an inadvertant participant.
Joe (Eddie Cantor) drives a sightseer bus in Hollywood and is waiting for more tourists to show up before he takes off. He’s parked next to a newsstand where The Eddie Cantor Show is blaring on a radio. Joe flinches and asks the clerk to turn it down. Cantor is the bane of Joe’s existence, as the two of them are each other’s spitting image. Looking so much like Cantor means Joe, a frustrated dramatic actor, can’t get parts, at least not the ones he wants.
Joe’s friend, Tommy Randolph (Dennis Morgan) is trying to get on Cantor’s show, and he enlists a guy, Barney (Richard Johnson) to get Eddie to sign a contract. Barney’s a snakey sort of fellow. He’s also promised a young songwriter, Pat (Joan Leslie) that he’ll get her song, “Moondust” published.
Barney procures the signed contract by pretending he wants Eddie’s autograph. He doesn’t, however, get Pat’s song published, and she arrives at his office just in time to see him taking down his shingle and running. Pat hops in Joe’s bus thinking it’s a taxi, and that’s how she meets Joe.
It’s also how she meets Tommy. Joe brings Pat down to Gower Gulch, a clearing house where actors board in recreated sets while waiting for their ships to come in, or any work at all. Tommy’s celebrating his new contract with Spike Jones, whose City Slickers have struck up Hotcha Cornia.
Tommy and Pat are very taken with each other, although on some level Pat sees Tommy as a means to an end–she wants Tommy to succeed, but she also wants to get her song promoted.
Problem is, Eddie has no idea who Tommy is, and Tommy can’t get near Eddie without Eddie’s hulk of an assistant throwing him out on his ear.
Things may be looking up for Tommy, though. A producer, Farnsworth (Edward Everett Horton) and conductor Dr. Schlenna (S.Z. Sakall) are looking to put on a benefit concert and they want Dinah Shore to sing in it, except that she’s under contract to Eddie Cantor and the only way Eddie will let her sing is if he’s a producer on the show. Eddie’s such a pain in the neck that Farnsworth and Dr. Schlenna just want him out of the way.
Fortunately for them, so do Tommy, Joe and Pat. Pat is a great one for ideas, although she does have a habit of tapping her head when she gets them. Tommy and Joe quickly learn that head-tapping can mean trouble.
Anyway, some of Joe and Tommy’s Gower Gulch pals, dressed as Native Americans, spirit Eddie away to their hideout, where he somehow manages to get his toes covered in maple syrup, much to the delight of the guard dogs.
Yeah, it gets weirder, believe it or not, but I’m not going to ruin it. Suffice it to say, the rabbit hole goes deep, and we may or may not see Olivia de Havilland chomping on bubble gum. Take that as you will, everyone.
In the meantime, there’s a show to put on, and some of the numbers shown are dress rehearsals, while others are in front of an appreciative audience. Warner Bros. thought outside the box when they selected the numbers for the show, and there are some real treats. Like John Garfield, Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, and Ann Sheridan, who were not singers, provide some of the singing, and not too badly, either. My favorite part was seeing Alexis Smith dance–it was one of the few times she got to dance onscreen, which is a shame because she did it beautifully.
Each of the stars in the film was paid $50,000, and each of them donated that amount to the Hollywood Canteen. Every one of them seemed to be having a blast, so it was a win-win.
The film is a wee bit dated, and some of the schtick won’t mean much except to those who are familiar with the period (how many today have heard of the Mad Russian?). The plot takes so many jumps on the crazy scale that the music is a relief, wonderful as it is. If the filmmakers were going for escapism here, and they certainly were, they succeeded, and if nothing else, people may have left the theater in a daze wondering what the heck they just saw.
On the plus side, there aren’t many movies out there that can boast they have Eddie Cantor getting his toes licked by dogs. Or Bette Davis singing. Or Errol Flynn pretending to sing. And anyway, it’s a lot of madcap, navel-gazing, fun, even if it is nuttier than Chip and Dale’s pantry. I always like revisiting Thank Your Lucky Stars.
Here’s a sneak peek of what’s coming up in August (besides, er, the Wizard of Oz Blogathon, of course):
If anyone would like to participate in one or more of these, please feel free to drop in here:
- Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood
- Gabriela at Pale Writer
- Gill at Realweegiemidget Reviews
- Michaela at Love Letters To Old Hollywood
All righty, thanks for reading, all, and see you Friday, when we’ll have a visit with Miss Mary Pickford. Have a good week…