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DVD SAVANT

Pin Up Girl
20th Century Fox Marquee Musicals


Pin Up Girl
Fox
1944 / Color / 1:37 flat full frame / 84 min. / Street Date February 21, 2006 / 19.98
Starring Betty Grable, John Harvey, Martha Raye, Joe E. Brown, Eugene Pallette, Dorothea Kent, Dave Willock
Cinematography Ernest Palmer
Choreographer Hermes Pan
Art Direction James Basevi, Joseph C. Wright
Film Editor Robert Simpson
Original Music James Monaco
Written by Libbie Block, Robert Ellis, Helen Logan, Earl Baldwin
Produced by William LeBaron
Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Betty Grable is both the star attraction in Pin Up Girl and its entire reason for being; she of course was the Pin Up queen of WW2 and one of the most popular stars of her time. Fox musicals weren't always the best and Pin Up Girl leans heavily on Grable's charms and flashy Technicolor to get by. Even with four writers its a disorganized mess of ideas and characters that don't build into anything. Todayit survives mostly on camp value: In the very first musical number, a bevy of apple-pie perfect USO hostesses sing to desperate servicemen that " We can't give you a break." They'll all have to settle for a hot dog ... "A weenie in a roll."

Synopsis:

Reckless USO hostess Lorry Jones (Betty Grable) has problems telling the truth: She and her bespectacled girlfriend Kay (Dorothea Kent) are going to steno jobs at the Pentagon but she tells the boys that she's an entertainer en route to star in a grand USO tour. In New York, the girls wangle their way into the nightclub of Eddie Hall (Joe E. Brown) under the lie that they're the dates of Tommy Dooley, a celebrated Navy hero of Guadalcanal (John Harvey). Of course, Harvey is there and falls in love with Lorry, who compounds her lies by claiming to be a big-time Broadway performer. All of this makes Eddie's headline singer turn green with jealousy: Molly McKay (Martha Raye) is set on tripping up Lorry any way she can.

As wartime fantasies go, Pin Up Girl was an excellent film to allow to be captured by the enemy: Things at home in the USA are so comfy that Betty Grable can log a lot of frivolous travel mileage (remember the phrase "Is this trip necessary?"), and has no trouble finding an apartment in the Washington D.C. area. Hitler's henchmen would have to be demoralized watching Pin Up Girl, as America is pictured as having nothing more serious to worry about than getting a good seat at the ritzy nightclub. Betty shows up in one beautiful costume after another, just sexy enough to keep the boys wanting more.

Grable must have been a star that could win over audiences just by being cute. She dances nicely (and is seen dancing with Hermes Pan in an awkward Apache number) but is not all that great of a singer. Her one song Listen to your Teacher" is supposed to force Lorry into singing without preparation ... but turns into a tightly choreographed number. The movie's idea of taxing Betty's acting ability is to have her put on a pair of glasses so nobody will recognize her, a tired gag that works less well here than anywhere I've seen it yet.

Besides being a clotheshorse, Betty sports horribly dated hairstyles - lots of hair is piled high in rigid waves and curls that look as if some blonde-haired parasite has taken residence on her head. If they aren't wigs, there must have been ten hairstylists working over Betty's tresses between shots.

A number of distractions keep the plot going, but none of them gel into a real story. Lorry's girlfriend Kay gets the "tall tale" subplot off to a great start. Then she disappears from the story without explanation, and most of the humor goes with her. We like all the guest stars, but they make generic appearances. Joe E. Brown does one "Big Mouth" joke and then settles into support duty setting up Betty's romance. Martha Raye equals Brown for true talent and shows her singing ability in a couple of jaunty numbers, but she's given a tiresome super-jealous role that in one scene even includes a green outfit. None of these people are allowed to shine; they're left as impersonal as the roller skating dance troupe that fills time with a spectacular number, and a pair of tap dancers that illogically make the jump from a mid-western USO gig to the big time in a swank D.C. nightclub. Efficient bits are provided by regulars like Eugene Pallette, Dave Willock, Marcel Dalio and Mantan Moreland. Charlie Spivak's band receives high billing, but if any big, big songs are in the soundtrack, none sounded familiar.

Lacking real wit or pizzazz, Pin Up Girl is going to have to get by on almost 100% nostalgia appeal. If you've been dying to get Betty Grable on DVD, well, this review is hardly necessary. Pin Up Girl ends with a large-scale military drill number that shows Grable leading 64 women in rifle drill on the nightclub stage. With most of the show's plotlines unresolved (we're still hoping Dorothea Kent will return), the picture just ends on the march number and a reminder to buy war bonds.


Fox's Marquee Musicals DVD of Pin Up Girl is not quite as good looking as their other recent musical releases - many scenes have "hue pulsing", apparently from unevenly-faded matrices (Perhaps, Savant is far from the last word in lab analysis). The color isn't helped by the fact that Fox's musicals from this period tend toward an over-use of blue, and always look colder and harsher than they might. It's almost as if one of Technicolor's famed consultant-tyrants was slightly color blind. A presumably reprocessed stereo track is provided.

Grable fans will be impressed by the inclusion of a deleted, or alternate musical number called This is it, that was eventually replaced by a first version of the Listen to your Teacher" song. Richard Schickel provides the audio commentary, which is very laid back. It goes over only the basic facts about the stars. The people interested in seeing this movie already know there was a war on back then and would have appreciated a little more depth. Schickel is a good raconteur but we definitely think he's winging this one .. big pieces of the soundtrack stick through and he soon gets desperate for topics to discuss.

A trailer is included along with trailers for other Fox musical releases in the series. A brief photo gallery is present as well. Although review copies seem to have been shorted, the packaging promises collectable Lobby Card reproductions.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Pin Up Girl rates:
Movie: Good -
Video: Good
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Commentary by Richard Schickel, still galler, lobby cards, deleted scene, trailer.
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: February 11, 2006





DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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