Thursday, September 22, 2016

Must-See Movie: Best Foot Forward

Best Foot Forward (1943)
A cadet at Winsocki Military Academy named Bud (Tommy Dix) sends an invitation to movie star Lucille Ball (as herself) to come to Winsocki's big dance. Ball's publicity-hungry agent Jack O'Riley (William Gaxton) convinces her to go in order to boost her career. Complications arise when Bud's girlfriend Helen (Virginia Weidler) unexpectedly shows up; she knows there is a dance that weekend and she wants to surprise him.

The real 40's slapstick unfolds when Bud asks Ball to pretend to be Helen, mostly because of the strict screening of the school that all guests must be pre-registered.

A subplot involves blind date (and hard up) Nancy (Nancy Walker), and her premiere role is hilarious.  But it's all a pretty straight-forward movie with some brief shining moments from supporting cast members Walker, Dix, Weidler, June Allyson, and Gloria DeHaven. Unfortunately, Ball's performance comes off as snobby and pretentious.  Yes, it's supposed to be a parody of herself, but not really a flattering one.

So why is this a "Must-See Movie"?  Two words: Harry James.  Not only does James execute rousing renditions of big band favorites like "Two O'Clock Jump," he demonstrates his true musical mastery with "The Flight of the Bumblebee."  (And if you can do that song with your fingers moving as fast as he does, well then I tip my proverbial hat to you as well!) Watch this, and see how seriously James takes his performance!

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