Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Stage Door Canteen: Korea

If you've watched enough TCM, especially on Memorial Day weekend, you'll recall movies like Stage Door Canteen. They were made during World War II in part as a morale boost for the boys fighting abroad; all-star casts would perform, usually around some wisp-thin plot. Five years after the end of World War II, the US got involved in Korea, a war which was much less politically popular. However, Hollywood did make one movie in the Stage Door Canteen mold: Starlift, which is airing today at 4:45 PM on TCM.

The plot involves two soldiers from Youngstown, Ohio who are about to go off to Korea to fight. In Hollywood, they discover that a young woman who grew up in their town and who was a patient of the dentist who is a father of one of them, is being groomed to be Hollywood's next starlet. So they make up a cock and bull story about this. The studio sees the publicity potential, and eventually, we get a big revue featuring all the stars that Warner Bros. could muster at the time.

Which, to be honest, is not nearly as many as they could have gotten seven years earlier when they made Hollywood Canteen. Doris Day heads the proceedings. James Cagney gets a small cameo, and Gary Cooper gets to be in the background of a musical number. Future Hollywood Squares host Peter Marshall was at this time a part of the comedy duo Noonan and Marshall; they show up as well. But the whole thing has the feeling of a pale imitation.

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