Monday, January 29, 2007

PIN UP GIRL (20th Century Fox 1944) Fox Home Video

H. Bruce Humberstone’s Pin-Up Girl (1944) is the film largely accredited with transforming Betty Grable into America’s #1 sweetheart for G.I.’s. However, if that’s the case, there is precious little to recommend either Grable or the film today. A decidedly dated pastiche of flag-waving, mired by a clichéd script from Libbie Block and Robert Ellis, the story concerns canteen cutie, Lorry Jones (Grable).

Lorry is off to join the USO. But not before a slight detour puts her in close proximity to her romantic ideal, naval hero Tommy Dooley (John Harvey). After finagling her way into Eddie Hall’s (Joe E. Brown) exclusive nightclub, Lorry meets Tommy and the two hit it off. Tommy gets Hall to hire Lorry – who fakes a past Broadway career as part of her résumé.

The fact that Lorry can, in fact, sing is just an added plus for the showman who eventually builds an entire review around her – much to the chagrin and fury of headliner and girlfriend, Molly McKay (Martha Raye). A wrinkle develops when Dud Miller (Dave Willcock) claims that he’s engaged to Lorry (a plot point easily explained away, as Lorry has become engaged to the entire armed forces as part of her ‘support the troops’ mentality).

It’s a telling hint that the best number in the film doesn’t feature Grable or her famous legs, but rather a novelty act – simply billed as ‘skating vanities.’ The number attempts (unsuccessfully) to emulate the geometric patterns of a Busby Berkeley musical but has some very skillful routines. If nothing else, they had to be very dangerous. The rest of the musical sequences are incongruously strung together without much thought. Grable’s dull and overly long military drill routine closes the show on a leaden note.

Fox’s DVD transfer is not very good. The Technicolor print is punctuated by an overly turquoise/blue palette that dominates and arguably overpowers all other colors. Flesh tones appear a garish orange or faded pink. Contrast levels are much too weak. The cumulative effect of these shortcomings is a generally muddy print that only occasionally appears sharp – though never detailed.

Overall, the image is much too dark to be enjoyed without viewing it in an entirely dark room. Age related artifacts are kept to a bare minimum. The audio has been remixed to stereo, but the mono is more than adequate for this sonically uninspired presentation. Extras include an audio commentary by noted film historian, Richard Schickel, ONE lobby card (not several, as the packaging suggests) and a theatrical trailer.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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