FOUR JILLS IN A JEEP (2oth Century-Fox 1944) Fox Home Video
William A. Seiter’s Four Jills In A Jeep (1944) is not an Alice Faye musical (as Fox has billed it as part of their Alice Faye Collection)! Faye appears in the movie for exactly 3-minutes to reprise her Oscar-winning song ‘You’ll Never Know’ from Hello Frisco Hello, made and released the year before. The central narrative concocted by Robert Ellis (first novelized by Carol Landis) is all about four USO entertainers who commit themselves to the war effort body, soul and oodles of talent, to provide laughter and song for the boys overseas. Verisimilitude is the order of the day since the four featured stars of the movie – Kay Francis, Carole Landis, Martha Raye and Mitzi Mayfair – are, in fact, the original four Jills who toured Europe and Africa with the USO. The picture opens with Betty Grable singing Cuddle Up A Little Closer on Command Performance Radio as MC Kay Francis looks on. Afterward, Francis and her cohorts make a fuss about their desire to tour with Jimmy Dorsey and his band. Their wish comes true when the USO commissions the girls to leave America to entertain U.S. troops abroad. Thus, begins an odyssey into mostly happy adventures, stolen kisses and meaningful romance.
Landis’ real-life marriage to an army officer is recreated for the movie with the fictional Ted Warren (John Harvey). Other highlights include Martha Raye’s usual quota of shoot-from-the-hip zingers and mugging for the cameras. Landis gets the bittersweet ballad, Crazy Me. Presumably, Darryl F. Zanuck felt the story and its four stars needed a bit more entertainment bang for the audience’s buck – Zanuck, throwing in some of the studio’s top-flight talent to assist in this fictionalized USO entertainment. The sad part here is that virtually none of the cameo stars on tap - Betty Grable, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, Dick Haymes and George Jessel – do anything more than reprise songs they made famous elsewhere, leaving Four Jills in a Jeep with a real ‘hand-me-down’ quality. Why bother to include them at all? We have already bought what they sold. Ultimately, Four Jills in a Jeep is featherweight wartime fluff - a time capsule from a period when stars took exceptional pride in their part for the war effort, selling bonds, boosting morale at home - and abroad, and, spreading nothing except their good cheer to the masses. If only as pro-piece of WWII propaganda, Four Jills in a Jeep reminds us of Hollywood’s incredibly united mobilization in support of America’s involvement in the war.
Fox Home Video’s DVD is adequate, though hardly exceptional. The B&W image can be smooth, though on occasion film grain turns to digital grit, creating an inconsistent presentation at best. The gray scale has been adequately rendered with good tonality. Blacks are deep and solid. Whites are pristine, though occasionally, contrast appears slightly boosted. The audio is 1.0 Dolby Digital mono and adequate with no egregious hiss or pop. Extras include an isolated score, deleted scenes, restoration comparison and advertising/stills galleries. Bottom line: passable without any big impact.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)