Monday, October 13, 2008

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. 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 tears 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 film 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 danger, adventure, stolen kisses and meaningful romance.

Landis’ real life marriage to an army officer is recreated in the film with the fictional Ted Warren (John Harvey) standing in. Other highlights include Martha Raye’s usual quota of mugging for the cameras, and Landis’ bittersweet ballad. Presumably, Darryl F. Zanuck felt that the story and its four stars needed a bit more entertainment bang for the audience buck. Hence, Zanuck threw in some of the studio’s top flight talent into the mix to assist in this fictionalized USO entertainment. These include the aforementioned Betty Grable, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, Dick Haymes and George Jessel.

The disappointment herein is that none of these cameos bring anything new or fresh to the movie. No new material has been written for them. Instead, each reprises a moment from a movie they have already made which begs the question of ‘why bother to include them at all’? We’ve already bought what they are selling!

Ultimately, Four Jills in a Jeep is wartime entertainment; a time capsule from a period in American history when stars not only backed the war effort and the military but took the cause to heart and marketed it to the American public to sell war bonds and boost morale and good cheer back home. The film is pure fluff and not terribly convincing at that, but it allows us to see and appreciate the Hollywood pro-WWII propaganda machinery hard at work, all pistons firing at once.

Fox Home Video’s DVD is adequate, though hardly exceptional. The B&W image can be smooth; though on occasion grain and a digital harshness intrude for a quality that is inconsistent at best. The gray scale has been nicely rendered with good tonality. Blacks are deep and solid. Whites are pristine, though occasionally blooming. The audio is mono but adequately balanced. Extras include an isolated score, deleted scenes, restoration comparison and advertising/stills galleries.

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



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