20th century Fox
Busby Berkeley’s eccentric musical of 1943 stars Alice Faye (then queen star of Fox) and Latina Carmen Miranda, vying over the attention of serviceman James Ellison.
The musical numbers and the whole stage production is as excessive and campy as you would expect of the mad genius Busby Berkeley. This was Berkeley’s first film in color, and some consider the effort as one of his best; I prefer the black-and-white Warner musicals.
One of the highlight tunes is Miranda singing “The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat,” surrounded by chorus girls waving and handing fruits (huge phallic bananas) in quite a suggestive way. Later on, some of the chorines dissolve into artichokes.
This song and image became iconic of Miranda during her short Hollywood career. Over the years, the musical, with its lurid color palette, has become a camp classic, particularly among gay men.
This was Alice Faye’s swan song—Betty Grable will become the studio major star that very year. Faye delivers well a number of songs, including “No Love, No Nothing” and “Journey to a Star,” and introduces a bizarre ballet, “Polka-Dot Polka.”
The supporting cast includes such good character actors as Eugene Pallette, Charlotte Greenwood, and Edward Everett Horton. Band leader Benny Goodman and his orchestra are a major plus.
Oscar Nominations: 1
Interior decoration (Color): James Basevi and Joseph C. Wright, art direction, Thomas Little, set decoration.
Oscar Awards: None
The Art Direction Oscar went to the popular hit, “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Running Time: 103 Minutes