Thousands Cheers (1943): George Sidney’s Musical, Starring Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson, and Other MGM Performers

Produced during WWII, George Sidney’s musical, Thousands Cheers, was intended as a morale booster for Americans at combat and at home.

Structurally flawed and trying to do too much within its frame, the musical is on the one hand a romantic tale, and on the other a variety show.

Gene Kelly plays Private Eddie Mars, who is drafted into the Army but really wants to join the air force. During training, he falls in love with Kathryn (Kathryn Grayson), the daughter of his commanding officer, who has similarly put her singing career on hold in order to entertain the troops.

Kathryn has only recently met her father for the first time. Her parents divorced when she was a baby, and she now is trying to get her parents (John Boles and Mary Astor) to reconcile. During the first part of the film, Grayson sings several numbers and Kelly dances with a mop as a partner.

The film then forgets about the above romance and depicts the preparations for a live show for the soldiers, hosted by Mickey Rooney.  The show features many MGM musical and comedy stars, turning the film into a variety showcase of skits, song, and dance, with the performers appearing as themselves.  They include Eleanor Powell in a great solo of tap dancing, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Red Skelton, Ann Sothern, Lucille Ball, Frank Morgan, Virginia O’Brien, Marilyn Maxwell, June Allyson, Donna Reed, and Margaret O’Brien.