Friday, July 29, 2016

Danny Kaye's cinematic debut in Up in Arms (1944)

Up in Arms (1944)
introducing Danny Kaye
and co-starring Dinah Shore, Dana Andrews, and Constance Dowling

I had a fairly decent sum saved up from my credit card rewards, and I couldn't think of a better way to spend it than on a Danny Kaye movie collection!

Apart from Bob Hope, Danny is my favorite funny man. But unlike Bob Hope who is sometimes too ridiculous, Danny always played lovable nut jobs with the right touch of realism to counteract the humor. I can't think of a single Danny Kaye role that I haven't loved so far. But the best thing about this collection is that I hadn't seen any of the 4 movies in it, one of which happens to be Danny's cinematic debut Up in Arms from 1944.

Danny Weems (Danny Kaye) is a lovable hypochondriac who took a job as an elevator man in a suite of doctor's offices just so he could be near medical care whenever he needed it. Patients get on his elevator and get off in worse shape than they were before. But Danny's lucky; he's got his best friend and roommate Joe (Dana Andrews) who supports him in all things. Except one. Joe falls in love with Mary (Constance Dowling), a lovely nurse from the building where Danny works. There's only one problem, Danny's convinced that he and Mary are in love and so he's blind to the growing attraction between Joe and Mary and blind to the romantic inclinations that Virginia (Dinah Shore), another nurse in the building, has towards him.

Everything might have continued in the same vein of awkwardness except that this is 1944 and so Danny and Joe get drafted into the military. And the girls, being the patriotic females that they are, also join up as nurses, the funny thing being that they're also higher ranked than Joe and Danny. Watching Danny, with his cases of medication, try to survive military life is hilarious, and it's a darn good thing that Joe is there to keep some of the thugs off his back. Resplendent with hilarious comedic gags, Up in Arms is a real winner up until the last 20 minutes and a terrific debut for Danny Kaye as a classic American funny man.

Despite it's winning qualities, though, I admit that there are some aspects that may offend modern viewers. Such as the Japanese soldiers at the end of the film that are just so dense I'm shocked they didn't walk off a cliff into the ocean. Danny manages to round all of them up with little trouble. They're caricatures of the Japanese and I caught myself wincing several times.

I'm also not sure about that bizarre dream sequence, also near the end, that merely seemed an excuse to roll out the Goldwyn Girls with their sparkling smiles and gorgeous figures. It felt like that absurd sequence out of Singin' in the Rain which makes sense since the movies were made in the same decade. One of those Goldwyn Girls happened to be Virginia Mayo, the girl who played opposite Danny in 4 pictures including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (review upcoming at some point), so that bit was fun. But I'm still glad they cast Constance Dowling as Mary since I feel she had the right mixture of loveliness and compassion.

If you don't mind the little oddities, you'll love Up in Arms. It's nowhere near as offensive as the Bing Crosby black face number in Holiday Inn, a movie I LOVE all except for that one musical number. ❤

This poor man's first encounter with Danny leaves him far sicker than he ever was before he stepped into that elevator, much to the fury of the man's doctor.

The lovely Dinah Shore as Virginia, the girl who secretly loves Danny and who was just his practice model for a marriage proposal to Mary. No wonder she's mad.

Danny's first musical number in the film, while waiting for a motion picture to start. He effectively mocked going to the movies in a healthy dose of irony.

And here you have buddy Joe (Dana Andrews) and Danny's flame Mary (Constance Dowling) making eyes after a double-date. Poor Danny, so clueless, especially since Mary never actually led him on. He can't tell when a girl's just being nice.

Danny getting the infamous news that he's been DRAFTED!

While out with the boys and Mary, Virginia sings into a record recorder while a horde of soldiers gather. It's Now I Know and one of those typical songs during the World War II era that just gets you.

In a fit of insanity, Danny smuggles Mary onto the boat by accident just as it ships out, leaving Joe to help Danny figure out how to hide her.

And one last screen cap just for fun. Chaos is about to ensue in this one, in case you couldn't tell. Oh, and Mary's hiding under the bunk.

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