For a lot of us, classic movies are a form of therapy. They’ve made us smile, escape, and dream when the goings get tough. Whether it’s a musical or a comedy, Betty Grable or Audrey Hepburn, sometimes you just need some good fun in the form of a film.
One movie that never fails to bring a smile to my face is the 1942 musical, Springtime in the Rockies. I own Springtime in the Rockies on VHS and do not have the recently released DVD version. This film is the only reason why I won’t throw away my VHS player. It’s silly but it’s 100 percent true. I’ll be the first to tell you that this 1942 film is absolutely ridiculous but that’s what makes it so great. This film doesn’t require much thought, all you have to do as an audience member is sit back and enjoy the ride. It has a first rate cast of 20th Century Fox’s finest talents: Betty Grable, John Payne, Carmen Miranda, Cesar Romero, Edward Everett Horton, Charlotte Greenwood, and appearances by Harry James and Jackie Gleeson in one of his earliest roles. What a cast! Seriously. WHAT. A. CAST.
Like all Betty Grable vehicles, the premise is simple. It’s a backstage musical with Grable as Vicki Lane, a Broadway star who is fed up with her onstage and offstage partner, Dan Christy (John Payne). Dan and Vicki are the hottest ticket in town but Dan can’t commit and after catching him in another lie about another woman, Vicki leaves. In an attempt to get back at him, Vicki teams up with her old partner Victor Prince (Cesar Romero) and goes to the Canadian Rockies to open up a new show as Victor and Victoria. Meanwhile, Dan’s career slips. He eventually follows her with a bartender turned personal valet and Carmen Miranda as his secretary. Throughout the film, there are some outstanding musical numbers, witty one liners delivered by Charlotte Greenwood and of course, Greenwood’s famous high kicks.
One of my favorite numbers is between Grable and Romero with James providing the music. It’s a sensual ballroom dance with Latin flair. This is a wonderful showcase of Romero’s talents as a dancer and he brings out the best in Grable. Honorable mentions belong to Miranda’s rendition of ‘Chatanooga Choo Choo’ which will change your perception of that song. Honestly, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Chatanooga Choo Choo in Portuguese. The other is reserved for Greenwood’s charming solo number. It’s a dreamlike sequence after her character has had a few drinks but Greenwood appears to be floating on air with a unique blend of elegance and hilarity.
Springtime in the Rockies is the perfect war-time musical. During the dark days of WWII, this is the kind of entertainment the country needed. At this time, Grable was the top box office star in the world. The world! During her reign as Fox’s top star and America’s favorite pinup, she was frequently paired with Payne, Romero, and Don Ameche in exotic locations. While the Canadian Rockies is the backdrop in this film, you don’t really see it save for stock footage. The cast never stepped foot across the border and many of the action is restricted indoors at a fancy resort.
In this film, not only was the audience treated to the biggest star in movies but they also heard the sounds of the biggest musical talent of that time, Harry James. Harry James and his orchestra were huge, the equivalent to the rock stars of today. James even gets a few lines in the film and has a brief scene with Grable. The two would eventually marry and be one of the most popular couples in Hollywood. James and his orchestra’s perform ‘I Had the Craziest Dream’ sung by Helen Forrest. It’s a little cringeworthy to modern eyes because Forrest is seen walking through the resort courtyard wearing a Native American dress. At the end of the number, the camera pans over to Iron Eyes Cody and J.W. Cody who comment on Harry James being solid. It’s a peculiar moment that I never understood. If anyone who is reading this can fill me on the joke, please do because I’ve been trying to figure it out for years.
In January, this was shown on TCM handpicked by Robert Osborne himself. In his introduction, he reminded audiences of the importance of laughter and enjoying the simple things on film. That’s why movies like Springtime in the Rockies work. Springtime in the Rockies won’t change your life but for its running time of 91 minutes, you’ll experience sheer joy in the lush beauty of Lake Louise without ever having to leave your home.
This post is a contribution to the Classic Movie Ice Cream Social blogathon hosted by Movies Silently. For more entries, click here.