Held together by a flimsy plot, this is 2 hours of sheer enjoyment, with a variety of entertainment, from show-stopping tap dance numbers, comedy skits, an acrobatic number, and even magic tricks, and the film also includes of course, two actors that were to become political figures, our 40th president, Ronald Reagan, and U.S. Senator from California (1965-71) George Murphy.
Reagan looks fantastic in this film where he plays stage manager Johnny Jones. His presence and stature, lean and broad-shouldered, is amazing, as is his warmth and charm. This, as well as "Kings Row", are my two favorite Reagan films that I've seen so far. Lt. Reagan only made his military pay for this film ($ 250.00 a month) while Murphy earned $ 28,000.00...and Irving Berlin, whose terrific score earned him an Oscar, donated his proceeds to the Army Emergency Relief Fund.
Expertly directed by Michel Curtiz, Irving Berlin's music is a delight (we get to hear him sing "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning"), and the choreography by LeRoy Prinz and Robert Sidney is outstanding.
The film, which has the feel of a revue, starts out with Berlin's WWI show, "Yip ! Yip ! Yaphank", and segues into the WWII section, with the next generation performing the show (Reagan plays Murphy's son). Based on the Broadway show that toured the nation and the world as a morale booster for the military, "This is the Army" is an unpretentious and jolly gem, and though some of the numbers are "politically incorrect" for this day and age, those same numbers are also the best in the show, like "Mandy", which is done in blackface, "That's What the Well-Dressed Man in Harlem Will Wear" (brilliantly danced by an man who is uncredited, and also featuring boxing champ Joe Louis), and a choice sequence, the humorous "Stage Door Canteen", with the burliest of the men in drag, and marvelous impersonations of actors, the best being "Herbert Marshall" speaking on the qualities of a hamburger.
The songs include:
"For Your Country and My Country" Gertrude Nielsen & Chorus
"My Sweetie", George Murphy & Chorus
"Poor Little Me, I'm on KP", George Tobias & Chorus
"We're on Our Way to France", George Murphy & Chorus
"God Bless America", Kate Smith
"What Does He Look Like", Frances Langford
"This is the Army Mr. Jones", Sidney Robin, William Roerich, Henry Jones & Chorus
"I'm Getting Tired so I can Sleep", James Burell & Chorus
"Mandy", Ralph Magelssen & Chorus
"Ladies of the Chorus", Alan Hale & Chorus
"That's What the Well-Dressed Man in Harlem Will Wear"
"How About a Cheer for the Navy", Chorus
"Hostesses of the Stage Door Canteen", Chorus
"I Left My Heart at the Stage Door Canteen", Earl Oxford
"American Eagles/With My Head in the Clouds", Robert Shanley & Chorus
"Oh How I Hate to get Up in the Morning", Irving Berlin, George Murphy, George Tobias, Charles Butterworth & Chorus
"This Time We Will All Make Certain", Robert Shanley & Chorus.
Though far from being great, this film has qualities that deserve the highest merit; for the superb tap dancing and the energetic talent of the performers and for the unabashed patriotism Hollywood has long forgotten, this is 5 star family viewing.
(DVD buyers beware...there are several editions available, with some having a "bootleg" quality, though still mighty enjoyable for the price)