Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Ship Ahoy


I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this one if it had only the second- and third-billed performers, Red Skelton and Bert Lahr, even though I like both of them. It was the top-of-the-bill star that dragged me into this rather silly, completely routine wartime patriotic mess. Eleanor Powell is the only dancer that anyone has every seriously suggested was as good as or maybe ever better than Fred Astaire. When they co-starred, he admitted that she actually intimidated him. Her tap dancing has to be seen to be believed. In this one she actually taps out a message to the good guy in Morse Code! This is minor Powell, she was in much bigger production numbers in other films. But any time Powell steps onto the stage it is worth your time.

So why isn’t she as well-known as Ginger Rogers? I think it’s because both she and the other great tap dancer of the movies, Ann Miller, really couldn’t act. They were known for their solo numbers. Ginger could do that, too, but she was known for pairs dancing, especially with Astaire. There was great chemistry between them. There was romance, something Miller and Powell couldn’t deliver.

The other big stars are Tommy Dorsey and his band, as themselves. There is a great drum solo by Buddy Rich. And who should step up to the microphone, almost skinny enough to hide behind it (as he did in a Warner Brothers cartoon) but Frank Sinatra! Uncredited! At that time he was under contract to Dorsey, and Sinatramania was just getting started. Sinatra wanted out, and it seems his gangster godfather talked Dorsey into letting him go. This was the basis for that famous scene in The Godfather, where Michael tells about Luca Brazzi holding a gun to a bandleader’s head and Vito telling him that either his signature or his brains was going to be on the contract.