As Robert Osborn of TCM recounted last night, one of the behind-the-scenes stories from the film had a stage hand, one who neither knew who wrote the music for the production or who Irving Berlin even was, upon hearing Berlin's less-than-melodious voice belting out his own song, said, "If the guy who wrote that song could hear this guy singing it, he'd roll over in his grave." Indeed, Berlin was not known for his singing ability by any stretch, but considering his extraordinary talent in the music composition field, most people forgave him for it just the same. It was still spectacular to see him in the show.
Admittedly, if you're not into song and dance numbers, you won't enjoy this film. The Husband felt patriotic enough to watch for the first 10 minutes before conveniently wandering off to attend to more pressing matters like staring at the kitchen sink. I did, however, make him come back for the Navy number, which frankly is the best song in the entire movie. In typical Navy fashion, approximately 1 billion sailors crash the Army musical number in progress, rush the stage, scatter the Army guys, and begin singing their own number instead.
The Army this, the Army that
Is all we heard from where we sat,
Now how about a cheer for the Navy?
The Army's great, the Army's tough,
But don't you think we've heard enough?
So how about a cheer for the Navy?
Incredibly enough, these sailors had the foresight to also include a scale mockup of a battleship onstage for their musical performance. Amazing. And I hate to say it, but their coordinated marching far exceeded that of the Army's (although I'm fairly certain it was Army enlisted merely dressed in Navy attire anyway) and made for a spectacular display onstage.
A few years ago the Husband and I went to the 1812 Overture performance on the lawn of the Washington Monument (that's in D.C., my geographically challenged friends). The performance is free and features the U.S. Army band and chorus putting on various numbers, not all military related. (The conclusion, as you may have guessed, is the band's performance of the 1812 Overture, complete with synchronized mortar fire provided by the 3d United States Infantry Regiment--it's incredible.) To my point, some of the numbers the chorus sang were from "This Is the Army." It was my fondest wish that they would get around to "How About a Cheer for the Navy" with the Navy chorus rushing the stage and taking over for one number. That would have been awesome. Why aren't I in charge of making these decisions again?
My point is, if you have never seen actual WWII-era Army enlisted men dancing in a chorus line in heels, boy howdy have you been missing out.
And lookie what I found! Not the best quality, but you still get the effect.