"Orchestra Wives" on DVD... At Last!
pestcomics | Long Island, New York USA | 08/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Glenn Miller made two films for 20th Century Fox during the early 1940s the first film was "Sun Valley Serenade," released in 1941, the second was "Orchestra Wives," released in 1942. Personally, I find "Orchestra Wives" the better of the two and am happy to know Fox will be releasing a DVD of this entertaining film.
When Glenn Miller signed on to have himself and his band appear in two films for Fox he insisted that the band play an integral part in the story. Up until this point bands had made brief appearances in feature films, usually in nightclub or dance hall scenes, but had never been fully worked into the storyline. "Orchestra Wives" fully integrates the Glenn Miller Band into the storyline with great success.
The story centers on the arrival of the Miller band into a small Midwest town. Ann Rutherford plays a naive, young woman obsessed with the orchestra's trumpet player played by George Montgomery. By chance Rutherford meets Montgomery and they fall instantly in love (that's how it happened in these old movies folks) and before too long they marry, thus throwing her among the pack of backbiting, backstabbing orchestra wives of the title. Lynn Bari plays a scheming vixen, also the band's principal girl singer, who already had designs on Montgomery. Bari plots to breakup the newlyweds in order to get her catty claws into Montgomery herself. So that's the basic plot. Although the story is kind of corny it's simply a vehicle for some great musical numbers by the Miller orchestra.
The songs in the film, mostly written by Fox's songwriting team of Harry Warren and Mack Gordon, became hits for Miller and most have gone on to become American standards. "At Last" tops that list for me and the subtle musical number featuring a duet with singer Ray Eberle and Lynn Bari (who's voice was ghosted by singer Pat Friday) is one of the highlights of the film. The film also includes the songs "Serenade in Blue" and "I've Got A Girl in Kalamazoo." The later song being the film's climactic showstopping number featuring a vocal by band members Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton, The Modernaires and the singing and dancing talents of The Nicholas Brothers.
The cast is comprised of some big talents. Along with the above mentioned Ann Rutherford, George Montgomery and Lynn Bari, Fox saw fit to round out the cast with Cesar Romero, Carole Landis and a very young, pre-Ralph Kramden, Jackie Gleason. Character actor Harry Morgan, who went on to costar in "Dragnet" and "M*A*S*H" on the small screen, also has a small part as a sodajerk friend of Miss Rutherford's.
Because of the enormous success of both "Sun Valley Serenade" and "Orchestra Wives," Fox picked up an option to make two more films with Miller and his band. The next film had the working title of "Blind Date" but, alas, it was never made. Miller became a captain in the U.S. Army and disappeared during a flight to Paris on December 15, 1944. Although Glenn Miller's life was cut short prematurely the film "Orchestra Wives" lives on to give generations of Americans a chance to enjoy his great music and to relive the long-gone days of the Big Bands."
pestcomics | 08/11/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This amazing musical from the early forties has more songs that became classics still heard today than "Meet Me in St. Louis." Glenn Miller and his merry troupe of musicians are the real stars. The story is forgettable but the music is what you really want. "People Like You and Me", "At Last," "Serenade in Blue" and the rousing "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo." Lynn Bari has a strange role: she's bitchy and cold but when she lip-synchs to her numbers, you love her. The knockout performer, who never even got a movie credit, was blonde, dynamic Marion Hutton, the sister of once great musical star, Betty Hutton. Marion captures your attention in her terrific rendition, along with the Modernaires, "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo." She looks fantastic in her black, sequined gown and matching hair piece. That's Dorothy Dandridge dancing with the Nicholas Brothers in their extended sequence of "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo." Marion made several movies during the forties, all musicals. If fate had been more favorable, she was the Hutton sister who should have achieved big-time stardom."
What a wonderful classic!
Eileen Grimes | Seattle, WA USA | 12/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I LOVE this movie - makes me wish I had been born about 20 years earlier - when sexy women were still called "dames," and the styles of hair and dress were classy all the way. The music is the best of the best - this stuff really influenced the jazz of today - Ray Eberle's smooth vocals, the vocal jazz quartet - and lets not forget Tex Benneke (he's that hip cat playing the tenor sax and doing those cool vocals - God, my kingdom for a zoot suit!). The humor is priceless, and Glenn Miller actually could act. The final number, "Kalamazoo", makes ya wanna get out of your chair and find someone to jitterbug with. Get this movie and get out your saddle shoes :)"
scotsladdie | 01/15/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A small town girl marries the trumpet player of a travelling swing band. A very popular film in its day, this movie is infinitely more enjoyable than the title - which sounds like a statistical classification - would suggest. The cast is fun if eclectic: George Montgomery, Carole Landis, Cesar Romero, Ann Rutherford, Lynn Bari, Jackie Gleason & the Nicholas Brothers! Numbers include the zany I'VE GOT A GAL IN KALAMAZOO. ORCHESTRA WIVES was the second and final film made by the famed band leader Glenn Miller who disbanded his civilian band in September of 1942 and entered the military. Miller's Army Air Force band was astonishingly modern for its day with a much more sophisticated sound with lush arrangements accompanied by strings and superlative solos from the best sidemen in the pop music business. Miller disappeared during his flight over the English Channel on December 15, 1944: the world mourned this most popular of all Big Band leaders of the fabled Swing Era."