The stars of Broadway do their bit to entertain the troops
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 07/04/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Stage Door Canteen" comes up with a wartime romance to showcase the talented stars who served food to the troops and provided entertainment at the Stage Door Canteen. There are about five dozen stars in this film, from Judith Anderson to Ed Wynn, with Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, Helen Hayes and Gypsy Rose Lee, Count Basie and Benny Goodman, Harpo Marx and Johnny Weissmuller in between. At one point Katharine Cornell does the balcony scene with young Lon McCallister while standing in the serving line. For some reason most of the songs are written by Al Dubin and James Monaco, including "She's a Bombshell from Brooklyn," We Musn't Say Goodbye," and "Sleep Baby Sleep (in Your Jeep)." There is also the Rodgers & Hart song, "The Girl I Love To Leave Behind," a rather appropriate title given the situation.
The romantic plot of the film has Eileen (Cheryl Walker), a junior hostess at the New York City Canteen, meeting Private Ed "Dakota" Smith (William Terry). Despite her best intentions, she falls in love with Dakota, even though this means loses her pass at the Canteen because she has broken the rule about dating service men. Katharine Hepburn, serving as the Officer of the Day, allows Eileen to wait inside for her fiance, but then word comes that the boys sailed that morning and Dakota is already gone. Hepburn then consoles Eileen and gives an inspirational speech on the importance of the Canteen's work. It is certainly interesting to have this dramatic moment pop up at the end of this film, but the cause was certainly worthwhile.
Eighty percent of the profits from this 1943 film directed by Frank Borzage went to the Canteens operated by the American Theater Wing across the country. "Stage Door Canteen" is a fun little film to watch, especially if you remember who Xavier Cugat and Paul Muni were way back when. Be sure that you get the 132-minute version of the film and not the shorter 93-minute version that cuts out a lot of the performances. If you are looking for a double bill, then the obvious choice is "Hollywood Canteen," which is basically the same deal but set in Los Angeles rather than New York and offers the Andrews Sisters, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Roy Rogers and Trigger, Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra and much, much more."
The Greatest Movie ever Made
Jerry Pratt | lithonia,ga,usa | 11/29/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"i first saw this movie in 1979, when i was bedridden due to a back injury. i was in constant pain until i watched it. the back pain went away. the pain in my soul yet lingers. having once been a soldier, i well understand the loneliness of a posting away from loved ones, and the fear of dying in war. this movie is simply the most eloquent statement of that loneliness and fear, and it expresses the common hope of all soldiers- that there is a place like the Stage Door Canteen in every port, to make service to one's country a little easier."
Entertaining Memento of a More Optimistic Era
C. Thomas | New York, NY | 04/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is so fun that it is almost poignant, since it's nearly impossible to imagine anything like it being made today. It's sort of in a category of its own, since it's somewhere between comedy, romance, documentary, musical, and patriotic propaganda, but it works.
It was fascinating for me to glimpse so many of the stars from this era, since I don't know most of them. Yet even in their brief cameos you can feel some of the charisma that made them stars. For example, Tallulah Bankhead (who I had never seen before) has maybe ten seconds of screen time, but she leaves one of the biggest impressions. Oh and in contrast to what someone else wrote, I thought the Romeo and Juliet scene (with the line "parting is such sweet sorrow") was rather lovely and well done (by a stage actress I had never heard of).
I could go on and one about various moments by various performers, because there are almost 50 cameos, and lots of them are really funny and/or moving (Katherine Hepburn's climactic pep talk, for instance, demands mention). The framing narrative is a little corny, sure, but it's just innocent fun (and c'mon, it's based on an Irving Berlin song).
I live in New York, and my grandfather once mentioned going to a place like the canteen (maybe even this exact one!) when he was in the navy stationed here in WWII, but I had never really understood what he was talking about before I saw this movie.
I stumbled on this one boring Saturday night on PBS and highly recommend it to anyone of any age. I hate using such an old-fashioned word as delightful, but it fits. Stage Door Canteen really puts a smile on your face."
Excellent example of patriotism at it's best during wartime
Kim K. | Bayonne, New Jersey | 07/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I taped this movie when it appeared on PBS a few months ago, then I got busy and put it aside. I finally watched it the other day and was very impressed with this story of how patriotic people were during WW2 and how the Stage Door Canteen made all service men feel welcome. A cavalcade of stars and top notch big bands appear to make the boys feel at home and have a chance to enjoy their free time before eventually being shipped off to either Europe or the Pacific. Back in the day, many Hollywood stars donated their time to the Stage Door Canteen, providing entertainment as well as helping serve food and doing the cleanup afterward. I enjoyed the budding romance between hostess Eileen and totally smitten soldier Dakota. At first Eileen is more hung up on getting a role in a Broadway show than anything else, but later in the film she realizes that she'd been acting like a heel and really does have feelings for Dakota. There are plenty of good performances as well, particularly by Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy; Ray Bolger(clowning around in the uniform jacket of the marine who kept asking him if he was Ray Bolger); and especially the music of the orchestras of Kay Kyser, Freddie Martin, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Guy Lombardo. The brief screen appearance by the great Kate Hepburn is a very moving one. A real treat for anyone who is a WW2 buff or into the 1940s music era."