A romance set in NYC's Stage Door Canteen for WWII service members.
Features dozens of cameos:
Aline MacMahon, Gypsy Rose Lee, Alan Mowbray, Harry J. Wild, Sol Lesser, William Terry, Lucile Gleason, Elliott Nugent, Bert Lytell, Ethel Waters, Margaret Early, Julie Conway, Helen Menken, Sunset Carson, Judith Anderson, Henry Armetta, Trudy Erwin, Katharine Cornell, Count Basie and His Orchestra, Lina Romay, Count Basie, Dorothea Kent, Frank Borzage, Pat Flaherty, Benny Goodman Orchestra, Yehudi Menuhin, Helen Parrish, Peggy Moran, Gertrude Lawrence, Jack Lambert, Roscoe Karns, Ruth Roman, Arleen Whelan, Cheryl Walker, Harpo Marx, Martha Scott, Virginia Field, Ralph Morgan, Selena Royle, Elsa Maxwell, Benny Goodman, Paul Muni, Freddy Martin Orchestra, Delmer Daves, Elizabeth Morgan, William Demarest, Helen Broderick, Merle Oberon, George Jessel, Freddie Rich, Kenny Baker, Helen Hayes, Lynn Fontanne, Horace McMahon, George E. Green, John James, Dame May Whitty, Marion Shockley, Gracie Fields, Alfred Lunt, Edgar Bergen, Ann Gillis, Tallulah Bankhead, Lanny Ross, Peggy Lee, Jane Darwell, Virginia Kaye, Max Williams, Ralph Bellamy, Matt Willis, Virginia Grey, Otto Kruger, Lloyd Corrigan, Arthur Walsh, Louis Jean Heydt, Freddy Martin, Marjorie Riordan, Dorothy Fields, Vera Gordon, Xavier Cugat Orchestra, Mortimer Snerd, Kay Kyser Band, Guy Lombardo Orchestra, Ned Sparks, Brock Pemberton, Ina Claire, Vinton Freedley, Kenner G. Kemp, Ray Bolger, Jean Hersholt, Eddie Hall, Betty Lawford, Arlene Francis, Guy Lombardo, Caleb Peterson, Frederick Brady, George Mathews, Ed Wynn, Mack Gray, Benny Baker, Hugh Herbert, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Sam Jaffe, Patrick O'Moore, Dave Barbour, Kay Kyser, Franklin Pangborn, Johnny Roventini, Jack Martin, Lon McCallister, Charlie McCarthy, Xavier Cugat, Francis Pierlot, Allen Jenkins, Marian Moore, June Lang, Jesse White, Tom Kennedy, Ethel Merman, Katharine Hepburn, Jane Cowl, Johnny Weissmuller, Helen Dumas, Bill Stern, Harry Horner, Sully Mason, Harry Babbitt, George Raft
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May 19, 2011
Nostalgia mother lode & Tarzan does the dishes
There was a real Stage Door Canteen for allied service men run along the lines of a USO canteen, except that it was entirely staffed by volunteers from New York's theatrical and music communities, many of whom appear in this film, along with dozens of cameos by radio and film personalities. The big bands aren't left out, with appearances by five including Benny Goodman and Count Basie. There are two romantic subplots interwoven between performances by Ray Bolger, Gypsy Rose Lee and others. These subplots are sentimental in the extreme. After all it was an extremely sentimental time, when out of a population of only 135 million almost 17 million Americans were under arms and engaged in the most devastating war of all time. 407,000 didn't come back. My cousin was one of them.
The cameo performances range from just okay to outstanding, earning an average rating of 3 stars. The two-hankie romances also get 3 stars. The sheer nostalgia overload gets 5 stars. So let's round things off and call "Stage Door Canteen" a 4-star sentimental journey. There are a few missing frames, but otherwise the print quality is good.
FOOTNOTES: Just in case you miss the point, the business about Lon McCallister's first kiss is a euphemism for something a lot more intimate, which was as much as the censors would allow.
One year later (1944) Warner Brothers produced a west coast version called "Hollywood Canteen," which is considered by many to be the superior film. On star power alone it outshines "Stage Door Canteen."