In today’s guest post, blogger Rick 29 looks back at an unforgettable release from the great Danny Kaye:
Danny Kaye’s feature-length film debut is a serviceable musical comedy intended as a showcase for its star and radio singing sensation Dinah Shore. In that regard, Up in Arms (1944) works well enough, though Kaye became a more controlled–and more effective–entertainer in later films such as the comedy classic The Court Jester (1955) and perennial favorite White Christmas (1954).
Kaye plays Danny Weems, a hypochondriac who works as an elevator operator so he can be near the many physicians working in his building. He fancies himself in love with a nurse named Mary (Constance Dowling), although he’d be better matched with Mary’s friend Virgina (Dinah Shore). To complicate matters, it’s instant love for Mary when she meets Danny’s pal Joe (Dana Andrews). Before these romantic entanglements can be worked out, all four friends wind up in the Army–with Danny accidentally smuggling Mary aboard the ship carrying his unit into action.
Kaye seems determined to carry this flimsy plot by himself if required. He employs physical comedy, uses a wide variety of different voices, and sings nonsensical songs at breakneck speed. Most of his routines are very funny, but he could have benefited from more structure and a better supporting cast. Dana Andrews has little to do and seems out of place, while Constance Dowling has one funny scene with Danny. The only other performer to stand out is Dinah Shore, who shows why she was successful enough to get her own radio show, Call to Music, in 1943.
Indeed, Danny and Dinah provide three good reasons to watch Up in Arms: her rendition of the Oscar-nominated ballad “Now I Know”; Danny’s appropriately-titled “Theater Lobby Number,” which is a musical “summary” of a made-up movie with Kaye playing all the characters; and, best of all, Danny and Dinah combining for “Tess’s Torch Song.” The last number is a hoot, with Goldwyn Girls sprouting from giant vases in the background and the two stars repeating each other’s nonsensical lyrics with perfection. In fact, it’s so good that–instead of a closing scene–there’s a short reprise of “Tess’s Torch Song” just prior to the closing credits.
Speaking of the Goldwyn Girls, one of them is played by Virgina Mayo (in fact, she has a brief speaking part as a WAC named Joanna). While she and Kaye never share a scene together, the two subsequently teamed up for Wonder Man (1945), The Kid from Brooklyn (1946), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) and A Song Is Born (1948).
Dinah Shore appeared in only a handful of films and never achieved silver screen stardom. That probably didn’t bother her much, since she remained a recording star through the 1950s and also achieved success on television with The Dinah Shore Show (later The Dinah Shore Chevy Show). After a career lull during the 1960s, she made a comeback as the popular daytime talk show host of Dinah’s Place in the ’70s.