Sunday, October 4, 2009

"Never Wave at a WAC"- a bad movie

I purchased a set of 250 "family movies."  Most were made in the 1930s to 1970s.  I will review them from time, espeically focusing on what they teach me about the period in which they were produced.  I have faced my weakness for the guilty pleasure of watching a really bad movie.

“Never Wave at a WAC” was made in 1954. It stars Rosalind Russell and Paul Douglas. Russell was very popular at the time and went on to greater fame in “Aunty Mame” and “Gypsy”. The movie is about a Washington, DC socialite, who, through the manipulation of her Senator father, becomes an enlistee of the Woman’s Army Corp. Hilarity should ensue but it doesn’t. Russell plays the socialite as one who butterflies from one group at a cocktail party to another, spouting witticisms. She does this while keeping her chin in the air as if she is above all others. I think she is the model for every drag queen. When she enlists, she is taken advantage of by her ex-husband who is studying the effects of fabrics to differing environmental conditions. Hilarity should ensue but doesn’t. Russell does the same kind of physical and loud comedy that was Lucille Ball’s trademark. Marie McDonald plays a “blond bombshell” (as they used to say. She was dumb and naively sexual. She is pursued by a sergeant who is always singing. Hilarity should ensue, but it doesn’t. In the finale, Russell reconnects with Douglas, gets drummed out of the corps, has a change of heart and tries to reenlist.

Key points:

1. The only people of color work in the kitchen, except for one enlistee who fires a cannon.

2. Men still whistled at women.

3. Russell managed to drive around the army based in a finned Cadillac, while everyone else was in an army vehicle.

4. I just don’t get Paul Douglas as a romantic lead. He looks like a bull dog.

5. All of the WACs had short hair under their army hats. The curls made a fringe around the hat. They looked very asexual.

6. There were some flyovers of the Pentagon. Having lived in Crystal City, I though these shots were interesting. Even in the 50s there was a network of four lane roads around the building. The area hadn’t yet been destroyed by the high-rises that characterize modern day Pentagon City and Crystal City. Today, the latter is a modernist’s nightmare.

7. Everybody smoked, which may have accounted for Russell’s gravelly voice.

8. The music, by the esteemed Elmer Bernstein, was rearranged military songs, with the occasional “wah, wah ,wah.”

9. General Omar Bradley appears as himself in the movie. Hilarity does finally ensure. In the movie, Bradley sits at a desk and talks on the phone. He had a fairly high pitched voice and he read his lines word-by-word, as an amateur actor does. This was the highlight of the movie.

The Bad-o-Meter rating: +++ Bad.

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