Footlight Serenade

FOOTLIGHT SERENADE, a Betty Grable musical lark from 1942, flanked by attention from hunks John Payne and Victor Mature, with Jane Wyman (as ‘Flo La Verne’) on caustic galfriend duty, and Phil Silvers for patter. Innocuous amusement, directed by Gregory Ratoff. *

Boxing champ ‘Tommy Lundy’ (Mature) has enough of an ego to jump into a starring role in a stage production that works numbers around his ring reputation. His swelled head makes one change after another to the show, including picking chorus girl ‘Pat Lambert’ (Grable) out the line to be his co-star. He’s gone for her, but doesn’t know she’s married to the guy playing the part of his opponent in one of the skits. That’s Payne, as ‘Bill Smith’.

Ads whooped it “The Miracle Musical of 1942!” Well, not quite, but there are a few chuckles, a pretty hep score from musical director Charles Henderson (working on 15 pictures that year) with decent numbers provided by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin. Highlights are “Except With You”, sung by Cobina Wright, and “Are You Kiddin’?”, sung & danced by Grable. Betty’s fabled legs get plenty of screen time.Script by Robert Ellis, Helen Logan and Lynn Starling.  With James Gleason, June Lang, Irving Bacon and Mantan Moreland. 80 minutes that made $4,000,000, gliding into spot #65 for ’42.

* Running them ragged, 20th Century Fox plunked Mature into seven musicals (three with Grable), and pushed Payne into nine (four with Betty). After several years of such fluff and the timely interruption of WW2, the guys thankfully made the break into foil noir territory. Noir for real: once-promising supporting actress June Lang killed her career by foolishly marrying gangster Johnny Roselli, bumped off the year after this was made. On mates, then: Jane Wyman gets the funniest line in this movie, sniping “You have as much chance of going on as I have of becoming First Lady.” She was married at the time to a fellow thespian named…Ronald Reagan.


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