Four Jills In A Jeep

FOUR JILLS IN A JEEP bump over a surface of pasteboard material, never getting out of second gear despite the sincere efforts of its adventurous and patriotic heroines. The 1944 support-the-troops musical-comedy (with light drama–there’s a war on, pal) has four actresses playing themselves, recreating their own 3-month 1942 USO tour of Allied bases in the U.K. and North Africa. Kay Francis, Martha Raye, Carole Landis and dancer Mitzi Mayfair did their bit as part of the Feminine Theatrical Task Force; the slapdash 89-minute flick amounts to a tribute to their moxie as well as a salute to the fight-bound fellas they entertained. *

Basically it’s just an excuse (in a good cause) to string together a bunch of musical numbers (no great shakes) with some wan comedy (mostly self-ribbing Raye and an extra-unctuous Phil Silvers) and tissue-thin romantic inserts, including a fictionalized version of Landis’ real-life marriage (war-duration) to an Air Corps pilot.

Popular crooner Dick Haymes is “introduced” (he’d done several bit parts), and there are guest shots from Betty Grable, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda and George Jessel. Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra are on the job.

Directed by William A. Seiter, written by the husband-wife team of Robert Ellis and Helen Logan (Sun Valley Serenade) and Snag Werris—Snag?—with Francis and Mayfair contributing some material. Landis wrote a book about it as well; the movie made $3,600,000, nicking 90th place for the year.

* Francis, 39, had been a big star in the 30’s. Mayfair, 29, had only been in one movie, back in  1930. Popular comedienne Raye, 28, went on to do a great deal of USO work, not just during WW2 but for decades and conflicts afterwards. The va-voom, tragedy-bound Landis, 25–“the Ping Girl”—was a major pinup during the war and did extensive touring, rivaling the efforts of the indefatigable Marlene Dietrich. Off-screen the four jills found mixed bliss, amassing no less than 18 husbands. Call for a cease fire! Dick Haymes (six marriages), meanwhile, who plays an officer in this malarkey, managed to evade the draft by claiming “non-belligerent status” (he’d been born in Argentina) and later 4-F for hypertension. “Hoo-ray for Fiction-hood!”

This genial if flat item from 20th Century Fox was outclassed by the other studios more spendy, star-laden and successful morale boosters. Paramount led the way with 1942’s Star Spangled Rhythm. In ’43 MGM added Thousands Cheer, Warner Brothers Thank Your Lucky Stars and Hollywood Canteen. Joining the Jills in ’44 was Universal’s Follow The Boys, then Warner’s topped ’em all in 1945 with This Is The Army.

          Carole Landis, 1919-1948

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