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A Flag Waving Original
fiascofilmsco10 June 2000
This is The Army is patriotic. It is non-stop music from end to end. Ray Heindorf did an excellent job with the montages of music that are constantly heard throughout the picture. It's a treat to hear Irving Berlin sing his own song "O How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning" with its original verse and chorus.

The print I saw was duplicated from a 35mm print. One can only hope that Warners will restore this film to its original glory. It is a piece of history and its loss would be terrible.

If you plan to rent it, dont get a copy in black and white. The costumes are beautiful in color. The color prints currently available have marginal problems due to the condition of the original master print. Dont let this put you off seeing this. It's well worth the flaws.

Oh yes, there are only a handful of women in the entire production. I warned you.
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Remember the times, sweetie!
marlenebomer14 January 2005
First of all, had you done your research, you would've known that all three branches of the military had (and still have) entertainment divisions whose sole job is to produce shows for the troops. If you looked at the "Crazy Credits" section you would've learned that famed composer Irving Berlin staged the two soldier shows as depicted in the movie.

Yes, many of the skits and songs are terribly dated and yes "This is the Army" is largely a propaganda film, but Berlin singing his "Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" was the lament of every draftee.

Virtually *every* film made during WWII was done either as propaganda or to bolster the spirits on the homefront.

I respectfully suggest watching it again, but instead of looking at it with 2004 cynicism, look at it in the context of the times.
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Yes, there is a Yaphank
goodmam2 July 2006
As a twenty-year resident of Yaphank, New York, which is on Long Island about 60 miles east of Manhattan, I've learned some of the background of this movie.

Irving Berlin wrote "Yip, Yip, Yaphank" while stationed at Camp Upton in Yaphank during WW I. (Camp Upton is now the Brookhaven National Laboratory.) For this show, which was indeed written to be performed by the soldiers, Berlin wrote "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" and the melody of "God Bless America," which was actually cut from the show in its original form.

The show even ran briefly on Broadway in 1918 with a Camp Upton cast, according to the Internet Broadway Data Base.

After the war ended, the songs were put away, then brought out for the morale-boosting efforts of WW II. Berlin frequently rewrote and reused his songs; he revised the lyrics of "God Bless America" for Kate Smith and the rest, as they say, is history.
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This movie is a classic
zekehansell1 January 2004
This movie is a classic of World War II movies. It was made as a moral booster during the war, and includes the music of Irving Berlin. One thing to note especially is the song "Someday I'm going to murder the bugler" which is sung by Irving Berlin himself (wearing his own WWI uniform).

In order to really appreciate this movie you need to understand the world in which it was made, which was a whole lot different than 2004. There was a world war and everyone was concerned about stopping evil. (as opposed to today, where everyone is concerned about how terrorism, or the fight against it, is going to disrupt their daily life)

This movie was made as a way to give people something to feel good about, and show patriotism.
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An American Success Story
bkoganbing27 November 2008
Most of Irving Berlin's shows on Broadway were revues and not book type shows. For that reason they're not frequently revived. All of them contain topical jokes that only history majors like myself would get now. But the extreme topicality of This Is The Army and its World War I predecessor Yip Yap Yaphank guarantee you don't see this one revived too often no matter how many good songs come from it.

Even to do This Is The Army we have a threadbare plot of sorts. George Murphy is a song and dance man doing the lead in the Ziegfeld Follies when he gets his draft notice for World War I. Like Irving Berlin in real life, he offers to put his entertainment talents at the army's disposal. Murphy also marries Rosemary DeCamp at the same time he goes in the army.

Flash forward to a new World War and Murphy's son Ronald Reagan is going out with Joan Leslie who's the daughter of Charles Butterworth another performer from the Yip Yap Yaphank show back in the day. Reagan gets his draft notice just like dear old dad and he says let's put on a show for the boys. Of course dear old dad volunteers to help as do other veterans of the World War I show.

One thing that Warner's was smart about, they didn't give Ronald Reagan any singing or dancing to do. Reagan's talents such as they are were confined to behind the curtain.

A lot of Hollywood regulars are mixed with members of the original cast of actual soldiers who put on This Is The Army on Broadway. The score is also a mixed one with Irving Berlin allowing several of his older numbers mixed in with the Broadway score of This Is The Army. Most particularly God Bless America which Kate Smith had introduced in 1939 and sang in the film. It dwarfs all the other numbers in the score by comparison, in fact it's only rival in popularity in this film is Irving Berlin's soldier's lament of Oh How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning. And that originally comes from Yip Yap Yaphank. And of course that other barracks ballad telling what civilians will have to do without, the title song of the show and the film.

This Is The Army is dated flag-waving to be sure, but as Irving Berlin said in another song in another show, do you know of a better flag to wave? Both Yip Yap Yaphank and This Is The Army are the product of an immigrant kid who escaped poverty and persecution in the old world of Europe. If Irving Berlin's life isn't the American success story than I don't know a better example. He was grateful to his adopted country and these shows were his way of payback.

I doubt if B picture actor Ronald Reagan had the remotest conception that he would be sitting in the White House as a tenant one day and that he would be giving the nation's greeting to Irving Berlin on his 100th birthday. But that's an American success story too.
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I love this film!
coloradokid71927 August 2003
I first saw this film on cable in the late 1970's, and was mesmerized by the story and the music. Certainly, as many people comment, it is propagandistic, but it is also a masterpiece, showcasing an almost-forgotten time. Irving Berlin is one of this country's most prolific and best-loved songwriters, and this musical extravaganza is an homage to his talent and genius.

The cast is unique and wonderful. The main characters are played solidly by "name" stars, but the musical ensemble cast (real U.S. soldiers at the time) are what set this film apart.

A reviewer complaining that it isn't "realistic" overstates the point. So what if you think an "average" army base couldn't produce a cast for a show like this. Film is a medium that attempts to suspend reality and let you enter a place, situation, relationship, time period, etc. that you might not otherwise get to experience. It's sometimes the view of one person's "reality," a manifestation of their own "vision."

My copy of this film is on a very old (early 80's) VHS copy, a low-end bargain release which is of marginal quality, but I love every minute of it. I certainly hope someone reviews some of the specific DVD choices out there, I'd like to get the DVD before I wear out the VHS!

If you enjoy a good flag-waving, patriotic musical, this is a film you will enjoy. If you enjoy Irving Berlin's music, it's a soundtrack you will enjoy. Personally I'd put this on a par with the 1942 film, "Yankee Doodle Dandy," and both films share a few cast members!
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A flag-waver
rdfarnham31 July 2003
This movie was produced as a fund-raiser and as a morale booster. At the time it was filmed we were on the verge of losing the war and the public needed a patriotic lift. The songs are not, perhaps, the best Irving Berlin ever wrote, but they speak of the era in which they were written. For those who are politically-correct, I agree that African-Americans are not shown in the best light, but, right or wrong, that was the attitude then. The minstrel show was still a popular entertainment and the idea of white actors in black-face was considered simply show business. This show was actually staffed by real, honest-to-goodness soldiers with a few actors tossed in for the starring roles. Even if you dislike the movie, appreciate it for the look it gives into American life during the 40s. I, for one, enjoy it a lot and have watched it a half-dozen times. By the way, the sound on the VHS tape is better than on several of the DVD versions that are available.
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Great in 1943, today it's just a bit of a curiosity
MartinHafer11 November 2008
This is the type of musical that Hollywood did best and it sure was popular with the public. However, 65 years later, the film has lost much of its appeal due to changes in movie styles as well as the fact that the film's value as a propaganda tool is now lost--after all, the war has been over since 1945. So what was rousing and exciting then to the folks at home now just seems rather dated and slow--though the film still does have very good production values.

The film is basically a bazillion patriotic songs rolled up into the thinnest of plots. Frankly, I think the film could have been a lot better had the story received greater emphasis and they'd dropped a few musical numbers. This would have given the film a much needed infusion of energy--though again, back during the war years, this wasn't as big a concern.

The story, such as it is, begins during WWI. A group of soldiers (George Murphy, Alan Hale, George Tobias and Charles Butterworth and others) are interested in performing a musical to raise morale and the when they are given permission, the show is a huge hit. Many years later, when WWII arrives, the children of these same men and others put on their new and timely stage show. It's a major success and the soldiers are sent on a tour of the USA to increase the public's patriotism and backing of the war. There's a little more to the plot than this--but not much.

As I said, it's really just an excuse to string together tons of musical and dance numbers--so many that you feel a bit overwhelmed. Some of the numbers are very good, the one with Irving Berlin was interesting (not good--just interesting from a historical sense) and a few were rather bad. The worst was the one that was a minstrel show--something that you'd hoped would have died out by 1943. It was just embarrassing and makes you cringe. Also, in a few separate parts of the film, Joe Lewis made some irrelevant appearances, as he couldn't sing and was as light on his dancing feet as a rhino! He just looked very lost but you can't blame him--he was ordered to appear in the film and since he was a sergeant, he had no choice!

If I could, I'd give the film a score for 1943 (8) and one for today (4 or 5). But, since I can't, I'll give it a 6. Interesting from a historical standpoint but pretty tough going at times, though some of the songs were catchy and the color cinematography was lovely.

As a history teacher, I was a bit concerned with a couple reviews that gave the film a 1. It wasn't nearly that bad and some of the reasons they gave it such a low score seemed petty. One was a diatribe about why they hated Ronald Reagan and really didn't review the film itself. Another was very critical about how the film was propaganda. My answer to that is YES it is propaganda and so what?! Given that it was a life and death struggle for survival in WWII only a knucklehead would see this sort of propaganda as an evil! Should Hollywood have either ignored the war or done pro-Hitler films instead?! Read your history books or talk to some vets before you make such silly assertions.
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An inside look of life during war time Americana. This movie is pretty entertaining, Mr. Jones!
ironhorse_iv20 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This World War 2 movie directed by Michael Curtiz of 1942's Casablanca fame, adapted from the 1942 Broadway musical by Irving Berlin was designed to boost war time morale in the U.S. Film was made for the Army Emergency Relief Fund and it made lots of money. The stage version had no plot, but this film is a lot better with a story, even if the story is very loose ended. The movie is mostly about Irving Berlin's time in both wars trying to pull all soldier show. Irving Berlin's story is being told by the character of Jerry Jones (George Murphy) who served his country during World War 1 by putting up a musical call 'Yip Yip Yaphank'. Like Berlin, he notice how successful, it was, with his enlistment son, Johnny (Ronald Reagan) try to use the show to gather up money. George Murphy was amazing in the role. You can't help feeling emotional when he reunited with his old war buddies to do the 'Yip Yip Yaphank' number again. Reagan looks fantastic in this film where he plays stage manager Johnny Jones. Its sucks that he can't sing, but at less, he can acted. Both pair of future California politicians were great. Irving Berlin even show up in the film. He composed most of the film's 19 songs, and broke screen protocol at the time by singing one of them. He performed, 'Oh! I hate getting up in the morning'. I have to say, while Berlin is one of the greatest song writers in the world, he isn't one of the best singers. The movie very mirrors, how the stage play went, even to the point, where the entire cast march off to 'We're on Our Way to France'. One song he didn't use was 'God bless America' which became a huge success later on, when singer Kate Smith sang the song on Armistice Day in 1938. Her performance in the film is probably one of the main highlights. Kate Smith is not the only personal celebrity to be in the film, as there are many others. One of the weirdest ones is boxer Joe Louis. Thank Goodness, he didn't sing at all, but honestly, he can't even act. I can't barely understand what he was saying. Besides because use for marketing to get Black Americans to see the show; he was pretty much useless. Honestly, I have a love/hate relationship with this movie when dealing with black characters. For good side, I'm glad, Berlin integration the army before the army did. Still, it was a bit 'mess up' to see soldiers in black face doing musical numbers. Then have Blacks dancers appear on stage simultaneously. I really can't love the "That's What the Well-Dressed Man in Harlem Will Wear" and 'Mandy' number, but it was well done. I know it came with the times where minstrel shows were popular, but gees "politically incorrect" right there. Also, I didn't like the dance number because it had little to do with the Army life. The whole Latin American dances seem out of place. I know US was trying to gain Latin America's countries support for the war effect at the time, but men in drags wasn't what Latin Americans wanted to see it. It was deem offending to them. Another scene that seem out of place is the whole celebrity spoof impersonation about hamburger. It's spoof Broadway stars, but it wasn't really funny. The comedy skit, after the first dance number was a little better. The whole Canteen scene was a bit odd. I had this whole vibe that it was supposedly a brothel due to the lyrics. Plus, they even had a madam type character in the play. I know, the burliest of the men in drag was used for laughs AKA "Ladies of the Chorus" number, but the whole scene in the Canteen had this homosexuality sexual orientation feel to it. I didn't mind it, but I thought women who served were under look in this movie. I know it has a all-male military-cast; but as have a Army Nurse Corp number. Frances Langford sings "What Does He Look Like" was great. Needed more of that. I love how the show is nearly hijack by the US Navy. I also love the Air Corps number, "American Eagles/With My Head in the Clouds". What an emotional number. Although the core of the movie consists of the musical numbers, the movie also contains a veneer of a plot involving the wartime love interests of both the father and the son. A sub-plot running the movie was Johnny telling his sweetheart that they cannot marry until he returns, since he doesn't want to make her a widow, but they find themselves going against their feelings. Glue together by this plot, this movie is 2 hours of great variety of entertainment, from show-stopping tap dance numbers, an acrobatic number, and even magic tricks. I love the comedy of the magic tricks. Overall, my favorite song is "This is the Army Mr. Jones". The only other song contemporary audiences might still recognize besides 'God Bless America'. "This Time We Will All Make Certain" was a great song for the ending. Some critics hate it for being propaganda. My answer to that is yes, it is propaganda and so what. It was better than what Europe was propaganda at the time. The film hasn't aged well, as it full of scratches and discoloring. At times, a few seconds of film seem to be either cut out of the film or just lost over time. The sound quality isn't that good as well. Some DVDs out there have a horrible quality so watch out. Since the movie is in the Public Domain, you can pretty much find it anywhere. A good quality is kinda rare. Though far from being great, this film has qualities that deserve the highest merit.
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What A Way To Fight A War!
zardoz-1330 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The musical "This Is The Army" qualifies as the most unusual war film that Warner Brothers produced. This Home Front musical stirred up controversy with scenes where active duty armed forces personnel cavorted in female apparel. Essentially, two Irvin Berlin stage plays, "Yip, Yip, Yaphank," a 1917 stage production, and Berlin's successful 1942 Broadway play "This Is The Army," served as the basis for the film. "Casablanca" scenarist Casey Robinson and veteran screenwriter Claude Binyon, an army captain now, added a back stage story about a young soldier's reluctance to marry his sweetheart before he marches off to war. The movie also spelled out its patriotic, gung-ho ideology in the last scene with the song "This Time Is The Last Time." The lyrics of this song suggested that there would not be a World War III. Warner Brothers assigned Casablanca director Michael Curtiz to "This Is The Army." Production on this Technicolor "A" picture got underway February 24, 1943 and ended May 14, 1943.

The action unfolds in New York City in 1917 as dancer Jerry Jones (George Murphy) receives his draft notice. Jones marries his sweetheart Ethel (Rosemary DeCamp) and then reports for duty. At boot camp, Jerry struggles to make the transition from dancer to foot soldier. He makes his drill instructor, Sergeant McGee (Alan Hale, Sr.), painfully aware of his problem with regimentation. When Sergeant McGee talks about Jerry's problem to the camp commandant, Major John B. Davidson (Stanley Ridges), the commander decides that Jerry's talents may be put to better use on a morale boosting play. Jerry produces and stages "Yip, Yip, Yaphank," a show about Army life. As the show draws to a finish, the doughboys march off the stage in full fighting gear, down the aisles, and head for their transport ship. Jerry sees action somewhere in France, and comes home a cripple. He walks with a slight limp, but his handicap does not restrict him from his first love—the stage. He opens a theatrical talent agency.

The film leaps from 1918 to 1941, and Jerry's son, Johnny (Ronald Reagan), enlists in the Army to fight World War II. Johnny's sweetheart Eileen Dibble (Joan Leslie) wants to marry him before he leaves, but he refuses to exchange vows. Meanwhile, Jerry gets together with Major Davidson, and they arrange for Jerry to produce another morale boosting musical. Reluctantly, Johnny helps out his father. Unlike "Yip, Yip, Yaphank," the new show incorporates African-Americans in the cast, most prominently boxing champion Sergeant Joe Louis (the actual Joe Lewis), and features an all black musical number "That's What The Well-Dressed Man in Harlem" will wear—army khakis. As the soldiers are about to perform their final number, Ethel persuades Johnny to marry her. In the closing number, Johnny and the troops march off to World War II singing "This Time Is The Last Time." No sooner had Warner Brothers prepared to go into production on "This Is The Army" than an issue arose involving overseas distribution and the Office of Censorship. Warner sent a memo to Hal Wallis about the matter dated December 28, 1942, that Allison Durland, an unofficial adviser to the OOC who handled Latin American affairs for the PCA, said, "regardless of extenuating circumstances he does not believe export license would be granted because of female impersonators." As Warner Brothers would learn to their surprise, Central and Latin American countries considered men dressing up as women as repugnant and immoral. That American soldiers would be impersonating females did not go over well either.

Although Warner Brothers released This Is The Army to domestic theaters on August 14, 1943, the studio had to confront the unexpected crisis over female impersonators, a predicament unique to this movie, because they produced no other films during the war that created so much controversy over something that everybody involved in deemed more amusing than offensive. Warner Brothers foreign distribution executive Carl Schaefer sent a memo to Warner on December 17, 1943, after he had conferred with Rothacker. Schaefer told Warner that he had "been advised unofficially we will be denied export license for This Is The Army if men play chorus girls as in the stage production." At length, Schaefer explained the rationale to Warner, "Female impersonators do not exist in Latin America: men in women's clothing are highly insulting and revolting to Latin American sensibilities and censors. Even could the film be exported, United States soldiers cavorting in dresses would represent ammunition to the enemy's propagandists. The Universal Pictures film "Argentina Nights" (1940) proved this point.

"This Is The Army" is a blast to watch.
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Standard Irving Berlin wartime musical is flag-waving patriotism at its most feverish pitch...
Doylenf12 November 2008
What really enhanced my enjoyment of THIS IS THE ARMY last night on TCM is the fact that for once I saw a good, restored print of the wartime Warner Bros. musical and it looked great. The colors were vibrant. JOAN LESLIE never looked so beautiful with her reddish brown hair and the uniformly good cast of contract players headed by RONALD REAGAN, ALAN HALE, STANLEY RIDGES and others mixed well with the assorted real-life soldiers and sailors and marines who made up the bulk of the show. GEORGE MURPHY does a standout job as Reagan's show business father.

The Irving Berlin tunes were the film's saving grace. His jaunty "This Is The Army, Mr. Jones," "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning," and other sprightly numbers compensate for the very thin plot that has Reagan and Leslie as wartime sweethearts who don't get together until the final reel after quarreling foolishly about whether or not to tie the knot.

Some of the comedy skits between soldiers are beyond corny and fall flat for today's audiences, but as hokey as most of it is, it's still an enjoyable show, especially the sight of beefy men in drag doing their thing with Berlin's irresistible songs. ALAN HALE is especially funny as an overweight soldier forced to take a female part in one of the show's big musical numbers.

And, of course, the blackface routine may turn some politically correct spectators off the entire film.

Trivia note: It's amusing to see Reagan get excited about the presence of the President of the United States in the audience--someone shown only in a distant shot. Reagan himself was about to occupy the White House for two straight terms at a future time. A rare and ironic moment!
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For lovers of classic Hollywood musicals
psteier12 August 2001
Made to raise money for a war relief fund, the picture had the support of the Army and used many Hollywood people who were in the services at the time. Unusual in that there is only one (tame) number with a female chorus line and three dance numbers with men in drag. The dancing in general is not too exciting (unless you like chorines with hairy chests). The flag waving plot can safely be ignored.

Joe Louis in particular and Blacks in general are not treated well, though the 'Harlem' dance number has the best dancing in the picture. Be warned that there is a 'Minstrel' number in blackface.

Irving Berlin fans will be thrilled since the picture was made from two of his shows (Yip Yip Yaphank and This Is the Army).
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Irving Berlin's This is the Army was a rousingly entertaining patriotic musical revue
tavm20 March 2010
Just watched again this, the third of the "war musicals" I'm reviewing for these next few days of which Something for the Boys and Thank Your Lucky Stars were the first two, having seen This is the Army previously during the summer of 1987 on USA Network and again several years later on a Diamond Home Video VHS tape. With the Warner Bros. DVD providing a much better print than the last couple times I've seen this, I managed to have a much better time watching it. In fact, the only times I've cringed were during the blackface "Mandy" number (though the dances-led by Gene Kelly's brother Fred-were enjoyable) and during the "Stage Door Canteen" sketch where we get lame banter of one man dressed as Lynn Fontaine and another as her husband Alfred Lunt, not to mention having another man impersonating European thespians praising the hamburger. Otherwise, this movie had mostly enjoyable comedy especially whenever Alan Hale, Sr.-who is very much like his "Skipper" son in lovable blustery-is on screen, drama with Lt. Ronald Reagan and Joan Leslie debating the merits of marrying before leaving for battle, and musical highlights-like when Kate Smith sings her stirring and iconic rendition of "God Bless America" or even when composer Irving Berlin makes his entrance in his old uniform singing "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" (not to mention an additional song filmed exclusively for English audiences called "My British Buddy" which is an extra on the disc). And the number "That's What the Well-Dressed Man in Harlem Will Wear" isn't all that offensive concerning the African-American performers though I don't think it really was necessary to have boxer Sgt. Joe Louis in this as he just punches a bag during it. All in all, this was a rousingly patriotic show that really delivered. P.S. I have to note that co-screenwriter Capt. Claude Binyon came from my birthtown of Chicago, Ill. And when I first watched this, during the commercials, I switched to other channels and saw live coverage of President Reagan and his wife Nancy consoling various people on the death of loved ones. I'm guessing this was related to the event of May 17 of that year (two days before I graduated from Belaire High School) when 37 American sailors were killed on the U.S.S. Stark after it was set afire by two missiles from an Iraqi airplane. Talk about coincidence...
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God Bless Irving Berlin, Kate Smith, George Murphy and Ronald Reagan
jayraskin112 August 2010
For those who love to watch flag waving men in uniform doing musical numbers in drag, this film is your heaven. Add a little minstrel show, black face comedy, and a variety of acts from a magician to star impersonators, to acrobats to Air Force and Navy glee clubs and you have one of the gayest pieces of pro-military pop-corn imaginable. This is a 1943 version of the Ed Sullivan Show on steroids.

This movie seems to have A.D.D. It moves from subject to subject in a rather willy-nilly fashion, but it is tied together with waving flags and marching/tap dancing men in uniform, and the fact that Irving Berlin wrote both the two or three classic songs and the fourteen or fifteen duds. One could watch every scene in reverse order and get the same effect. It is a parade celebrating pro patria mori. It is a broken record that just keeps repeating that it is glorious to be a soldier because it is not glorious to be a soldier.

Yet, it lacks conviction, which is what makes it such tiresome propaganda. Why is it arguing that World War II is a continuation of World War I? Why does it have twenty minutes of men in drag singing and dancing, but only one minute of men in battle? Why is it advocating that men should get married before they go off to war? Why does it say that war is hell because you have to get up early in the morning, especially when every working man in America had to get up at the same time? There is something chilling about this movie: the way it uses song and dance and vaudeville theater to promote war. What I can not figure out is why I love Michael Curtiz's "Yankee Doodle Dandy" which celebrated George M. Cohan's patriotic song contributions, while I disliked this movie which celebrates the same thing in Irving Berlin? Maybe it is because James Cagney glides across the screen with grace and an open heart, while this movie is just an army trampling everything in its path.
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Great Musical
Tetrachord227 October 2001
I watch this movie often. I love the music. I wish I knew more about the man who sang the song ''Mandy''. I enjoy this movie every time like its the first time. I'm proud to own a video tape copy. I would like to see it available on DVD someday
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Soldiers on the stage
Petey-1013 February 2001
This is the Army from 1943 is a musical movie where soldiers are singing and dancing on the stage.One of them is Ronald Reagan, who became a president 38 years later.He may not be the best actor of all time but he wasn't bad either.Unfortunately Mr Reagan has been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for a few years.Ronnie became 90 years old the 6th day of this month so congratulations to him.This movie has some good musical numbers in it.This was made in the time when the WWII was still going on for a couple of years.Joe Louis was a famous boxer of that time who you can see in this film.Times have changed since that and so have the movies.But people should still watch movies from the time that doesn't exist anymore.This is the Army is a movie for all those who like old movies with lots of music.
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A war-time morale film of historical note
SimonJack27 March 2019
"This is the Army" is a musical comedy film made specifically as a morale booster during World War II. It was released in the U.S. in August 1943 after a successful tour of the country of a stage play of the same title from 1942. The film is based on that original Broadway play, but also includes a restaging of another show from 25 years earlier, during World War I. As a musical, this can't compare with the great Hollywood productions of the time and later. But, besides the morale and service aspects of the film during the war, this movie shows a good piece of history.

It tells about the staging of the "All Soldier" Army play in 1917 as a morale booster before the American doughboys went off to war in Europe. Then, it tells about the making of a similar play in 1942. Only this time, it was put on as a Broadway play in connection with the new Army Emergency Relief Fund to help service families. And, it chronicles how the play's success led to its extensive tour of cities around the country.

The cast for this film includes some of the actual performers from the 1942 show. Some were men who had careers in show business. Others were actors who weren't in the stage show but who were in the military service for the war. And, for historical posterity, the film includes songwriter and composer Irving Berlin as a sergeant who sings one of his original songs from 1918, "Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning." Berlin's history is tied to both of the Army shows and to this film. More information on that is below.

Among the popular actors of the early 1940s are George Murphy in the male lead. Other male actors in prominent roles are Ronald Reagan, Alan Hale, George Tobias, and Stanley Ridges. Among the female performers are singers Kate Smith and Frances Langford. Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis is in the film, as are acrobats, magicians and dancers who were part of the revue shows.

Irving Berlin served as a sergeant in the Army in World War I. In 1917, at age 29, he already was a famous composer and songwriter. That year, he helped stage an "All Army Soldier Show" at Camp Upton in Yaphank, NY. The Army advertised tryouts for the show among the GIs. All the roles were filled by men. They called the musical show, "Yip! Yip! Yaphank." At the close of its last performance, the men marched off to return to their units that were going overseas to fight.

Then, 25 years later, as the most famous composer and songwriter in America, Berlin got permission to produce another All Army Soldier show. The 1942 show was similar to that of WW I, only it was produced as a Broadway musical, with men trying out from various posts around the country. It was called "You're in the Army Now," and featured Berlin's music. The show was a big hit and ran from July 4 to Sept. 26. After its Broadway run, the Army took it on the road. It played in several cities across the country and raised several million dollars for the Army Emergency Relief. While the movie has the men marching off to their units after the last road show, in reality the show continued to travel and perform until the end of the war. It's last performance was Oct. 22, 1945, on Maui, Hawaii, where Irving Berlin again sang "Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning."

One song that Berlin wrote for the 1942 show soon became a hit -- "This is the Army, Mr. Jones." The movie grossed nearly $10 million, all of which went to the new Army Emergency Relief Fund.

After the AER Fund was established, the other branches of the military created similar programs and funds. In modern times, the U.S. Army for a time apparently had an All-Soldier Army show. It included women, and service people tried out for the show each year. I don't know how long that program ran, but the Army discontinued it in 2016. It's one thing to have something special like these shows during a global war. But at other times and now with an all-volunteer Army, it seems that civilian professionals can best meet entertainment needs. It doesn't make sense to spend tax dollars to train people for military positions in which they won't serve. Then to add the cost of organizing them for entertainment purposes. And then to train more people to fill the positions they have vacated. I say this as an Army veteran. We didn't have All Soldier shows during the Cold War decades, but we did have professional entertainers tour and perform on Army bases.

While "This is the Army" isn't a top musical, it is good by revue standards. It shows a nice slice of history from two periods as America was going to war. History buffs and those interested in culture should find this interesting. And, with the tunes by Berlin and some super patriotic staging, most people should find it entertaining. This is one of just two films in which Irving Berlin appeared - the other being "Glorifying the American Girl" of 1929.

Berlin wrote some 1,500 songs. He wrote the scores for 15 musical films and 20 Broadway shows. He had more than 100 hit tunes over a 60-year career. "White Christmas" of 1942 remains the single most popular song of all time. It sold more than 100 million single copies and is still recorded on new holiday albums by artists nearly every year. And, who doesn't know another Berlin song from 1918? Still sung every year at national, patriotic and religious events is Irving Berlin's "God Bless America."
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mostly watchable Berlin extravaganza
weezeralfalfa18 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This WWII Technicolor Warner Brothers flag waving extravaganza, directed by talented Michael Curtiz, essentially stitches together two classic war-themed Irving Berlin musical stage productions: "Yip,Yip, Yaptank", which he composed while a WWI soldier at the army base near Yaptank, Long Island, and "This is the Army", a very recent theater show, dealing with WWII, and featuring its title song, among many others.It is perhaps overly long at 2 hrs. The overture is certainly too long, and there are perhaps too many stage numbers featuring large numbers of soldiers or sailors. There are times when the background drama or stage productions sag. But, on the whole, I found this film rather entertaining and inspiring, even 70 years later. It was well attended by contemporary audiences.

George Murphy was a great choice as the lead show business-soldier combo star: sort of a stand in for Berlin.He had been and would be a star in a number of musicals during the late '30s and early '40s, having vaudevillian talents plus a fair dose of charisma, certainly more than Reagan's at this time. Often, as in this film, he served as the show director/producer, as well as a sometimes performer.Both he and Reagan would serve a term as president of the Screen Actor's Guild, and he would serve a term as a US senator, with Reagan eventually eclipsing him as a political executive.

Many people want to know why Reagan's character was included in the film, as he seems to do little except reject his long term girlfriend's periodic pleas to marry her before he goes overseas. At this time, even variety shows, such as this, were thought to require some minimal element of romance and romantic drama. He also serves to add more continuity to the story, taking the place of his father, George Murphy's character, as a soldier in WWII vs. WWI, even if he doesn't take his place as a vaudevillian performer. His conflict whether to marry his sweetheart then or after his tour of duty must of been a very common concern among the audience. Unlike Murphy's character, who married his sweetheart just before sailing, Reagan's character seemed insensitive to the desire of his girlfriend. She(Joan Leslie) finally has to basically rope and tie him to make him say yes.

Although hardly given the build up accorded Kate Smith in her stirring "God Bless America" number, gorgeous Frances Langford, in a striking blue evening dress, sings about a soldier getting a letter from his wife, saying he has a baby boy. While this wasn't hit parade material, no doubt it was a fairly common topic of conversation among soldiers.For a sampling of what she could do with more memorable songs, check out "Broadway Melody of 1936" or "Yankee Doodle Dandy". Robert Shanley also does a great job as the lead singer in the "With My Head in the Clouds", "American Eagles" and finale "This Time" productions. James Burrell lends his fine Irish tenor voice to the lullaby-like "I'm Getting Tired so I Can Sleep"

The "We're on Our Way to France" mass army performance in a theater was spectacularly staged, as was the Navy's mass performance, much later in the show. To me, the dancing highlights were the two 'blacks only' numbers. The first was a minstrel show with many in blackface, about half of whom were also in drag, as 'mammies', singing and dancing to "Mandy", which I rank as among the best songs in the film. Although this was staged as part of the WWII portion of the film,Berlin actually composed it for his 1919 Yip,Yip, Yaptank show..It soon became hit at the Ziegfeld follies,starring Eddie Cantor, who later included it in one of his talkie films.It was a soothing soft shoe-type song, with many dancing couples, including Fred Kelly, brother of Gene Kelly: presumably the one in purple trousers. I have never understood why many people in recent times consider moderate blackface performances racist. As a WASP, to me, such a minstrel show is just another form of clowning around.Should I get offended by traditional circus clowns, often in 'white face', acting foolishly? To me, it's the same. The dance performance following this, done by real African Americans, was another highlight, especially the one dressed outrageously in drag, who did a wild dance and got another going with an equally wild dance.

Dancers or singers dressed in drag are featured in several productions. Unfortunately, this caused great problems in trying to distribute the film to Latin American countries, where this rather common format in shows put on by servicemen is not considered humorous. Why didn't they use service women? I suspect they thought it would add to the humor.

In addition to singing "How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" near the end of the film, Berlin sings "My British Buddy" in an outtake on my DVD. This was included in the film version for the UK. Again, his weak singing voice wasn't the greatest, but he got the message across that he hoped the UK and USA would remain close allies for many decades after this war was won. He got his wish on that one, but the spectacular finale stage production :'This time we will make certain that this time is the last time', expressing the determination that America would not again have to send soldiers to far off lands, proved far too optimistic. The US had become too important, internationally, to again retreat into isolationism.

You may find the long documentary "Warner at War" included on my DVD to be of equal interest to this film. This DVD is currently included in a package with the other Warner war-related revues of this era : "Thank Your Lucky Stars" and "Hollywood Canteen"
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"I Want You...for the U.S. Army!"
classicsoncall4 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Although a dated period piece, this one is likely to win you over if you're a fan of patriotic old films. Music lovers will also find a lot to like here as well, with a whole host of tunes provided by the legendary Irving Berlin, who even manages to sing one of his creations - 'Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning'. The picture book-ends it's story around two separate stage productions, starting with 'Yip, Yip, Yaphank' set in 1918, followed up by the 1943 'This is the Army' portion anchored by future President Ronald Reagan. There's a family connection introduced as well, as Reagan's character, Johnny Jones, is the son of Jerry Jones (George Murphy), the original star of the earlier production.

If you're an old time movie fan, you'll recognize a host of players in the film like Joan Leslie, Alan Hale, and George Tobias, and virtually all of the secondary characters were in the service when they made the picture. Which was actually the point, the film was intended as a morale booster and positive propaganda for the American war effort. (I dislike using the term propaganda when it supports the U.S. cause, but I don't know if there's a better word to fit the bill).

Undoubtedly, some modern day viewers will find offense with portions of the picture. The black-face Swanee River routine is regrettably embarrassing in hindsight, but then you have an incredibly well choreographed and athletic performance by real black singers and dancers which stands well on it's own. Similarly, soldiers performing in drag seems like it could have been avoided by using real service women in those numbers calling for it. But second guessing from the vantage point of almost seventy years is probably a futile exercise.

I'd like to think there's a worthy message in the closing song number - "This Time is the Last Time" as it references America's prospects for future conflict. One more thing that the vantage point of 2010 is unlikely to make us feel secure about. One can only hope that courageous world leaders lead the planet to a safer place than the one we have today.
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Confusing plot makes the film almost pointless.
PatrynXX16 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
As a historical record, it's a must watch. But completely pointless as a movie. Like something out of The Producers. Way too little story from the original WWI guys. That was the more interesting storyline that didn't really pick back up until about the last 15 minutes of the movie. Everything in between was full of hot air. Was this a real show? I'm hedging that it wasn't. But it's difficult to tell. And the subplot with uh Reagan not wanting to get married is completely buried and even absurd on it's face. Should have never been in the movie. Great singing all around, but it never felt like a movie. Probably would have been cool as a stage show but never a movie.

Full Rating: 4/10 Quality: 2/10 Entertainment: 6/10 Replayable: 2/10
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In The Name Of American Patriotism
StrictlyConfidential11 November 2018
Released back in 1943 - This flag-waving musical-tribute (featuring 19 Irving Berlin songs) was clearly meant as a morale booster for disillusioned US soldiers during WW2.

Produced through Warner Bros. Studios - "This Is The Army" has just about everyone (including his dog) singing up a total storm in the name of American patriotism.

Surprisingly enough - Several of the elaborately-staged, all-soldier musical numbers in this Technicolor picture were actually quite impressive.

Thank goodness actor (and future US Prez), Ronald Reagan couldn't (and didn't) sing, so his scenes were at least kept down to a tolerable minimum. But, yet, he still did manage to do his fair share of flag-waving, too. Natch.
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enjoyable show to watch
grandcyn13 July 2018
We remember seeing the original This Is the army many years ago; this was fun to watch both because of the music and dancing and because it captured the patriotic fervor of the time; also there were parts I didn't remember seeing before, e.g. the Stage Door Canteen and Irving Berlin singing ..Hate to Get Up ..though my husband did ( I'm dating myself :-) canteen song the other reviewers described it perfectly and I really don't have anything to add to their comments; except that it was interesting to learn what that reviewer wrote about Yip Yip Yank about which show I knew nothing; I must see if there is a trivia section here; the singers are superb! are they talented servicemen ( the crdits give military rank in front of their names) or Broadway performers who joined or weredrafted into t army?
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****** Flag Waver
GManfred29 March 2018
It must have gone over well with wartime audiences, those on the home front waiting and worrying about loved ones abroad. "This Is The Army" is a big, splashy musical with lots of familiar Hollywood stars and with almost constant music by Irving Berlin. Just the thing to boost the morale - uplifting, upbeat and very patriotic.

However. You might be tempted to say that the story gets in the way of the songs, but the story is not all that interesting to start with, and with some contrivance to boot. And the songs are loud but forgettable, the only one worth noting is "Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning", sung by Irving Berlin himself. But that's the last scene in a movie which seems interminable at times. The best one can say is that it made the folks on the home front feel much better.

My star rating is in the heading as the website no longer prints mine.
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gkeith_15 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers

Great dancing and singing.

Good to see all the actors.

Good to see Ronald Reagan.

Great comparison of two wars. People in first war had children in second.

Great to see and hear Kate Smith.
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A Slice of Movie and American History
hachmom-12 February 2018
As a musical This is the Army is average at best. As a slice of American History, of a time when so many entertainers put aside personal profit to entertain troops, this film is special. Also it is a reminder that Michael Curtiz, not usually ranked among the great directors is none the less one of the most versatile director ever. Coming off of Yankee Doodle Dandy, this is another flag waving musical, and if he isn't lucky enough to have a star of the level of James Cagney, this ensemble review is more reflective of the wartime review show. The numbers are well staged, with many fine solo performances highlighted. Particularly outstanding is the performance by Kate Smith of God Bless America, interspersed with shots of families about to be affected by the war listening intently. It really does give of sense of what it was like in 1942, wondering where sons and husbands would be going soon.

But in the end nothing about that matters. This film is worth watching just to see Irving Berlin reprise his role in Yip Yip Yaphank, performing "I Hate to Get Up In The Morning". (Berlin, a chronic insomniac, really did hate getting up in the morning). In addition to the historic value of this piece of film, there is also some satisfaction in seeing one of the true geniuses of the American Musical Theatre, just managing to carry the tune of one of his own songs. It is a tribute to his commitment to the country and the war that he is willing to put himself front and center in this way. I own a DVD purchased in the wild and wooly days of copyright laoses, bought specifically for the purpose of owning this ;little slice of history. Sometimes I put it in and just waatch that part. There are better films of Irving Berlin's music, but none tht feature the man himself.
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