Three Sailors and a Girl

I’ve often wondered how many movie musicals there are that are about a group of people putting on a musical.  It’s the whole “Hey kids, let’s put on a show” thing.  I guess deep down inside, everybody wants to produce a Broadway musical…including a submarine full of sailors in 1953’s “Three Sailors and a Girl.”  Not to be confused with 1944’s “Two Girls and a Sailor.”

The film begins with a submarine crew coming into port in New York City.  They’ve earned some R&R and each have a lot of cash burnin’ holes in their wallets.  Most of the crew is anxious to go out and spend it, which they tell us all about in song, but one sailor known as Choirboy (Gordon McRae) has different plans.  He’s decided to invest his money in the stock market.  At first his shipmates think he’s crazy, but they soon begin to like the sound of seeing their dollars multiply.  They all decide to send their dough with Choirboy who heads off to Wall Street with two other sailors, Porky (Jack E Leonard) and Twitch (Gene Nelson).

When they arrive at the offices of famous stockbroker B.P. Morrow, they are welcomed warmly…that is, after it’s learned they are carrying a gunny sack with $50,000 in it.  But while they wait to see Morrow, they overhear 2nd rate Broadway producer, Joe Woods (Sam Levene), and his leading lady Penny Weston (Jane Powell), trying to get money for their show.  Morrow refuses and kicks them out…as Woods shouts rumours about the firm having financial trouble in an attempt to make the other customers nervous.

It works on Choirboy and the other sailors.  When they reveal that they were about to invest 50G’s, Woods takes them back to his rehearsal space to try and get them to invest in the show.  He even convinces them that the show is about the Navy, which it isn’t.  Doesn’t really matter that much, since the boys are more won over by Penny’s talents…and the fact that she has great legs doesn’t hurt.

The boys begin to help out with their new investment, helping with props and other odd jobs.  At first their buddies back on the sub don’t like the change of plan, but when they meet Penny their attitudes quickly change.  Everyone is on board…well, except for the show’s leading man, opera singer Emilio Rossi (George Givot).  Rossi is making the jump from opera to musical comedy, but he keeps messing up in rehearsal and insisting that the problem is the material, not him.  Meanwhile, Penny and Choirboy are starting to fall in love during the rehearsals.

When the show opens for previews in Boston, it’s a complete disaster.  Now, with the $50,000 investment on the line, Choirboy takes control…reworking the whole show with himself in the lead and the rest of the sailors backing him up.

“Three Sailors and a Girl” is not as big a production as some movie musicals…but it’s not exactly a B-musical either.  Let’s call it a B+ musical.  Some of the songs are fun, others are a bit silly…”You better kiss me, kiss me, kiss me, or I’ll scream!”  Jane Powell does make a good leading lady, she’s got a fun, playful, approach to the whole thing.  Gordon MacRae, though, is sort of a mixed bag.  For some reason his acting and his singing don’t seem to mesh.  It almost sounds like his singing voice was dubbed by another performer, but I doubt that was the case as he was a regular in other musical films.  In fact, the year after this was released he starred in “Oklahoma.”  It’s fun to note that in this film, Sam Levene’s character mentions that his show is “bigger than Oklahoma,” it’s title…Texas.

The supporting cast is has some fun moments, as well.  Jack E Leonard as the unfortunately named sailor Porky has a great comedic flair, George Givot as the pompous opera singer is appropriately over-the-top, and Archer MacDonald as the dweeby put-upon writer of the show had me wishing his role was a bit larger.

Though it suffers from a somewhat tired premise and unmemorable songs, “Three Sailors and a Girl” is still an enjoyable enough little musical.

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