Irving Berlin’s “This is the Army” (August 14, 1943)
Released August 14, 1943: (running time 1 hour and 54 minutes) Boys fighting in World War 1, later watch as their sons and daughters join the fight in World War 2.
Produced by Hal B. Wallis and Jack L. Warner
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Written by Casey Robinson and Captain Claude Binyon
The Actors: George Murphy (Jerry Jones), Joan Leslie (Eileen Dibble), George Tobias (Maxie Twardofsky), Alan Hale (Sergeant McGee), Irving Berlin (himself), Charles Butterworth (Eddie Dibble), Dolores Costello (Mrs. Davidson),Una Merkel (Rose Dibble), Stanley Ridges (Major John B. Davidson), Rosemary DeCamp (Ethel Jones), Ruth Donnelly (Mrs. O'Brien), Dorothy Peterson (Mrs. Nelson), Frances Langford (herself), Gertrude Niesen (World War One Vocalist), Kate Smith (herself), Ronald Reagan (Johhny Jones), Joe Louis (himself), Alan Anderson (assistant stage manager), Ezra Stone (Sergeant Stone), Tom D'Andrea (Tommy), James Burrell ('I'm Getting Tired' lead singer), Ross Elliott (officer in the magician skit), Alan Manson (the straight man in the hunting skit), John Prinze Mendes (magician), Julie Oshins (Private Twardofsky), Earl Oxford ('I Left My Heart' lead singer), Robert Shanley (Ted Nelson), Philip Truex (acting Sergeant of the New Guard), James MacColl (Alfred Lunt, soldier), Herbert Anderson (Danny Davidson), Ralph Magelssen ('Mandy' lead singer), Tilestone Perry (Lynn Fontanne, soldier), John Cook Jr. (soldier), Larry Weeks (K.P. potato Juggler), The Allon Trio (themselves), Murray Alper (soldier), Warner Anderson (Kate Smith's announcer), Irving Bacon (waiter), Leah Baird (old-timer's wife), Louis Bednarcik (Allon Trio acrobat), Dick Bernie (hunting skit), Carlyle Blackwell Jr. (soldier), Jackie Brown (Mike Nelson), Marion Brown (the large Harlem dancer), Angelo Buono (Allon Trio acrobat), Jimmy Butler (soldier), Frank Coghlan Jr. (soldier at camp), Jimmy Conlin (stage doorman), Richard Crane (Sergeant on the field march), Belmonte Cristiani (soldier), James Cross (lead singer and dancer in 'Harlem'), John Daheim (soldier), Dan Dailey (soldier in 'This is the Army'), Gayle DeCamp (soldier), Alex Dexter (soldier), John Draper (soldier), Gino Erbisti (Allon Trio acrobat), Richard Farnsworth (soldier), Martin Faust (soldier), Sergeant Fisher (Blake Nelson), Bess Flowers (woman in audience), Ross Ford (soldier), Art Foster (soldier), Ilka Gruning (Mrs. Twardofsky), Eddie Hall (sailor), Hank Henry (ladies of the chorus plumber, and the cigar smoker in the canteen), Richard Irving (Mandy, in the yellow dress), John James (soldier), Jerry Jarrett (soldier), Payne B. Johnson (boy), Henry Jones (Mr. Brown, recruit), Fred Kelly (Mandy's Beau), Bill Kennedy (news commentator), J.P. Mandes (soldier), Gary Merrill (backstage M.P. on the right), Pinkie Mitchell (Corporal Mitchell on the telephone pole), Victor Moore (father of soldier), Patsie Moran (Marie Twardofsky), Gene Nelson (soldier), Allen Pomeroy (soldier), Richard Reeves (Victor Moore's son's dance partner), Sydney Robin (Mr. Jones, recruit), William Roerick (Mr. Green, recruit), Hayden Rorke (soldier / stage manager), Milton Rorke (orchestra conducter in the pit), Robert Sidney (Sergeant Sydney in the tank), Arthur Space (soldier), Arthur Steiner (soldier), Ernest Truex (father of soldier), Pierre Watkin (stanger in the audience), Doodles Weaver (soldier), Bert Whitley (soldier), William Wycoff (the dancer in drag in 'Harlem'), Jack Young (Franklin D. Roosevelt)
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Fans of classic Hollywood movies remember Irving Berlin as the creator of the holiday song ‘White Christmas’ in a 1942 holiday themed movie. There is one more timeless song that he wrote, and while you know the song, and can probably sing it, you probably didn’t know that Irving Berlin wrote it.
Irving Berlin wrote many of the songs featured on the Broadway stage from the early 1920’s until his final Broadway stage play called ‘Mr. President,’ which he produced in 1962 at the age of seventy-four. One of the men in the audience of that Broadway show was President John F. Kennedy.
In 1918, with World War One raging, he produced a Broadway show to support the war effort called, “Yip Yip Yaphank,” named for the Yaphank army training base on Long Island. A generation later when young American boys were marching off to World War Two, he produced another military musical named “This is the Army.”
For this military show he dusted off a song that he wrote for the First World War production but never used. “This is the Army” was a stage show that used the talents of show business performers who were drafted into the war. By 1943, with the war still raging, movie producers Hal B. Wallis and Jack L. Warner created a little story around a few of the actors/soldiers in the production and filmed the stage show to be shown in movie theaters around the country and for soldiers who could not see the live Broadway stage show.
The movie opens with the World War One show, and then goes quickly into World War Two, where the sons and daughters of the World War One fighters are joining this new war. George Murphy plays the part of Jerry Jones, a fellow who is a songwriter like Irving Berlin. During World War Two, his son Johnny, played by Lieutenant Ronald Reagan, joins the army. His childhood sweetheart Eileen, played by Joan Leslie, wants to marry him quickly before he goes off to possible death, but he refuses, not wanting to make her a war widow.
Now, two bits of significant trivia about the movie: the song you know best, and the man. The Irving Berlin song that you probably know best is “God Bless America,” first seen on film in this movie, sung by the legendary Kate Smith. Another first in this movie is the first film appearance of the legendary songwriter Irving Berlin. He was always very shy and was rarely seen in the spotlight, preferring to be in the background. He was convinced to sing his popular soldier song, "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning." The filming had to be interrupted when he finished the song because of a ten-minute standing ovation.
By the way, when this movie was being filmed, the world was still in the darkest days of World War Two, and the ending was not known. The ending of the movie is real, as the military men in the show prepare to go to the battlefield. In the scene where George Murphy is getting ready to introduce Irving Berlin, with soldiers lined up from the World War One show, you can see tears rolling down his face, and they are not movie tears, but real tears, about the real war that was raging at the same moment that this movie was being filmed. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show.
Dick Berni and Alan Manson
Dolores Costello and Herbert Anderson
Ernest Truex and Pierre Watkin
George Tobias, Irving Berlin and George Murphy
Jon Prinze Mendes and Ross Elliott
Kate Smith singing God Bless America