Friday, February 20, 2015

Waikiki Wedding (1937)

Waikiki Wedding is a lightweight 1937 Bing Crosby musical. And when I say lightweight I mean lightweight. It’s still quite fun.

Musicals don’t require much in the way of plot which is just as well since this movie has a plot that is about as thin as could possibly be imagined.

Tony Marvin (Crosby) is a lazy but brilliant advertising man whose latest brainwave is the Pineapple Girl promotion for the Hawaii-based International Pineapple Company. The Pineapple Girl gets lots of money and a free trip to Hawaii. All she has to do is pose for pictures with pineapples and write a newspaper column telling how she found fun and romance in Hawaii. The only trouble is that Pineapple Girl Georgia Smith (Shirley Ross) hasn’t found any fun or romance in that tropical paradise. In fact she hates the place. She can’t wait to get away from Hawaii. Somehow Marvin, accompanied by his comic relief sidekick Shad Buggle (Bob Burns), has to persuade Georgia to stay in Hawaii. The obvious way to do that is to offer her fun and romance.

That isn’t too difficult since Marvin and Georgia hit it off fairly well. To keep the movie going there’s a sub-plot about a sacred pearl that has been stolen, which is bad news for the people of one of the islands since that man the volcano god will be angry and when volcano gods get angry things tend to get nasty. This sub-plot turns out to be not exactly what it appears to be.

Georgia also has a comic relief sidekick in the person of Myrtle Finch (Martha Raye). In a desperate effort to pad the movie out to its modest 89-minute running time there’s a bit of a romance sub-plot between Myrtle and Shad.

Of course a movie romance has to have obstacles in its path and in this case the obstacles are largely of Tony Marvin’s making, Tony being a guy who can be too clever for his own good.

The songs are OK and Bing Crosby is in fine voice.

This is a fairly lavish Paramount production and they even did some second unit filming on location in Hawaii which has the effect of opening up the picture compared to most of the entirely studio-bound musicals of its era. Even the rear projection work is done pretty well. Director Frank Tuttle had a long and varied if not overly distinguished career and his work here is typically solid if uninspired.

Bing Crosby does his laid-back cool guy thing and does it very well. Crosby was a pretty effective romantic lead and always handled light comedy well. He doesn’t have to stretch his acting muscles - all he has to do is to rely on his effortless charm and it works. Shirley Ross is an adequate if slightly bland leading lady. Bing Crosby was seen to better advantage when he had a more accomplished leading lady, such as Carole Lombard in We’re Not Dressing or Marion Davies in Going Hollywood.

Bob Burns manages to be mildly amusing without being too annoying. Sadly the same cannot be said for Martha Raye who is gratingly irritating and relentlessly unfunny. Shad’s pet pig supplies a few laughs.

Look out for a very young Anthony Quinn as a Hawaiian.

There’s also a scene between Martha Raye and a chimpanzee. A chimpanzee? Well Hawaii is tropical isn’t it? So it must have jungles. And where you have jungles you obviously have chimpanzees.

Waikiki Wedding is one of five movies included in the Bing Crosby: Screen Legend Collection DVD boxed set. It gets a very good transfer.

Waikiki Wedding is almost too lightweight even for a frothy comedy musical romance but it’s harmless and reasonably entertaining and at times genuinely amusing. Bing Crosby fans will certainly want to see it. Recommended as long as you don’t set your expectations too high.

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