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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Military Dance Revue

This Is the Army (1943) on IMDb

Plot Overview

boy avoids draft Uncle SamNew York 1917. In response to their country's call, young men are getting enlisted and con­scripted left and right. They include song-and-dance man Jerry Jones (George Murphy) whose feet are more suited to skipping than marching, and Eddie Dibble (Charles Butterworth) whose neighbors are tormented by his coronet playinghorn playing soon to be replaced by bugle blowing. Unexpectedly, camp comman­dant Major John B. David­son (Stanley Ridges) signs off onAPPROVED an all soldier revue called Yip! Yip! Yaphank! named in honor of Yaphank, NY the location of the Army training facility. He wants to boost troop morale.

The army relief show is a rousing success and the soldiers are sent off to France where after the war some return to civilian life but some are gone. Jerry has a game leg, so he goes into theatrical production with his son Johnny (Lt. Ronald Reagan) by his war bride Ethel (Rosemary DeCamp.) Johnny gets engaged to the bugler's daughter Eileen Dibble (Joan Leslie) but is hesitant to marry her before the new war is over. The old timers reunite at an open house and concoct a revenant show called This is the Army produced by Jerry's son Johnny now in the army. Eileen uses their road show as an opportunity to press her suit to marry.


This 1943 musical has enough songs about marriage and enough people getting married that we can gain insights useful to look back on after society has fiddled with the institution. Let's compare it now with what marriage has been from time immemorial. For a proper definition, I'll quote Dr. Ide: "The Con­tem­por­ary Christian stan­dard was defined not by the bible but gen­er­ated by Roman law as defined by the jurist Modes­tinus who argued that marriage was ‘consortium omnis vitae, divini et humani iuris communi­catio: a life-long part­ner­ship, and a sharing of civil and religious rights’" (83–5). When Johnny gets his call to serve, he invites Eileen to "do the town" with him first, but she's disap­pointed not to be getting married before he's deployed. He responds that getting married right before entering the army is the romantic thing to do—and a lot of people are doing it—but it's not the rational thing to do. Today, we think of people getting married when they love each other, and we ought to afford homo­sexuals the same opportunity, but "This Is the Army" takes a rational tack as well.

house on a hillHe was thinking of enlistee Blake Nelson who was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor leaving his war bride Dorothy stuck with a child to raise on her own being too proud to accept help. In an opening number, "My Sweetie," a fellow croons to a lady he's proposing to that he's already got a bungalow prepared for her. A guy getting married is immediately on the hook for providing a home—and presumably life insurance. The girl for her part becomes a sort of domestic servant, especially if the guy knocks her up and then dies. Two queers getting "married" don't have those roles automatically assigned to them by convention and practicality, but we suppose they can work it out; the dynamic just shifts a bit.

In a back stage confrontation at the road show in Washington, they go over it again, that Johnny doesn't want to leave Eileen stuck with a baby as Blake did Dorothy. Eileen points out that Johnny hasn't been killed at Pearl Harbor, and how can she have a baby when they're not even married? (In 1943 the movie code would not have allowed mention of unwed pregnancy.) The word matrimony in fact comes from a Latin root mater meaning mother, and monium meaning state of; matrimony being the state in which it is permitted for a woman to enter mother­hood. Since a homo­sexual couple cannot produce a baby, strictly speaking the word cannot apply to them. Other marital label(s) would have to be employed to go that route.

Eileen argues that if everyone followed Johnny's example, there would be no more families and no more world. Marriage is a fungible word; it can apply to a lot of things. We may speak of marriage of science and industry. Eliminate such a marriage and we'd still have a world, albeit a primitive one. Eliminate homo-marriage and we'd still have a world, with perhaps a few less couples to care for other people's children. The modern courts look at the other end of the spectrum, that there are some hetero couples who because of age or handicap are unable to produce children and we allow them to marry. So homo­sexuals should too for the sake of equality.

Johnny at first brought up the point that what would marriage accomplish that they couldn't do already? They're already doing the town before he leaves, and then she can write him after that. But she can write any­way. Eileen rejoins that then she could sign her name as a missus. Oh, that marital label. Blake's younger brother inherited his older brother's clothes. Family affects inheritance. There are some issues that hinge on a label, and this movie touches on it. A mere domestic partner can run afoul of red tape in some instances.

There's a skit on stage:

Sgt. Dick Bernie: "I come home with flowers and candy on a three-day pass and go up to my door and knock. The door opens. There's my beautiful wife. I look at her and she looks at me. … I look at her and she looks at me."

Emcee: "Why don't you kiss her?"

Sgt. Bernie: "I can't. She's a first lieutenant."

Emcee: "Oh, she's a Wac."

Sgt. Bernie: "That's beside the point. The worst part of it is I gotta get permission from the top sergeant to even talk to her."

Emcee: "What's tough about that?"

Sgt. Bernie: "The top sergeant's my mother-in-law."

That illustrates that a (hetero) marriage has a dimension to it of domestic partner­ship where arrangements must be worked out. As in room­mates, as in (homo) domestic partner­ships, as in Modestinus ‘a sharing of civil … rights’, as in Saint Paul (1Cor. 7:28): "trouble in the flesh". Such was written about by John Connolly of a Maine couple:

There was a lot to be said for the discipline of married life. It forced one to learn the art of compromise, and to remedy the flaws in one's nature. Morland him­self was still a work-in-progress after two decades of marriage, but he liked to think that his wife might be as well. (74)

Maine passed Proposition 1 handily, allowing same-sex marriage being a domestic partner­ship relabeled. New England itself is culturally Puritan territory. According to cultural historian David Hackett Fischer the Puritans regarded marriage not as a sacred in­sti­tution, but rather as pro­viding a family con­text where its mem­bers could socially live out the grace of God. The Puritans had "a cultural idea of marriage that was unique to the Puritan colonies. … The Puritans of New England rejected all the Anglican ideas. They believed that marriage was not a religious but a civil contract" (77). In the New England states—& NY & DC—the civil contract was the whole kit and caboodle, so once laws against sodomy were removed it was a simple matter of equal rights to open (civil) marriage to homo­sexuals. The rest of the states did not abide such a redefinition, but the courts stepped in to force acceptance of same-sex marriage.

Moving on to Modestinus's ‘sharing of … religious rights’ as well, that would apply to all states in 1943 and most states now were it not for the courts in these later times. Quoting from the "Catholic Sentinel" of July 3, 2015 (15):

The main opinion recognized in several places the role of religious beliefs in the questions surrounding same-sex marriage. Kennedy said toward the conclusion of his 28-page opinion that "it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned."

The First Amendment ensures protection for religious organizations and individuals as they seek to teach the principles "that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths," he continued, and to "their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons."

The couple's final confrontation over getting married occurs in Washington, DC behind the theater on a break in the show. Eileen introduces, "Johnny, this is Chaplain Burke," and she succeeds in talking him into it on the spot, but Johnny asks, "Can you cut it a little short, sir, I'm in the next number," and he replies, "Well, rationing is the order of the day; we'll need witnesses." They send a soldier inside to get their fathers. The reason they couldn't use the many available troops there for the official witnesses has to do with what their drill sergeant had said, "Remember that you're still in the army and every theater in which you work is an army post in the strictest sense." The chaplain can represent all religions or no religion. The ‘religious … rights’ aspect of the marital contract they're entering has to do with what Orthodox Christians call establishing a domestic church, though it would be applicable to any religion or no religion. Since the First Amendment prohibits the government from establishing a church, the two official witnesses could not be army personnel even if they were on their break. Perhaps they could be used to establish a domestic partner­ship that now passes for marriage but not a domestic church.

Production Values

"" (1943) was directed by Michael Curtiz. Its screen play was written by Casey Robinson and Capt. Claude Binyon. It stars George Murphy, Joan Leslie, and George Tobias. Ronald Reagan acted well, and Kate Smith was memorable singing "God Bless America." Joe Lewis seemed ill-suited to acting. The dancing was phenomenal and the song repertoire rousing. The humor was cute.

It passed certification, but the army didn't like the scenes of "grown up guys in dame's clothes." They were mimicking dames rather than impersonating them so it wasn't as bad as all that. Similarly with black­face. Every­one could dance, but the Negroes really cut a rug. We don't see much war action but we sure hear how the people felt about it.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

This movie was wall-to-wall show tunes, great ones by Irving Berlin. The plot was minimal and character exposure fleeting. There were funny moments but not enough to bust a gut. It's a good one to round out your movie going experience.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for children: Not rated, passed code. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Suspense: Predictable. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Print.

Connolly, John. The Wolf In Winter. Copyright © 2014 by John Connolly. New York: Atria Books, 2014. Print.

Fischer, David Hackett. Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. New York: Oxford UP, 1989. Print, Web.

Ide, Arthur Frederick. Noah & the Ark: The Influence of Sex, Homo­phobia and Hetero­sexism in the Flood Story and its Writing. Las Colinas: Monument Press, 1992. Print.