Once Upon a Time (1944)

Article #1662 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-2-2005
Posting Date: 3-1-2006
Directed by Alexander Hall
Featuring Cary Grant, Janet Blair, James Gleason

When a show promoter is on the verge of losing his theater due to a string of flops, he hits upon a scheme to save it when he encounters a boy who has a caterpillar who dances to the tune “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby”.

The movie opens with a message about how wartime audiences needed escapist entertainment to help them cope with the difficult time. They must have needed escapist entertainment pretty badly if this idea was considered viable. Yet, it’s a tribute to Hollywood moviemaking that they almost make this one work; it’s almost jaw-dropping to see the amount of effort that went into bringing this slight premise to near-life. Certainly, the presence of Cary Grant, James Gleason and William Demarest go a long ways towards bringing this one to life, and I just marvel at the huge list of uncredited performers who appeared in this (not to mention those who had their scenes deleted). Unfortunately, the slightness and silliness of the concept undermine it at every step, and it really becomes hard to take when it gets incredibly weepy. It also fails to deliver the one thing the movie seems to promise; you can sit through the whole movie if you wish, but you will not once get to see Curly the Caterpillar boogie. And if you’re going to watch it, you’re really going to need to like “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby” a lot!


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