Belle of the Yukon (1944) – reviewed by George

I would have sworn this was a black-and-white musical from either RKO (the Astaire-Rogers pictures and others) or Universal (Deanna Durbin pictures and others). But it’s an International Picture in glorious Technicolor, and has a good pedigree. It stars Randolph Scott, Gypsy Rose Lee, Dinah Shore, Bob Burns, with Charles Winninger, and features William Marshall, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, Robert Armstrong, and Florence Bates, Production Design-Costumes-Dances by Don Loper, Written for the Screen by James Edward Grant, Story by Houston Branch, New Songs by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen, Produced and Directed by William A. Seiter.
It takes place in Malemute, Yukon Territory, in the bar/gambling den/theater of one Honest John Calhoun (Scott). Calhoun’s manager is Pop Candless (Winninger) whose daughter Lettie (Shore) is the mainstay singing attraction, clean and sweet, while the traveling troupes of girls who rotate through the theater are a little more fancy. When the latest troupe shows up, the head of it, and the lead performer, is Belle De Valle (Lee), who happens to be Calhoun’s old flame. Her maid, Viola Chase, is played by Bates, and Lettie’s boyfriend is the regular full-time piano player, Steve Atterbury. (Marshall). Guinn “Big Boy” plays Sheriff Marvin Maitland, and Robert Armstrong is the local gambling cheat and bad guy, George.
Burke and Van Heusen are credited with the “new” songs because old songs are used, most notably by the radio comedian Bob Burns, as Sam Slade, traveling musician, who noodles in the afternoon with the orchestra and asks, “Do you know McGee?” They all say sure and break into a raucous version of “When You and I Were Young, Maggie”.
Gypsy Rose Lee speaks the lyrics of the songs she performs, but very effectively, while Dinah Shore sings beautifully on such numbers as “Like Someone in Love”. I was very impressed that she got to introduce this song, which became an American Songbook standard, in her fourth film.
There’s a bank robbery, Steve is accused of bigamy, and other problems arise, like just how honest “Honest” John really is, but this goodhearted script and talented cast solve them all. A really good example of 40’s musicals, which I was very happy to discover is in color.

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