Mill Creek Musings: Swing Hostess (1944)

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This review is a part of TMP’s Mill Creek Musings series, in which I (very slowly) attempt to review all of the films in the Mill Creek Entertainment 50/100 movie packs that I own. Today’s film comes from the 50 Classic Musicals set.

(Image: movieposterdb.com)
(Image: movieposterdb.com)

Judy Alvin (Martha Tilton) is a talented singer who has unfortunately found herself unemployed. Unable to find a paying gig as a big band singer, she isn’t sure how she’ll make ends meet. At the urging of her best friend and roommate Madge (Iris Adrian), she begrudgingly takes a job as an operator at a jukebox company.

Judy has been going head to head with her talentless rival Phoebe (Betty Brodel) at all of her big band auditions… and despite her lack of talent, Phoebe is finding success! What Judy doesn’t know is that her own audition record was mistakenly credited to Phoebe, so her lack of success has been the result of no more than a fluke.

On the bright side, Judy meets a sweet band leader while working at the jukebox company, and he just may be able to help her fix the vocal mix-up that’s been halting her career, in addition to stealing her heart.

It’s a case of mistaken voices that must work itself out in 1944’s Swing Hostess. Sam Newfield directed the film, which was released by the poverty row studio PRC.

Leading lady Martha Tilton has a very pleasant voice and does quite well in her role here. This is the first film I’ve seen her in and while I think her screen presence could be more magnetic, she is still a perfectly capable performer — likable and very nice to watch.

The plot of Swing Hostess isn’t as thin as some of the musicals I’ve seen in the Mill Creek set, but it isn’t incredibly deep either. It’s fluffy, and Judy’s struggle throughout the film is largely superficial. The “mistaken” voice plot is also somewhat implausible. No one’s perfect and sure, a mis-credit could have been made once that would have landed Phoebe a job… but for it to happen multiple times is a little bit ridiculous!

That being said, the film is still very fun to watch. It has a quick pace and the songs are very nice, with a swing-y sound and lyrics that range from adorable to odd. One notable number which I’d place in the “odd” category for its historical significance is a song and dance about the perks of being called off to fight in the war. A draft letter received by a friend of Judy is referred to as an “invitation” and is treated as something to be celebrated. This musical number is very obviously a product of its time.

(Image: iwalkvancouver.blogspot)
(Image: iwalkvancouver.blogspot)

There’s some zippy dialogue throughout the film, and though the performances could pack more punch the actors play quite well off of each other. No one in the cast is a huge name or legendary star, but they’re all a delight to watch.

In terms of quality, the sound of the Mill Creek print is ever-so-slightly muffled in the dialogue now and then, but the audio on the musical numbers is quite clear. Visually, there is a bit of wear-and-tear in the form of grain, but it isn’t too distracting.

Swing Hostess is not a musical of major achievement but it’s a light, exciting little watch well worth its 73-minute running time. It’s a valuable asset to the Mill Creek 50 Classic Musicals set if for no other reason than the enjoyable swing music and the brief World War II propaganda element. The score: 3.5/5

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