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Gene Morrison and his Orchestra
(sings) “When I heard that serenade in blue…”
‘Orchestra Wives’ is the second of two films featuring Glenn Miller and his Orchestra! I remember this film very well when my Dad shows these Glenn Miller films too. This is probably my Dad’s favourite of the two. I enjoyed ‘Orchestra Wives’, but the film isn’t as good as ‘Sun Valley Serenade’.
This is another light-hearted romantic comedy and it contains some more of my favourite musical numbers from Glenn Miller’s orchestra. These include ‘American Patrol’; ‘Bugle Call Rag’ and ‘I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo’. The film focuses more on the band as well as the romantic comedy elements in it.
The film stars Ann Rutherford; George Montgomery; Lynn Bari; Carole Landis and Cesar Romero with Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. The film focuses on the behind-the-scenes on the orchestra and their wives. I don’t know how true to life the film is to the scenario, but it does feel both real and comical.
‘Orchestra Wives’ was made in 1942, a year after ‘Sun Valley Serenade’ was made. I’m pleased that Glenn Miller gets to have a proper character role in this movie. He’s still got his orchestra, but he’s now called Gene Morrison, not Glenn Miller. It does still sound like Glenn Miller’s Orchestra anyway.
In the film, Gene Morrison’s Orchestra have captured the hype of popularity in the world of music. Everyone loves Gene Morrison’s Orchestra, including the fans. Even Connie Ward, who gets to see Gene Orchestra’s band in person and meets trumpeter player Bill Abbot who she falls in love with.
Eventually, and rather too quickly, Bill asks Connie to marry him. It’s all sweetness and smiles at first once they’re married. But on a tour around America, Connie discovers what goes on being married as an Orchestra wife; as she listens to the girls’ gossip and causes the band to break up disastrously.
I like the real-life aspects of Glenn Miller’s Orchestra life incorporated into the film. It was interesting to see how life is very different for those working behind-the-scenes especially when one is married. Connie gets to see this life for herself, and it’s not very glamorous and rosy as she had first thought.
Ann Rutherford guest stars as Connie, the young star-struck fan of Gene Morrison’s orchestra who marries Bill Abbot. Ann stared with Mickey Rooney in the ‘Andy Hardy’ films in the 1930s. This was the first time I’d seen Ann. She delivers a wonderful and lovely performance as Connie in this movie.
Sometimes Connie reminds of me of me these days, especially as I’m star-struck by actors in films and ‘Doctor Who’. I like how the film has things from Connie’s point-of-view. She may have fallen in love with Bill too quickly, but I like how the repercussions of that get touched upon later in the film.
George Montgomery guest stars as Bill Abbot, the finest trumpet player in Gene Morrison’s band apparently. He’s easily attracted to Connie when he first meets her during a band gig in Dixon. It’s nice he falls for her instantly, but quite strange and rather abrupt when he proposes to her on a bus.
Bill however is not as pure and sincere in his feelings for Connie as it seems. He once had a past love affair with soloist Jaynie in the band. He doesn’t tell Connie this and it becomes a shock when she finds out. Bill declares that it was all over between her and Jaynie. Can he convince Connie of that?
I’m pleased that Glenn Miller as a larger role in this film as Gene Morrison compared to ‘Sun Valley Serenade’. I liked the scene when he wishes Connie in her new marriage to Bill Abbot. I found it touching and moving when Gene announces that he’s ending his band on a high when it’s broken up.
Lynn Bari stars Jaynie, the glamorous soloist in the film. Lynn previously starred in ‘Sun Valley Serenade’ before this. She’s a popular actress in these Glenn Miller films. Jaynie is a similar character to Vivien Dawn in ‘Sun Valley Serenade’, although she’s more manipulative when she tries to win Bill’s heart.
Carole Landis stars as Natalie, one of the gossipy girls that Connie during the Gene Morrison orchestra tour in America. Natalie is ‘awfully vicious’ as Connie describes and very goby. She almost tries to ruin Bill and Connie’s romance together, when she hints at the love affair Bill had with Jaynie.
Cesar Romero stars as Sinjin, the piano player in the band and best friend of Bill Abbot. Sinjin is the comic relief of the movie. He’s very laid-back and says some witty remarks during the film. I like Sinjin and enjoyed his comedic moments. I liked it when he says “Why, you sad man!” You poor soul!
There’s also Virginia Gilmore as Elsie and Mary Beth Hughes as Caroline, the other two gossipy girls with Natalie on the Gene Morrison Tour. There’s also Tex Beneke as Phil, the saxophone player and singer and Maurice Purtill as Buddy, the drummer. Both are real-life players in Glenn Miller’s band.
There’s also Harry Morgan as Cully, the drug-store tender who dates Connie early on in the film when they go to Gene Morrison’s gig in Dixon. I’ve seen Harry Morgan before in the musical film ‘State Fair’ and he would go on to co-star in ‘The Glenn Miller Story’ film with James Stewart in 1953.
I like the musical numbers featured in ‘Orchestra Wives’. I was shocked though when I discovered George Montgomery’s trumpet-playing as Bill for the song ‘At Last’ was dubbed by trumpeter Johnny Best. Also Lynn Bari’s voice for the song ‘Serenade in Blue’ was dubbed by Pat Friday. It’s shocking!
The film includes the great Glenn Miller hit called ‘American Patrol’, which I recognised hearing from ‘The Glenn Miller Story’ film with James Stewart. This number was performed in the background when Connie tries to see the Gene Morrison band in Elgin, but she’s denied entry without an escort.
There’s also a very noisy number in the film that will wake you up! It’s ‘Bugle Call Rag’ and it’s a drum number performed by Maurice Purtill as Buddy in the film. He’s great on the drums in the film and collapses on the drums in the end after he’s been drumming so energetically which made me laugh.
The major musical number in ‘Orchestra Wives’ is the song ‘I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo’. I enjoyed this version of the song in the film. It is an extended version performed by Tex Beneke; Marion Hutton and the Modernaires. It also features a dance routine of the song, performed by the Nicholas Brothers.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s a theatrical trailer for this movie. Sadly there aren’t any making-of documentaries to see. I would have liked to have seen the behind-the-scenes story.
‘Orchestra Wives’ is a great film out of the two movies featuring Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. It’s not as good as ‘Sun Valley Serenade’ in my opinion. But I enjoyed this comedic take on a behind-the-scenes story of a big band orchestra. It has good musical numbers in it like ‘I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo’.
‘Orchestra Wives’ rating – 8/10
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