"There are two reasons why I'm in show business, and I'm standing on both of them" ~ Betty Grable
Betty Grable was the biggest asset 20th Century-Fox studios had going for them during World War II. Her famous legs were insured and impressed into the cement at Graumans Chinese Theater. In 1943, she would become the #1 box office star according to the Motion Picture Herald and she would remain in that spot until 1951. She had kicked around Hollywood for a decade before getting her big break at Fox in 1940. Signed as a potential rival for the studio's then current singing star, Alice Faye, Grable ended up replacing a pregnant Faye in 1942's Springtime in the Rockies. It is one of the quintessential Fox musicals from the 1940's. Big, splashy and filmed in all its Technicolor glory. The Crayola creations had both fun and catchy tunes and lush romantic melodies alike. The studio could play mix and match with Grable, Faye, John Payne, Don Ameche, George Montgomery and Carmen Miranda along with an exotic locale to bring merry musical mayhem to war weary audiences.
Springtime in the Rockies was the first film where Betty was billed in the top spot. It's mindless fluff that's tons of fun. Grable plays Vicki Lane, leading lady both on stage and off to Dan Christy (Payne, this time). However, when Vicki discovers Dan's latest indiscretion, she hits both the roof and the road. Reuniting with her old dance partner (Cesar Romero), they book an engagement (of both the entertainment and marital variety) in picturesque Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. Like Fox' other 40's musical romps to Havana, Rio, Miami or Beunos Aires, they never actually left the studio back lot. Anyway, a depressed and inebriated Payne follows, prodded by producers, who hope to get the estranged twosome back together for a potential Broadway show. En route he picks up a valet (Edward Everett Horton) and a dishy secretary (Carmen Miranda) who only add to the romantic and comedic chaos bound to ensue.
Everyone is a doozy. Miranda, Fox' answer to the Latin "good neighbor policy" of the 1940's, is her brash and colorful best as Rosita Murphy (mother was Brazilian, father was Irish). She mangles the English language in the most hilarious way ("tootspaste") and her lines are some of the films funniest. Horton: "You shouldn't call him Christy without the Mister." Miranda: "He calls me Murphy without the Miss." Gotta love it. She also does some knockout musical numbers including a rousing version of "Chattanooga Choo Choo" in her native Portuguese (the Brazilian Bombshell was actually born to Portuguese parents). Horton is also a comedic gem. He danced the "Let's K-nock K-nees" routine from the Astaire-Rogers hit The Gay Divorcee with Grable before she was a star. Long limbed Charlotte Greenwood is also in on the hijinks. Although a good comedienne, I've never understood the appeal of her novelty high kick dance numbers (same with MGM's deadpan singing of Virginia O'Brien). As Grables friend/companion, Phoebe, she tossed out a few good lines, as well as those nimble appendages. Young Jackie Gleason is also on hand in a small uncredited role as Paynes agent.
And let's not forget about the songs. After all it IS a musical. The score is contributed by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon and boy they wrote some humdingers, including the cutesy "Run Little Raindrop, Run" sung by Betty and John, the all star finale "Pan American Jubilee" and "I Had The Craziest Dream." The latter was played by Harry James and his band, who were featured in the film along with his vocalist Helen Forrest, who made the song a hit standard. James and Grable actually cuddled during the shooting of the film and married the year after its release. The leggy blonde named her first born Victoria after her character in this film.
Sure, Springtime in the Rockies is lightweight, but its also lighthearted and that was the point in these movies in 1942. Grable is the star and her peaches and cream sensuality and glamour does what its supposed to, but with Miranda not missing a beat, Payne looking his most handsome, Romero suave as usual and Greenwood and Horton pulling in great support, this Fox cavalcade is one of the best of its genre.