The New Pictures, Apr. 24, 1944

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Follow the Boys (Universal) is a glorification of the service which cinemice & men are rendering the Armed Forces. It is well described by an old subtitle from a comedy of the silent movies. The subtitle introduced the heavy as "musclebound from patting himself on the back."

Once in a great while a biceps unflexes, and the result is a good act. W. C. Fields, looking worn-&-torn but as noble as Stone Mountain, macerates a boozy song around his cigar butt and puts on his achingly funny pool exhibition with warped cues. Donald O'Connor continues to prove himself a Mickey Rooney with some unspoiled, big-Adam's-apple charm to boot. Orson Welles, as a nice parody of a magician, saws Marlene Dietrich in two and watches her better half walk off with the act. Sophie Tucker, the Manassa Mauler of her field, shouts a 1½-entendre salute to the boys through a meat-grinder larynx. Dinah Shore, singing I'll Get By over the short waves, soothes the entire planet in generously buttered mush. Ted Lewis talks through his top hat, and everybody who has ever liked Lewis—or John Barrymore —is happy. There are at least a dozen other acts, some of them all right. But they seem like three dozen, and the air gets so thick with self-congratulation that it is hard to see the patriotism.

Wriggling through all this dense tedium-laudamus, like a Pekingese lost in a shopping rush, is a story. George Raft, a hoofer, marries Vera Zorina, a dancer. But George can think of nothing but camp shows and Vera can think of nothing except their impending baby (about which she is too miffed to tell him), so they part. Before they can make it up Raft dies, a hero, in the Pacific. His widow becomes the pride of the USO.

Buffalo Bill (20th Century-Fox) is Joel McCrea in fringed buckskins. He looks as embarrassed as if, invited to a masquerade, he had turned up and found everyone else in formal dress. In real life Buffalo Bill was a tough, bewildered, showy neurasthenic whose 70-odd years spectacularly illustrated both the magnificence and the decline of the West.

Whitewashed behind the ears and rouged in Technicolor, this friendly piece of grave robbery substitutes drawling charm for the rawboned, murderous innocence of the frontier. A pretty Indian girl (Linda Darnell) teaches Bill Cody how to write a presentable letter to his pretty Eastern bride-to-be (Maureen O'Hara). Likewise prettily, in a coy ritual with a blanket, they plight their troth. When Bill and his wife break up there is no hint of the fact that he was quite a bronco buster with the ladies, nor does he follow history by accusing his wife of trying to poison him. Notably absent from the picture are his great, mad friend Wild Bill Hickok, the almost equally mad, sure-shot Annie Oakley.

What the cinema does give is the story of a simple man who wavered and whirled like a weather vane in the crossed winds of his time. He liked the Indians but killed scads of them, loved the plains but did more than any one man to turn them into a bone yard. As the picture also shows, he deeply suspected the East, as represented by his wife and by railroad capitalists, and made difficulties for himself by telling off the latter in favor of the Indians. And at length he recouped his fortunes by diluting into showmanship the curious honest grandeur he had known when he was young.

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