Songs, Stars and Servicemen – Starlift (1951)

Sometimes a schmaltzy romantic comedy is just what a person needs and Starlift is just that – a movie filled with cotton candy and all things sweet making for an incredibly pleasant viewing experience to tide one over in-between more serious fare. Packed with a few laughs, some earnest performances and more than a few musical numbers, the movie is both a vehicle to provide entertainment to the troops and to audiences everywhere as well as showcase some of Warner Bros. most recognizable stars.

One of those is Doris Day, almost playing a caricature of herself so sweet and overly peppy it has to be an act and yet, it is classic Day, the woman being what made audiences fall in love with her all those years ago. Another is Ruth Roman, a talented actress who plays the straight-woman in most instances to all the shenanigans going on around her. Bit parts went to James Cagney, Jane Wyman, Randolph Scott, Phil Harris, Gary Cooper and more. That all being well and good, the real stars of the film were Ron Hagerthy who plays Rick and Dick Wesson as his best friend Mike, two guys in the Air Force who are looking to meet up with Nell Wayne, another starlet appearing on the Starlift show and a girl who grew up in the same town as Rick. Stretching the truth as to the relationship between Nell and Rick leads to the main plot of the show as the two never seem to be able to meet up despite Roman and Day’s help until they finally do which is when everything is revealed and yet, it eventually leads to that happy ending that every viewer knows is coming as the two end up together and in love.

Hagerthy is perfect as the shy, not too sure of himself-soldier who does not want to go through with the scheme that Mike has cooked up and Wesson is good as the schemer, though just a tad overdoing it once in a while. Starring as Nell is Janice Rule, giving the role all the sugar that it required and she would work her magic on both the audience and Rick who falls in love with her, unable to help himself. If there was one thing that carried this film, it was the cast and how could it not given the talent present throughout because when it was all said and done, it was not the overly clichéd plot or the musical numbers which were quite good given the number of hits that made it into the picture. Even better, Hagerthy and Rule seemed to work well together and their on-screen chemistry made the audience root for them.

The funniest moments of the picture and there were more than a few laughs to be found, came from Phil Harris playing rummy with a wounded soldier. It was a humorous, touching and memorable moment amidst the singing and romance that would take place and was a nice addition to an already stacked film.

Altogether, Starlift is just a bit of fluff but it is the best kind, the kind that makes a person feel good, makes them smile inside and out and come away satisfied despite the general familiarity of it all.

3.5 out of 5

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