One of my favorite films growing up was Two Girls and a Sailor (1944) — one of the many MGM musicals I obsessed over as a kid, re-enacting scenes, songs and dances in my garage for hours on end.
It’s dated, sure — but do I care? It was a sweet, fun film and still is.
Long before the film was available on VHS or DVD, my folks got me the soundtrack, which I memorized.
About two sisters who spend their life performing on the road until they start a war canteen and connect with a sailor with a secret background, the film featured nearly every popular comedy or musical act of the time: Jimmy Durante (above photo, left), Gracie Allen, Harry James, Helen Forrest, Lena Horne, Xavier Cugat and Carlos Ramirez (who’s the reason I request the song “Granada” from any mariachi I can flag down at any and every Mexican restaurant I’m ever in.)
(L-R, Gloria DeHaven, June Allyson, Van Johnson)
Two Girls and a Sailor starred the adorable Van Johnson, and two of my favorite musical actresses who would star in a few films together: my first idol, June Allyson; and Gloria De Haven — who died this weekend at 91.The daughter of vaudeville performers (she even portrayed her own mother in the MGM musical, Three Little Words, singing “Who’s Sorry Now?”) Gloria DeHaven was stunning, sweet and talented. She performed in movies, plays and television for decades (Gloria DeHaven on IMDB).
And with her passing, all the lovely and memorable performers from this film are now singing in the heavens.
And so goes a little more of my childhood.
But two months before I got married in LA in 2000, just before relocating back to my hometown, my sister and I noticed an ad that a group of the great MGM performers were coming to the Pasadena Civic Auditorium to sing and reminisce about the golden age of musicals.
On the bill, among others: June Allyson and Gloria DeHaven.
Despite the wrinkles and grey hair, they smiled as brightly as they did 56 years before. They held hands to steady each other as they went onstage slowly – because even dancers’ legs don’t last forever. But it was beautiful. They told stories, laughed, harmonized a few vocals to music, and even did a little softshoe.
Even more unforgettable was that we got to say hello to them afterwards. We were excited as kids again, and they seemed to love being remembered and saluted so many years later.
There was no time for a picture in the pre-smartphone era, but we’ll always treasure the memory — particularly so today. Today…I’m reminded that we are to sing, dance and smile every day we can.