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Thousands Cheer

Principal cast list:


Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson, John Boles, Mary Astor, José Iturbi—and a boatload of MGM’s finest, including Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Red Skelton, Eleanor Powell, Ann Sothern, Lucille Ball, Virginia O’Brien, Frank Morgan, Lena Horne and Margaret O’Brien.

The Story:

Kathryn Jones (Grayson) is a promising soprano with Iturbi’s orchestra, but she feels it her duty to support the war effort by joining her father (Boles), a colonel commanding an infantry regiment, to entertain the soldiers under his command. She also hopes to reunite her mother (Astor) with her father, although they have been separated for years. (Giving a present-day viewer an extra laugh, her parents are named Bill and Hillary!)

Kathryn soon finds herself in love with Eddie Marsh (Kelly) a former circus star, now a rebellious recruit who resents being a mere infantryman rather than the prestigious, daring leader he had been. Their romantic highs and lows, and the big show Kathryn organizes for “the boys” before they leave to fight, form the bulk of the movie.

Excerpts from newspapers of the day

Los Angeles Times, September 13, 1943

José Iturbi wowed “Thousands Cheer” preview audiences with his classic and boogie-woogie pianistics as well as his naturalness as an actor.

The New York Times, September 14, 1943

…It’s been a long time since Metro spread itself so lavishly as in Thousands Cheer, and it’s been longer than that since the screen provided such a veritable grab-bag of delights. Musically, there is something for all tastes, from José Iturbi to boogie woogie, from Kathryn Grayson and “Sempre Libera” to Judy Garland and “The Joint is Really Jumpin’!”

…The (Mickey) Rooney line of patter is not especially a show-stopper, but give the little giant a full measure of applause for a howling take-off on Clark Gable and Lionel Barrymore…toss a couple of deserved bouquets to Eleanor Powell for a sprightly tap-turn, to Red Skelton for a hilarious skit…to Doctor Frank Morgan’s examination of a trio of prospective Waves—Lucille Ball, Ann Sothern and Marsha Hunt—and to Lena Horne for a haunting arrangement of “Honeysuckle Rose.” Add to this the dance team Don Loper and Maxine Barrat, the dead-pan singing of Virginia O’Brien, the line of MGM Dancing girls, and the orchestras of Kay Kyser, Bob Crosby and Benny Carter, and you get a good idea of the talent Metro has poured into “Thousands Cheer.” All this, we might say, and Shostakovitch, too, for the Soviet composer’s “United Nations Salute” is performed under Mr. Iturbi’s baton as the thundering climax. Metro really gave this number the production “works” so to speak, bringing together a chorus of Allied nationals in a spectacular setting.

…With this abundance of riches, it would have been easy for Metro’s labor to result in a top-heavy production under a less resourceful producer than Joseph Pasternak. His steadying hand is quite evident, and this we say without detracting from the credit due Director George Sidney, who keeps the show moving at a nice pace. Naturally, in an undertaking of the dimensions of “Thousands Cheer” there are bound to be moments that seem to drag a bit, but none of it is ever actually dull.

…Thousands Cheer should be putting audiences in a spirited mood for some time to come.

Walter Winchell’s column, September 26, 1943: “Thousands Cheer is so good the sponsors must regret not naming it Millions Cheer.”

Chicago Tribune: December 24 1943

To me the production was bigger than better, being a bit mawkish at the start and at times becoming rather unwieldy, but the piece certainly has it’s moments, especially when Red Skelton performs, José Iturbi plays, Gene Kelly dances, and Mary Astor just appears! Golly, she IS beautiful!

Charleroi Mail, December 30, 1943:

José Iturbi in his first appearance on any screen is a delight to all theatregoers. He accompanies Kathryn Grayson in several numbers and presents the United Nations Victory song, “United Nations on the March” in a breathtaking finale.

Oakland Tribune, January 1, 1944

…There is fine camera work by George Folsey, particularly in the sequences with José Iturbi, providing closeups of his technical skill at the piano. Iturbi, by the way, does everything from boogie woogie to the classics with equal facility and proves he can play a dramatic or a comedy scene with the best of the glamour boys.

From Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide

Thousands Cheer (1943) C-126m. **1/2

Director: George Sidney

Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Red Skelton, Eleanor Powell, Ann Sothern, Lucille Ball, Virginia O’Brien, Frank Morgan, Kathryn Grayson, Lena Horne, many others. Grayson lives with officer father John Boles at Army base, falls for hotheaded private Kelly and decides to prepare an all-star show for the soldiers. Dubious plot is an excuse for specialty acts by top MGM stars.

Thoughts of ManyFountains.com: One of the things that made the critics hype Thousands Cheer was that it was Iturbi’s screen debut. He was also shown to good advantage in his piano playing, his conducting and in acting, having a touching farewell with Grayson as she leaves his orchestra to join her father. And yet he isn’t even listed in Maltin’s credits for Thousands Cheer, despite the fact that he appeared in more of the movie than any of the people listed as “specialty acts” in the credits above (with the exception of stars Grayson and Kelly). This was his feature film debut, and he appeared in six scenes for a total of about 20 minutes.

Iturbi's Musical Numbers:

Conductor:

Caprice Español (Rimski-Korsakov)
Sempre Libera (Verdi, La Traviata)
American Patrol (Glen Miller)
United Nations Victory Song (Shostakovitch)

Accompanist:

"The Joint is Really Jumpin'" (with Judy Garland)
Conductor and accompanist:
"Daybreak" (with Kathryn Grayson)
Soloist:
"Hungarian Rhapsody #11" (Liszt)