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Published on Jan 28, 2013
If you're among those born after the Great Depression, there's a good chance your mother swooned for the velvet voice of Vaughn Monroe. But who knew Vaughn Monroe was a crackerjack comedian hiding under that smooth big band sound?
The year "Meet the People" was released -- 1944 -- Monroe sold five million records. That was quite an achievement during World War II, a time of rationing and gung-ho Victory spirit curiously missing from all subsequent wars involving the United States Department of Defense. As this MGM musical makes clear, everyone pitched in for that war effort. Including the movie studios. That was almost seventy years ago.
War is not the same. Neither are musicals.
This clip contains two wildly divergent tunes featuring Vaughn Monroe and his band. The first, "In Times Like These" written by Sammy Fain and E.Y. Harburg (1:47), is a heartfelt war-time ballad that features Monroe's solo voice and it's easy to see why our mothers lost their breath when the man sang. Also, the meaning of the lyrics were not lost on those who could not know if The Boys would return home.
The second song and a real goof-stepper -- "I Like to Recognize the Tune" written by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart (4:11) -- features not just Monroe and his nimble footwork but also these stalwart stars of the time:
June Allyson is "second vice president of the Vaughn Monroe Fan Club" and a familiar face to musical comedy.
Virginia O'Brien is not her normal deadpan in this film. Anyone who has seen her many You Tube clips, knows O'Brien is the deadpan champion of that time.
Rags Ragland was a former burlesque comedian who built his career on fracturing English in front of howling audiences.
The entire musical is well worth more than one view for its full impact. Warner Archive released a dvd in 2009 and the film played recently on Turner Classic Movies.