Spotlight on William Holden in The Fleet’s In
Ever since I was young I’ve enjoyed a number of celebrity crushes; Jason Bateman, Robert Downey, Jr. and Brad Pitt have all had moments where they set my heart aflutter. But there’s only one actor who’s been my true blue, tried and true ideal – William Holden. To me, he’s the epitome of the word dreamy. And he’s not just a pretty face – he’s a darn great actor, too. This year marks the centenary of his birth and to celebrate I’ve decided to take part in The 3rd Golden Boy Blogathon: A William Holden Centenary Celebration (hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema, Love Letters to Old Hollywood, and The Flapper Dame) with a tribute to one of my personal favorite Holden films, The Fleet’s In.
When ranking William Holden movies The Fleet’s In would hardly be near the top. A slight comedy that’s largely a showcase for some of the top musical acts of the era it’s barely remembered. In fact, it’s not even available on DVD! Yet, I love it just the same.
Released in 1942, it’s a military themed musical typical of the era. William Holden and Eddie Bracken star as sailor pals who aren’t exactly popular with the ladies. But through a misleading photograph Holden is erroneously branded a “wolf” and his shipmates decided to gamble on his prowess. They challenge him to kiss the “Countess” a nightclub performer, played by Dorothy Lamour, who has a particular loathing for sailors. Against his better judgment he decides to participate and, as they say, hi-jinks ensue.
The Fleet’s In is an earlier role of Holden’s – after Golden Boy and Our Town but before any of his most significant films. He looks so young and has a sweet boyish charm that is, frankly, adorable. He and Bracken make a good team as awkward sailors and the film is filled with sweet sincerity. Lamour, another favorite of mine, is at her most beautiful and she throws herself into the role of an “ice queen.” Betty Hutton, in her screen debut, rounds out the leads and she and Bracken provide much of the comic relief.
it is a musical and Lamour and Hutton sing several songs throughout. Joining them is a roster of talent that includes Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra, Betty Jane Rhodes and Cass Daley. The soundtrack comes courtesy of the films directory Victor Schertzinger and Johnny Mercer and debuted the standards “I Remember You” and “Tangerine.”
The result is a fun, sweet movie that serves as a time capsule of the war years. Is it a masterpiece? Hardly, But it has heart, winning performances from the four leads, great music and the cutest depiction of San Francisco I’ve ever seen (I seriously want to live in Lamour and Hutton’s house).
As for Holden, he’s sweet and charming throughout and oh so cute. It’s no surprise he would graduate to roles of much more significance and depth. The Fleet’s In may be a minor part of his career but it’s a winning film nonetheless and is ripe for rediscovery.