Like so many other wartime all-star extravaganzas, Hollywood Canteen is very much a mixed-bag affair. By design, it almost has to be: a slender plotline is used merely as an excuse to showcase a big bunch of stars, usually appearing as themselves (or as a softened, friendlier version of themselves in many cases). There are comedy sketches and musical numbers, but the plot is so unimportant that it might as well be nonexistent. That being the case, the film rises and falls based on the qualities of each skit/musical number. In Hollywood, there are a number of definite pluses. Cole Porter's atypical but immortal "Don't Fence Me In" gets a laconic western treatment from Roy Rogers, a harmony-filled on from the Andrews Sisters and a big band one from Jimmy Dorsey, and sounds great in all three. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet are a hoot as they make fun of their creepy screen selves, and Jack Benny scores heavily in a violin-based skit that shows him off to very good advantage. Eddie Cantor prances amusingly through "We're Having a Baby" and the Golden Gate Quartette makes a big showing out of "The General Jumped at Dawn." Some of the other contributions don't fare so well, but as long as one is ready to wait a few minutes, something better comes along pretty quickly.
by Craig Butler review