An Oddball Bit of Americana: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? (1945)

fred     I’d never heard of this musical fantasy until running  across it while scrolling through channels looking for movies to review. The premise caught my attention and I decided to DVR it and take a look. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? is definitely dated, with it’s World War 2 slang and constant references to Brooklyn, but is charming enough to merit at least a look.

The film stars Fred MacMurray as Bill Morgan, down in the dumps because he’s 4F and can’t get in the service. Bill’s got the hots for USO worker Lucilla (June Haver) but she’s only got eyes for men in uniform. Meanwhile, Sally (Joan Leslie) is in love with Bill, only the klutzy, dim witted lug can’t see it. While working at a scrapyard (for the war effort), Bill accidentally frees a genii (Gene Sheldon) in an old lamp. The genii, named Ali of course, grants Bill his wish to get into the Army.

Due to Ali being a bit rusty, Bill is sent to Valley Forge in 1776, where he meets George Washington (Alan Mowbray), who sends Bill to spy on the Hessians. They’re portrayed as Nazi ancestors, complete with exaggerated accents. The Hessian general (Otto Preminger) exposes Bill, and he’s sent before a firing squad. Ali bails him out and places him in the Navy.

Unfortunately, it’s Christopher Columbus’s navy! Bill helps Columbus (Fortunio Bonanova) avert a mutiny, and when they arrive at the New Land, Bill is sent by dinghy to New York, where he encounters hostile Indians, led by Chief Badger (Anthony Quinn). The Chief catches Bill in a tepee with his wife (Haver) and Bill has to fast talk his way out of getting scalped. He ends up buying Manhattan, then wishes his way to the colony of New Amsterdam (where everyone talks like Yoda!). He has become the village blacksmith. Bill meets a girl named Katrina (Leslie), who’s about to marry Herr Kreiger to avoid him foreclosing on the family farm. Bill, being the owner of Manhattan, tries to save her from this fate by selling the land to the West Indies Trading Company for one million gulden. Taxes leave Bill 50 gulden in the hole, however, and he’s sent to debtor’s prison. A drunken Ali is his cellmate (he’s been celebrating) and Bill’s last wish is to return to the 20th Century. They’re whisked back to the future, where it’s discovered the 4F ban has been lifted. Bill can join the Army at last, and is reunited with Sally.

The screenplay by Morrie Ryskind (mostly remembered for his work on Marx Brothers comedies) moves along briskly and has it’s share of laughs. The musical numbers by the unlikely team of Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin are pleasant, but  easily forgettable. MacMurray has a good voice, which wasn’t featured   often enough in film. Leslie and Haver have plenty of eye appeal, and the cameo roles are fun for movie buffs. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? is no classic, but an enjoyable way to waste 78 minutes before having your cookout or going to see the fireworks.  Happy 4th of July, dear readers!

2 Replies to “An Oddball Bit of Americana: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? (1945)”

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