Best Foot Forward was a typical M-G-M wartime musical full of pep and exuberance. It began as Broadway hit about a Hollywood movie star (Rosemary Lane) landing at a boy’s military prep school as a publicity stunt. It had choreography by Gene Kelly and featured soon-to-be stars June Allyson and Nancy Walker. M-G-M snapped up the property from rivals Columbia and cast Lucille Ball (with singing mimed by Gloria Grafton) in the Lane role. (Originally M-G-M wanted Lana Turner but she became unexpectedly pregnant). June Allson and Nancy Walker were joined by the young 18 year old Gloria DeHaven for the musical numbers together with the popular band leader of the day, Harry James who enjoyed the film’s top star billing with Lucille Ball.
Today most of the songs are forgotten except perhaps ‘Wish I May’ and ‘Ev’ry Time’ heard here in two versions, the first orchestral with Harry James’ expressive trumpet solo and the other sung by Jeanne Durrell for Virginia Weidler (the actress billed above Allyson, DeHaven and Walker). What is striking is the music of Harry James and his orchestra – tracks like the hot swing number, ‘Two O’Clock Jump’ so redolent of the period and James’ virtuoso rendering of a jazzed up version of Rimsky Korsakov’s ‘The Flight of the Bumblebee’. Unusually for the period we have two songs in stereo: a boogie-woogie number, ‘The Three B’s’ belted out by Allyson, DeHaven and Walker and another comedy number lustily delivered by Walker and James, ‘Alive and Kickin’’.
The album has four bonus tracks, recorded in March 1945, from Abbot and Costello in Hollywood featuring the M-G-M Studio Orchestra. Again the numbers, lush and opulent are very much of the period – swing style, two with The Lyttle Sisters sounding very much like the Andrews Sisters in the popular ‘I Hope the Band Keeps Playing’ and the exotic speciality number ‘The Cocabola Tree’.
A nice souvenir of the 1940s swing era.