The Stage Debacle
Buzz was still sporting a sling when he was seen again at Slapsie Maxies’s with his good arm around Lorraine. The two were close, and Buzz gave Lorraine a small no-credit role in Cinderella Jones. Divergent announcements of Warner Brothers’ plans for Buzz were issued in January. First, Buzz was to direct and appear in “Star Spangled Banner Girls” followed by a biography of Marilyn Miller, Florenz Ziegfeld’s talented singing and dancing star.
Cinderella Jones was a tepid comedy with a couple of songs. Saddled with a basic premise that was somewhat dated in 1943, Judy Jones (Joan Leslie), an adorable dimwit, stands to earn a $10 million inheritance if she gets married within the next forty-eight hours. She decides to enroll in the local all-men’s college, hoping to meet a suitably intelligent marriage-minded fellow (a promise of largesse to the college eases her entry). All the while there’s Tommy (Robert Alda), the guy who really loves Judy (if she could only take a hint). By the end of the picture it’s revealed, not surprisingly, that he graduated college cum laude with an IQ of more than 200. As Judy and Tommy try to beat the deadline to marry, they’re stopped by an army transport rumbling through town. They hop a ride on board a tank and sing a final number, allowing Buzz a few girlie close-ups, some robust singing soldiers, and a happy ending.
Despite Buzz’s usual flair for fast comedy and snappy repartee, he was restrained with the limitations of a telegraphed script, causing him to default to broad physical comedy. As Judy absentmindedly substitutes a bar of soap in a cheese sandwich, the eater spews out bubble burps, à la the Three Stooges, and the gag gets repeated at least three more times. Hungarian character actor S. Z. (“Call me Cuddles”) Sakall, playing the role of the chemistry professor, fares a bit better. He sings, dances, and plays the jowly jailbird accused of hanky-panky near the girls’ dormitory. An in-joke (a form of which was seen in They Made Me a Criminal)