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Joan Leslie

Joan Leslie

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No list of movies honoring soldiers would be complete without the ultimate soldier show, 1943's "This is the Army," starring George Murphy, Lt.

Ronald Reagan, Rosemary DeCamp and Joan Leslie, along with over 300 soldiers.

The movie is based on the real "Yip Yip Yaphank" and "This is the Army" shows put on by Irving Berlin during WW I and WW II, respectively, to raise money for the Army Emergency Relief Fund.

Berlin, used to the workings of vaudeville and Broadway, insisted on including black performers, making the "This is the Army" unit the only integrated company in uniform at the time.In the film version, Murphy plays entertainer Jerry Jones, drafted during the First World War.

While stationed at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York, he is charged with putting together a show to boost morale.

The show goes on tour before the men are sent to France.

A generation later, Jerry's son, Johnny Jones (Reagan) enlists after Pearl Harbor and is also stationed at Camp Upton.

Jerry visits him and runs into many of the old "Yaphankers." As they reminisce, a plan develops to stage a new show for the new war, incorporating a number from the original show with the original cast.

Although the main focus, and best part, of the movie is the production numbers, a thin subplot was added, showing the romance between Johnny and his girlfriend, Eileen (Leslie), the son of one of his dad's Yaphank buddies."This is the Army," filled with nineteen fabulous Berlin songs, was the number one box-office money maker of 1943, and was the biggest and best-known morale boosting show of WW II.

It won an Academy Award for Best Music Scoring of a Musical Picture (Ray Heindorf), and was nominated for Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration Color, and for Best Sound, Recording.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt enjoyed it so much, she saw the live soldier show three times while it toured the United States.

After they finished filming the movie, a scaled-down cast went on a world-wide tour, entertaining the troops in Europe, Egypt, and finally the Pacific.

The final performance of "This is the Army" came on October 22, 1945 on the island of Maui.Berlin, often criticized for being an immigrant who forgot his roots, loved his adopted country and did all he could to help the war effort.

In an interview he gave during Vietnam ("He Wanted to Murder the Bugler," American Heritage, Aug.

1967), he said something that can be applied today: "...maybe it's all right to laugh at patriotism and flag-waving--but we do have a flag to wave, and I think we ought to wave it more."
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