This film is a pleasant piece of wartime Americana that, like some of its characters, literally goes overboard. When it came out in 1946, after the war was over, it was past its sentimental sell-by date, which is why the opening announces that it takes place “a long, long time ago, way back in 1943”. It was already being nostalgic, but audiences who’d lived through the war were flocking to see The Best Years of Our Lives, which had something sensible to say. Now available on demand from Fox Cinema Archives, Wake Up and Dream comes across as a warm Technicolor slice of marmalade spread on thick.
John Payne plays Jeff, a gosh-gee farmer who’s tongue-tied around the spectacular Jenny (June Haver), a blonde and busty waitress at the local diner. He enlists in the navy and sends his somber little sister Nella (Connie Marshall, working in Margaret O’Brien mode) and her dog Tipsy (looking like Toto) to relatives, then promptly gets declared missing in action. With far-fetched reasons and an unclear sense of geography (exact locations were hush-hush in wartime anyway), Jenny and Nella go off with an old simpleton called Henry Peckett (Clem Bevans), who built a sailboat in the backyard and spends much time puffing philosophically about children and the power of belief.