TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… Buck Privates (1941)

And for our second half of our first Abbott and Costello double-feature, we have the classic Buck Privates!

In the wake of the peacetime draft of 1940, the U.S. army gains many new recruits, both volunteers and those drafted. Among them are con men Slicker “Smitty” Smith (Bud Abbott) and Herbie Brown (Lou Costello), who are chased by a cop into a movie theater that had become an enlistment center and, in the process, accidentally enlist. Playboy Randolph Parker III (Lee Bowman) has been drafted, but he hopes his influential father can get him out of it, while his chauffeur Bob Martin (Alan Curtis) was one of the first men drafted. Once at camp, Smitty and Herbie find out that their new drill instructor is Sergeant Michael Collins (Nat Pendleton), the cop who had chased them into the theater in the first place. Meanwhile, Bob and Randolph run into army hostess Judy Gray (Jane Frazee), one of Bob’s friends, and they both become rivals for her affections. Randolph finds himself stuck in the army when his father refuses to help him out, and he makes an enemy of everyone in his regiment when he fakes an injury to get out of a shooting match with a rival regiment just to have a date with Judy. He tries to regain everyone’s affections, but struggles. Can he succeed when they all become involved in a war game exercise?

In the fall of 1940, the Draft Bill was signed into law by FDR, and, as a result, the movie studios started looking for ways to incorporate the selective service into their films. Universal took a chance with one of theirs, putting Abbott and Costello in as leads after only one film to their credit (and one that wasn’t exactly well received, outside of their performances). Buck Privates turned out to be very successful, grossing more than the same year’s Citizen Kane along with some of the year’s other big releases (not to mention resulting in other movies imitating it, including Bob Hope’s comedy Caught In The Draft). Abbott and Costello were also successfully joined in this movie by the Andrews Sisters, who would also make appearances in the next two Abbott and Costello movies as well. Buck Privates‘ success would result in the only true sequel that Abbott and Costello did a few years later with Buck Privates Come Home, as well as a semi-remake in the form of the episode “The Army Story” for The Abbott And Costello Show on TV a decade later.

Personally, I find this movie to be a HUGE improvement over their previous film One Night In The Tropics. Abbott and Costello are obviously still hilarious together (and the main reason to watch this movie), doing some of their comedy routines which include “Dice Game,” “Loan Me $50,” “Drill,” “Play The Radio” and “You’re Forty, She’s Ten.” Most of them work much better here, and don’t completely stop the action (although their comedy routines are always worth the pause). The addition of the Andrews Sisters makes things fun, especially since they have a few fun songs, written by Hugh Prince and Don Raye, including their big hit “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” And, for one of the later songs, the World Champion Boogie Woogie Dancers were featured doing some dancing. I still don’t think too highly of the romantic triangle plot here, but with Abbott and Costello featured more in the leads, who cares? A fun film, and one I think worth recommending giving a chance if you haven’t seen this classic!

This movie is available on Blu-ray individually from Universal Studios or as part of the 28 film The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection from Shout Factory.

Film Length: 1 hour, 24 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

One Night In The Tropics (1940)Bud Abbott/ Lou CostelloIn The Navy (1941)

The Andrews Sisters – In The Navy (1941)

Another Thin Man (1939) – Shemp Howard – In The Navy (1941)

One Night In The Tropics (1940)The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures CollectionIn The Navy (1941)

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