We now have another Abbott and Costello double-feature, and we’ll start it off with their 1941 comedy Keep ‘Em Flying!
Carnival pilot Jinx Roberts (Dick Foran) is in trouble with his boss for taking too long to do his shows, since sales for the rest of the midway suffer for it, and he is fired, along with his buddies Blackie Benson (Bud Abbott) and Heathcliff (Lou Costello). However, Jinx has signed up to start training at CAL-AERO flight school, with hopes of flying in the Army Air Corps. The three buddies go out to a local nightclub to celebrate Jinx’s new job, where they run into singer Linda Joyce (Carol Bruce). Jinx takes an immediate liking to her, although she doesn’t reciprocate. However, Jinx is thrilled to learn she has joined the USO and will be stationed at CAL-AERO. Blackie and Heathcliff decide to follow Jinx to the school, where they try to help out as ground crew. Jinx ends up studying alongside Linda’s brother Jim (Charles Lang), who is struggling with the death of his aviator father. Their flight instructor is Craig Morrison (William Gargan), whom Jinx has bad history with. Jinz’s showboating keeps getting him into trouble, particularly when he goes up with Jim, parachutes out of the plane in an attempt to get Jim to fly solo, not realizing that the throttle is stuck and has to help him land.
Of course, after doing some service comedies on land (Buck Privates) and sea (In The Navy), Abbott and Costello had to take to the air! This was yet another Abbott and Costello film to be made quicker than originally planned, as the plan was to do Ride ‘Em Cowboy first, but the studio changed their minds as a result of the success of Abbott and Costello’s two previous service comedies combined with the war department’s announcement of “Keep ‘Em Flying Week.” Abbott and Costello were joined by Dick Foran, who had a smaller role in their previous film In The Navy, and comedienne Martha Raye. Production actually took place at the CAL-AERO facility in Ontario, California.
My own opinion here is that, of the three Abbott and Costello service comedies from 1941, this one is definitely the weakest. A little too much of the story doesn’t quite work for me, especially all the stuff revolving around Linda’s brother Jim. Just a barely there character who really doesn’t serve much purpose other than to provide the low point for Jinx’s character before he gets a chance to be a hero. I also have some mixed feelings about Martha Raye here, doubling as the identical twins Barbara and Gloria Phelps. On the one hand, she seems to be the replacement for the Andrews Sisters, except with far less memorable music. On the other hand, she handles the comedy well, considering she seems to be doing that twin thing of “one is essentially the louder personality the actress is known for, and the other is much tamer in comparison” that I’ve seen done in other films around that time! The only real comedy routine Abbott and Costello do in the movie is “Go Ahead And Order Something,” which is made better with Martha Raye’s twins coming in and out of the kitchen (but never at the same time), thus confusing both Abbott and Costello, adding even more fun to the routine! Bud and Lou also have some fun with Lou riding a runaway torpedo (admittedly with rear screen projection, but it’s still fun) as well as a crazy flight when they don’t even realize at first a plane has the engine in it! As I said, it’s not Abbott and Costello at their absolute best, but they are far from their worst, which still makes this movie a lot of fun and worth seeing at least once!
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of the 28-film The Complete Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection.
Film Length: 1 hour, 26 minutes
My Rating: 7/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Hold That Ghost (1941) – Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – Ride ‘Em Cowboy (1942)
Hold That Ghost (1941) – The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection – Ride ‘Em Cowboy (1942)
College Swing (1938) – Martha Raye – Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962)
Coming Up Shorts! with… Hot Air Aces (1949)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 3 from Warner Archive Collection)
Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.
Welcome to my new feature on various theatrical shorts! Sometimes my comments will be on shorts included as extras on a disc set I am reviewing, and other times, they will be completely unrelated to the movie being reviewed (and I will try to indicate which). Hope you enjoy!
(Length: 6 minutes, 35 seconds)
Popeye and Bluto compete in an airplane race around the world. Yes, it’s still Popeye vs. Bluto, but at least this time, they aren’t fighting over Olive Oyl. A few fun gags, with Bluto using a more modern plane against Popeye’s somewhat older model, in some ways making this a “tortoise and the hare”-type of race. Maybe not their absolute best, but I had a few laughs with this one, making it well worth seeing!
And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring more of Popeye (and the eventual post on the entire 1940s Volume 3 set), along with other shorts!