Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I don’t have any more. This is the last of the Abbott and Costello flicks in my library. Maybe more later. This is Buck Privates from 1941. In the title role are Bud Abbott and Lou Costello as Slicker Smith and Herbie Brown. It was shot over a 30-day period starting in December 1940 and released in January by Universal Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia, and images are screen shots from Turner Classic Movies.

The plot is tagged with the headline-making peacetime draft instigated by the United States in 1940 as the threat of World War Two edged closer to American shores. The opening scene shows a movie audience watching newsreel coverage of the first draft picks.

One of those chosen is Randolph Parker III (Lee Bowman), Trump-wealthy and obviously due for better things than army life. Here he saunters into the recruiting station to get things sorted out. He is shown where to take his physical.


Meanwhile on the street outside, two grifters, Smith and Brown, are about to get busted for selling merchandise on the sidewalk. Everybody watching knows this will end up with the pair taking refuge inside the induction offices and getting signed up. Everybody also knows they will meet up with Officer Michael Collins (Nat Pendleton) later as Sergeant Collins, resuming his role of bringing joy to their lives.


What’s a funny movie without a love triangle? Here we see sweet Judy Gray (Jane Frazee) being romanced by now Private Parker and Parker’s former chauffeur Bob Martin (Alan Curtis).


Screw-ups like Smith and Brown are naturals for the army, which institution provides ample opportunity to screw up. One of the numerous take-away skits involves a drill instructor attempting to get Brown back into marching formation with three other misfits. It’s a hopeless task and is somewhat entertaining to watch.


The depth of the plot is that Parker feels he is too good for the army, and his standoffish attitude alienates the rest of the troops. In the end he redeems himself by cooperating with Martin to clinch victory in a field exercise. There is a big celebration, featuring The Andrews Sisters and The World Champion Boogie Woogie Dancers.


Despite this being among Universal’s top grossing films of the year, this one can’t escape a B rating. The plot is lame—rich boy inducted into the service, redeems himself, gains the respect of his comrades, with a love interest thrown in, along with two slap-stick comics for merriment. The Andrews Sisters definitely brighten up the scene, and the boogie woogie number at the close reminds us that this is the most sensual dance style ever developed on the continent.  Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy received an Academy Award nomination for best original song.

The final scene reveals this as the beginning of a string of patriotic films to come out of Hollywood during the course of the war.


No surprise, “Japan used this film as propaganda to demonstrate to its own troops the ‘incompetence’ of the United States Army.”


Remarks have been posted on Facebook in the manner of, “Never saw so many lily-white faces congregated together in my life.” To refute that scurrilous implication, I am adding below a screen shot from the movie.


One thought on “Bad Movie of the Week

  1. Pingback: Bad Movie of the Week | Skeptical Analysis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s