Enlisting in the U.S. Army never seemed so fun until Bud Abbott and Lou Costello did it. The dynamic comedy duo’s hit film Buck Privates, released last year, has a new relevance now that the U.S. has entered the war and millions of young Americans are likely to be called upon to serve their country.
Directed by Arthur Lubin, Buck Privates provides a light-hearted wartime story during an era of intense conflict. Rather than focusing on the fighting in Europe, however, Lubin and script writer John Grant place their characters precisely where most new enlistees will find themselves: in an army training camp. It provides a high-spirited and nationalistic take on the U.S. Army that will leave any American viewers with their heads held high and their cheeks rosy from laughter.
Non-stop comedy from Abbott and Costello, character growth from suave film star Lee Bowman and lively performances from The Andrews Sisters throughout the movie grasped the viewer’s attention from beginning to end. Along with that, real film of soldiers in action placed throughout the film made the viewing experience feel more realistic and relatable.
The movie begins with Abbott and Costello’s characters, Slicker Smith and Herbie Brown, selling knock-off ties for cheap on the street. As soon as the slick scammers are about to make a sale they get busted by a cop – their only means of escaping jail was to enlist in the army.
Abbott and Costello are obviously best pals in the film, however, Abbott enjoyed messing around with Costello’s character a bit. One instance that had viewers crying from laughter was the boxing scene between Costello and a huge soldier. When Abbott and Costello’s commanding officer asks for a volunteer to fight in the match, Abbott lights a match under Costello’s shoe to make him jump up and accidentally volunteer. Abbott’s tomfoolery and the hilarious scenarios in which it lands Costello put a smile on the viewers’ faces, but the belly-busting laughter mostly comes from Costello’s goofy reactions.
Quick, in-your-face jokes are spread throughout the movie, not allowing the viewer to get bored for one moment.
In addition to providing some much-needed jokes during a time of global upheaval, Buck Privates shows how the army can turn a boy into a man with Bowman’s character, Randolph Parker III.
From the start, Parker detested the idea of joining the army and was simply waiting for his family’s connections in Washington, D.C. to keep him from serving. A playboy sleaze who cares only for himself, Parker has little regard for what the army means for the U.S. When he is forced to continue his time at boot camp, however, Parker begins to develop into a man. By the end of the film, he has become a respectable soldier who is selfless and cordial. This character shows the army’s ability to transform nearly anyone into an upstanding soldier.
The famous singing Andrews Sisters made regular appearances during the film – they performed “You’re a Lucky Fellow, Mr. Smith,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Bounce Me, Brother, With a Solid Four” and “(I’ll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time.” Their performances not only provided viewers with the ability to catch their breath from laughter, but they also heightened the sense of patriotism throughout the movie.
Although Buck Privates has quickly become known for its brilliant performances, none of this would have been possible without Grant’s witty script or Lubin’s directing skills. Grant specifically wrote this screenplay for Abbott and Costello – the content he produced did not disappoint. The humor was quick and witty; Costello and Abbott didn’t need to try that hard to turn their lines into a hilarious performance.
Along with Grant’s script, Lubin’s directing skills added to the greatness of the film. Including actual filming of soldiers during battle and at boot camp added to the authenticity of the film, creating a perfect combination of comedy and realism.
Altogether, Buck Privates is a film that anyone who is searching for a hearty laugh and a feel-good movie about patriotism and the U.S. Army should see.