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Buck Privates is a 1941 musical military comedy film that turned Bud Abbott and Lou Costello into bona fide movie stars. It was the first service comedy based on the peacetime draft of 1940. The comedy team made two more service comedies before the United States entered the war (In the Navy and Keep 'Em Flying). A sequel to this movie, Buck Privates Come Home, was released in 1947. Buck Privates is one of three Abbott and Costello films featuring The Andrews Sisters, who were also under contract to Universal Pictures at the time.

Buck Privates
Buckprivatesposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byArthur Lubin
Produced byAlex Gottlieb
Written byArthur T. Horman
StarringBud Abbott
Lou Costello
The Andrews Sisters
Music byCharles Previn
CinematographyMilton R. Krasner
Edited byPhilip Cahn
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • January 31, 1941 (1941-01-31) (U.S.)
Running time
84 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$245,000[1][2]
Box office$4,000,000 (USA)[1]

Abbott and Costello performed a radio adaptation of the film on the Lux Radio Theater on October 13, 1941.

Contents

PlotEdit

Slicker Smith and Herbie Brown (Abbott and Costello) are sidewalk peddlers who hawk neckties out of a suitcase. They are chased by a cop (Nat Pendleton) and duck into a movie theater, not realizing that it is now being used as an Army enlistment center. Believing that they are signing up for theater prizes, they end up enlisting instead.

Meanwhile, spoiled playboy Randolph Parker (Lee Bowman) and his long-suffering valet, Bob Martin (Alan Curtis), are also enlisting at the theater. Randolph expects his influential father to pull some strings so he can avoid military service. Bob, on the other hand, takes his military obligations in stride. Tensions between the two men escalate further with the introduction of Judy Gray (Jane Frazee), a camp hostess and friend of Bob's upon whom Randolph sets his sights.

At boot camp, Slicker and Herbie are mortified to discover that Collins, the policeman who chased them, is now their drill instructor. Randolph, meanwhile, learns that his father will not use his influence on his behalf, believing that a year in the Army will do Randolph some good. Life at camp is not so bad, since The Andrews Sisters appear at regular intervals to sing patriotic or sentimental tunes, and Herbie continues to screw up with little consequence.

Although he is an expert marksman, Randolph skips an army shooting match in order to spend the afternoon with Judy. The company loses the match and a sizeable amount of money they had bet, causing them to resent him even more. However, during a war game exercise, Randolph redeems himself by saving Bob and coming up with a ruse to win the sham battle for his company. He is finally accepted by his unit and wins Bob's and Judy's admiration in the process. He learns that he's been accepted to Officer Training School but initially refuses, believing that his father's political influence was responsible. However, his commanding officer assures him that his training record (along with recommendations from others in his class) factored in the decision. Bob has also been offered an appointment to OTS, and Judy announces that she will be joining them as a hostess at the OTS training facility. Meanwhile, Smitty and Herbie eagerly accept an invitation to shoot dice with Collins, but Herbie ends up losing his pants.

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

Buck Privates was filmed from December 13, 1940, through January 11, 1941. It was originally budgeted at $233,000 over 20 days; in the end it was $12,000 over budget and four days over schedule.[1]

The famous "drill routine", where Smitty tries to get Herbie and other soldiers to march in formation, was actually a series of shorter takes that were strung together to expand the bit to more than three minutes of screen time. Abbott and Costello had been performing this sketch on stage for more than three years.[3]Sis

ReceptionEdit

The film received positive reviews from critics. Theodore Strauss of The New York Times called it "an hour and a half of uproarious monkeyshines. Army humor isn't apt to be subtle and neither are Abbott and Costello. Their antics have as much innuendo as a 1,000-pound bomb but nearly as much explosive force."[4]

Variety wrote, "Geared at a zippy pace, and providing lusty and enthusiastic comedy of the broadest slapstick, Buck Privates is a hilarious laugh concoction that will click solidly in the general runs for profitable biz."[5]

Film Daily enthused, "If ever a 'sleeper' appeared out of Hollywood, this is it ... the attraction is a grand, madcap musical which packs a whale of a wallop for the general public liking laughs galore on the frankly slapstick side."[6]

Harrison's Reports called it "A good comedy for the masses ... Abbott and Costello definitely establish themselves as a comedy team that should win wide popularity."[7]

Award nominationsEdit

The film received two Academy Award nominations in 1941. Hughie Prince and Don Raye were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and Charles Previn was nominated for an Academy Award for Original Music Score (Scoring of a Musical Picture).

The film was one of Universal's biggest money-makers of the year, grossing over $4 million at the box office at a time when movie tickets averaged 25 cents and gross was defined as money earned by the studio; today it refers to all of the money that a film made. Universal gave director Arthur Lubin—who was under contract at a fixed salary—a $5,000 bonus and told him to start on another film, Hold That Ghost, almost immediately. Lubin directed five Abbott and Costello films in ten months.[8]

World War IIEdit

Japan used this film as propaganda to demonstrate to its own troops the "incompetence" of the United States Army. The film was shown to U.S. troops in every theater of war.[9]

RereleaseEdit

It was re-released in 1948, and again on a double bill with Keep 'Em Flying in 1953 during the Korean War.

Andrews SistersEdit

The Andrews Sisters perform four songs in the film: "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". The composers of the first three of these songs, Don Raye and Hughie Prince, appear in the film as new recruits alongside Abbott and Costello. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy was nominated for an Academy Award.[10]

The studio was against using (I'll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time because of fees demanded by the music publisher. The Andrews Sisters paid the fee themselves, and it went on to become one of their most requested songs.[11]

"Bounce Me, Brother, With a Solid Four" also features one of the more famous Lindy Hop dance sequences of the swing era. Many dancers from Los Angeles, including Dean Collins, Jewel McGowan, Ray Hirsch, and Patty Lacey, are featured.[12]

Home mediaEdit

This film was released on VHS and Beta in 1983, then re-released on VHS in 1989 and again in 1991. It has been released three times on DVD, first as single DVD on April 1, 1998 OCLC 44543569, and later as part of two different Abbott and Costello collections. The first time, on The Best of Abbott and Costello Volume One, on February 10, 2004, and again on October 28, 2008 as part of Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection. A Blu-ray edition was released on April 17, 2012.

TriviaEdit

In popular cultureEdit

The film is advertised on a cinema marquee in 1941.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Bob Furmanek & Ron Palumbo, Abbott and Costello in Hollywood, Perigree Books 1991 p 42-48
  2. ^ Town Called HOLLYWOOD Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 04 May 1941: C3.
  3. ^ Palumbo, Ron. "Buck Privates: The Complete Filmscript." Bear Manor Media, 2013.
  4. ^ Strauss, Theodore (February 14, 1941). "Movie Reviews - Buck Privates". The New York Times. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  5. ^ "Buck Privates". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc. February 5, 1941. p. 12.
  6. ^ "Reviews of New Films". Film Daily. New York: Wid's Films and Film Folk, Inc.: 9 February 3, 1941.
  7. ^ "'Buck Privates' with Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lee Bowman and Alan Curtis". Harrison's Reports: 27. December xx, 1941. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ Palumbo, Ron. "Buck Privates: The Complete Filmscript." Bear Manor Media, 2013.
  9. ^ Palumbo, Ron. "Buck Privates: The Complete Filmscript." Bear Manor Media, 2013.
  10. ^ Palumbo, Ron. "Buck Privates: The Complete Filmscript." Bear Manor Media, 2013.
  11. ^ Palumbo, Ron. "Buck Privates: The Complete Filmscript." Bear Manor Media, 2013.
  12. ^ Palumbo, Ron. "Buck Privates: The Complete Filmscript." Bear Manor Media, 2013.
  13. ^ Palumbo, Ron. "Buck Privates: The Complete Filmscript." Bear Manor Media, 2013.

External linksEdit