Tuesday, June 21, 2016

At War With the Army

Year 8, Day 172 6/20/16 - Movie #2,372

BEFORE: Martin and Lewis carry over, I'm moving back three years into the past from "The Caddy" to include this one.  I've got some Abbott & Costello films coming up too, so I'll compare this one to "Buck Privates", I guess.  

THE PLOT: Alvin Corwin is low man on the totem pole, and goes from one mishap to another at an army training camp in World War II. 

AFTER: For a film made in 1950, something doesn't feel right - you'd think that a few years after World War II, people would have had enough experience, having lived through the war, to make a semi-accurate film about what it's like to be a soldier.  I know, I know it's a comedy and therefore it doesn't have to be super-realistic, but why not find comedy in an accurate portrayal, or at least a semi-accurate one.  Because if this film is WAY off from what soldiers really went through, doesn't that do them a dis-service? (pun intended.) 

Jerry Lewis plays characters who are screw-ups, I get that.  But he can play a sad sack private who's down on his luck or even mildly incompetent, but I feel like he went a bit too far here, and played his character like a true moron.  Again, it doesn't help the cause of U.S. soldiers to show them as mentally unfit - and if they were this dumb, then they wouldn't be serving in the army in the first place, right?  I mean, you have to at least have the mental capacity to make it through basic training and an obstacle course, right?  So all the physical humor of Lewis as Private Korwin failing to swing on a rope correctly, or trying to cheat his way around the obstacles, I think this humor is poorly aimed, and possibly even anti-patriotic.  

So, I'm scratching my head here, how do you come to release a film in 1950 that portrays U.S. Army soldiers as either dumb, misguided, or in Dean Martin's case, a real Don Juan?  I mean, we all know there were servicemen who were interested in getting laid, or had a "girl in every port", but I don't think Hollywood was supposed to depict that, right?  Some of the comedy here comes from Martin as Sgt. Puccinelli, who mistakenly thinks that he got a girl pregnant, since she keeps showing up, asking to have a meeting with him.

Ha ha, aren't unplanned pregancies hilarious?  Well, no, not really.  Not to mention VD and the moral implications of sleeping around, which again, seem very out of place in a 1950 comedy.  And then as a result of all the confusion, and Puccinelli's frustration with not getting promoted, he punches an officer in order to bust himself down to private.  Ha, ha!  Insubordination and a man sacrificing his whole military career, that's not really that funny, either.  

Also seeming very out of place is the suggestion that it's the officers' wives who are really running the camp.  While I'm all for feminism, this is also a strange bit of humor, because it suggests that the soldiers themselves are incompetent, and that the military chain of command is no match for the gossip chain that the women have formed.  Well, then what are they going to do when they get shipped overseas, and their wives aren't there to help them out?  I guess they're a bunch of goners, then.  Also, as a NITPICK POINT, why put this behind-the-scenes female network out there and show how superior it is, then have a key point in the film where it fails, miserably, and only causes more confusion.  So, is the fact that women really run the show a good thing or a bad thing?  This is quite unclear.  

OK, so it's the film where Jerry Lewis gets to sing "The Navy Gets the Gravy, but the Army Gets the Beans" as he cooks and serves food.  Am I supposed to take this literally, or is it just a metaphor.  So, there's NO gravy served in an army mess hall?  I find that hard to believe.  And what's the navy going to do with all that gravy that the army's not serving?  Dean Martin gets to sing some songs, too, since the two men perform in the officer's club from time to time - but "Tonda Wanda Hoy"?  Is that Hawaiian?  Because it seems out of place among soldiers that are planning to be shipped to Europe, it might have made more sense if they had been training for the Pacific theater, but that wasn't the case. 

He also sings "You and Your Beautiful Eyes", recording it on disc to be sent to a manager back home, but this was another plot point dropped in that went absolutely nowhere.  But he sang it to Polly Bergen's character, who was some kind of steady girlfriend, but didn't this contradict the image of his character as a womanizer?  This story was firing in so many different directions at once, and never followed up on any of the elements it introduced. 

What was going on with the supply sergeant and the extra clothing?  Will Private Corwin ever get to see his new baby?  Will they ever get the vending machine to work properly?  Why is it OK for a staff sergeant and a private to fraternize and sing musical numbers together, isn't that against the rules?  (Some parts played like a poor man's version of "Catch-22", just without any impact or deeper meaning about the true nonsense of the army.)  Well, it doesn't matter because everyone's getting shipped out to Europe, where they'll probably die.  So why the heck are they all so happy about that?  I'm not sure that I understand. 

Also starring Mike Kellin, Jimmie Dundee, Dick Stabile (also carrying over from "The Caddy"), William Mendrek, Danny Dayton (last seen in "The Sting II"), Angela Greene, Polly Bergen, Jean Ruth, Tommy Farrell, Frank Hyers,  Kenneth Forbes, Douglas Evans.

RATING: 3 out of 10 Coke bottles

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