Sunday, June 29, 2014

#1,413. Private Buckaroo (1942)

Directed By: Edward F. Cline

Starring: The Andrews Sisters, Dick Foran, Joe E. Lewis

Tag line: "IT JUMPS! IT JIVES! It rocks with red hot rhythm!"

Trivia: In 1927, co-star Joe E. Lewis refused the request of Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn (an Al Capone lieutenant) to renew a contract that would have bound him to sing and perform at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge. He was later assaulted by McGurn, who cut Lewis' throat and tongue and left him for dead

A year after making a splash in Abbott and Costello’s Buck Privates, The Andrews Sisters returned to the big screen for another wartime musical, 1942’s Private Buckaroo, for which they performed a number of their hit songs.

Private Buckaroo does have a story of sorts, following band crooner Lon Prentiss (Dick Foran) as he tries to change his enlistment classification (his one flat foot has thus far kept him out of the army) so that he can join up and fight. He does eventually talk his way into the military, but once Lon gets to boot camp, he decides he doesn’t want to go through the training process like everyone else. The movie also has its share of comedy, with Shemp Howard (a few years before replacing his brother Curly as one of The Three Stooges) as a Sergeant whose best girl (Mary Wickes) falls head over heels for a singer (Joe E. Lewis). A very young Donald O’Connor, future co-star of Singin’ in the Rain, makes an appearance as well, playing a teen pretending to be much older so that he can enlist (which wasn’t a stretch for him, seeing as O’Connor was only 17 when this film was made). But in the end, Private Buckaroo is all about the music.

Thirteen musical numbers are crammed into the film’s 68 minutes, some of which are set in a night club, including Joe E. Lewis’s comedic “I Love the South”; the title song (sung by Dick Foran); and The Andrews Sisters “Three Little Sisters”. The majority of the tunes, however, are performed during the basic training scenes, the highlight being The Andrews Sisters’ rendition of their wartime hit, “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”. Along with the music, the movie also features a running gag involving professional trumpeter and band leader Harry James (playing himself), who’s drafted into the army and appointed company bugler. The problem is he doesn’t know how to play the bugle! Aided by a young Huntz Hall (The Dead End Kids, The Bowery Boys), James manages to master the instrument just in time for the big finale.

A flag-waving extravaganza (it concludes with stock footage of marching troops and a manufacturing plant turning out military planes) clearly designed to rally public support as the U.S. entered World War II, Private Buckaroo is a somewhat dated motion picture that, thanks to its catchy music, is still an entertaining watch.

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