Buck Privates (1941)

82 or 84 mins | Comedy | 31 January 1941

Director:

Arthur Lubin

Cinematographers:

Jerome Ash, Milton Krasner

Editor:

Philip Cohn

Production Designer:

Jack Otterson

Production Company:

Universal Pictures Company, Inc.
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HISTORY

While actors Bud Abbott and Lou Costello receive above-the-title listings in the opening credits, they were billed third and fourth respectively in the closing credits. Radio announcer Mike Frankovich's name was misspelled in the credits as "Frankovitch." According to Universal publicity materials, this was the first film to deal with the new peace-time military draft, signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on 16 Sep 1940. In Oct 1940, HR reported that Universal had assigned writer Harold Shumate to write an untitled "military conscription comedy," similar to one planned at Columbia. Then, in Nov 1940, HR reported that Universal contract players Richard Arlen and Andy Devine had been cast in Buck Privates , a "story dealing with life in the present day army camps," which was to be written by Maxwell Shane and produced by Ben Pivar. It has not been determined if any material from these writers was used in this film.
       The Andrews Sisters were signed by Universal to appear in the film in mid-Nov 1940, based on an eight-week commitment. According to HR , Abbott and Costello, along with the Andrews Sisters and Universal contract player Hugh Herbert, performed in a USO show at Camp Elliott, the U.S. Marine Corps Base in San Diego, CA, just prior to beginning work on this film. In Nov 1940, director Arthur Lubin signed a seven-year contract with Universal. HR news items indicate that dance director Nick Castle was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for work on this film, while actor Lee Bowman was borrowed from M-G-M. HR production charts indicate that actress ... More Less

While actors Bud Abbott and Lou Costello receive above-the-title listings in the opening credits, they were billed third and fourth respectively in the closing credits. Radio announcer Mike Frankovich's name was misspelled in the credits as "Frankovitch." According to Universal publicity materials, this was the first film to deal with the new peace-time military draft, signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on 16 Sep 1940. In Oct 1940, HR reported that Universal had assigned writer Harold Shumate to write an untitled "military conscription comedy," similar to one planned at Columbia. Then, in Nov 1940, HR reported that Universal contract players Richard Arlen and Andy Devine had been cast in Buck Privates , a "story dealing with life in the present day army camps," which was to be written by Maxwell Shane and produced by Ben Pivar. It has not been determined if any material from these writers was used in this film.
       The Andrews Sisters were signed by Universal to appear in the film in mid-Nov 1940, based on an eight-week commitment. According to HR , Abbott and Costello, along with the Andrews Sisters and Universal contract player Hugh Herbert, performed in a USO show at Camp Elliott, the U.S. Marine Corps Base in San Diego, CA, just prior to beginning work on this film. In Nov 1940, director Arthur Lubin signed a seven-year contract with Universal. HR news items indicate that dance director Nick Castle was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for work on this film, while actor Lee Bowman was borrowed from M-G-M. HR production charts indicate that actress Nell O'Day was cast in the picture, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Actress Maria Montez also appeared in HR production charts for the picture in early Jan 1941, but she did not appear in the released film. New items also state that Lou Levy, the head of Leeds Music Publishing and the manager of the Andrews Sisters, was allowed to select the music for this film, though he was not credited in any official capacity by Universal. HR also stated that a sneak preview of the film was held in late Jan 1941 for soldiers stationed at Fort MacArthur, CA.
       Buck Privates was the first film produced by Alex Gottlieb, who had previously worked at Universal as a screenwriter. HR reported in Jan 1941 that Gottlieb had been permanently promoted to associate producer by the studio based on a rough cut of this film. Then, based on outstanding preview cards and reviews, Gottlieb was assigned to a second Abbott and Costello film. According to modern sources, seventeen other writers had turned down this job before it was offered to Gottlieb. In late Feb 1941, Abbott and Costello themselves were rewarded for their work in the film with a four-picture deal by Universal. HR stated in mid-Apr 1941 that the film was so popular in some portions of the country that there was a shortage of prints, so Universal was forced to "bicycle" prints between theaters in the same town.
       Because of the tremendous success of this film, Universal delayed the release of Abbott and Costello's next film, Hold That Ghost (See Entry), in order to upgrade the production values of that film and to capitalize on the military comedy elements of their third film of 1941, In the Navy (See Entry). Abbott and Costello's fourth released film of 1941 was also a military comedy, entitled Keep 'Em Flying (See Entry). According to modern sources, after the failure of Abbott and Costello's first film, One Night in the Tropics (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.3271), Buck Privates was given a "B-film" budget of $180,000, with a twenty-day shooting schedule on standing sets. These sources also state that Abbott and Costello ad-libbed much of their dialogue, including the drill routine, which ran only two and a half minutes in the script, but was allotted five minutes of screen time. Modern sources also indicate that director Lubin shot the Abbott and Costello sequences using two or three cameras simultaneously to capture their spontaneity. Pat Costello worked as a stunt double for his brother in the film's boxing sequence, according to modern sources. Modern sources report that, by Mar 1941, the film had grossed $1,000,000 domestically, with final grosses over $4,000,000. Charles Previn received an Academy Award nomination for his musical scoring of the picture, and Hugh Prince and Don Raye's song "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" was also nominated for an Oscar. Bud Abbott starred with Lou Costello in a 13 Oct 1941 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story. In 1947, Universal made a sequel to this film, entitled Buck Privates Come Home (See Entry). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
8 Feb 1941.
---
Daily Variety
29 Jan 41
p. 3.
Film Daily
3 Feb 41
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 40
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 40
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 40
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 40
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 40
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 40
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Dec 40
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 40
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 40
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jan 41
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jan 41
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jan 41
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 41
p. 9
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 41
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Feb 41
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 41
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
28 Feb 1941.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
22 Mar 41
p. 88.
New York Times
14 Feb 41
p. 15.
Variety
5 Feb 41
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Orig scr, Orig scr
Spec material for Abbott & Costello
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus supv
Vocal treatments
SOUND
[Sd] tech
DANCE
Dance dir
PRODUCTION MISC
Military adv
Unit pub wrt
SOURCES
SONGS
"Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Bounce Me Brother with a Solid Four" and "When Private Brown Becomes a Captain," words by Don Raye, music by Hugh Prince
"You're a Lucky Fellow, Mr. Smith," words by Don Raye, music by Hugh Prince and Sonny Burke
"I Wish You Were Here," words by Don Raye, music by Hugh Prince and Vic Schoen
+
SONGS
"Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Bounce Me Brother with a Solid Four" and "When Private Brown Becomes a Captain," words by Don Raye, music by Hugh Prince
"You're a Lucky Fellow, Mr. Smith," words by Don Raye, music by Hugh Prince and Sonny Burke
"I Wish You Were Here," words by Don Raye, music by Hugh Prince and Vic Schoen
"I'll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time," words by Neville Fleeson, music by Albert Von Tilzer.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
31 January 1941
Production Date:
mid December 1940--mid January 1941
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
28 January 1941
Copyright Number:
LP10211
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
82 or 84
Length(in feet):
7,566
Country:
United States
PCA No:
7029
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Outside a movie theater that has been converted into a U.S. Army Recruiting Headquarters, confidence men Slicker "Smithy" Smith and Herbie Brown sell their ten-cent "silk" ties. Inside, playboy Randolph Parker III tells Captain Johnson that his being drafted is a mistake, as he has made plans to work for his industrialist father in Washington. His chauffeur, Bob Martin, is the first man selected in the draft, and he gladly accepts his new role, especially as it means getting away from Randolph. After being chased inside the building by the police, Slicker and Herbie mistakenly volunteer themselves for the draft. Herbie thinks he can get out of the army because he is overweight, but Slicker turns on a heater beneath Herbie, causing him to lose enough weight to pass the physical by a few ounces. After their induction into the Army, Bob and Randolph have words, and Bob punches the playboy. The new soldiers are later met at a railway station by a group of USO hostesses, and both Randolph and Bob take immediate fancies to hostess Judy Gray, but she has little use for either of them. Meanwhile, Slicker and Herbie set up a dice game, with Slicker winning everyone's money, including Herbie's. Arriving at boot camp, Randolph, Bob, Slicker and Herbie are assigned to "K" Company, which is supervised by Sergeant Michael Collins, an ex-policeman who had earlier chased Slicker and Herbie. Randolph's father arrives at the camp as training begins, but rather than remove Randolph, he fully supports his son's new occupation, hoping the Army can make a man out of the playboy. While Herbie is a complete ... +


Outside a movie theater that has been converted into a U.S. Army Recruiting Headquarters, confidence men Slicker "Smithy" Smith and Herbie Brown sell their ten-cent "silk" ties. Inside, playboy Randolph Parker III tells Captain Johnson that his being drafted is a mistake, as he has made plans to work for his industrialist father in Washington. His chauffeur, Bob Martin, is the first man selected in the draft, and he gladly accepts his new role, especially as it means getting away from Randolph. After being chased inside the building by the police, Slicker and Herbie mistakenly volunteer themselves for the draft. Herbie thinks he can get out of the army because he is overweight, but Slicker turns on a heater beneath Herbie, causing him to lose enough weight to pass the physical by a few ounces. After their induction into the Army, Bob and Randolph have words, and Bob punches the playboy. The new soldiers are later met at a railway station by a group of USO hostesses, and both Randolph and Bob take immediate fancies to hostess Judy Gray, but she has little use for either of them. Meanwhile, Slicker and Herbie set up a dice game, with Slicker winning everyone's money, including Herbie's. Arriving at boot camp, Randolph, Bob, Slicker and Herbie are assigned to "K" Company, which is supervised by Sergeant Michael Collins, an ex-policeman who had earlier chased Slicker and Herbie. Randolph's father arrives at the camp as training begins, but rather than remove Randolph, he fully supports his son's new occupation, hoping the Army can make a man out of the playboy. While Herbie is a complete flop as a soldier, Randolph shows great dexterity, especially on the rifle range. Sergeant Collins arranges a shooting contest, and the entire company, except Randolph, bets their money on the outcome. Learning that Bob is the team alternate, Randolph pretends to be injured, so that he can spend that time alone with Judy. The company loses the contest, and Randolph is ostracized by all, including Judy. The company manages to get their money back, however, when Herbie wins a wild boxing match. During army test maneuvers, Randolph, Bob, Slicker and Herbie are sent on patrol to blow up a block house. Randolph then saves Bob's life when he loses his footing while climbing a mountain. Once over the mountain, Randolph and Bob discover that they are outnumbered by a Blue army patrol. Randolph then acts as a diversion as Bob sneaks around the patrol and blows up the target. That night, Randolph is informed that he is being sent to officers' training school, not based on influence, but on merit. Later, at the "victory" dance, Randolph is congratulated by all, as Bob has told everyone of his bravery. He and Judy make up, and he proudly tells her of his new appointment. Randolph then learns that Bob has been accepted into officers' training school as well. While the two young officers continue their pursuit of Judy, Herbie gets Sergeant Collins into a dice game. In the end, Herbie winds up in a barrel instead of his pants. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.