The tune "Forever" which Ben Lyons plays on the piano and sings was later used for the Louis Jordan hit "Just a Gigolo". See more »
In the scene in the apartment of Lola Green, she plays a phonograph record on the Victor label but the label is the "scroll" design Victor only started using in 1925, even though the scene takes place in 1917. See more »
Played on piano and sung by Harry Langdon with the nightclub band See more »
This one was a blind buy for me from the Warner Archives, interesting to me because it was Harry Langdon's first talking feature film. Here Langdon plays Tim, the operator of a carnival shooting gallery, and Ben Lyon plays Georgie, occupation unknown, whom we first meet at a poker game being played in a bookie's office from the looks of the surroundings, with bookie Hank (Fred Kohler) and associates. Apparently Georgie and Tim are buddies, and also apparently Georgie routinely cleans out Hank and his associates at their poker games. When an extra ace is discovered after George collects his winnings and leaves, Hank jumps to the conclusion that George cheated and tracks him down to face off with him over it. In self defense George hits Hank hard enough that he crashes through the railing of the rooming house hallway in which they are arguing and falls several stories. Being chased by both Hank's gang and the police, and with Hank not looking particularly alive the last time he saw him, George decides to hide by - joining the army??? (The time is WWI).
The U.S. army is NOT the French Foreign Legion, and the police would have no trouble tracking George down if they so desired, but that's beside the point apparently. Tim has already joined the army, so the rest of the movie is set in Europe with Lyon and Langdon as two privates in the war with the rest of the script just being a bunch of comic bits strung together like so many disconnected comic Vitaphone shorts. There really is not much of a story here. The odd thing about it is that all of the soldiers shown here in "the army of occupation" as it is blandly called by the title cards, inexplicably see less combat action than marine Gomer Pyle saw at the height of the Vietnam War - which was absolutely none. Instead they shovel horse manure when they run afoul of the gruff captain, played by Noah Beery in a role that reminded me very much of his brother, and spend the rest of their time drinking, singing, and fraternizing with the local Germans who don't seem at all bothered by the fact that they are being occupied and treat them like tourists.
I'm no expert on WWI, but somehow I don't think this was a typical wartime experience. As for the comedy, I found Ben Lyon likable as always, doing the best he could with comedy material that was obviously meant to give the spotlight to Langdon. I like Langdon in his silents, but here he just seemed to wrestle with incorporating the dialogue he was given with his traditional befuddled expressions and slapstick from his silent years.
Oddest scene/line in the film: Tim and George want to escape the MPs by donning the horse costume that two of the German saloon performers were wearing, but they are getting nowhere with these two fellows due to the language barrier. George turns to Tim and says : "Let's just knock these two guys off". That stunned me and I replayed this section of the DVD just to make sure I didn't misunderstand what was being said - I didn't. George, who has not been portrayed as anything more than a rather streetwise fellow up to this point is suggesting killing two men to escape punishment for being in a bar off-limits to military personnel? This seemed like overkill to me (pardon the pun) and something that belonged more in Little Caesar than in a buddy war pic.
I'd recommend this one mainly for fans of Harry Langdon, early sound enthusiasts, and for those interested in the early career of director Michael Curtiz. I can just imagine his frustration in directing such a film that is part Big Parade (minus the combat), part gangster picture, and partially an early sound version of Buck Privates.
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