Elmer Doolittle (Buster Keaton), an apprentice seaman doing training at the U. S. Navy's San Diego Training Station, can't seem to keep out of trouble or the brig. Most of his problems ...
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Elmer Doolittle,a hired hand on a farm,encounters some complications in his romancing and believes he will have to marry the farm-owner aunt of Molly, the pretty girl he loves. Further ... See full summary »
Elmer owns a gas station out in the California desert. Soon he has a business rival in Jim, who opens up another station, and is also trying to steal Elmer's girlfriend. She plays both ... See full summary »
Keaton's winning streak of finely executed talking shorts continues with the service comedy TARS AND STRIPES (1935). Despite the punning title this is an enjoyable, freewheeling two-reeler. Filmed on location at the U.S. Naval Training Base in San Diego, it plays as a breezy alternative to the many service features being turned out by all of the major studio's at the time to help promote the military. Those features, starring the likes of a Jack Holt, a Jimmy Cagney or a Wallace Berry, always had a credit thanking which ever arm of the service cooperated in the making of this picture. Here it looks like the Navy opened their doors to Keaton's crew and gave him free rein.
The storyline is a series of overlapping running gags as Buster bedevils his commanding officer played by Vernon Dent. What makes this short so satisfying are the amiable qualities that the on-site location filming gives it. As Buster runs around the grounds in his sailor whites ships are moored in the bay acting as witnesses to the various pratfalls into the water. While most of the byplay is between Keaton and Dent the star comic does intermingle with the real sailors stationed at the base - especially the ending during a parade ground formation and Keaton plays it straight, acting as a real sailor would running out to his commanding officer to accept his medal.
The gags on display here all have a rhythmic flow to them as Buster makes frequent trips in and out of the brig while attempting jobs assigned to him by the Chief Gunner's Mate - who gets the brunt of it when Buster fails miserably. Once again Keaton attempts to paint a mast from a shaky scaffolding, tries to tie knots and learn the intricacies of rifle training. The best gags are the variations of Buster constantly late for mess call. Regardless of how or where the line is when seaman Buster arrives he always ends up at the end of it. This is solid sight gag comedy performed without the need for sound. When he is alone watching the other recruits go through their paces he is suddenly able to perform a quick formation rifle routine under the watchful eye of Dent's girl. This was the magic of Keaton - regardless of his constant bumbling and ineptitude there was always boiling, just under the surface, a quick-thinking, agile paragon just beneath that flat hat facade.
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