Navy Blues (1941) Poster


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Mediocre Musical With Some Interesting Details
gvb090724 April 2006
The best musicals offer memorable songs imaginatively staged. "Navy Blues" offers neither. Both composer Arthur Schwartz ("Dancing in the Dark") and lyricist Johnnie Mercer ("Hurray for Hollywood") did much better work elsewhere, as did choreographer Seymour Felix ("The Great Ziegfeld").

The leads are only so-so. Oomph girl Ann Sheridan looks great and Martha Raye is suitably brassy, but Jacks Haley and Oakie are hardly Abbott and Costello, and Herbert Anderson is woeful as Sheridan's romantic interest.

Plots are always secondary in musicals, though sometimes they help pick up the pace. Here, a typically thin story line is a good 20 minutes too long.

For all these weaknesses "Navy Blues" has some interesting aspects.

The cast features the already rotund Jackie Gleason in his first film. He doesn't have very many lines but you can't miss him as a young sailor named Tubby. Had this been made a decade later he would have been a natural for Oakie's role.

More significantly, this is a last look at the United States Navy on the eve of World War Two. These are real ships and real sailors on the brink of history.

When Oakie and Haley's characters disembark at Honolulu (actually San Diego), the ship in the background is the USS Curtiss, a seaplane tender that a few months later was damaged at Pearl Harbor. Twenty-one of her crew were killed on December 7th.

Other scenes appear to have been shot on an Astoria class heavy cruiser, of which there were six. The following year three of these ships were sunk off Guadalcanal, with great loss of life.

Surely many of the sailors parading behind the cast members in the closing sequence would not survive the war. Few could foresee that in the spring of 1941, but for us that sad fact gives the film a poignancy its makers never intended.
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Great Forgotten Musical- A treat to see Ann Sheridan and Martha Raye together
msladysoul10 December 2002
This movie is a wonderful musical. In the 1930s Warner Brothers was the tops when it came to musicals with Busby Berkeley. In the 1940s, Warner Brothers was famous for their gangster, tough movies. But every now in then, Warner Brothers did a musical featuring Ann Sheridan most of the time. Ann Sheridan has a wonderful singing voice, she's up there with Alice Faye and Judy Garland, but today no one really acknowledge her singing. She does a great Hawaiian dance, she looks great dressed in Hawaiian customs. Martha Raye, I think has a special place in everyone heart, is a great comic, and sings some tunes with Ann Sheridan. There's no competition in this film, Ann Sheridan and Martha Raye holds their own and their great together. Together their two great comics, singers, and dancers. Two, forgotten greats of Hollywood. If you can see this movie, try to find it, you won't be sorry. I'm not=)
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A moment captured in time...
calvinnme23 November 2014
... and a reminder how everything can change in an instant. This movie is about two American sailors (Jack Oakie and Jack Haley) on shore leave in Honolulu who find out that another ship's master gunner is actually transferring to THEIR ship before the gunnery competition begins between the two ships, and nobody knows but the two goofball sailors and the sailor who is transferring. They are always on the losing end of any bets, so here they finally have a no lose situation. They borrow 200 dollars from one of their more financially savvy shipmates - and believe me the way these two goofballs throw around money that could be just about anybody - and place bets on their ship winning at 15:1 odds. They figure they will clean up so they pawn off the ship's trophies to get even more betting money, figuring everyone is on shore leave and nobody will notice or mind. After they win they will buy the trophies back before anyone knows they are missing. They can't lose - right? WRONG. The Midwestern corn-fed dead-eye shot (Herbert Anderson) is due to have his enlistment run out 12 days before the competition, and he really is homesick for his farm, so the rest of the movie has to do with Oakie and Haley getting him to change his mind and reenlist.

At 108 minutes long, this movie is just TOO long. At a time when films often ran 80 minutes, that would have been a more appropriate running time. There are too many lame jokes, that are lame precisely because situations run on too long, and the subplots would have been funnier if they had been more to the point.

What's good about this movie? I really loved the big band big musical numbers with Ann Sheridan singing. The title song is particularly catchy. You also get a glimpse of Jackie Gleason when he is starting out, Jack Carson just as he arrives at Warner Brothers where he really perfects his somewhat unlikeable "gray guy" persona, and Martha Raye is used to good effect as the ex-wife of one of the goofball sailors who demands she gets her alimony.

As for me mentioning this film is a moment captured in time - consider this. The film was made three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. As the sailors keep mentioning, they joined the navy "to see the world", which is what you did in peacetime which was about to end. Honolulu was the playground of that peacetime navy, just as depicted in the film (actually filmed in San Diego). Thus something I just couldn't get out of my mind as I watched this somewhat silly yet utterly enjoyable 1941 film about the Navy in Hawaii was that it gives no hint of the horror to come - how could it?, and probably thus had a very narrow window in time in which it was the least bit relevant before it would have to be put in mothballs for probably at least ten years or else it would appear almost flippant to those going through WWII and then afterwards, to those who had been through it and survived.
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Fine, as long as it's singing and dancing
marcslope30 October 2009
A Warners musical that feels more like Paramount, with the Paramount contractee Martha Raye in a lead and a lightheartedness that one doesn't associate with Warners. And Jack Haley and Jack Oakie, as lovable-bumbling Navy men, try to get a Hope and Crosby rhythm going (their relationship is also very Dennis Morgan-Jack Carson, who did this sort of thing at Warners a few years later; Carson, meanwhile, is here as their exasperated commanding officer, taking lots of pratfalls and water-in-the-face takes). Ann Sheridan is around to be glamorous and sing, pleasantly, and Herbert Anderson is given something of a (failed) star buildup as her love interest. But the real stars are songwriters Arthur Schwartz and Johnny Mercer, who open the film with a ten-minute title song with yards of plot-exposition lyrics and follow it up with unusually funny, incisive, tuneful songcrafting. The plotting isn't up to much, and it's overlong, but the musical numbers are all keepers.
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Lightweight musical, but ban the Hog Calling
dougandwin23 July 2004
This is a lightweight musical produced by Warners who were lost finding something for Ann Sheridan to do, I am sure that she would not have classed it as one of her better films. Whoever came up with the hog-calling sequences, and that Anderson guy to do them definitely needed to get another job!! It was great to see two such beauties as Kay Aldridge and Marguerite Chapman supporting Ann Sheridan in the "Waikiki" number, which was clearly the highlight of the whole movie. Martha Raye and Jackie Gleason were good and certainly added to the fun, but Jack Oakie's double-take humour definitely wears thin over 90 minutes. Warners trotted out a lot of their stock players for this one, and they were all adequate in what was really a B- Film.
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Very good musical comedy. The two Jacks, Rita and Jackie make the movie.
N8tux29 March 2003
I was working in The Imperial Theatre in Charlotte,NC in 1941 when this movie was shown. It, along with The Fleets In, is the reason I joined the Navy and served 33 years. Jackie Gleason, even though he had few lines, did a good job and exibited what would become his trade mark in the future.
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Fun little musical
frankfob21 February 2002
This is a surprisingly breezy, and brassy, little musical about U.S. Navy sailors in Hawaii. The plot, as is often the case, isn't anything unusual, but the songs are catchy, Ann Sheridan looks great in a hula skirt (and sings and dances surprisingly well), Jack Haley and Jack Oakie make a hilarious team--they should have made more pictures together--and everybody looks like they're having a great time. Also keep your eye on a very young Jackie Gleason. Even though he doesn't have very much of a part, he still stands out and you can see that he was going to be going places. It's not one of the great musicals of all time, but is definitely worth a look.
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Gal's & Gob's in bouncy musical comedy
banse22 December 2001
After the Navy docks in Honolulu the fun begins when some sailors get into hot water due to a contest and the gals are not far behind. There's wisecracks galore with Ann Sheridan, Jack Oakie, Martha Raye and Jack Haley. A highlight and a sight to behold is Miss Sheridan in a grass skirt doing the hula in the big production number of "Waikiki". Rounding out the cast are Herbert Anderson, Jack Carson and a very young Jackie Gleason. A Warner Brothers film it is shown occasionally on Turner Classic Movies.
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Fun, upbeat Navy flick from JUST before pearl harbor
ksf-218 November 2014
With a ukulele playing in the background, and all those HUGE Hollywood names, how could you NOT have a great time? Haley (The Tin Man!), Ann Sheridan & Jack Carson from SO many great films. Martha Raye, Jackie Gleason. Herb Anderson is in here as the dumb hick; Anderson will be Henry Mitchell, Dennis the Menace's dad in the TV series. Jack Oakie was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in The Dictator. In our story, Cake (Oakie) and Powerhouse (Haley) set up a gambling scam in a get rich quick scheme aboard a navy ship. This film was released in September 1941, so J-U-S-T a couple months before the big surprise at Pearl Harbor. It definitely still has the upbeat, happy go lucky feeling of fun and adventure in the Navy. Their entire gig depends on Homer (Anderson), but of course it all comes apart at the seams. Sound and picture are excellent. The story moves right along. Jack Carson doesn't have much of a role here, but it all works! I had never seen this one before... hopefully Turner will show it often -- it's fun. There's a slightly dirty song about all the things that happen "In Waikiki"... and of course a drag number with Oakie and Haley. I'm surprised at the lower rating, as of today, only 6.5 stars. Directed by Lloyd Bacon, who had started in the silents. Bacon worked with Lucy on a couple films, and made a truckload of war timers during WW II.
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Navy Blues is interesting as the film debut of one Jackie Gleason though don't expect his full-fledged personality here
tavm18 July 2015
This is one of three movies I'm reviewing consecutively featuring a comic who'd make a more lasting impact on television a decade later. Jackie Gleason (here credited with a C as a middle initial) was seen by Jack Warner in a nightclub and got a contract with the Warner Bros. studio as a result. This was his film debut. He plays a sailor named Tubby who-among others in uniform-are after Jack Oakie and Jack Haley after they seem to take their money though those two hope to win big in a contest concerning a new transfer of Herbert Anderson on board. I'll stop there and also mention that a couple of women-Martha Raye and Ann Sheridan-also star. They sing some enjoyable musical numbers as do Oakie and Haley. I thought the visual humor was funnier than much of the verbal wisecracks and perhaps some trimming could have been done to the story. As for Gleason, well, don't expect his wisecracking personality to be in full force here though it's amusing seeing him getting doused in the face with water or occasionally getting a wisecrack through. So in summary, Navy Blues is worth a look for seeing early Gleason in action.
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High energy comedy with generally unlikable characters.
MartinHafer18 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Jack Oakie and Jack Haley star as a couple of chiselers who are enlisted men in the Navy. They are broke and spend almost all the film trying to scheme and cheat their way to a bankroll. Unfortunately for them, they get a great tip that they think will help them earn a fortune betting on a gunnery competition. I say unfortunately because these guys never seem to get it right and their ringer turns out to be a guy who is to be discharged a couple days before the competition! Oops. To make matters worse, they steal the company's trophies and hock them to get the money to bet--and now their fellow sailors are ready to kill them. Considering that they two really seem like jerks, I pretty much agreed with them! And that is one of the problems with the film--the two (particularly Oakie) are really unlikable. Without some endearing qualities, the film was a bit of a chore to enjoy.

In addition to all of Oakie and Haley's annoying antics, there are a lot of pleasant but forgettable musical numbers--usually led by Ann Sheridan and/or Martha Raye. You know the comedy isn't great when the music is probably the best aspect of the film! I agree with another reviewer who said that although this film had a bigger budget, it really looked and played like a B-movie.

By the way, you'd think that a guy named 'Tubby' (Jackie Gleason) and Oakie would NOT be in the US Navy or any other, as they are clearly way too fat to be allowed to serve---or fit through a lot of hatchways. This is not a huge complaint, but it did make me wonder. It could be worse, as the same year this was made, Oliver Hardy played a guy in the US Army--and Hardy was significantly larger (well in excess of 300 pounds).
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The comedic genius of The Great One at an early stage.
yenlo25 May 1999
Typical movie made during this time period to entertain the general public during WWII. Forget the silly plot, check out this film for a glimpse of Jackie The Great One Gleason in one of his first screen appearances. Although in a very minor role as Tubby the Sailor his performance was an indication of what lay ahead for one of this country's greatest comedians and entertainers. If you're a Jackie Gleason fan you can't miss this one.
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Inside Navy Information
bkoganbing12 October 2016
Before Pearl Harbor which occurred at the end of 1941 all the studios were doing more and more military oriented films as if to get America used to seeing our sons and occasional daughters in uniform. Navy Blues is far from blue, it's your typical service comedy with a cast of scene stealing players.

Any film with Jack Haley, Jack Oakie, Jack Carsonand Martha Raye ought to be given a look on general principles. The Haley and Oakie are a pair of connivers who beg, borrow, and steal a whole lot of money for bets to win the annual gunnery competition because they learn the gunner that's won it is transferring to their ship. But this is Herbert Anderson's last duty because his hitch is up before the contest.

What to do before they're killed by their shipmates is get Anderson some incentive. The only thing he's interested in is Ann Sheridan, who wouldn't be? So it's every wile and stratagem they can use including Sheridan's pal Martha Raye.

I can't forget the third Jack in this hand, that being Carson. He's playing Oakie and Haley's CPO whom they have to outwit on all occasions. All three Jacks settle nicely in roles were used to seeing them in.

Look fast there's a fourth Jack, Jackie Gleason. But he's hardly utilized at all. Arthur Schwartz and Johnny Mercer wrote some forgettable original songs, but the comedy is the real treat.

This had to be the only time Herbert Anderson gets the girl in a movie. This is a typical role for him, tall goofy guy. Later on he did serious parts in Battleground and Night Passage. Best known as Dennis The Menace's TV father.

With all the comic talent here you can't go wrong with Navy Blues.
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