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Leo McCarey's next to last film and last in the comedy genre is Rally Round The Flag Boys. After his previous film My Son John got such bad reviews McCarey was hoping for a comeback of sorts. It was not to be for him.
The man who gave us such comedy gems as Ruggles Of Red Gap, Duck Soup, and The Awful Truth had seen his best days. Why a lot of the gems from Max Shulman's book on which this film is based were left out of the screenplay we'd have to have a séance to ask McCarey.
It's not a bad film, in fact it's pretty funny in spots, but it lacks the consistency of McCarey's previous cited work. And McCarey who was a serious practicing Catholic I don't think was the man to direct a sexpot like Joan Collins in the sexpot character she played here.
The stars are the newly married Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward who wind up on the opposite sides of a local issue in their suburban town of Putnam's Landing. To wit the establishment of a local military base in their town. The army has a public relations problem and that's Newman's field. They even go so far as to have General Gale Gordon call in a favor or two and have Newman's Naval Reserve status activated and special orders cut attaching him to the army. They need his public relations skills badly because half baked blundering oaf Jack Carson is the commander of said base.
The subplot also involves Newman feeling neglected as Woodward wraps herself up in various civic causes, the prevention of the army base being the latest. He's feeling a real itch and neighbor Joan Collins who is also neglected by eternally busy husband Murvyn Vye is quite ready to scratch it.
The physical comedy comes off the best, the highlight of the film in my opinion is the historical pageant that Joanne attempts to put on which ends in disaster. Joanne at this stage of her career is far better at comedy than her husband. Paul would have to wait until Slapshot before he had a real hit in comedy although I've always felt The Secret War Of Harry Frigg is underrated.
Before they became Dobie Gillis and Thalia Menninger on television Dwayne Hickman and Tuesday Weld played opposite each other in this film. Someone must have noticed the chemistry there.
Rally Round The Flag Boys has some good moments, but it is far cry from the pinnacle of Leo McCarey's career in the Thirties.
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