8 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Ten seconds of the Volantes
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre from Minffordd, North Wales
8 February 2003
"A Private's Affair" is a 'musical' in only the most charitable sense
of the term. If one song performed over and over throughout a
feature-length movie is enough to make that movie a 'musical', then "A
Private's Affair" qualifies. During the opening credits, we hear a song
called "It's the Same Old Army". It's a pleasant song, with a brisk
tune and a decent lyric. You'll be hearing it again, later. And later.
And later still.
Luigi (Sal Mineo) is an Army private with a chip on his shoulder and
some personal problems. He's also a talented jazz drummer (Mineo does
his own drumming in this movie), but the Army offers few outlets for
this ability. His best buddy is Mike Conroy (Gary Crosby, playing his
role in the easy-going manner that made his father Bing a star).
One morning, Luigi and Mike and two other grunts are assigned to unload
heavy sacks of potatoes. While doing this, they improvise a song called
"It's the Same Old Army", and they heave the sacks back and forth while
singing this song. It's a pleasant song, but we've already heard them
sing it during the opening credits, so the song is already a reprise
the first time they perform it. Still, the number is well-staged, with
the PFCs lugging heavy sacks up and down in time to the music while
they sing. The lyric is interesting: it describes army life
irreverently without actually being disrespectful. Of course, it's
implausible that four guys are all able to improvise the same song,
with tune and lyric falling perfectly into place, but...
Word gets out to the base commander, who decides that the four
squaddies should warble their ditty on a nationwide TV show. (Ah, the
Army!) Quick as you can say 'ten-hut!', our lads are packed off to New
York City to perform on a live broadcast. But, um, well, y'see, Private
Luigi has a lot of personal problems, and he's going to throw away his
big break (and the big break for his three buddies) because he needs to
go somewhere and sulk, and darkly brood. Or maybe he won't throw away
his big break after all. Which will it be?
Who cares? The song 'It's the Same Old Army' is performed over and
over, with less variation and less imagination each time it's reprised.
Several good performers in the cast list (Barbara Eden, Jim Backus,
Jessie Royce Landis) have nothing to do.
"A Private's Affair" is one of those annoying and unconvincing
military-themed movies in which a commanding officer, in charge of
thousands of men, spends all his time trying to resolve the personal
problems of one disaffected inductee. Other examples of this dismal
sub-genre are "Thousands Cheer" and "Buck Privates" (the dull subplot
with Lee Bowman, not the brilliant comedy sequences with Abbott &
I sought out "A Private's Affair" only because the great director Raoul
Walsh made it, and I want to see as many Walsh films as I can. I was
disappointed. Walsh appears to have phoned in his efforts here,
bringing nothing to the pacing and characterisation of this film. Mineo
and Gary Crosby were heart-throbs for teenage girls at this time: I
suspect that the executives at 20th Century-Fox decided that this movie
would be a big hit purely on the strength of Mineo's and Crosby's
presence, without requiring a decent script or a good score. (They were
I did enjoy one brief scene near the climax of the film, when we see
the novelty act which goes on the TV show just before Crosby's quartet.
This act consists of two guys who ride unicycles and chuck Indian clubs
at each other while wearing silly hats and blowing bubble pipes.
**WHILE** they're juggling the Indian clubs and riding the unicycles,
each one grabs the other guy's hat and bubble pipe and transfers them
to his own head and mouth ... and they keep doing all of these things
simultaneously. It's an astonishing act, and unfortunately it only
appears on screen for about ten seconds. This novelty act is consists
of two guys named Scott Beldin and Don Thompson, who performed together
for a while as the Volantes, but who also made at least one appearance
on the Ed Sullivan Show while billed as the Martin Brothers. I wish
that "A Private's Affair" had featured much more footage of the
Volantes, and much less footage of the bathetic plot involving Sal
Mineo. I'll rate "A Private's Affair" 2 points out of 10.
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