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As a huge Jack Webb fan and a huge Arch Hall (Sr. & Jr.) fan, I had long
awaited the opportunity to see Jack Webb's portrayal of the life of Arch
Hall Sr. I was a bit disappointed, though, when I discovered that the
was a comedy about Arch's army career, not about his production of film
greats like `Eegah' and `The Choppers.' This movie doesn't even mention
extensive prewar career making B-Westerns, preferring to imply that he had
That said, however, Robert Mitchum does an excellent job of portraying Arch, as recollected by his wartime buddy Bill Bowers (adeptly portrayed by Jack Webb himself). According to Ray Dennis Steckler, Mitchum spent time studying the real Arch Hall, learning how to make every move speak of laziness and a drive to get somebody else to do the work. Steckler (who worked with Arch on `Eegah' and `Wild Guitar') says Mitchum did him to a `T.'
Bowers clearly romanticized his old friend quite a bit - if the real Arch Hall had been that good at manipulating circumstances to his favor, he would have become a Hollywood powerhouse, not a director of low-budget (if wonderful) schlock films. Nevertheless, watching Mitchum work people as Arch is enormously entertaining. I think this movie would appeal to anybody who has been in the service and dealt with the kind of ludicrous conditions that are familiar there. Mitchum as Arch gets to turn the whole system of controlled chaos to his advantage.
It's too bad Don Knotts didn't get more scenes, I started laughing as soon as he appeared on the screen. Everyone in the cast shows excellent comedic sense, and Jack proves (once again) that he was not just the straight man from Dragnet - he was a visionary and talented artist with considerable range.
By 1960, "Dragnet" had been cancelled, and so had all of Mark VII LTD's
other TV series. Webb's intention was to do theatrical films from now on.
Then he made this film.
"The Last Time I Saw Archie" is a series of comedy vignettes hooked on a true life situation - a stateside camp consisting of "leftovers" from a program designed to train pilots too old for combat duty during WWII. (The program was cancelled because the war was winding down.) Robert Mitchum plays Pvt. Archie Hall, a schemer who manages to convince everyone around him that he's more important than his rank indicates. Webb is Pvt. Bill Bowers (the same man who wrote the screenplay), the buddy who goes along for the ride. During the course of the film, Archie avoids all the mundane duties of military life, finds girlfriends for himself and Bowers, and secures an unrestricted pass and a private jeep.
FACTOID: The film was Webb's most expensive production; it cost about $2 million. It was also his biggest flop, grossing about $1.2 million. Webb would never again make a theatrical feature. Five years later, he'd be back to playing Sgt. Friday.
Light, entertaining piece that oddly seems to fit both Webb and Mitchum.
scriptwriter had an excellent feel for how things worked (and still work,
probably) in the Army if you know how to play the angles. Most of us who
spent a few years on active duty (I spent 21 yrs) pulled a lot of these
stunts, and we all knew people like Archie Hall -- and most of the other
denizens of Camp Buckley.
This ain't CITIZEN KANE, but it's a lot of fun, probably a lot more so if you spent time in uniform.
A pity this very funny film has slipped into some sort of limbo lately,
though it was common TV fare not too many years ago. It shows just how
imaginative a director Jack Webb really was: the picture is full of
delightful little directorial touches (most of them quite amusing). The
casting of many familiar TV faces was a smart move for it gave nice
roles to such stalwarts as Don Knotts, Louis Nye and Joe Flynn, to name
Very highly recommended as a most pleasant comedy.
It is also a pity that some writers, like the previous reviewer, have to slander Webb's reputation by accusing him of homosexuality. It's a common libel applied to people who are conveniently dead and cannot defend themselves. I wont, of course, even dignify the writer's accusation by answering it, but will only say that Mr Webb's life and life's work speaks for itself.
I had to note that the title character is none other than the producer of the Bad Film classics Wild Guitar, Eegah (also director) the Thrill Killers, and the Choppers. He is also the Dad of "star" Arch Hall Jr. Another great Webb film, and the only one he did with Mitchum. Webb should be better known for his film and radio work.
That rarest of cinematic animals: A Jack Webb comedy...
That is, an INTENTIONAL Jack Webb comedy. In at least one interview Mitchum claimed this was his favorite role, because he "got paid $400,000 in advance". Mitchum plays Archie Hall, a charming con man who's always scamming his army superiors during WW2. Hall was real person, an army buddy of screenwriter William Bowers (played by Webb in his stiffly pseudo-relaxed "Joe Friday takes the weekend off" manner). But Mitchum with his "who gives a damn" attitude isn't really suited to playing a con man -- it's a role that would've suited, say, Tony Curtis better.
The supporting cast of character comics -- Robert Strauss and Harvey Lembeck (reunited 8 years after Stalag 17) as knucklehead sergeants, plus Louis Nye, Joe Flynn, and Del Moore as Mitchum's patsies in the platoon -- come off best, even if Nye overacts quite a bit. This may be the best part Moore ever had (and don't give me that Nutty Ptofessor crap -- Moore was wasted as Jerry's stooge). Too bad Moore never got a career-boosting TV gig (the way Flynn did with McHale's Navy), he was a very talented farceur.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an amazingly odd film--one very few people would expect to have
been directed by and co-starring Jack Webb. Yes, it's THE Jack
Webb--you know, Sgt. Joe Friday from DRAGNET. Here, his character is a
lot less stiff and formal. In fact, the soldier he plays is a friend to
one of the laziest and least patriotic soldiers in WWII--the title
character ("Archie") played by Robert Mitchum. The film seems to have
been a comedy about Archie's experiences in the Army Air Corps and his
many slick ways he went about shirking.
The problem with this film is three-fold. First, the whole idea of a person serving in this war who was totally selfish and a user isn't exactly something most people want to see. You just can't connect with or care about Mitchum at all in the film. In fact, you may find yourself wanting to bust his character in the mouth! Second, if you are waiting for Archie to get his comeuppance, then you may as well stop waiting. Like real life, Archie is a bull-crap shoveler and this seems to result in him consistently being rewarded. Again, few people will want to be reminded of this. Third, while I like much of what Jack Webb did, his forte was certainly NOT comedy. In fact, when I think of Webb I just can't imagine his making a comedy--and evidently, after seeing this film, neither could the American public.
Overall, the movie isn't terribly funny but at least it's different enough that it might hold your attention until the end. But it's only a time-passer--something you wouldn't expect with the cast assembled for this film.
This movie combines features of the WWII Aviation Cadet program (Preflight), Civilian Pilot Training Program, and O.C.S. It is not like any of them as An Officer and a Gentleman is not like any USN program. However, I would think that the writer had been in one of the programs to get it so right as to how the guys interact with each other and with the military. I am the product of such a program (Aviation Cadets) and saw much to identify with. From the writer's list of credits, covering ever year of WWII it doesn't seen that he could have been in the military. Still, he got it right. The first time I saw the movie I thought the spy subplot was a stupid filler but I enjoyed it much more in later viewings.
No one will ever rate The Last Time I Saw Archie as one of Robert
Mitchum's greatest films. But it does and Mitchum does have a certain
droll quality that makes it passably amusing, at least to me.
This is believe it or not a true story based on the memoir of screenwriter William Bowers played here by Jack Webb who produced and directed the film, on another film person, one Arch Hall, Sr. In real life Hall spent several years trying to make his son Arch Hall, Jr. a film star. He in my opinion topped Ed Wood in the making of bad films that starred his son. If what I saw in the film was any indication of what he was in real life, the senior Hall had to be one of the greatest conmen that ever lived to have wheedled out money from people to produce what he did. Such classics as Eegah and The Choppers are on his list of film credits.
Mitchum plays Hall and from the day he and Webb join the Army Air Corps, Mitchum displays a genius for conning everybody around. People do need at least one confidante in life and Webb kind of falls into the role. Around the same time there was a British film called On The Fiddle which starred a pre-James Bond Sean Connery and there is a lot of similarity.
Any film that has such funny people as Don Knotts, Joe Flynn, Harvey Lembeck,Robert Strauss and Louis Nye is definitely worth a look. None of these guys do their best work in The Last Time I Saw Archie, but still they help moves this film along, especially Lembeck and Strauss as a couple of dimwitted sergeants who are the chief victims of Mitchum's roguish ways. France Nuyen and Martha Hyer nicely decorate the film in the two female roles of size.
Production values were lacking, according to Lee Server's definitive book on Robert Mitchum it only had a four week shooting schedule and it looked like it was mostly shot on a television sound stage. Still it does give us a few chuckles.
But now after seeing this again for the first time in about 35 years and after seeing some of Arch Hall's work on screen I think there definitely is an Oscar winning film here. Johnny Depp, I hope you read this review.
Funny stories about con men in the military are nothing new, and this
one seems especially implausible (even though it allegedly has some
basis in truth). But that doesn't matter. Archie Hall is an
unforgettable character, and the great Robert Mitchum brings him
splendidly to life. For all the pros in the supporting cast, I'm not
sure this quirky tale would even have worked without Mitchum.
Archie is a lowly GI serving on an obscure Stateside post during World War II. He and his pals feel the Army cheated them out of the plum assignments they deserved, but Archie doesn't waste his time complaining. Instead, with a mix of genius and audacity, he creates a splendid life for himself right where he is. Soon he's virtually running the camp.
The fast-talking Archie charms every beautiful woman in sight, including an enigmatic Japanese-American (played by France Nuyen) who may be involved in an espionage plot. His superiors are in awe of him and fall all over themselves to give him special privileges. And though his comrades in arms see through his games, and sometimes gripe about him, he's so successful that they can't resist jumping on his gravy train.
Jack Webb, who also produced and directed this film, plays the most strait-laced character in it, though not the self-righteous, uptight Webb usually seen on the screen. He plays Archie's buddy, Bill Bowers, who genuinely likes the con man but fears he's getting into something he can't talk his way out of. Thanks to Archie, Bowers finds his own love interest (played by Martha Hyer).
This movie has some laugh-out-loud moments but occasionally hits a serious note. It's neither as flag-waving as the military comedies of the 1940s nor as dark and anti-war as those of the '70s. It manages to be entertaining, moving and believable at the same time. For the believability, I give Mitchum the credit.
As many movie fans are aware, Bill Bowers and Arch Hall Sr. were real-life Army buddies who also happened to be in the film industry. When the movie came out, Hall disputed Bowers' recollections of their life in uniform. So how accurate this story is may never be known. And it's possible the main character was embellished, too. But even if the "Archie" we see here is mostly fictional, he's a great guy to spend a little time with.
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