Sentemental military comedy revolves around two contemporary army buddies, Master Sergeant Maxwell Slaughter (Jackie Gleason), a smooth operator, who supply Sergeant Eustis Clay (Steve McQueen) idolizes and hopes will join him as a civilian in a private business enterprise. Clay endeavors to be a player in the military, just like Slaughter, but it seems as though Clay still has a lot to learn from his mentor. They are joined by Tuesday Weld as a shrill dizzy blonde teenager named Bobby Jo Pepperdine and Tony Bill as bumbling Private First Class Jerry Meltzer, McQueen's screwball sidekick. Written by
Jackie Gleason released a version of the title music as a single on Capitol in early 1964, with another Henry Mancini composition, Bird Brain, as the b-side. This puts Soldier in the Rain (1963) in the same category as Thunder Road (1958) and Because They're Young (1960): movies which had a version of the theme song performed by a member of the cast and released as a single, while that version wasn't the one used in the movie. See more »
At the fair when Bobby Joe throws the stuffed tiger at Sgt. Slaughter it is moving downwards with sound effects of hitting the ground. In the next split second shot Sgt. Slaughter has it tucked neatly under his left arm. See more »
Pfc. Jerry Meltzer:
[Arriving at the overturned car in which Miss Pepperdine and Sgt. Lenahan have crashed]
It's just like they say: "Drinking and gasoline don't mix."
Bobby Jo Pepperdine:
[Giggling, slightly drunk]
Well, we ain't been drinkin' *gasoline*!
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It is clear that Blake Edwards chose to forego the plot points that are in the book, for more of a character study, and frankly, it works. This is not to say that if the script had included all of the plot points, that it would have been a bad film, but the script went in the direction of focusing in on the characters, not the plot.
Eustes/McQueen's character idolizes Slaughter/ Gleason's character. Any suggestion that Slaughter was ever patronizing or condescending towards Eustes is inaccurate. Eustes worships the ground Slaughter walks on, and Slaughter returns the love, knowing that his friend is more of a simple mind, but he doesn't disrespect him at all.
Jackie Gleason gives us the full "Great One" in this film, albeit in an understated mode. There's no "Bang Zoom" or "Hardee har har", but there is plenty (who am I kidding, there can never be enough) of what made The Great One so great, his vulnerability and his uncanny ability to put us inside his head, making us dream what he dreamed, letting us hurt the way he hurt, and allowing us to be a part of the oh so larger life that The Great One lived, if only for an hour or two.
This is a wonderful film. Capping on Steve McQueen for "overacting" is not fair. His character was written as over-the-top, and that's the way he played it. His wacky expressions and blatant actions in the film were beautifully offset by Gleason's calm and wordly demeanor. It's the Yin/Yang, salt/pepper, sweet/sour, and it goes together perfectly.
I'm so glad my friend sent me this movie. Otherwise, I might've never known about it. Two closing thoughts... If you want to see another perfect fat man role, played with simliar vulnerabilities, look no further than John Candy's role in "Planes, Trains, & Automobiles". John Candy took his Great One lessons. Know that. Finally, if you like this movie, you obviously enjoy buddy movies. If you're ever lucky enough to get a hold of a copy of "Looking To Get Out" 1982 starring Jon Voight, Burt Young, & Ann Margaret, don't miss it. It is the buddy movie to end all buddy movies.
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