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Russ Raymond, America's number one crooner, disappears and joins the Navy under the name Tommy Halstead. Dorothy Roberts, a magazine journalist, is intent on finding out what happened to Russ and she tries everything she can to get a picture of him to prove he's Russ Raymond. Tommy's friends, Pomeroy Watson and Smokey Adams,help him while Pomeroy writes love letters to Patty Andrews. But because Smokey makes Pomeroy lie about himself in the letters, and when Patty comes to the Navy base, she's furious at Pomeroy. When Pomeroy, Smokey, Tommy and the Andrews sisters set sail for Hawaii, Pomeroy discovers there's a tomato in the potato locker, and she's been snapping shots of Tommy the whole trip. Whether Pomeroy's proving that 7 x 13 = 28 - three different ways, having Smokey help him play ship captain for Patty, or falling out of his hammock, it's an Abbott and Costello classic. Written by
Lindsay Smith <email@example.com>
IN THE NAVY (Universal, 1941), directed by Arthur Lubin, starring the popular comedy team of Abbott and Costello, is a worthy follow-up to their initial success as BUCK PRIVATES (1941), so worthy that its opening credits starts off with a tease as Bud and Lou in sailor suits are seen hoisting the flag on top of the pole reading "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in BUCK PRIVATES." As the flag waves through the air, Bud looks up and slaps his little partner across the face. Realizing this error, they rope down the flag and replace it with, "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello and Dick Powell IN THE NAVY." An amusing start to Bud and Lou's second peacetime military farce with the "in" joke comprehended by those who have seen BUCK PRIVATES, as well as those familiar with their antics. And now, all hands on deck.
The plot centers upon Russ Raymond (Dick Powell), a popular radio crooner idolized by twenty million sweethearts of swooning dames.(Frank Sinatra would get the same kind of luck a few years later). After the completion of his latest broadcast during the Fliffso Soap Hour, he disappears without a trace until it is discovered that he enlisted in the San Diego Navy Base under his real name of Tommy Halstead. Dorothy Roberts (Claire Dodd), a gal reporter/ photographer for Facts Magazine, also a fan, accepts her new assignment in tracking him down and getting herself the scoop of the year, even to a point as following the fleet, sneaking on board the Alabama ship bound for Honolulu hiding in a crate and sporting sailor attire, thanks to the help of Tommy's shipmates forever "Smokey" Adams (Abbott), an electrician, and Pomeroy Watson (Costello), a baker, both unaware of the ex-crooner's celebrity profile. Problems arise when Dorothy is discovered, putting Tommy in a position as to either "give up the ship" or to "take orders from her."
On the musical program, songs by Don Ray and Gene DePaul feature: "Star Light, Star Bright" (sung by Dick Powell); "You're Off to Sea to See the World," "Give Me Some Skin, My Friend" (sung by The Andrews Sisters); "A Sailor's Life for Me" Tap dance number (performed by The Condos Brothers); "We're in the Navy," "Hula-Ba-Luau," (Andrews Sisters); "Star Light, Star Bright" (reprise by Powell, Andrews Sisters); and "We're in the Navy" (finale, cast).
IN THE NAVY demonstrates itself as another good outing for Bud and Lou. It brings back the Andrews Sisters and Shemp Howard who have made such an impact with them in BUCK PRIVATES. This time, the Andrews Sisters participate in the story instead of just appearing as singing specialties. They continue to play themselves, having Patty acting as Lou's girlfriend, whom he tries to impress by first paying a tough floor manager to a take a punch from him. Lou misses, and manager gives him back his "change" and secondly by Lou's impersonation as sea captain in Horatio Hornblower attire, with Smokey's assistance. Dick Powell, a popular leading actor of Warner Brothers musicals from the 1930s, is no stranger to military life on screen. He earlier starred as a Navy man in SHIPMATES FOREVER (1935) opposite Ruby Keeler, with Dick Foran, featured here as Chief Petty Officer "Dynamite" Dugan, also in the cast. Both make fine straight men to the Abbott and Costello antics consisting of now classic gags as Abbott's lemon bit, Bud and Lou's money exchange, Costello's struggling attempt to get himself on a hammock, his method of mathematics in proving that 7x13=28, among others too numerous to mention. Although the conclusion is a bit weak (one sequence changed to meet with the approval of the U.S. Navy Department prior to release), it does end with a bang, thanks to boy actors Buddy and Butch (Billy Lenhart and Kenneth Brown) as the captain's mischievous nephews. With these kids around, "Abandon ship!"
For its time frame of 86 minutes, this hardly qualifies IN THE NAVY as "B" movie material, regardless of its label from various sources ranking all Abbott & Costello comedies as profitable programmers. Reportedly a much bigger success than BUCK PRIVATES, IN THE NAVY, is still fun to watch, regardless of some overlong sequences earlier in the story, particularly those involving Dodd's stalking Powell while in seclusion in his hotel room, ending with him spanking her across his knee while her camera is set taking multiple snap shots. Much of these opening scenes along with some Abbott and Costello material and song numbers have been severely trimmed for commercial television during the 1960s-80s whenever aired on its usual 90 minute time slot, notably on New York City's own WPIX, Channel 11, the station that played practically every Abbott and Costello movie each Sunday (sometimes Saturday) mornings/ afternoons (1971/72 to 1990), becoming a weekly tradition for nearly 20 years.
IN THE NAVY, formerly distributed on video cassette and currently on DVD, has played on cable channels as the Comedy Channel (late 1980s), American Movie Classics (2001) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: September 18, 2015). In closing, IN THE NAVY may appear to be knots behind BUCK PRIVATES, but thanks to Abbott and Costello and Dick Powell in the Navy, they sure keep this one afloat. (*** Bells)
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