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This was originally planned for production after Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942). The huge success of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello's previous service comedies, Buck Privates (1941) and In the Navy (1941), caused Universal to produce this first. The War Department also announced a recruitment campaign called "Keep 'Em Flying Week" which Universal could use as a patriotic tie-in. See more »
When Benson and Heathcliff's plane lands, it is without landing gear in an area where no planes are near. When Heathcliff gets out of the plane, it is upright, indicating that landing gear is present, and other planes surround theirs. See more »
KEEP 'EM FLYING (Universal, 1941), directed by Arthur Lubin, marks the fifth screen collaboration of the popular comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello who, in this venture, take to the air and have quite a time staying on the ground. Previously appearing in the Army in BUCK PRIVATES (1941) and IN THE NAVY (1941), each featuring the Andrews Sisters, what logical choice to find them back in peacetime military comedy, this time with the Army Air Corps, with Martha Raye and Carol Bruce stepping in for the Andrews Sisters.
The story begins in a carnival where Jinx Roberts (Dick Foran) works as a daredevil stunt pilot. After getting fired by his boss, McGonigle (William B. Davidson), Jinx, along with his two assistants, Blackie (Bud Abbott) and Heathcliff (Lou Costello) enlist at the army air corps at Cal-Aero Academy. While there, Jinx immediately meets and falls in love with Linda Joyce (Carol Bruce), a USO hostess and singer, who has a jealous boyfriend (William Gargan) and brother (Charles Lang), who disapproves of him dating his sister, while Jinx and Heathcliff encounter confusion after meeting up with Gloria Phelps, who happens to have a twin sister, Barbara (both played by Martha Raye). In between these love matches comes a handful of Abbott and Costello routines and stunts that keep this film going at a fast pace for 86 minutes. There is also time out for music, featuring some popular 40s tunes of the day by Don Raye and Gene DePaul including: "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" (written by Ned Washington and George Bassman/ sung by Carol Bruce); "Pig Foot Pete" (Sung by Martha Raye); "Keep 'Em Flying" (sung by Dick Foran); "The Boy With the Wistful Eyes" and "Keep 'Em Flying" (reprise).
Aside from the romantic subplots, the movie relatively belongs to Abbott and Costello who supply the story with their comedy highlights: The "Go ahead, order something" routine where Blackie and Heathcliff only have a quarter to their name and go to a diner where Blackie orders only a turkey sandwich and a cup of coffee, with the intention of splitting the order with his partner, but whenever the waitress (Raye) asks for Heathcliff's order and says he doesn't want anything, it is Blackie who coaxes him to order something, only to give him a slap in the face and tell him that no matter how much he coaxes him, he should refuse. This routine is further developed when the daffy waitress (Raye) gives Heathcliff a piece of cake on the house, and when she goes to the kitchen, the other, her serious-minded twin sister (Raye) returns to find Heathcliffe with the cake and insisting that he'd pay for it. Other highlights include Heathcliff in the tunnel of love with one of the twin sisters; Blackie and Heathcliff riding on a runaway torpedo all over the base, followed by a couple of scenes involving the comedic dual taking to the air via plane and creating unintentional stunts of their own before parachuting to safety. In spite of obvious rear projection backgrounds, these faults should be overlooked and simply enjoyed as originally intended.
Featured in the supporting cast are: Truman Bradley as Butch, and Freddie Slack and his Six Hits. Martha Raye, who adds twice as much fun playing twin sisters, each partnered with Bud and Lou, works well with the team. It seems a pity that she didn't get to work with Abbott and Costello again for that they make a wonderful trio. While a formula movie the plays strictly for laughs, it is Costello who gets his rare opportunity on screen to show himself on the serious side in one scene early in the story when he pleads with a major to give him a job so that he could serve his country. This sequence could have been a low point, but funny man Costello manages to make this brief moment followed by a patriotic speech believable and moving. He certainly was an original.
While KEEP 'EM FLYING might be considered extremely dated by today's standards, it still ranks one of the funnier comedies of the 1940s. KEEP 'EM FLYING is available on video cassette through MCA Home Video. Once presented on the cable television's The Comedy Channel in the early 1990s, it resurfaced on New Year's Eve, December 31, 2000, on American Movie Classics where it played occasionally for almost two years. (***)
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