Bud and Lou’s smash service comedy, Buck Privates (1941), will be screened in Los Angeles on Sunday, April 14 at 7:30 pm at the Legion Theater during the 10th annual Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival.
The film, which also features the Andrews Sisters singing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B,” was the first service comedy based on the peacetime draft of 1940 and Universal’s biggest hit of the era. It turned Bud and Lou into movie stars overnight and led to a series of service comedies by the boys (In the Navy and Keep ‘Em Flying) and many other comedians. A sequel, Buck Privates Come Home, was made in 1947.
Abbott and Costello’s army “Drill” routine, which, along with “Who’s On First?” had been in their stage act from as early as 1937, was the film’s inspiration and centerpiece. The team also performed other classic routines, including “Dice,” “Go On and Play the Radio,” “You’re 40, She’s 10,” and the “Boxing” sketch.
The film was universally praised by critics. The New York Times called it “an hour and a half of uproarious monkeyshines. Army humor isn’t apt to be subtle and neither are Abbott and Costello. Their antics have as much innuendo as a 1,000-pound bomb but nearly as much explosive force.”
Variety wrote, “Picture has a good chance to skyrocket the former burlesk and radio team…into topflight starring ranks….Picture is studded with several Abbott and Costello routines that are particularly effective for sustained laughs. Tops is a sequence in which Costello is a member of the awkward squad for special rifle drill. Running about five minutes, episode builds quickly for continuous hilarity—with dialog drowned in the audience uproar.”
Other columnists reported that Buck Privates perfectly captured the mood of the country on the eve of World War II. Maxine Andrews reflected in 1993, “We were all on the same team. I don’t think we’ve had that feeling since.”
A detailed production history with behind the scenes photographs and the original shooting script was published in 2013.