I love old movies! Black and White or Color, doesn’t matter to me. And there are some old but excellent comedies set during WWII that I love. The Second World War is usually a very serious time yet some crazy things happened. I am certain that the men and women of the time couldn’t have survived without a little comedy. Even after the war, some situations were just too funny to ignore so film makers went to work.
I had a hard time narrowing the list to five, so….here are my top five, with a couple of ties.
#5 – Buck Privates with Abbott and Costello. Actually made in 1941 before the war started, it’s about two men who accidently enlist in the Army. They think they are signing up for prizes. If you’ve ever seen Abbott and Costello you know that their slap-stick comedy is hilarious, even now. They bumble their way through basic training including a great routine with the drill instructor. The cast includes the Andrews Sisters who sing several numbers including “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” If you haven’t seen this one, it is an absolute must.
#4 (Tie) – The More The Merrier with Joel McCrea, Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn. Based on the shortage of hotel rooms and apartments in Washington, D.C., in 1943, Jean Arthur wants to rent out half of her apartment. Coburn, an older man, rents the room, then turns around and rents half of his room to a soldier waiting to ship out. Without telling Jean, of course. This is when the fun begins. At that time it was definitely improper for a young woman and a young man to share an apartment if they weren’t married so she tries to kick the soldier out. One thing leads to another hilarious situation. Definitely a Rom Com for those fans with a set up that could only have happened during the war.
#4 Tie) – To Be Or Not To Be with Jack Benny and Carol Lombard. 1942 dark comedy with Jack Benny impersonating Hitler. Can you imagine? Maybe you have to be a Jack Benny fan but his deadpan looks paired with Carol Lombard’s perfect comedic timing make this a truly funny movie. Not for everybody but I love it.
#3 – Operation Petticoat with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. As you can see from this list, I love Cary Grant comedies. Operation Petticoat (1959) is the story of a badly damaged WWII submarine that, after scrounging parts for repairs, rescues a group of nurses from a Pacific Island. Unable to get rid of the nurses and badly needing to put a primer coat of paint on the barely seaworthy vessel, they mix red and white primer and paint the submarine pink. Their intention was to cover it with gray but a Japanese air raid sends them to sea, still pink. Grant and Curtis play off each other perfectly. And the nurses add more comedy. You’ll love this colorful film as much as I do.
#2 (tie) – I was a Male War Bride with Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan. The title of this 1949 comedy explains it all. A French Army Captain marries an American female soldier (WAC) while both were stationed in Germany right after the war. Trying to comply with Army regulations for transporting War Brides to the U.S. proves almost impossible but love and comedy find a way. I love this movie. Even if you don’t like black and white you need to watch this one.
#2 (Tie) – Father Goose with Cary Grant and Leslie Caron. Still another Cary Grant comedy (1964). This time he is a coast watcher on a deserted Pacific island. A hermit with a radio until he rescues a French woman and seven young school girls. Stranded on the island together until the Navy can arrange to pick them up the situation turns hilarious. The fastidious French woman and the slovenly hermit have enough friction, then throw in curious and/or frightened young girls and the laughs multiply. Another for you who like color in your Rom Com’s.
#1 – Mister Roberts with Henry Fonda and Jack Lemmon with William Powell and James Cagney. My favorite of all. Made in 1955, this ensemble of characters are on a supply ship somewhere in the Pacific far from the actual fighting. Mister Roberts (Fonda) keeps requesting a transfer so he can get into the war, but the grouchy Captain (Cagney) refuses. The Captain takes out his frustration on Mister Roberts who tries his best to protect the bored and lonesome crew from their superior officer’s rants and quirks about his palm tree. Lemmon, who plays the Laundry and Morale Officer, avoids the captain at all costs while Powell the “Doc” provides solace to Roberts. After many antics Roberts gets his transfer from a grateful crew who forged the Captain’s signature. This movie has fun and drama. Bored men stuck on a ship in the pacific create their own brand of comedy.
Okay, so I cheated a little. I could have included these: Don’t Go Near the Water with Glenn Ford; No Time for Sergeants with Andy Griffith; Catch 22 with Alan Arkin; or Kelly’s Heroes with Clint Eastwood. Watch some old movies and have some fun.
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Film posters are used under the “fair use” doctrine to review the films and encourage the public to view the films.