For Reel

In the Navy (1941)
February 23, 2016, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Arthur Lubin
3.5 Stars
In the NavyAfter the enormous success of Buck Privates, fans of Abbott and Costello only had to wait about half a year for another service comedy starring the rapidly ascending team. It begins with a satisfying piece of self-mockery that lays the cards on the table–in a meta opening gag, Costello raises a flag reading Buck Privates before Abbott has to correct him. The joke is not merely that Costello made a goof, but that audiences were essentially about to see the same picture. If the material didn’t make that evident enough, look no further than the repeat appearance of The Andrews Sisters, who similarly sing a handful of songs as a means of transitioning between comedy routines. Although the previous film is better remembered than the followup, In the Navy is the better film in just about every way. For starters is that The Andrews Sisters actually interact with characters in the plot–even if the connection feels shoehorned in, no effort of the kind was made in Buck Privates. The biggest improvement is the subplot involving Dick Powell as a man trying to run from his celebrity. Powell was no stranger to nautical films, but by the early 1940s had found himself frustrated by his sickly sweet persona (which would ultimately lead to a career resurgence with noirs like Murder, My Sweet). His part here, then, is nicely self-referential, and there’s an honesty to be found in the way he plays the character’s tension. Claire Dodd, as an ace reporter and his love interest, also gives a more accomplished performance than the forgettable Jane Frazee in Buck Privates. Abbott and Costello films largely succeed or fail depending on everything around the two men, and the best thing about In the Navy is that their routines don’t feel like all the picture has to offer.

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