For Reel

Keep ‘Em Flying (1941)
February 23, 2016, 3:21 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Arthur Lubin
3 Stars
Keep 'Em FlyingBud Abbott and Lou Costello had made their film debuts as a team in late 1940, and by the time 1941 was over, they had been the headliners in a total of four films and became certified box office stars. Keep ‘Em Flying was the last of three service comedies that the duo made with director Arthur Lubin during that year, and was actually still in its theatrical run when the attacks on Pearl Harbor occurred. There’s an interesting trajectory in watching Buck Privates through Keep ‘Em Flying–in the earlier film, Abbott and Costello are both fearful of the military and try to avoid it at all costs. By the latter film, however, Costello has a genuinely heartfelt moment where he begs to be a part of the service. As a whole, the picture treats the propagandist message more seriously–in one scene, it is explained in detail that not every person in the air force is a pilot, and that there are heroes on the ground as well. The scene has no relevance to the plot, but it is critical to note that the film was rushed to screens before the previously-filmed Ride ‘Em Cowboy as a means of rallying military support. Aside from that difference, Keep ‘Em Flying both offers the same pleasures of the previous two service comedies (sans The Andrews Sisters) and throws in a little of the duo’s penchant for horror comedy with a bafflingly out-of-place but nonetheless amusing carnival sequence (Hold That Ghost, their first dalliance with the horror genre, being the other film they released in 1941). The love triangle subplot is dead on arrival, but the picture does offer Martha Raye in a dual role for the team to play off of. Raye and Costello have a genuinely affecting chemistry on screen together, and as with Joan Davis in Hold That Ghost, she integrates herself into their comic dynamic seamlessly.