Musical Monday: Buck Privates (1941)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

buck privatesThis week’s musical:
Buck Privates (1941) – Musical #680

Universal Pictures

Arthur Lubin

Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lee Bowman, Jane Frazee, Nat Pendleton, Alan Curtis, Samuel S. Hinds, Harry Strang, Nella Walker, Shemp Howard
Themselves: The Andrews Sisters

Street vendors Slicker Smith (Abbott) and Herbie Brown (Costello) mistakenly enlist in the U.S. Army while running from the police. Once in the Army, the policeman (Pendleton) who was chasing them is also their sergeant. Also in the Army is wealthy Randolph Parker III (Bowman) who is used to getting his way and clashes with his chauffer Bob Martin (Curtis) who has also enlisted, now that they are on the same level. Both Parker and Martin are in love with camp hostess Judy Grey (Frazee).

• First film starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello as the leads, rather than a specialty act. This was their second film together.
• The song “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” was introduced in this film.
• Followed by Buck Privates Come Home (1947)
• Released in Jan. 1941 before the United States was at war, but after the formal draft was restarted in the United States.
• Abbott and Costello’s drill routine was only supposed to be about two minutes in the script, but was nearly five minutes with much of it ad libbed.
• Abbott and Costello reprised the story on Lux Radio Theatre on Oct. 13, 1941
• The film was re-released in 1948.

buck privates2

• The performances by the Andrews Sistesr.

Notable Songs:
• “I Wish You Were Here” performed by Jane Frazee
• “I’ll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time” performed by the Andrews Sisters
• “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” performed by the Andrews Sisters
• “When Private Brown Becomes a Captain” performed by Lou Costello
• “Bounce Me Brother with a Solid Four” performed by the Andrews Sisters
• “You’re a Lucky Fellow, Mr. Smith” performed by the Andrews Sisters

buck privates5

buck privates4

My review:
I have a confession. “Buck Privates” (1941) is only my second Abbott and Costello movie. (The other being Rio Rita). And I thought this was a great time.

The film follows two necktie salesmen (Abbott and Costello) who join the U.S. Army by mistake while running from the police. While the two salesmen have a hard time adjusting to military life, so do their peers, including a wealthy playboy and his chauffer, who are now on equal footing. The film is filled with music brought by the military hostesses, including singer Jane Frazee and the sibling singing trio, The Andrews Sisters.

“Buck Privates” (1941) is an interesting piece in the history of military films. The film was released in Jan. 1941, so while war was raging in Europe, the United States had not yet entered World War II. However, on Sept. 16, 1940, the United States instituted the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, which required all men between the ages of 21 and 45 to register for the draft.

“Buck Privates” became the first comedy to focus on the peacetime draft. It essentially serves as a recruitment film with lots of comedy and music.

The film was also important in film history, as it was the first feature film where Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were the leads rather than a specialty act. It was also the second time the Andrews Sisters performed in a feature film, and audiences were introduced to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” for the first time. The song reached No. 6 in the top songs of 1941. It also includes other excellent songs like “I’ll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time.”

The music and comedy in “Buck Privates” are so much fun, and while The Andrews Sistesr are a highlight, so is singer Jane Frazee. My only complaint is that Frazee doesn’t have more solos.

While Abbott and Costello films have been a blind spot in a my film viewing for years, “Buck Privates” is a lot of fun with great music.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at

Thank you for reading! What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.