Buck Privates (1941): Top Abbott and Costello

“Buck Privates” was Universal’s biggest box-office hit of 1941, showing the popularity of the studio’s new team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

Bud and Lou are cast as sidewalk salesmen Slicker Smith and Herbie Brown.  The romantic triangle involving Randolph Parker III (Lee Bowman), Judy Gray (Jane Frazee) and Bob Martin (Alan Curtis).

Escaping the policeman Mike Collins (Nat Pendleton), Slicker and Herbie duck into a movie theater, which unbeknownst to them has been converted into an Army recruiting center. As they are reluctantly inducted into the Service, the wealthy draftee Parker hopes to pull a few strings to avoid putting on a uniform, while Parker’s former chauffeur Martin willingly answers his call.

Once ensconced in boot camp, Slicker and Herbie run afoul of their sergeant, who is, of course, their old enemy, Mike the cop. Meanwhile, Parker and Martin compete for the attentions of USO hostess Judy—Parker has to prove his worth as a soldier.

Slicker and Herbie are shunted into the background as the romantic subplot is resolved, but they reappear in the film’s closing scene.

Abbott and Costello on get to perform their classic “dice game,” “awkward squad,” “turn on the radio,” and “boxing ring” routines, not to mention their timeless verbal exchanges. In one of those, Bud convinces Lou that if he marries an underage girl, she’ll eventually be older than he.

The film also showcases the Andrews Sisters, performing such tunes as “Apple Blossom Time” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

Oscar Nominations: 2

Song: Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B

Scoring: Charles Previn


Oscar Context:

The Song Oscar went to Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s “The Last Time I Saw Paris” from “Lady Be Good.”

The Scoring Oscar went to Frank Churchill and Oliver Wallace for “Dumbo.”


Running time: 84 Minutes.

Directed by Arthur Lubin

Released: January 31, 1941

DVD: Oct 10, 2000

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