Rally Round the Flag, Boys! (1958): Leo McCarey’s Small-Town Comedy, Starring Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Joan Collins

“Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys!” Paul Newman’s first comedy (after dramas and historical films) is directed by Leo McCarey, but it’s a weak work in the careers of both star and director, lacking energy and wit.

The film, based on Max Shulman’s amusing novel, co-stars Newman’s wife-actress Joan Woodward for the second time.

Newman plays Harry Bannerman, a typical Connecticut commuter holding a job in Manhattan, a pretty wife named Grace (Woodward)), two fine children and a ranch-style house. Grace is so wrapped up in civic causes that she has little time for her hubby. Enters the femme fatale next door, Angela Hoffa (Joan Collins), who is bored with her own husband Oscar (Murvyn Vye),

When the Army plans to launch a top secret enterprise in town, Putnam’s Landing, Grace heads a committee to oppose it, sending the reluctant Harry to Washington DC to use pressures and defeat the project.  Angela follows Harry, and Grace, hoping to surprise Harry, also arrives in town.  Harry is persuaded by the Army to talk his fellow townsmen into accepting the secret project. He is also assigned with the job of keeping the tactless and buffoonish Captain Hoxie, the Army representative (Jack Carson), from alienating the town’s residents.

After catching Harry with Angela in the same hotel room, Grace becomes even more militant against the government project, leading an Indian-costumed committee in a mock Plymouth Rock pageant, which later attacks the military.

When Colonel Thorwald (Gale Gordon) is given O.K. from Washington to spill the beans, Putnam’s Landing is a missile base site. The people are won over to the government project, and Grace and Harry decide that Angela isn’t worth a break-up.  However, in their enthusiasm, they accidentally push the launching lever and the missile goes off into space, with its only passenger a befuddled Captain Hoxie.

Most critics decried that Newman’s talent was not suited for the genre of comedy, which he would prove them wrong in the future. However in this picture, he’s uncharacteristically overacting, and in trying too hard, he comes across as stiff instead of light and genial.


Paul Newman
Joanne Woodward
Joan Collins
Jack Carson
Dwayne Hickman
Tuesday Weld
Gale Gordon
Tom Gilson
O.Z. Whitehead
Ralph Osborn III
Stanley Livingston
Jon Lormer
Joseph Holland
Burt Mustin
Percy Holton
Nora O’Mahoney
Richard Collier
Murvyn Vye



Produced and directed by Leo McCarey.
Screenplay by Claude Binyon and Leo McCarey, based on the novel by Max Shulman.
Music by Cril J. Mockridge, conducted by Lionel Newman. Orchestrations, Edward B. Powell.
Photographed by Leon Shamroy.
Art Direction, Lyle R. Wheeler and Leland Fuller. Set Decoration, Walter M. Scott and Stuart A. Reiss. Editor, Louis R. Loeffler. Special photographic effects, L.B. Abbott.
Wardrobe design, Charles Le Maire.
Hairstyles by Helen Turpin.
Makeup by Ben Nye.
Assistant Director, Jack Gertsman.
Sound, Eugene Grossman and Harry M. Leonard.
Color consultant, Leonard Doss.

CinemaScope. DeLuxe Color.
Running time, 106 minutes.