Classic Film Reviews – At War with the Army3 min read

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Brenda Fellman

At War with the Army is a comedy set at the end of 1944, in a military base. Pfc. Alvin Korwin, the most junior member of the base, wants a pass to see his wife and new baby, while Sgt. Vic Puccinelli is bored of his dull job and wants to be sent into action overseas. The two men were once a part of the same nightclub song-and-dance act before they joined the army. This leads to a mixture of confusion, song-and-dance numbers, slapstick comedy, and a full-on spoof of military life.

The story of this film’s origins is nearly as interesting as the film itself. At the time, thanks to the studio system, actors were treated as staff. As such, they were bound to work for a single studio by a contract, and were unable to work for anyone else until their contracts ended. So, when lead actors Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis signed their contracts in 1949 with Paramount Pictures, the actors included a clause that they would be allowed to work on one film with their own company, York Productions, every year.

At War with the Army was created under this special agreement, and the stars took a small salary in exchange for 90% of the film’s profit. However, when the film was released in 1950, Martin and Lewis became embroiled in a legal battle with Paramount. After several years, the two actors relinquished all financial claim to the film, in exchange for never having to make another film outside of their contracted studio again.

Martin and Lewis shine in this film, and the two had been working together as a team since 1946. At War with the Army was the actors’ third film together, and it cemented them as comedy gold. The reason is clear in the film- they work well together and play off one another, from the entertaining musical and comedy numbers throughout the film to the engaging banter and smooth rhetoric between them, the actors appeared to be having a lot of genuine fun. One scene that demonstrates this talent is when Lewis is cross-dressing and singing ‘Tonda Wanda Hoy’ to Sgt. McVey (Mike Kellin). Toward the end of the scene, Martin walks by, looks at Lewis, stops and thinks, and then walks off, saying, ‘it couldn’t be!’ At this point they really grab the audience’s attention.

The rest of the cast pulls off great performances as well, making the whole film truly enjoyable. They all master their characters, particularly Angela Green, who plays Mrs. Deborah Caldwell, the wife of Capt. Ernest Caldwell. Green’s character adds more depth to the film as her husband runs the army base, and yet she is always more informed about matters than her husband. These characters really add a great dimension to the film.

The songs in the film are enjoyable and fun. The first song’s title gives away its meaning- ‘The Navy Gets the Gravy but the Army Gets the Bean.’ Another funny song is mostly just babble.

At War with the Army is a truly enjoyable film. If you are a fan of Dean Martin or Jerry Lewis, and if you like silly films, you should give it a watch!

At War with the Army – Cast

Dean Martin – 1st Sgt. Vic Puccinelli

Jerry Lewis – Pfc. Alvin Korwin

Mike Kellin – Sgt. McVey

William Mendrek – Capt. Ernest Caldwell

Jean Ruth – Millie

Angela Greene – Mrs. Debroah Caldwell

Polly – Helen Palmer


Also, I want to say hello to all of my readers. If you have any suggestions for a film you would like me to review, please leave it in the comments down below, and I would be happy to review it.

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