by Hal Erickson
Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012. Pp. viii, 418.
Illus., filmography, biblio., index. $55.00 paper. ISBN: 0786462906
not particularly popular in recent years, military comedies were once a
mainstay of movies and television, and in this book media historian and critic
Erickson gives us a comprehensive and entertaining look at the genre.
opens with a concise historical introduction, discussing what constitutes a
service comedy. He notes that many serious
war pictures, such as Stalag 17 or The Story of GI Joe, often have humorous
moments, but can hardly be called “comedies.”
Erickson then examines Charlie Chaplain’s pioneering 1918 Shoulder Arms, which in many ways set
the basic structure of service comedies.
He then gives us twenty chapters.
These cover everything from silent era films to Abbott and Costello
spoofs and imitations thereof. There are
chapters on Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force comedies, on women in uniform, on
joining the service, and “Wheeler Dealer” films. There also comedic anti-war and anti-military
pictures, television comedies, and even cartoons.
each chapter, Erickson focuses on one or two films, such as See Here, Private Hargrove or Biloxi Blues, for pictures about coming
to grips with military life, and shows how they exemplify the genre. Each of the exemplar films is examined in
some detail, with a profile of the cast, a summary of the plot, a look at some
of the principal gags or running themes, and some comment on the influence of
the films. Altogether some scores of
films are thus examined, plus brief comments on many, many others. While Erickson’s main concern in American
military comedies, some foreign, mostly British, films released in the US also
plus many humorous insights, anecdotes and trivia, make Military Comedy Films an essential work for those interested in
film, civil-military relations, and war propaganda, and is an amusing read for