Buck Privates Come Home
has Hollywood gone looking for laughs from auto
Far from the usual—and sometimes
over-the-top—melodrama from films that yielded
unintended yucks, Buck Privates Come Home is
intentionally—and successfully—hilarious, even
if the racing is nothing more than a star
vehicle for two of the greatest funny men of all
This film is a sequel to their 1941
Buck Privates, which drafted them into the Army.
Six years later, they finally get to come home,
where Slicker (Abbott) and Herbie (Costello)
resume highly unsuccessful careers as street
flim-flam salesmen. That compounds the problems
in their effort to adopt a little girl they’ve
smuggled home from France.
they contact a former WAC, whose fiancée owns a
mortgaged midget car. The clichéd line about
midgets (“why don’t you race guys your own
size?”) doesn’t seem nearly as hackneyed when
delivered by Costello. Typically for quickly
made films (and for real racers, when you come
right down to it), all the G.I.s who contribute
money to get the car out of hock seem convinced
that they are going to win the $20,000 Gold Cup.
Never mind that the racer is avoiding cops
because he owes everybody in town. Yup—the
illusion that racing is a way to make money
rather than spend it was born long, long ago.
Unless you want to see the movie solely for
the racing, this is as good as any of the Abbott
and Costello films. In addition to the always
wonderful stars, there is a good supporting
cast—film studios never had trouble getting
people to work with Abbott and Costello because
their films were guaranteed hits, no matter what
the topic was. Nat Pendleton, a 1920 Olympic
silver medalist who became a popular pro
wrestler before getting into film, plays the
boys’ hapless foil. Milburn Stone, whose fame
stems from many years as Doc on television’s
Gunsmoke, is the race track announcer. But the
real star, besides the marquee team, is the
midget car. Happenstance puts Costello behind
the wheel and off the track through one of the
funniest, most outrageous car chases in movie
Park your interest in
reality. Don’t take a drink of anything while
watching because—guaranteed—you’ll be snorting
it out as the guffaws are plentiful. Many years
later, Cannonball Run was among several films to
try to emulate this romp, but none comes close
to the pure fun in this showcase for the
unrivaled talent of Abbott and Costello.
Type of Racing: Midget cars
Gilmore Stadium, Los Angeles, California (now
Reel Racers: Bud Abbott, Lou
Real Racers: None credited
Year of Release: 1947
DVD Length: 77
Approx. On-Track: 2 minutes, plus 5
minute off-track chase sequence
. . . Pay attention to how the midgets are
started. No push. Rather they slip a strap
around the front axle, pull the cars and then
quick-release when the engine fires. And, for
you young uns in the crowd, that really was how
they started the cars then.
. . .
Continuity check: After they get the race car
out of the garage where $8,000 is owed on it,
the guys are sure they are going to be $50,000
richer after the race. But the sign at the
stadium clearly shows it’s a $20,000 purse.
“It’s (the race car) going to solve everybody’s
problem,” says heroine Sylvia. Except their math
computation skills, apparently.
. . .
“It’s a pip. And it will do 90 miles per hour!”
says Abbott on seeing the car for the first
. . . While trying to get a G.I.
loan at a bank, the midget model begins to
backfire and the shadows appearing through the
frosted glass on the door make it appear that
Abbott and Costello are robbing the bank.
Surprisingly—or not—they don’t get that loan.
But at least the loan officer and the cops
didn’t jail ’em because then we’d have missed
the fabulous silliness that comes later.