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USA 1958
Directed by
Leo McCarey
106 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys!

Paul Newman had given us two of his classic troubled young man performances in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and The Long, Hot Summer the previous year when he amply demonstrated his unsuitability for comedy in this lamely risqué film from veteran director Leo McCarey who had had a considerable hit two years earlier with the mature-age weepie An Affair To Remember. None of the qualities of those films are in evidence here.

Newman plays Harry Bannerman a 9-to-5er who lives in Putnam's Landing, Connecticut, commuting each day to work in the Big Smoke. When the Army decides to build a base in the sleepy burgh, his wife Grace's (Joanne  Woodward, Newman’s real-life wife who is only marginally less maladroit) spearheads a grassroots resistance movement. The trouble is that patriotic Harry, a former Navy man, feels more inclined to support military authority than his own wife.

The film starts well-enough, bar Newman’s Cary Grantish mugging, as a satire of 50s suburban conformity and sexual repression with Harry flirting with sexy neglected housewife Angela Hoffa (Joan Collins) but it soon loses its way with the kind of faux infantilism that only the late 50s would foist on an adult audience (sadly, it was commercially successful, although probably largely due to the Newman-Woodward pairing which had been seen to infinitely better effect in The Long Hot Summer).

Instead of Sirk or Wilder probing the veneer of middle class probity or even a robust Adam’s Rib war of the sexes dramedy we get a lot of silly gags that are more befitting a Three Stooges movie (Newman swinging from a chandelier with Collins laughing hysterically is probably its low point in the regard), cheap shots at military incompetence (Jack Carson obliges as a uniformed ninny) and a patronizingly clichéd depiction of teenagers thanks to Dwayne Hickman and Tuesday Weld who would soon be reunited for the hit TV series Dobie Gillis, which like this film was based on a Max Shulman novel.

If anything the film is more interesting for what it does not say than what it does but that will hardly give most people much of a reason for watching it.



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