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  Caught in the Draft America Needs You
Year: 1941
Director: David Butler
Stars: Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Lynne Overman, Eddie Bracken, Clarence Kolb, Paul Hurst, Ferike Boros, Phyllis Ruth, Irving Bacon, Arthur Loft, Edgar Dearing
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Don Bolton (Bob Hope) is a major movie star, and today he is at the studio filming a war epic, but there's a problem: he cannot stand loud noises and when he fires his pistol he is startled to hear the blanks, having been assured that he would be spared such trauma when the bangs were added in post-production. While he calms down, he and his associates Steve (Lynne Overman) and Bert (Eddie Bracken) point out something to take his mind off things. Or someone, as she is Tony Fairbanks (Dorothy Lamour), the attractive daughter of an army general; Don doesn't know it, but he's in trouble if he tries to get next to her...

Not through any fault of his own, mind you, it's just that being the world's biggest coward Don has no use for army life, which is unfortunate because they are about to get better acquainted. This wartime comedy, or heating up to wartime comedy more accurately, was Paramount's biggest hit for that year and captured the mood of a nation gearing up for entry into World War Two. For this reason, Hope's character never actually goes to war, although he does see action in a kind of way, and most of the film involves Don bumbling his way through the recruitment process.

Don's main worry is that he will be drafted, as the government are considering introducing it for men between the ages of twenty-one and forty, so being thirty-two that lands him right in the middle of the situation. All the while he is trying to romance Tony, though she is unimpressed by his antics which include rubbing dirt over the face of her father because he thinks the general is an extra. But Don is nothing if not persistent, his goal being not getting enlisted because he is married, and Tony looks like his best prospect for nuptials.

Yes, Hope's usual mendacious and self-serving screen personality is played to the hilt this time around, chiefly to set an example of the worst kind of person to be drawn into the military. This is a recruitment film more than anything else, even a comedy, and the message is that if a dope like Don can make it there, then an ordinary Joe such as yourself will find it much easier. Essentially our hero (anti-hero?) manages to accidentally enlist himself as part of an elaborate scheme to dodge his responsibilities while still looking good in front of Tony, a scheme which naturally backfires.

In spite of the slavish regard to the patriotic side of things, Caught in the Draft works up a fine number of laughs, although the joke wears a little thin in its latter stages. Highlights include Don, who has an autographed picture in his dressing room - of himself, trying to drive a tank while getting the orders of where to go from Bert and creating havoc (Bert and Steve having joined up too) and every time Don attempts to flatter the general (Clarence Kolb) so he can get closer to Tony, efforts which never turn out well. If you're interested in seeing Hope's persona taken almost to an extreme, then this will satisfy, similarly if you want to see some prime propaganda that is still enjoyable decades after the fact then this fits the bill. Music by Victor Young.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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