Filmed on a B-picture budget, Buck Privates was Universal's biggest box-office hit of 1941, firmly securing the movie popularity of the studio's hot new team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. The story is fairly evenly divided between the antics of Bud and Lou-here cast as sidewalk salesmen Slicker Smith and Herbie Brown-and the romantic triangle involving Randolph Parker III (Lee Bowman), Judy Gray (Jane Frazee) and Bob Martin (Alan Curtis). Escaping the wrath of policeman Mike Collins (Nat Pendleton), Slicker and Herbie duck into a nearby movie theater, which unbeknownst to them has been converted into a US Army recruiting center. As the boys are reluctantly inducted into the Service, wealthy draftee Parker hopes to pull a few strings to avoid putting on a uniform, while Parker's former chauffeur Martin willingly answers his call to the Colors. Once ensconced in boot camp, Slicker and Herbie continually run afoul of their sergeant, who is none other than their old nemesis Mike the cop. Meanwhile, Parker and Martin vie for the attentions of USO hostess Judy, who'll have nothing to do with Parker until he proves his worth as a soldier. Poor Slicker and Herbie are shunted into the background as the romantic subplot is resolved, but at least our heroes get to steal the film's closing scene. It's hard to believe that anyone cared about the Parker-Martin-Judy triangle with Abbott & Costello on hand to perform their classic "dice game", "awkward squad", "turn on the radio" and "boxing ring" routines-not to mention their timeless verbal exchanges, the best of which finds Bud convincing Lou that if he marries an underage girl, she'll eventually be older than he (it plays better than it reads!) As a bonus, the film spotlights the Andrews Sisters, performing such top-ten tunes as "Apple Blossom Time" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy". Even from the vantage point of six decades, with the WWII draft but a dim memory, it is easy to see why Buck Privates was such a huge success.
by Hal Erickson synopsis