Idle on Parade (1959)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Military Comedy  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Bruce Eder

The most well-known pop-culture offshoot of Elvis Presley's being drafted into the US Army was, of course, the musical (and subsequent movie) Bye Bye Birdie. But in England, producers Irving Allen and Albert "Cubby" Broccoli -- the latter subsequently one of the two men behind bringing James Bond to the screen -- and their Warwick Productions gave the world Idle On Parade, with Anthony Newley cast as Jeep Jackson, a British rock 'n' roller called up for National Service, all directed with lots of forward momentum (if not much subtlety) by John Gilling. A lot of the plot intricacies, such as a mix-up in Jackson's posting with a volunteer named Joseph Jackson, will be lost on non-British viewers. And the CinemaScope shooting seems wasted (this is probably the least artful use of black-and-white CinemaScope that you'll ever see). But the real waste of talent is the presence of William Bendix as Jackson's sergeant -- his acting and personality never get out from behind an accent that he devotes too much of his attention to maintaining, and it could be anybody in that role. Not much better off is Lionel Jeffries as a disapproving officer, who is jealous of the attraction of his would be fiancee -- his commanding officer's daughter (Anne Aubrey) -- to the hapless Jackson. Otherwise, there's lots of typical service humor scattered throughout the film, and a few mostly less-than-memorable rock 'n' roll songs, some co-authored by Jerry Lordan ("Apache"), and all recorded under the direction of future Bee Gees arranger/conductor Bill Shepherd.