21 October 2000 | lugonian
An Officer and a Gentleman
FLIRTATION WALK (First National, 1934) directed by Frank Borzage, teams Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler for the fifth time, and the first to present their names above the title. When released in November 1934, this sentimental musical-comedy was so successful that it was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture, along with eleven (yes, 11!) other movies that year, but no win.
The predictable plot begins in Hawaii in which Powell plays Army Private Richard Palmer Grant Dorcy, better known as "Canary," who meets and falls in love with General John Brent Fitt's (Henry O'Neill) daughter Kit (Ruby Keeler) on a two day visit at the base. Kit happens to be engaged to Lt. Robert Biddle (John Eldredge), but she doesn't care. She gets Dick to take her out for a moonlight drive, and they are later are caught embracing by Biddle. Fearing Dick would get court martialed, Kit discourages and cures the lovesick private before she leaves Hawaii. Determined to forget Kit and become an officer and a gentleman, Dick decides to leave Hawaii and enroll at West Point. After more than three years at the military academy, and close to graduation, Dick encounters Kit once more. (Her father is stationed there as the new superintendent). Dick then tries to ignore Kit and give her a hard time, but risks getting a dismissal from the academy when caught embracing Kit once more in her quarters by Biddle.
Pat O'Brien co-stars as Scrapper Thornhill, Dick's sergeant in the first half of the story set in Hawaii, while Ross Alexander and John Arledge appear as the cadets in the second half set at West Point. Alexander, the one with the physical appearance of dancer Ray Bolger, supplies some fine comic touches here. Directed by two-time Academy Award winning director, Frank Borzage, FLIRTATION WALK focuses more on plot than musical interludes. Powell sings a little, but tap dancer Keeler does not do any fancy footwork here. There are no real lavish production numbers to speak of, with the exception of a Hawaiian luau some 20 minutes into of the story. The 15 minute segment of the Hundredth Night Show at West Point consists of songs by Allie Wrubel and Mort Dixon: "No Horse, No Wife, No Mustache," the lively and amusing "Mr. and Mrs. Is the Name" and the title song.
Aside from scenes filmed in Hawaii and West Point, light comedy, sentimental moments and good tunes, Dick and Ruby are believable their roles, while Pat O'Brien, as a tough sergeant, isn't afraid to shed a tear, especially during Dick's West Point graduation. Quite different from the previous Powell and Keeler musicals, from Broadway theater setting to military background, which actually works to good advantage, although there is too much time devoted to plebe year and Powell reciting the definition of "Leather."
FLIRTATION WALK was distributed on video cassette through MGM Home Video in 1992, and can be seen on the Turner Classic Movies cable channel. One final note: Although it's been said that future film star Tyrone Power appears as one of the extra cadets, he is so hard to find. (****)