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  • A mild-mannered stage comedian is most unhappily swept up into the World War One Army and shipped off to France.

    Fast-moving & fun, SONS O' GUNS is another example of the comedy picture that Warner Bros. was so expert at producing during the 1930's. Casts & plots could be shuffled endlessly, with very predictable results. While this assembly line approach created few classics, audience enjoyment could usually be assured.

    Putty-faced comic Joe E. Brown dominates the film with his special brand of wacky humor. Given a good script, Brown could be a very funny fellow indeed and he lives up to his reputation here, his tremendous mouth and mischievous eyes always on the move, waiting to signal the next wisecrack. Many of his jokes vigorously push the boundaries of the Production Code, which only adds to their amusement.

    Pretty Joan Blondell, playing an innocent French miss (with a strangely Russian-sounding accent), very much takes second fiddle to Brown, letting him dominate nearly all of their scenes. And even her limited screen time has to be shared with Beverly Roberts as Brown's disaffected fiancée & Wini Shaw as one of the women out of his past. Still, Blondell is always lovely to look at and the film is fortunate to have her.

    Brown's true costar in the movie is Eric Blore, very droll as the respectful British valet who becomes his employer's tough-talking sergeant in the war's front lines. The very different acting styles of these two gentlemen mesh quite well on screen, and, particularly in their first scenes, provide the viewer with some very enjoyable moments.

    Movie mavens will recognize Mischa Auer in a small role as a jovial German spy.
  • jaykay-1031 August 2002
    Joe E. Brown's limited arsenal of comic effects may not be to everyone's taste, but in most of his B-comedies of the 1930s he employed them expeditiously. Even when playing a braggart or an egotist, there was - eventually - something lovable about the character getting his comeuppance when he learns that the girl means more to him than his ego.

    But this picture, in addition to minimizing the mugging and the knockabout comedy that was Brown's stock in trade, pushes the downbeat characterization too far: a draft-dodger, a slacker who gropes to rationalize his obvious cowardice, in addition to being a stage star admired by the ladies but returning little of their affection. In brief, he is not likable, and he is not funny.

    A few minutes of the film are enjoyable, but interestingly both scenes are insertions which could have been lifted without affecting the story line, and which, I suspect, may have been spliced in to give the picture some life: Brown's Apache pantomime, and the brief but charming dance with Joan Blondell in the barroom.

    Brown's pictures were usually better, and seldom worse.
  • Well, Sons o' Guns was on TCM this afternoon. Being a lazy bum, having nothing better to do, and being a rather big fan of Joan Blondell, I reclined on the sofa and watched it. I missed the first five minutes and a couple minutes here and there, but the gist is this: Joe E Brown is a somewhat bumbling private who ends up first being in a lot of trouble and then becoming a big hero. The accents were fairly bad. Most notably Joan Blondell's French one and various of the Germans'. When Mr. Brown, in the movie Dzzeemee (That, of course, is Jimmy in Joan Blondell French), did accents they were ok. The singing and dancing numbers left something to be desired, but on the whole it was a charming film. I don't necessarily reccomend it, but it was charming none the less. I give it a 5 out of 10. I have the feeling it would have been better if Busby Berkely would have been involved, but really, I don't know a lot of musicals that I couldn't say the same thing for.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Just four years after this, Charlie Chaplin had a great triumph when he parodied Adolph Hitler in "The Great Dictator". This World War I musical comedy shows the big mouthed Brown in top form as a war recruit entertainer booed for not joining up, so he overlooks his supposed flat feet and enlists. Overseas, one of his co-stars (Eric Blore) ends up being his sergeant, his socialite fiancee (Beverly Roberts) shows up out of the blue, spitfire French maiden Joan Blondell takes a shine to him, and a former co-star Winifred Shaw shows up to give him a real pain in the neck. Brown's incompetence as a soldier actually benefits him here as he ends up letting go a bunch of enemy carrier pigeons before he winds up in a German officer's uniform, uses a Sergeant Schultz like dialect to command the enemy troops, and then for all his efforts in aiding the allies war efforts is threatened with the firing squad!

    Most films about World War I don't hold up as well, simply because they aren't as interesting as films about World War II where the enemy was ten times more menacing and world threatening. This, however, provides a ton of light entertainment, preposterous in many ways, but you can't expect Chaplin or Keaton in a Joe E. Brown film. Blondell steals every moment she is on screen in an over-the-top spitfire supposed French accent, and her song and dance number with Brown ("A Buck and a Quarter a Day") is quite good. Compared to her, Roberts and Shaw are pretty bland, although Shaw does get one good song. The Apache dance number features a soldier in drag who happens to look like Kaye Ballard and is quite funny. There are some nice little comic twists and one particular bend towards the finale that you may not see coming in the way that it does.
  • I caught this the other day on TCM and decided to watch it and hope to be entertained for a few hours. I was happily rewarded. Where this might not be the Greatest Movie it had it's Moments where it was enjoyable and kept me wondering where it was going.

    There was some interesting Silent Movie Moments which I enjoyed during the stage show in the Military Camp being my favorite Highlight.

    Joan Blondell was Beautiful of course and her song and Dance Number was an Added bonus.

    I wouldn't go out of my way to watch it again or even think about Recording it just to watch it at a later date. But if I had the time I would keep it on in the background if I caught it again while I go about doing House Work or reading a Book.