Rookies in Burma (1943)
Directed by Leslie Goodwins and written by Edward James this Wally Brown-Alan Carney comedy is a sequel to The Adventures of a Rookie (1943). Unfortunately it’s no better than the film it follows. Brown & Carney are poor imitations of Abbott & Costello and this movie suffers the same problem as the first the assumption that anything these two comedians do is funny. Additionally like a lot films released during World War II this one mocks the Japanese race for their physical characteristics. It is therefore terribly dated and somewhat painful to watch not just for its lack of sensitivity but also for its boring humorless story. Thankfully this sequel’s runtime is also little more than an hour.
Jerry Miles (Brown) and Mike Strager (Carney) find themselves in Burma peeling potatoes which seems to be the most responsibility Sergeant Burke (Erford Gage also in the first film) will give them. Or perhaps it’s just their punishment – it’s frightening enough that they are soldiers during wartime. Soon the whole company is moving out and Miles & Strager are captured while they argue in a foxhole. Taken to a prisoner of war camp they are reunited with their Sergeant who was happy to have been rid of them. The two goof balls are then questioned by the Japanese Captain (Ted Hecht) in charge of the camp. Assuming he doesn’t speak English they call him various names and otherwise insult him until they learn that he speaks their language better than they do having been educated at Oxford. The Captain asks Miles & Strager to translate some information he’d received from Burke when their Sergeant is brought in and clues them to the “gobbly gook” he’d been feeding the enemy. A poor knock-off from a scene in Desperate Journey (1942) follows though it’s probably the highlight of this comedy. Of course the three are able to overpower the Captain take his important papers and then easily fool their other captors to escape by dressing up in Japanese uniforms by flashing poor teeth and squinting to simulate slanted eyes.
During the escape the three Americans are able to easily evade capture and eliminate their pursuers by tricking them into driving off a cliff. They then find themselves in a small Burma town complete with an elephant where they meet two American girls. Blonde singer Connie (Claire Carleton) and brunette waitress Janie (Joan Barclay) are in a restaurant there and are also disguised & hiding from the Japanese. At this point the soldiers change their dress to become native Burmese allowing them to mock that race with stereotypical “big lips” and black-faces as well. Of course they are going to utilize the elephant so soon the five of them are escaping on the circus animal but not before Brown & Carney do a sad impression of Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First?” with a like routine of their own. Still pursued by the hapless Japanese Captain and superior numbers the three actually manage to capture an enemy tank and then retrieve the girls. However they are thought to be Japanese by American troops when a tank guard (Beal Wong uncredited) wakes up and shoots at them. So a lot of screen time is devoted to the tank driving around being shot at no matter where it goes until the Sergeant thinks up a plan (which might actually work).
John Hamilton (Perry White on TV’s Superman) appears uncredited in the final scenes; the actor also appeared in the earlier film. Even though Miles & Strager were recognized as heroes the film ends as it began … with the two of them peeling potatoes.