Saturday, January 18, 2014

Forward March: A Brief Note on the Origins of the Military Comedy

Carl Alstrup, the star of The Actor as Soldier (1911).
I did research to determine the earliest military farces on film.  Two titles that I found were Twa Hieland Lads (1910) and The Actor as Soldier (1911).  Both films dealt with raw recruits bumbling through basic training.  Twa Hieland Lads spotlights two highland farm boys who think that they can improve their lives by joining the English army.  The plot summary provided by Moving Picture World reads in part: "After an examination they are accepted and placed in the awkward squad of 'Kilties.'  The Sergeant who takes them in hand becomes insane in his efforts to teach them military tactics."  The plot of The Actor as Soldier has to do with a vain actor who is unhappy about being drafted into the military.  Here is an excerpt from Moving Picture World's plot summary: "In the squad he does everything wrong.  His rifle gets on the wrong shoulder and his fingers get gambled in the barrel."  It is these films and others that the established the blueprint of the military comedy, which remains essentially the same more than one hundred years later.

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