Musicals and the Armed Forces

Off the top of my head, I can think of three musicals where the main male characters are sailors – Fred and Ginger’s Follow the Fleet and two films with Gene Kelly, On the Town and Anchors Aweigh. I can only think of one musical with soldiers, and they’re not actually in the service for the bulk of the movie – White Christmas.

Why are sailors so much more musical-worthy than soldiers? And why are the Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard completely neglected by the genre?

Well, sailors themselves tend to sing more than infantry. There’s thousands of sea chantys out there. Aside from cadence songs, which are pretty much just used in basic training (AFAIK) there’s no real world equivalent in other branches of the military. That might have something to do with it.

And they dance jigs.

The Marines are too butch to ever be the subject of a musical … is that it?

(South Pacific – that’s another one.)

There was also the Irving Berlin revue, “This Is The Army” from 1942.

Miss Saigon (or is that too contemporary?)

Looking at stage musicals:

Sailors: Hit the Deck

Servicemen transitioning back into civilian life: Call Me Mister

Largely naval personnel inserted in an effort to contemporize a book: the 1943 revision of A Connecticut Yankee

As for the Coast Guard: I can’t think of any film or stage musicals centered around them, but Vernon Duke wrote the show Tars and Spars as a recruiting device for the Coast Guard. (Click this and scroll down slightly.)

I’ve never seen it – which branch of the service is that? (All I know is that there’s a helicopter at one point.)

And, no, there’s no time limit on this, forwards or backwards.

The musical number “Shanghai Lil” in Footlight Parade has Jimmy Cagney as a sailor who jumped ship.

Abbott and Costello’s Buck Privates had some musical numbers, most notably “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Some were sung by Abbot and Costello while in uniform.

Similarly, Martin and Lewis’s At War with the Army had Dino doing some singing.

Isn’t he in the army in “Passion”? (It’s been a while - I used to love that show.)
And to add some more
“South Pacific,” I think has a sailor or two here or there :slight_smile:
“Sound of Music” he’s ex-Navy
“Bye Bye Birdie” is future Army

Maybe the Navy comes across as more musical (more romantic, maybe) than the other branches.

Across the Universe had some military scenes in including one in which the Beatles “I Want You” is sung by the army recruiting poster :smiley:

US Marines, I think. It’s set at the tail end of the Vietnam war.

(I have seen, but didn’t really enjoy it, so it didn’t get a lot of space in my memory)

Gotta go comme! at least China had quite a cultural revolution operas like ‘the red detachment of women’

The Navy has always had a better artistic agent (we did a thread on that before). Also, I get the feeling that the crackerjack jumpers can be better adapted by wardrobe to be a good outfit to dance in, than combat boots or flightsuits.

A hint of what it’s like, featuring that very masterpiece, courtesy of the Institute of Official Cheer at Jim Lilek’s site.

Excellent one!

As is this one. It reminds me that Hair has some military scenes, after Burger ends up in the Army. All of them are played as background footage in musical montages, IIRC. (Haven’t seen it in a couple of years – hm, I’m about due. I do like that movie.)

And I’d argue that Sound of Music doesn’t really count, despite the backstory of one of the characters – none of the musical scenes feature soldiers or sailors in uniform. (The part where the Nazis are chasing them at night has no music, right?)

The West Point Story with James Cagney, Doris Day, Virginia Mayo, Gene Nelson, and Gordon MacRae was set at . . . you guessed it. Many tap-dancing cadets.

We obviously saw Uncle Sam’s Masculinity Cult a little differently back in 1937, when Dick Powell played The Singing Marine. (The poster suggests dress blues and battleships, not drill fields and psychic abuse.)

Dick Powell also starred as a sailor in Shipmates Forever. He’s a singer who goes through Annapolis to please his father, the admiral, but he really just wants to keep his career and romance Ruby Keeler, who teaches dance to the offspring of Navy officers. It’s really more of a drama with some numbers than a musical, but IMDB calls it a musical.

I saw it on TCM for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Never heard of it, and I’m pretty rabid.

White Christmas.

See the last line of the OP. :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, there’s no reason a surface sailor can’t sing during combat, or drills. I shudder to think what would happen if an infantry platoon were in combat and someone started singing - can you say sniper check?

FTM, I think it’s interesting that I can only think of one scene where bubbleheads sang in the movies. It’s when the Red October goes to the caterpillar drive, and everyone aboard starts singing the Soviet National Anthem. And they got heard! :eek: