First In War  
 
28 May 1932
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
sound short
2-reels

 

Director: Warren Doane  Producer: Hal Roach  Dialogue: H.M. Walker
Cinematography: Len Powers  Editor: Richard C. Currier  Sound recording: James Greene

Charley is singing and playing piano in a demonstration of his musical abilities at the Global Music Publishing Company, but his efforts are for nothing when the owner (William Gillespie) declines him and asks Charley to leave.  On the landing Charley bumps into the President of the Revolutionary Party of Nicarania (Luis Alberni), who is looking for someone to write a new national anthem for his country.  Charley grabs the man and goes back into the room to sing him the song on the piano.  The President is so thrilled with Charley's efforts that he promptly buys the rights to the song on the spot.  The owner of the studio throws Charley out onto the street and into a passing platoon of marching soldiers who collar him and escort him back to the army from where he came.
The General (Billy Gilbert) holds a meeting with his officers and informs them that the Nicarania President is wanted for deportation.  Charley then rides his bicycle down a track and knocks over his lieutenant (Carlton Griffin), who threatens to have Charley court-marshalled for the incident.  Fortunately, Charley is saved by an attractive woman (Nancy Torres), who intervenes on his behalf and grabs the lustful attention of the officer.  Charley picks up the girl on his bike and takes her for a ride.  He doesn't get far before crashing into the lieutenant once more, sending all three of them down to the ground.
Charley is ordered to report back to headquarters, and does so by crashing his bicycle through the shutters and into the General's desk.  The General throws Charley right back out into the street, where he lands in the arms of his three singing buddies.  Meanwhile, the General informs his crew of the arrest and imprisonment of the man they were after and puts Lt. Griffin in charge of guarding him.
Charley and his buddies are thrown into a cell, where they sit and think about the things they'd rather be doing.  After intercepting a note written by the prisoner, the lieutenant calls for Charley because he understands the Nicaranian language but when the officer addresses Charley with "hello, pal" Charley is immediately suspicious!  So Charley pretends to read the letter by making up a plot to have the lieutenant visit a woman's house that evening, armed with an assortment of food and drink.  Charley ends the "letter" by confessing he thought the woman loved him instead?  When the officer tells Charley that all is fair in love and war, Charley tells him, "now you just remember that!"
Charley overhears the Nicaranian President singing from his cell and after the initial shock of seeing him being held prisoner, asks for him to join Charley's quartet of singers.  Charley promises to take his companions, along with the man to the woman's house on the condition the prisoner returns to his cell afterwards.  Charley uses a voice of authority and manipulates the guards into releasing the President into his custody before marching off out of the cell block.
  Charley and his buddies perform a mock execution by firing squad to justify them carrying out his "body" on a stretcher.  Of course, this is a ploy to get the group of them over to the woman's house without fear of suspicion.  Inside the house, Charley and the guys get things organised so that when the lieutenant comes knocking, armed with the goodies, they get Rita's "husband" to chase him away so that they can keep the food.  The party begins...
Back at the headquarters, the General finds the prisoner has escaped and begins to errupt at the lieutenant, whom he charged with keeping guard before finishing with a great line (see favourite bit).
The party is over and Charley returns the prisoner to his cell as agreed but en route the President asks Charley and his friends to sing the national anthem of his country, which they do.  This is the signal needed to lure a group of revolutionaries to storm the place.  Charley catches on to what is happening and all hell breaks loose.  Punches start to fly and eventually the melee is broken up by Charley, who escorts the prisoner back to his cell just as the General enters the building to witness it.  Charley receives an on-the-spot promotion to second lieutenant, but begs for "anything but that!"

Favourite bit
Billy Gilbert has the best line of the film.  Upon realising a prisoner has escaped, he dismisses his officers and in a fit of rage-turned to worry, he declares "my wife will blame ME for this!"

Facts
•Filmed January 14-21, 1932.
•Production C-8 - Charley Chase series.
•Copyrighted May 31, 1932.
Did you notice?
•The name of the studio where Charley tries his hand in singing is called the the Globe Music Publishing Company.  Opposite is the Central Dry Goods Supply Company.
•Charley tells the President that his name is Victor Herbert.  Herbert was a real composer (born in Ireland 1859, raised in Germany) whose works included "Babes In Toyland".
The song Charley pens is sold for $6.
•When Charley rides his bicycle down the street, it is against a rear-projection.
•The note Charley reads to Lt. Grffin says, "Darling lieutenant, I would like to have you come over to the house tonight and meet some of my girlfriends.  It would be nice if you would bring along some refreshments.  For instance, four roast chickens, six bottles of good wine, a bottle of ketchup and any other little nick nacks that you happen to think of.  Lovingly, Rita."
•When Charley and his guys "shoot" the prisoner, the prisoner is conscious to keep his hat from falling off before he "dies".  Seriously, would you really give a crap if your hat fell off?  You're about to die!

Charley Chase
Sergeant Chase
Nancy Torres
Rita
Luis Alberni
President of the
Revolutionary Party of Nicarania
William Gillespie
Proprietor,
Global Music Publishing Company
Carlton Griffin
Lieutenant Griffin
Billy Gilbert
General
Jimmie Adams
Ranch Boy
Frank Gage
Ranch Boy
Jack Hill
Revolutionary
Julian Rivero
Revolutionary disguised as female peddler
Eddie Parker
Ranch Boy
   
UNIDENTIFIED
Woman
UNIDENTIFIED
Jones



POSTER

LOBBY CARDS




SHOT ON THE LOT
The following scenes were filmed on the Hal Roach Back Lot and are included in the TOUR

Acknowledgements:
Smile When The Raindrops Fall by Brian Anthony & Andy Edmonds (book)
The Charley Chase Talkies 1929-1940 by James L. Niebaur (book)
Michael Brydon (help and assistance)
Jorge Finkielman (cleaning print of film)
Jim Dallape (annotations on Back Lot Tour shot, and original credit roll)
Jack Tillmany (identification of Julian Rivero)
Irv Hyatt (8 lobby cards and one-sheet poster)

This page was last updated on: 23 November 2017