Series: Streamliner

Director: Fred Guiol
Producer: Hal Roach
Screenplay: Paul Gerard Smith, Warren Wilson, Edward E. Seabrook
Photography: Robert Pittack
Editor: Richard C. Currier
Art director: Charles D. Hall
Sound: William Randall

Stars: William Tracy, James Gleason, Noah Beery Jr, Joe Sawyer, Elyse Knox
Company: United Artists
Released: 12 September 1941
Length: 5 reels
Production No.: F-37
Filming dates:
Rating: 5/10

Tanks A Million

Available on DVD:

Know-it-all/railroad station information clerk Dorian Dooubleday (William Tracy) is interviewed in front of a live audience for a radio show but is quickly cut off by the host (Knox Manning) when he just doesn't shut up [this whole sequence is missing from some DVDs - see below for details]. Doubleday and a group of other men arrive on a train to be enlisted in the army. Doubleday immediately makes an enemy of not only Sergeant Ames (Joe Sawyer), but with the other men when his know-it-all attitude gets him into trouble with them. The men arrive in camp and introduce themselves to the lieutenant (Harold Goodwin) until we get to Doubleday. Already having a disliking of him from an earlier encounter, Sgt. Ames questions the private on army regulation, to which Doubleday answers correctly and confidently.
Other officers are called upon to question the new private over what he knows about the army rules, and Doubleday practically takes over by answering all the questions, quoting passages from the rule book and demonstrating protocol with army procedure. The officers are impressed with Doubleday, so much so they make him top sergeant which doesn't go down well with the veteran Sgt. Ames who flips out over it. Company F is placed into Doubleday's care but the men are reluctant to obey him and deliberately try to sabotage his instructions and authority. That is until Major Greer (William Gould) steps in and forces the privates to march in their bare feet across the hard gravel of the compound. That evening, the men are in their barracks suffering the ill affects of their training and swear to get even with their new sergeant.
By this time Sgt. Ames has become a real kiss-ass and tries to butter up the superior officers into inspecting Doubleday's group when he thinks they are performing badly. One of the officers witnesses for himself the chaos in the field as one of the privates rides off on an out-of-control horse (complete with awful rear projection shots thrown in) as it disrupts parades on the campground. Members of the marching band are sent skywards courtesy of the horse. The squadron are all placed under arrest and docked 90 days pay as Doubleday takes the full brunt of the punishment. The guys feel remorse for being so bad towards him and offer to make amends.
The camp sees the arrival of no-nonsense Colonel 'Spitfire' Barkley (James Gleason) and Doubleday is assigned to be his orderly on the request of Sgt. Ames, who continues to want to cause trouble for the new recruit. Spitfire and Doubleday are introduced in his quarters where the two have a discussion about a hairbrush before Doubleday runs the colonel's shower. In doing so, he spills talcum powder over the officer's uniform and takes it outside to brush it off. For convenience sake, he puts the colonel's uniform on as his girlfriend Jeannie (Elyse Knox) finds him and is in awe of his apparent rank. He tries to explain but is quickly whisked away for a radio broadcast he (or rather, the colonel) is expected to appear on. Doubleday nervously makes his radio announcement whilst the officers listen in back at the camp. Sgt. Ames sees that Doubleday has stolen Spitfire's uniform and tells Captain Rossmead and the two officers grab Doubleday on his return to the camp. Their plan to throw him to the colonel's mercy backfires however when the colonel receives a phone call from Washington praising 'his' speech. Ames is promoted to being the colonel's new orderly and it doesn't take long for him to incur his wrath. Doubleday's final embarrassment comes on the parade ground when, during a routine drill the privates throw their rifles at him, burying him in a pile.

Favourite bit
There are some good moments of comedy along the way; Ames hitting his head twice on a falling window, Doubleday's cocky know-it-all responses to the officers, and Spitfire's reactions to the smallest things... but it's Sergeant Ames who scoops the award for having to keep his promise in eating his own uniform's stripes after he loses a bet.

Copyrighted September 9, 1941.
This was the first film to be released as part of the 'streamliner' series by the studio. Though a year before Roach did release Laurel and Hardy's A Chump At Oxford as a streamliner.
The name of the camp is Camp Carver. The train station is Carver Junction.
James Gleason takes second billing but doesn't show up until over half-way through the film (30½ minutes to be precise!)
Interestingly, Joe Sawyer takes fourth billing despite his obvious main role in the film.
The title of the film is mentioned around the 29 minutes mark when Private Cleary says to Doubleday, "you're an alright guy Sarge for sticking your neck out for us. Tanks a million".
It is surprising that Noah Beery Jr takes third billing in the film, above Joe Sawyer considering Sawyer is certainly one of the main characters whereas Beery has a much lesser role as one of the rarely-seen new recruits.
There were six films (all 'Streamliners') made by the studio during the 1940s which featured William Tracy and Joe Sawyer as Dodo & Ames. The other five were "Hay Foot", "About Face", "Fall In", "Yanks Ahoy" and "Here Comes Trouble".
The DVD prints
In constructing this review I had to consult two separate DVD prints of the film, watching them side-by-side. The reason for this was due to one version having an uncut version of the film but with an inferior picture quality, whilst the second DVD (the Streamliners 2007 DVD version from Image Entertainment which was released as part of "The Lost Films Of Laurel & Hardy" 12-disc set) has cropped credits, and omits the card immediately following the title card which offers the main cast members. Also, throughout the film there are noticable pops in the audio, cutting out some dialogue. In addition, this DVD is lacking the opening music over the credits and loses the opening scene of the film with William Tracy on a talk show with Knox Manning (the sequence runs 3 minutes 50 seconds). On the plus side, this DVD does have a much superior picture quality than all other DVDs. At around 9½ minutes into the film when Private Cleary's character is called by the lieutenant during the introduction sequence, his dialogue is absent on the "Streamliner" DVD. He says, "I'm with him". At around 11½ minutes in, the Streamliners DVD cuts out the line where Doubleday is referred to as "Dodo", and the line about him having more stripes than a zebra. There is a whole big chunk of footage missing (13 seconds) also when the Spitfire shouts at Sgt. Ames and the window shatters right at the end of the film.
The 2020 DVD from ClassicFlix is uncut and retains all the footage and is therefore the superior copy of the film to consult.
My opinion
Enjoyable for the most part.

William Tracy
Sergeant Dorian 'Dodo' Doubleday
James Gleason
Colonel 'Spitfire' Barkley
Noah Beery Jr.
Charlie Cobb
Joe Sawyer
Sergeant William Ames
Elyse Knox
Douglas Fowley
Captain Rossmead
Knox Manning
Radio interviewer Cardigan
Frank Faylen
Private Skivic
Dick Wessel
Private Monkman
Frank Melton
Private Cleary
Harold Goodwin
Lieutenant Caldwell
William Gould
Major Greer
Roy Crane
Bert Moorhouse
Radio station announcer
Edmund Mortimer
Radio station representative
David Newell
Lieutenant Jennings
Dub Taylor
Norman Kerry
Eddie Hall



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Gene Sorkin (help)
Tom Schober (help)
David Kawals/ClassicFlix (supplying DVD for review)
Richard Finegan (poster, stills, lobby card)

This page was last updated on: 07 April 2020