Soldier in the Rain (1963)

Soldier in the Rain (1963)

“Good boy, Eustis!”

A country bumpkin (Steve McQueen) eager to finish his peacetime service tries to convince his enlisted friend (Jackie Gleason) to leave with him — including enticing Gleason with a beautiful but bubble-headed teen (Tuesday Weld).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Comedy
  • Friendship
  • Military
  • Steve McQueen Films
  • Tuesday Weld Films

Shortly on the heels of his notable performances in The Hustler (1961) and Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), Jackie Gleason was given another somber role in this military comedy based on a novel by William Goldman, co-written by Blake Edwards, and with a score by Henry Mancini. Unfortunately, the nearly non-existent storyline has nowhere to go: McQueen’s pathetic Sergeant Eustis Clay (a caricature of a dumb hick) for some reason spends the first half-an-hour of the film trying to hustle a fan:

… and the rest either getting into hijinks with his moronic friend Jerry (Tony Bill):

… or for some reason trying to get Gleason to hook up with Weld.

None of these characters or relationships make much sense — and they’re certainly not compelling. While this film is purportedly about Gleason and McQueen’s enduring friendship, it’s challenging to see why we should care about them.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Jackie Gleason as Master Sergeant Maxwell Slaughter

Must See?
No; you can skip this one.


One thought on “Soldier in the Rain (1963)

  1. (Rewatch 4/25/21.)

    Not must-see, but it’s a pleasant-enough comedy – with a bit of drama.

    The screenplay co-written by Blake Edwards shows what he was like when he was at his best. There’s some snappy dialogue:

    Gleason: You know, Eustis, all men are vain in one way or another. I happen to be a secret narcissist.
    McQueen: Really? Well, Maxwell, I thought you was as nutty about girls as everybody else.

    Nelson’s direction is fine, if occasionally a bit stagy {following the script’s dictates). And the performances are right in tune with the spirit of the piece. McQueen is appropriately goofy and still able to shift into nuances. Gleason is quietly forceful (until he’s called to ‘battle’). Weld is particularly good here and seems to be having fun.

    The long scene between Gleason and Weld in the amusement park is ultimately touching.

    Bill gets to be amusing when he’s called on to literally pose as a ‘blonde’.

    Mancini provides a bouncy theme and supplements that nicely.

    It’s a nice film with simple sentiment.

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